The 1990s saw a battle of epic proportions in the sit-com world as Friends and Seinfeld went head-to-head on prime time television. Many viewers tend to love one show over the other, often getting into arguments over which was the better show. Regardless, Seinfeld will go down as one of the greatest sit-coms of all-time. The “show about nothing”, starring Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards, aired for 9 seasons from 1989 to 1998 and is still in syndication today. From the comedic genius of Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), the series revolved heavily around its characters’ interactions and crazy situations. We’ve previously published an article regarding some of the best cameos from the show, but let’s take a look at the 15 Minor Characters Who Stole The Show Every Time.
15. Uncle Leo (Portrayed by Len Lesser)
Jerry’s Uncle Leo will be best remembered by his extremely friendly greetings, cheap nature and his propensity to brag about his son, referred to always as Cousin Jeffrey, though Jeffrey is actually never seen. Uncle Leo pops up throughout the series and tends to be an annoyance to Jerry. Jerry once remarks that Leo always grabs people by the arm during conversation “probably because so many people have left in the middle of him talking.”
Leo is a bit of a swindler: he’s cheated his sister, Helen, out of horse racing winnings from their father as a child, and used his advanced age as a way to steal books from a local book store. Jerry would try to scare Leo’s stealing ways out of him by alerting a security guard of his actions, only to have Leo actually arrested in the process. Uncle Leo says “Hello!” to the number 15 spot on the list.
14. Susan Ross (Portrayed by Heidi Swedberg)
Susan Ross first appeared in “The Pitch” as an NBC executive that was sitting in on Jerry and George’s meeting to pitch their sit-com pilot. Susan would eventually go on to date George before turning to lesbianism which ultimately “didn’t take.” Their on-again off-again relationship would see George propose during the season 7 premiere, as their engagement lasted the length of the season. Her parents never seemed to like George or his parents, as is shown during their dinner in the season 7 episode “The Rye.” Kramer would later accidentally burn her father’s cabin to the ground.
George begins to feel trapped in their relationship and wants out, but can’t bring himself to do it. After going the cheap route with their wedding invitation envelopes, Susan would die from poisoning, licking the toxic adhesive on the envelopes George bought. Susan’s disbelief that George could ever land Marisa Tomei gives her the number 14 spot on the list.
13. Kenny Bania (Portrayed by Steve Hytner)
The “other” stand-up comedian on the show, Kenny Bania stuck in the craw of Jerry, often riding his coattails and even dating one of Jerry’s ex-girlfriends. Bania appeared in 6 episodes of the series throughout its run. He seemed to look up to Jerry, often offering recommendations to various products, describing them as “the best!” At one point, Jerry becomes Bania’s comedic mentor to inflate his own ego, even borrowing Bania’s joke-telling style with the classic “Ovaltine” joke in which Bania referred to as “gold!” Jerry would become annoyed as Bania’s popularity increased, despite his lack of talent, calling him a “time slot hit” which was a reference to the battle between Friends and Seinfeld.
Bania would also come off as a cheap-skate, as he’s seen trying to weasel Jerry out of multiple free meals after giving him a brand new Armani suit. Bania’s corny jokes, strange dialogue delivery, and overall enthusiasm earns him the number 13 spot on the list.
12. Babu Bhatt (Portrayed by Brian George)
On the episode titled “The Café”, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer try out a new Pakistani restaurant across the street from Jerry’s apartment, which is owned by Babu. Jerry would initially become very helpful to Babu, as he offers advice on the restaurant, telling Babu to change the menu to an authentic Pakistani version, which backfires. The café loses business and Babu is left in financial ruin, ultimately closing the restaurant.
Feeling bad about the situation, Jerry would later help Babu gain employment at the Monk Café as well as getting him an apartment in his building during the episode titled “The Visa”. Babu would later be arrested and deported, as he hadn’t been receiving his mail with the required immigration paperwork. Elaine had been picking up Jerry’s mail as he had been out of town, and Babu’s mail had been mixed in with Jerry’s. Jerry would try to fix the situation with help from George’s lawyer girlfriend, but the plan falls through when George breaks up with her. Babu would appear again on “The Finale” testifying against the foursome at their trial. He tells Judge Vandelay that they are “very very bad” accompanied by a stern finger-wag.
