“Being a stand-up is my mission in life; it’s my passion. My ongoing goal is to simply be funny, on my own, in front of a roomful of strangers.”—Jerry Seinfeld
Rarely has a comedian so successfully branded his success on his own surname. Jerry Seinfeld has built a career around his standup comedy, whether it’s been performed onstage or on his namesake sitcom. Since then, Seinfeld has also continued to make people laugh, including a series of appearances as himself on critically acclaimed shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, and 30 Rock. Enjoy these facts behind the man who gave us Seinfeld, and who knows how many comedy specials, which still make millions laugh to this day.
40. Started at the Bottom, Now He’s Here
According to Seinfeld himself, his first ever gig was in New York, when he was 21 years old. Despite the fact that his five-minute set went badly, Seinfeld reflected that it didn’t matter to him at the time, because he just needed to begin doing standup. Money and success weren’t issues for him, so long as he could join the world of standup comedians. Safe to say that success came later anyway!
39. He Turned Down the Satellite of Love?!
Surprisingly, a young Seinfeld was the first choice to host a unique 1980s comedy series called Mystery Science Theatre 3000. However, Seinfeld turned down the chance to watch bad movies with Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot in order to get his own show off the ground. Seinfeld eventually did appear on the show when it was resurrected in 2017, playing a character named Freak Masterstroke.
38. Larry, Meet Jerry
Seinfeld first encountered Larry David in 1975, before Seinfeld had committed to a career in comedy. David himself was already a comedian, leaning on Seinfeld’s car outside of an improv club while talking to another comedian. Ultimately, Seinfeld didn’t properly make his acquaintance with David until nearly three years later. According to Seinfeld, the two men bonded immediately over the fact that they were “obsessed with the smallest possible issue.”
37. There Was a Child in New York…
Seinfeld was born Jerome Allen Seinfeld in Brooklyn on April 29, 1954, though his family moved to Long Island when Seinfeld was very young. He is Hungarian on his father’s side and Syrian on his mother’s.
36. My Top Two
When he was asked by Reddit to name his favorite episodes of Seinfeld to film, Seinfeld chose “The Pothole,” because it was hilarious setting Newman on fire, and “The Rye,” because the relocation to Paramount in LA made him feel like they were finally a real TV show.
35. When Jerry Met Willy
According to an interview that Seinfeld once gave, a highlight of his career was when he got to visit US President Bill Clinton at the White House, meeting with the President for over two hours. We can only guess how much of that time was Clinton laughing at Seinfeld’s jokes.
34. Who’s Better Than Me?
Seinfeld was named as the 12th funniest comedian of all time, according to Comedy Central in 2005. He missed out on a higher ranking to the likes of Roseanne Barr, Bill Cosby, and Woody Allen. Something tells me he might make the top ten next time.
33. Is He Secretly a Centipede?
Some people have noted that Seinfeld is a fan of white sneakers. But his love for them goes beyond simple ownership of one or two pairs. Seinfeld allegedly owns more than 500 pairs of white sneakers!
32. I Didn’t Bother Wearing the Jerseys or Sweaters, Though
When asked about why he was so enamored with white sneakers, Seinfeld credited New York Jet Joe Namath and comedian Bill Cosby for wearing white sneakers first. He called them his “fashion icons,” which might make for the strangest fashion icon choices we’ve ever heard of.
31. Now it Really is a Show About Nothing
In 2010, Seinfeld produced a reality show called The Marriage Ref, hosted by comedian Tom Papa. The premise is that guest celebrities are brought in to take sides in real-life marriage disputes. Unfortunately for Seinfeld, the show failed to catch on, and was canceled after two seasons.
30. We Hope He Showed the Man Some Respect
Seinfeld’s first big break came after he succeeded at an open-mic night in 1976. His standup impressed the right people, because he was asked to appear on an HBO special starring the legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield.
29. Preserving the Puffy Shirt Forever
Fans of Seinfeld will be pleased to know that the puffy shirt which Seinfeld wore during the show was donated by Seinfeld himself to National Museum of American History in 2004. While giving a speech at the event, Seinfeld humorously declared that this was the most embarrassing day of his life.
28. Keep it in the Family
The role of a manager in a comedian’s life is very important, especially someone with the career that Seinfeld has. His choice for manager is none other than his sister, Carolyn Liebling.
