Happy Birthday, ‘Seinfeld’: 8 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The TV Classic
On July 5th, 1989, a show premiered on NBC that cemented in the popular imagination the unlikely idea that, contradictory to what most people have believed throughout history, Jewish people talking loudly about themselves is a cool thing. Arguably the greatest sitcom of all time turns chai-plus-ten today and we couldn’t be more proud.
Here are eight things you may not know about the wonderful world of Seinfeld:
Jerry Seinfeld hates that “Seinfeld” is described as “the show about nothing”
“Seinfeld” celebrates both the glory of particularity and the vacuousness of life. That’s not the same as being “about nothing”, according to his creator. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Seinfeld pointed out that it is actually the show pitched within the show, “Jerry”, that a character describes as “about nothing”. Instead, “Seinfeld” is a pure comedy, following two rules: “No hugging. No learning.” Calling the faux-tagline “nonsense”, he continued, “Nobody wants to learn from a comedy. Learn somewhere else. How arrogant to presume that you could teach in addition to entertaining.”
Season two had to yield its premier date to the Persian Gulf War
After a critically well-received first season, the show, originally called “The Seinfeld Chronicles”, was scheduled to premier its second season on NBC in January 1991, but it was put on hold due to a little thing called the Persian Gulf War. It was eventually assigned a Wednesday slot and aired at the end of January 1991.
The first and last scenes of the series mirror each other
Excepting the show’s iconic standup comedy-sandwich style, the first scene of the series features an exchange between George and Jerry about George’s shirt button. According to Jerry, incorrect shirt button placement can give the unflattering suggestion that “you look like you live with your mother”. The final scene of the last episode, “Finale Part II”, just before Jerry’s last standup set, ends with this exchange:
Jerry: See now, to me, that button is in the worst possible spot.
Jerry: Oh yeah. The second button is the key button. It literally makes or breaks the shirt. Look at it, it’s too high, it’s in no-man’s land.
George: Haven’t we had this conversation before?
Jerry: You think?
George: I think we have.
Jerry: Yeah, maybe we have.
Jerry Seinfeld says “Friends” ripped him off
Is the classic sitcom “Friends” just “Seinfeld” with hotter people? Yes, according to Jerry. During a podcast interview the comedian said, “We thought, ’They wanna do our show with better looking people. That’s what they’re doing here.’ And we thought, ’That should work.’”
Elaine’s cartoon for the New Yorker inspired a real cartoon in the New Yorker
If you have ever been in the unenviable position of not understanding a New Yorker cartoon to the point that you have considered breaking into the cartoonist’s office to interrogate him or her, you have something in common with Elaine Benes, who did just that in the 169th episode of Seinfeld. Where Elaine and the typical “Seinfeld” fan differ is that Elaine ultimately submits this accidentally plagiarized cartoon about a pig that is accepted (in the episode) by the New Yorker. Fourteen years later, the New Yorker actually ran the cartoon as its 342nd caption contest. This ultimate inside joke, which brought together Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, New Yorker editor David Remnick, and former New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, is likely one of the more compelling reasons people think Jews control the media.
Mike Costanza, George’s real-life namesake, once sued NBC for 100 million dollars
In a strange turn of events that could have been lifted from “Seinfeld”, a man claiming to be George Costanza’s real-life inspiration sued NBC, Larry David, and Jerry Seinfeld for damage to his reputation and emotional distress via “Seinfeld”, in which he had a one-time cameo. In the lawsuit, hilariously named “COSTANZA V. SEINFELD”, Mike Costanza testified:
George is bald. I am bald. George is stocky. I am stocky. George and I both went to Queens College with Jerry. George’s high-school teacher nicknamed him ‘Can’t stand ya.’ So did mine. George had a thing about bathrooms and parking spaces. So do I.
Insisting that Costanza is based on “Seinfeld” show-runner Larry David, the defendants won. David smugly commented, “The universe would be out of kilter if someone named Costanza won anything.”
The real Kramer lives! (And gives people bus rides)
While the actor who played Kramer has created a lot of tsures with his very un-Kramer-like racist comments, the man who launched a thousand apartment-entrance-slides, Kenny Kramer, has made a career out of offering a Seinfeld-themed tour of Manhattan called “Kramer’s Reality Tour.” Those wishing to explore Kramer’s “reality” can join Kenny “The Real” Kramer on a bus tour that visits the soup nazi’s shop, the iconic “Restaurant”, and according to Kramer’s website “many other hysterical and historical locations.”
Festivus was actually invented by the best-of-us
One of many great gifts “Seinfeld” has given this world, Festivus (for the rest of us) is a holiday tradition purportedly invented by George Costanza’s father, in which celebrators cluster around an aluminum pole for “the airing of grievances” in lieu of other winter festivities. Charmingly, as one can learn on the very informative “Festivus! The Website” the holiday was actually invented by “Seinfeld” writer Daniel O’Keefe’s father, who “made up a holiday and had his family celebrate it.” Mr. O’Keefe, Sr. celebrated the first Festivus in 1966 and eventually developed a series of complex traditions surrounding the holiday that didn’t make it into the series, including the wearing of hats, specifically “a viking helmet.” O’Keefe, for better or for worse, has refuted the idea that Festivus “is an allegory for how American Jews often feel overwhelmed by Christmas.”
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny.
This story "Happy Birthday, ‘Seinfeld’: 8 Things About Hit Series" was written by Jenny Singer.