11. Jack Klompus (portrayed by Sandy Baron)
The arch-nemesis of Jerry’s father, Morty, Jack Klompus is a resident of the same condo community in Florida. Jack always seems to have a grudge against Morty. Jack served as vice president of the community under Morty, which could contribute as a factor of his jealousy. Jack becomes suspicious of Morty, thinking he is embezzling funds, when Jerry buys Morty a brand new Cadillac. Jack doesn’t think Jerry could afford a Cadillac on a comedian’s salary, leading to Morty’s impeachment hearing. Morty is ultimately ousted, as the tie-breaking voter remembers that Jerry had robbed her previously of her Marble Rye bread.
Jack would also cause more trouble for the Seinfeld’s, as he was tasked with retrieving a box of raincoats to ship to Morty in New York. Jack had to break a window to get in, enabling burglars to ransack the Seinfeld home. Jack would also buy Morty’s Cadillac from him and his wife, Helen, only to sell it back to Jerry for more than double what he paid. Jack would later crash the car in Alligator Alley.
10. Bob Sacamano (Character Never Appears On-Screen)
Though never actually shown on-screen, Bob Sacamano is a source of many of Kramer’s strange stories. Bob is mentioned in numerous episodes during the series and the inspiration for the character comes from writer Larry Charles’ real-life friend of the same name. Kramer gets many of his ideas from Bob and often tells the other characters of the schemes they concoct. Bob is described as being from New Jersey, where he worked in a condom manufacturing factory and has spent time in a mental institution at one point. Kramer also says that Bob contracted rabies in the past.
The other main characters also have interactions with Bob off-screen. Jerry tells Kramer he talked to Bob on the phone when they had swapped apartments in “The Chicken Roaster” episode. The group was invited to a party at Sacamano’s apartment in “The Fatigues” and Kramer sold his story about a pair of pants to J. Peterman to fill his memoirs.
9. Art Vandelay (Portrayed by Stanley Anderson)
For most of the series, Art had been a fictitious character created from the lies of George Costanza. George had sometimes referred to himself as Art Vandelay as an alias, or claimed to have interviewed at Vandelay Industries as a latex salesman. George would later claim that Vandelay Industries was in the importer/exporter business, importing latex and chips (some potato, some corn) while exporting diapers and long matches.
In “The Finale” the judge presiding over the group’s case turns out to be named Judge Vandelay. Vandelay listens to the numerous people the group has wronged over the years, and goes on to comment at how despicable their past actions are. The jury would find them guilty of their crime due to the “good samaritan law,” ultimately ruling that the four be locked away for no less than one year.
The great long-time running joke earns Art Vandelay the number 9 spot on the list.
8. Jacopo “J” Peterman (Portrayed by John O’Hurley)
The exuberant, story-telling owner of the “J. Peterman Catalog” earns the number 8 spot on the list. Peterman has a penchant for incorporating his wild life stories and experiences into the descriptions of the products sold through his catalog, often causing Elaine stress and anxiety. When he loses his mind and flees to Burma (formerly Myanmar) in “The Foundation”, Elaine is left to run the company. Peterman also buys Kramer’s life stories for $50.00 to help complete his own memoirs, has a love for The English Patient and is extremely annoyed at the sound of tic-tacs jingling in someone’s pants pocket. Peterman appeared in 20 episodes during the series and had numerous interactions with all 4 of the main characters. Peterman bores everyone with his long-winded stories, as can be seen during his various interactions with the main cast.
Fun Fact: There actually is a J. Peterman Clothing Company located in Kentucky which the show Peterman was modeled after.
7. Estelle Costanza (Portrayed by Estelle Harris)
Wife to Frank Costanza and the mother of George, Estelle is a woman with many ups and downs. Her mood swings and voice tone undulations paired with Frank always made for great comedic moments. Estelle went through many trying times during her numerous appearances. She walked in on George giving himself the business, witnessed George making out with his own cousin as well as Frank wearing a bra (The Bro).
Estelle loves her “Georgie” but grew tired of him living with them when he moves back in after losing his job. Her admiration for Lloyd Braun was a sore spot for George, being that they were childhood rivals. Though Frank and Estelle would later separate and get back together, she had no qualms about trying to seduce Judge Vandelay in “The Finale” to try to reduce George’s prison sentence. Estelle’s hilarious, high-pitched screeching and refusal to give away her Waterpik earns her the number 7 spot.