27. Was His Ancestor on the Titanic?
When comedian and talk show host Jay Leno launched The Jay Leno Show in 2009, Seinfeld appeared as his very first guest. Safe to say that this appearance didn’t bring the show any luck, as it only lasted one season—however, that one season did comprise 95 episodes.
26. Holiday Humor
Believe it or not, Seinfeld has actually written and published a children’s book! In 2002, Seinfeld released the book Halloween, which was based on Seinfeld’s own childhood memories. The book describes a celebration of Halloween from a child’s point of view, making use of the same kind of observational comedy which made Seinfeld famous in the first place. No word on whether a young Kramer appears in the book, though.
25. It’s a Town of Phonies!
After Bee Movie, Seinfeld has virtually given up acting as anyone other than a slightly fictionalized version of himself—after all, doing that made him famous on Seinfeld. According to Seinfeld, one reason that he left the world of acting to return to pure comedy was that he admired how meritocratic the comedy world was compared to the world of acting. As Seinfeld viewed it, a comedian is either funny or isn’t, and can’t pretend they’re funny when they aren’t making people laugh, while someone in Hollywood could fake it until they made it. To be fair, we imagine that not many Seinfeld fans will miss his acting career.
24. Staying Humble
Another reason why he went back to stand-up comedy was that his clout meant little to the comedy club owners trying to keep things organized. He reflected on a time in 2002 where he performed at a small club in Levittown, Long Island. Much to Seinfeld’s amusement, he wasn’t treated specially despite his obvious fame. Seinfeld considered it healthy for himself to not let celebrity go to his head.
23. Longtime Pal
One of Seinfeld’s best friends is fellow comedian George Wallace. He and Wallace had lived together for years while trying to make in the standup world, Seinfeld favoring observational comedy while Wallace relied on improve—for his first gig, he performed while dressed as a reverend, and had no prepared material for it. Wallace actually served as Seinfeld’s best man at his wedding to Jessica Sklar.
22. Seinfeld the Scientologist?
In 1992, it was revealed that Seinfeld had expressed an interest in joining Scientology, but he ultimately never became a member of the organization. We’d give more details, but Seinfeld never turned that experience into an episode on his show.
21. Hopefully, She Got Some Royalties
One of Seinfeld’s main inspirations for the character Elaine was fellow comedian Carol Leifer, whom Seinfeld dated for several years before he ever created the show Seinfeld.
20. Going out on a Lamb
Given his love for cars, you might be wondering which kind of cars Seinfeld likes most. Despite his loyalty to the Porsche brand, Seinfeld named the Lamborghini Miura as “the most beautiful car ever designed.” Car enthusiasts are free to leave their opinions on that judgement in the comments section.
19. First for the Faith, Second for the Sale
When Seinfeld was 16, he went abroad to Israel to volunteer on a collective agricultural community known as a kibbutz, as is a tradition among people of Jewish faith. He didn’t return to Israel until many years later to promote the CGI film Bee Movie. Safe to say one of those trips was a bit more fulfilling than the other.
18. It’s a Start
Early on in his career, Seinfeld landed a minor role on the sitcom Benson. Seinfeld played a young mail-delivery boy who also delivered comedy routines, much to the annoyance of those who didn’t want to hear them.
17. Well, That’s Harsh
Unfortunately, Seinfeld and the creative team on Benson eventually decided things weren’t working out. Actually, to put it more accurately, the creators of the show decided this for themselves and didn’t tell Seinfeld that he’d been fired from the show until Seinfeld showed up to a read-through and looked confused when he didn’t get a script.
16. Living the High Life
In 2007, Seinfeld allegedly made a total of $60 million, according to Forbes Magazine. No word on whether he needed help carrying that cheque to the bank.
15. One Can’t Deny his Sense of Humor
For a long time, there existed a running joke which said that being on Seinfeld had cursed its co-star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus—this was before Veep put that old joke firmly to rest. Louis-Dreyfus referenced the curse when she returned to Saturday Night Live as a guest host in 2006. During her monologue, Louis-Dreyfus addressed the curse, only for a stage light to suddenly crash to the ground beside her. Seinfeld then made a cameo appearance, holding a pair of bolt-cutters, cursing his poor aim.
14. Nothing to It
According to Seinfeld himself, he and Larry David never pitched Seinfeld as “a show about nothing.” In 1988, their pitch was a show about a comedian getting the material for his standup—which does actually describe Seinfeld pretty well. The idea that it was “a show about nothing” came much later, in a joke on the show itself.
