When Jerry Seinfeld honored Julia Louis-Dreyfus during the 21st Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, he told the behind-the-scenes story about how the character of Elaine Benes came to be. Since the show originally didn't have a female character, NBC gave Seinfeld and David a so-called "network note" that said they should add a female character into the mix. Who would have thought that the "network note" would become one of the most beloved, relatable, and influential TV characters ever created?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus who is a spectacularly talented actress and comedian made Elaine Benes a pop culture icon. There were countless instances in which we felt connected with her character as if she somehow spoke for all of us, and today we're taking a look at ten Seinfeld moments in which we were all Elaine.
10 SPARE A SQUARE
Seinfeld excelled at making the mundane interesting, funny, and important. In the season five episode “The Stall,” Elaine finds herself in a familiar and uncomfortable situation when she realizes that the toilet stall she’s in doesn’t have any toilet paper. She asks the woman in the stall next to hers to spare a square, but she assures Elaine that she doesn’t have a square to spare.
As many of us probably would, Elaine gets upset at the woman, but she goes just a tad farther than any of us probably would in real life. She finds out the woman’s identity (turns out it’s Jerry’s new girlfriend) and then strands her in the toilet without a single sheet of toilet paper.
9 UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE
Much of this show was just the main characters sitting around talking, or as Elaine put it poring “over the excruciating minutia of every, single, daily event.” In one such scene, Jerry and Elaine are hanging out at his apartment and talking about people. For example, those who get on the plane with nothing to read and then want to talk to you.
Elaine then delivers the iconic line, which we have quoted more times than we’d care to admit: “I will never understand people.” Odds are you too have felt this way a few times and despite the fact that you’re actually people too, people have still remained a mystery that you will never quite get. Put simply, they’re the worst.
8 GIVING UP
While it would be nice to believe that all of us will end up with our dream jobs, and everything else we’ve ever wanted, we all know that life doesn’t work that way. Elaine is well-aware of that and makes no attempt to hide the fact that working for the J. Peterman catalog wasn’t her childhood dream.
In the season nine episode “The Cartoonist,” while talking about careers with Jerry, Elaine delivers this gem: “Some people should just give up. I have.” And moments like these are what make Elaine so relatable. She’s can be as lost and hopeless as any of us.
7 LET’S JUST SIT IN SILENCE
While Seinfeld’s short first season wasn’t quite there yet and Elaine didn’t have as big a role as she would have in the future, Julia Louis-Dreyfus still had some iconic moments. Like in the episode “Male Unbonding” when Jerry and Elaine are making plans for the night, but neither of them actually has any idea what they want to do or where they want to go.
Jerry suggests going to a cappuccino place where they let you just sit without ordering and Elaine has the best introvert reply ever “I’ll go if I don’t have to talk” and at that moment we realized that Elaine is one of us. Who hasn’t dreaded the very idea of going somewhere just because you know you’ll have to talk?
6 THE WHO’S HUNGRIEST SYSTEM
Waiting to be seated and served at a restaurant can get quite long, especially if you’re hungry. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld thought that would be something most people could relate to so they wrote an entire episode which takes place in a Chinese restaurant. Jerry, George, and Elaine want to grab something to eat before they go see a movie, but they end up waiting for a table entirely too long.
A hungry Elaine gets particularly annoyed and comes up with a brand-new seating system. According to Elaine, people should not be seated first come, first served. It should be based on who’s hungriest. Now, as to how she would actually determine who’s hungriest, we don’t know, but we sure do agree with her flawless logic.
5 THE SUBWAY
In season three, Seinfeld did an entire episode about the subway. All four of the main characters had to take the subway to different locations and we follow them as they go about their crazy subway adventures. First, Elaine runs into a conservative older woman who doesn’t respond well when Elaine tells her that she’s the best man at a lesbian wedding, prompting Elaine to hilariously describe her sexuality as: “I hate men, but I’m not a lesbian.”
Then, the over-crowded train stops mid-ride and we get to listen in on Elaine’s inner monologue as she rants about sweaty, disgusting people that surround her, how her life would be so much different if she had just sprung for a cab as she goes into a full-blown panic attack. Anyone who’s ever taken public transportation knows just how bad it can get even when it’s moving, but being trapped inside with no idea when you’ll be able to get out will drive anyone a bit crazy.
4 THE ENGLISH PATIENT
Every once in a while, a movie will come along that everyone would love and praise and eventually force you to go watch it, even if you had no interest in seeing it, and you will hate every second of it. That’s what happened to Elaine in “The English Patient” – the episode, not the film. Elaine, who’d much rather watch Sack Lunch, ended up suffering through the three-hour-long English Patient that she didn’t like one bit.
However, when she told other people that she hated the beloved Oscar-nominated romantic drama, it did not go over too well. Her boyfriend broke up with her, the friends she doesn’t like stopped talking to her, and she almost lost her job when she started yelling at the movie theater while watching the film for the second time with her boss. While the consequences for similar “offenses” in real life aren’t quite so harsh, we’ve all been shunned, ridiculed and made to feel stupid for not liking a movie at least once in our lifetime.
3 SHUTTING PEOPLE UP
You know when you find yourself somehow in conversation with a person who won’t shut up about whatever it is that’s just oh-so darn great in their life. Whether it’s a job promotion, their kids, or their relationship, they talk their ear off to anyone who’s around to listen. Getting out of these conversations can be tricky but there's always a way to at least have some fun.
When Elaine got stuck sitting next to a woman who wouldn’t stop wondering where her fiancé disappeared to (aka bragging about the fact that she has one), Elaine, in a fake Australian accent, shut her up with this iconic line: “Maybe the dingo ate your baby.” The reference was lost on the woman, but Elaine sure did crack herself up.
When Elaine decides to throw a party to reward the hard-working people of J. Peterman, George tags along and witnesses something that he’ll never forget and neither will we. Elaine makes the best toast ever (“here’s to those who wish us well, and those who don’t can go to hell”) and then heads to the dance floor to get this party started.
With the confidence of a professional dancer, Elaine starts doing her little kicks, which have been aptly described by George as a “full-body dry heave set to music,” and we can’t help but laugh and cringe. And if you’re as good a dancer as Elaine, like some of us regrettably are, watching this performance was twice as painful as you thought to yourself “yup, that’s me.”
1 A LITTLE GRACE
Job-hunting can be a nightmare. When Elaine’s Jujyfruit addiction cost Pendant Publishing everything, Elaine Benes was back on the job market. In the season six premiere, she has an interview with Doubleday, in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Jackie O. The interviewer is quick to point out how it will be difficult to fill the shoes of someone with such… grace.
Elaine attempts to argue that she has “a little grace,” but the woman insists that one either has grace or doesn’t – there’s no such thing as little grace. And that’s when the real Elaine, the one we know and love, spits out what's on her mind: “I don’t have grace. I don’t want grace. I don’t even say grace, okay?” But, Elaine's lack of grace is precisely what makes her so incredibly relatable.