Wednesday, September 13, 2023

15 interesting nuggests I learned about Seinfeld in the book Seinfeldia

Jennifer Armstrong wrote a fascinating book about the ultra-classic TV comedy Seinfeld. The book, Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, was released in 2016 and I started it when it was released but only now got back to finish it. Although it’s certainly worth reading on its own, here are a handful of the endless nuggets of interest:

  • Seinfeld's first TV role was as a mailman on Benson in 1979, but the gig only lasted three episodes before he was fired. His only line each episode? "Give a cheer, Frankie's here."
  • Before his first appearance on Johnny Carson in 1981, he started jogging and constantly listening to the Superman theme to get himself ready.
  • After writing for the late-night comedy Fridays, Seinfeld co-creator Larry David was hired for Saturday Night Live, where he only got one skit on air. That said, his one season was 1984-1985, which just happens to be my all-time favorite year, with Martin Short, Billy Crystal, and one Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
  • Seinfeld was a little annoyed when he was asked to take some of his free “day” time to come in for a meeting with NBC network executives. After all, as a stand-up comedian, he was only supposed to work nights.
  • Kramer was based on a real-life neighbor of Larry David’s named Kramer who lived across the hall from him in a midtown Manhattan subsidized high rise for struggling artists.
  • It took Jason Alexander two lines of reading for the producers for them to know he was the right choice, pitting an established actor against the more raw Seinfeld.
  • Rosie O’Donnell was one of the other actors in the running for the Elaine part that went to JLD. SNL alum Brad Hall was one of those in the running for George Costanza.
  • Alexander realized early on that his character was supposed to be like Larry David. At that point, he stopped trying to make the character like Woody Allen.
  • Michael Richards' costars felt like they never really knew him very well. One thing was for sure about the guy who played Kramer, his costars would often die laughing from his acting, and he would get very angry at them for messing up his momentum.
  • Elaine’s legendary awful dancing at the J Peterman party was inspired by SNL head Loren Michaels' equally bad moves.
  • The Soup Nazi was influenced by a Manhattan soup shop where people lined up and were berated by a staffer, and there was also something similar in the film Sleepless in Seattle.
  • Jerry’s on-screen dad had been Jackie Gleason's stand-in on The Honeymooners. He had also been a real-life policeman and in movies including Dudly Moore's Arthur. His on-screen mom had been the first real-life steamy love affair of James Dean’s.
  • George’s girlfriend, Susan, played an integral role in later seasons. But while Alexander liked the actor who played her offset, he felt he could never work well with her when they were in character.
  • Lots of rumors swirled as the show came to an end in its ninth season. One that I don’t recall was how people thought there would be a spinoff show with Elaine, George, and Kramer, but no Jerry.
  • The only real blot on any of the main players’ careers was a doozy. Richards’ career came shuttering to a halt when he had an N-word-laced outburst during a comedy set seven years after Seinfeld had ended. About the only thing he ever appeared on after that was the Seinfeld reunion on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld's own Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and the doozy that was Kirstie (Kirstie Alley's late-career sitcom).

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