13. Talk About Last-Minute Change of Mind!
Seinfeld has been married to Jessica Sklar since 1999. They began dating the year before—they met soon after Sklar had returned from a three-week honeymoon that had ended with her leaving her husband. Sounds like the plot of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
12. Jerry and the Beatles?
Seinfeld practices Transcendental Meditation and has done so for more than 40 years of his life. He has promoted this practice several times, including at a 2009 David Lynch Foundation benefit, which also featured Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Do they visualize success when they’re meditating, because if so, it’s working.
One of Seinfeld’s children is named Julian Kal. Not only is this a reference to Superman, Seinfeld’s longtime favorite superhero (whose birth name was Kal-El) but it’s also a reference to Seinfeld’s father, Kalman.
10. Kill Them with Kindness
Seinfeld has an interesting strategy for dealing with hecklers. Whenever someone yells something rude during his acts, he doesn’t snap back or humiliate them. Instead, he begins to counsel them like a therapist might. This wouldn’t just throw off his hecklers, being unable to figure out how to respond to this sympathy, it would also amuse his audiences.
9. How Many Cars Can You Drive?
If there is one thing that Seinfeld loves to collect, it’s cars. He reportedly had more than 150 different models in his possession, with 46 of them being Porsches!
8. All in Day’s Sale
In 2016, Seinfeld sold 17 of his Porsches at the Gooding & Company’s Amelia Island Auction. The cars were sold for a total sum of more than $22 million!
7. You Can’t Buy Me Anymore
Incredibly, Seinfeld turned down an offer of $5 million per episode to make a tenth season for Seinfeld, which would have lasted 22 episodes, adding up to $110 million. As surprising as it might be that he turned that kind of money down, it’s safe to say he already had enough money for a lifetime, given that he earned $261 million in 2004 alone!
6. On Second Thought…
One episode of Seinfeld had already begun filming when Seinfeld personally canceled it. The story—Jerry buys a handgun—ultimately didn’t feel funny to Seinfeld himself, and so they scrapped the idea last-minute.
5. Don’t Call Me the Best, Damnit!
According to Louis CK, he got the chance to open for Seinfeld at a comedy gig in Boston when he was just 19 or 20 years old, and before Seinfeld had his own show. Naturally excited, the young CK introduced Seinfeld to the crowd as “the best comedian in the world.” After Seinfeld did his bit, he looked for CK and admonished him, furious that CK had put such pressure on another comedian like that. To Seinfeld’s credit, he apparently invited CK to join him for some comedy shows with him, even after that mistake.
4. Doubtless He Made Good Use of It
In a strange record to have, Seinfeld was the first person to receive the American Express Black Card. We’re not surprised, given that 2007 salary!
3. I Never Said It!
Contrary to what you might assume about Seinfeld’s comedy, he never once began a joke with the phrase “What’s the deal with…” This actually stems from a sketch he performed on Saturday Night Live, when he parodied bad comedians who were trying to coast on Seinfeld’s style of comedy once he became famous. The problem was that the sketch backfired on Seinfeld himself, dooming him to a plague of imitations of his nasally voice asking “What’s the deal with…?”
2. Love Doesn’t See Age
Few people seem to remember that time when Seinfeld began dating a woman named Shoshanna Lonstein, whom he first met when she was 17 and he was 38. Seinfeld insisted that he hadn’t known just how young she was when they first met, that he didn’t actually date her until she was of age, and that it wasn’t her youth which attracted him to her. Meanwhile, in between the many metaphorical backflips that were done to try to avoid Seinfeld being labeled as a creep, the relationship nearly led to an engagement, until Lonstein grew tired of Seinfeld’s insistence that she could not work. They split up after a four-year relationship. To make this even creepier, the now beloved Seinfeld episode “The Shoes,” which features a scene where George gets caught looking at a 15-year-old girl’s cleavage, was released while the two were still dating. Yick.
1. Thin-Skinned on the Subject
His relationship with Shoshana Lonstein was a sore spot for Seinfeld, as you can imagine. It actually led to a minor falling out between Seinfeld and his friend, Howard Stern. Seinfeld had previously been a guest on Stern’s show several times, but when Stern and his crew cracked jokes about Seinfeld’s relationship with Lonstein, Seinfeld didn’t return until 2010.
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