6. The Bubble Boy (Voiced by Jon Hayman)
When a man named Mel Sanger, a Yoo-Hoo truck driver, approaches Jerry in Monk’s Café asking for an autograph for his son, Donald, it’s revealed that Donald is a “bubble boy”. Donald has a health condition that requires him to be confined to his room which is enclosed in plastic. Mel also asks Jerry to come visit Donald at their home in upstate New York, which Elaine makes him do. At the bubble boy’s home, George and Susan play a game of Trivial Pursuit with the bratty, foul-mouthed Donald, in which George finds satisfaction in a card typo. Donald argues with George and begins strangling him before his bubble is popped, forcing paramedics to rush him to the hospital. Jerry and Elaine arrive to the house to see the bubble boy being taken away and neighbors claiming George tried to kill the bubble boy. The Moops/Moors debate earns The Bubble Boy the number 6 spot.
5. David Puddy (Portrayed by Patrick Warburton)
Before voicing Joe Swanson on Family Guy, Patrick Warburton played David Puddy, the slow-witted, germophobic on-again off-again boyfriend of Elaine. He is a former mechanic and car salesman that would often jack up repair and car prices to his customers, as is seen in his interactions with Jerry, though Elaine would put a stop to it. His love of high fives, the Jesus Fish and the New Jersey Devils, paired with his monotone voice and nonchalant attitude always made for humorous appearances. Puddy is concerned about his own mortal soul but seems indifferent about Elaine’s when he tells her she would most likely be going to Hell when she died. He also scared a priest so badly after a Devils game that he was sent to the hospital.
Though only appearing in 10 episodes, Puddy was one of the better recurring characters on the show that left fans not caring about wearing face paint to sporting events.
4. Jackie Chiles (Portrayed by Phil Morris)
Cosmo Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles, who bears a striking resemblance to real-life lawyer Johnnie Cochran, made his presence felt starting in season 7 as a fast-talking, eloquently spoken attorney. Chiles was frequently hired by Kramer for various cases including his coffee burn from Java World, his car accident after seeing Sue Ellen Mischkie walking around town in a bra, and his disfigurement suit against a tobacco company. Chiles would later represent the group during “The Finale” albeit unsuccessfully.
Chiles was seen in bed with Jerry’s former girlfriend, Sidra, and would go on to tell Jerry that “they’re real and they’re spectacular”, a call-back to an earlier episode.
3. George Steinbrenner: (Voiced by Larry David)
The owner of the New York Yankees had never been as comical as he was on Seinfeld. Voiced by show creator Larry David, Steinbrenner’s face was never shown. He was often portrayed as a quick-triggered, fast-talking buffoon that was majorly oblivious to his own organization. Steinbrenner is a lover of calzones, as is shown on “The Calzone” as George eats one during a meeting. He had to have a calzone everyday from that point forward until George was banned from Pisano’s, in which he enlisted the help of Kramer and Newman to acquire them for him.
George’s interactions with Steinbrenner were some of the best parts of the show. Steinbrenner’s rendition of Joan Jett’s Heartbreaker will always come to mind when hearing the song on the radio and his explanation of player trades will leave Yankee fans angry. Larry David’s voice-overs for the character were hilarious and made him more likeable on the show than in real-life. Big Stein takes the number 3 spot on the list.
2. Newman (Portrayed by Wayne Knight)
Jerry’s upstairs neighbor and adversary, Newman, very well could have taken the top spot on this list, but he fell just short. The disgruntled mailman always had schemes with Kramer, including their bottle collection, sausage making, and plan to get Newman out of parking tickets, were always great side plots to the episodes in which he appeared. Newman would also be competitive with Kramer, as the two wanted to throw separate Y2K parties.
His greetings with Jerry, unrequited love with Elaine and long-winded diatribes made his character a lot of fun to watch, as he was the actor outside of the main 4 to appear the most in the series. Newman would be detined by the Post Master General for his involvement with Kramer when Kramer boycotts the mail. His words of wisdom regarding the USPS will always stick out to fans: “When you control the mail, you control INFORMATION!” Newman delivers the number 2 spot.
1. Frank Costanza (Portrayed by Jerry Stiller)
The list comes to a close with arguably the most bombastic character to appear on Seinfeld. George’s father, Frank, a former cook during the Korean War, is without a doubt the best minor character. Frank’s outrageous behavior and bi-polar moods were comedy gold. Jerry Stiller killed every scene that he was in throughout the series.
From his insane yelling, shouts of “SERENITY NOW!”, strange plans with Kramer, interactions with wife, Estelle, and George, or his creation of the Festivus Holiday, Frank Costanza is the greatest minor character to appear. Whether he was wearing a bra or hanging out with someone wearing a cape, Frank kept everyone on their toes with his outlandish behavior.
With so many minor characters to choose from and so very few spots on this list, there are plenty of characters that got left off. Who would you have put on yours and why? Leave your comments and examples of what your list would look like below!
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