To celebrate Jerry Seinfeld’s birthday April 29, revisit the funniest and most memorable moments of his career.
Almost 30 years have passed since the first episode of Seinfeld graced our televisions and forever changed scripted comedy shows. The Emmy Award–winning “show about nothing” skyrocketed Brooklyn comedian Jerry Seinfeld to global fame, giving him more opportunities than he could’ve ever imagined.
The standup specialist hasn’t been lax in his post-Seinfeld life, either. He performed gigs across the world, launched his own series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and told his coming-of-age story in the Netflix documentary Jerry Before Seinfeld.
The tireless actor and comedian is turning 64 on April 29, but don’t expect him to retire anytime soon. His second wind could be just as fun to watch as his first foray into entertainment. To get a sense of what makes Seinfeld so sharp, let’s revisit those iconic moments where he surprised us with his insightful wit and charm.
Below are the top 10 moments of Jerry Seinfeld’s career, in no particular order.
1. Jerry Impersonates Kramer
Showing off his acting chops, Seinfeld had us ROFLing in the eighth episode of the eighth season when he impersonated Kramer so skillfully it felt eerie. The premise is that he and Kramer switch apartments due to a restaurant sign brightening the apartment to a degree Kramer can’t handle. But when Jerry spends several nights there, he develops Kramer-esque habits, such as brusquely bursting into his old apartment, where Elaine and a very Seinfeld-like Kramer are talking about relationships. “I’m on no sleep. No sleep!” Seinfeld complains, his hair akimbo to resemble Kramer’s wild ’do. An impressive switcheroo has rarely been repeated to such acclaim by any other TV duo.
2. The Ultimate Newman Challenge
Have you ever dated someone who also dated someone you know and thought, “Really? What did you see in him/her?” Welcome to Jerry’s world in one of the best Seinfeld episodes, “The Big Salad,” when he learns his current date, Margaret, was once in a relationship with his conniving nemesis, Newman. The scenes capture Jerry’s uninhibited disgust at learning about Newman’s prior courtship with Margaret. You can practically see the pain plaguing Jerry’s face. Of course, there were countless other notable Jerry-Newman incidents, but this one demonstrates great acting range from a comedian who claims he never was a great actor.
3. We Can’t Blame Seinfeld for This Blooper
It must’ve been agonizingly difficult to get serious on the set of Seinfeld around hilarious actors such as Michael Richards (Kramer) and Jason Alexander (George Costanza). In this blooper, Jerry Seinfeld breaks character in a scene with Richards, reminding us that the stars are human. Seinfeld especially revels in the outrageous decisions his cast members make. Could you have played this scene straight?
4. Standup Specialties
Jerry Seinfeld’s passion for comedy began with standup, and when he returned to his roots in his 1998 special I’m Telling You for the First Time, we saw why he blazed a trail in comedy pre-Seinfeld. One of our favorite bits is his take on supermarkets and dining, dropping gems about getting lost in grocery lanes (“Mesquite flavor? Is that made from real mosquitoes?”). We can also relate to those expiration-date labels that feel more arbitrary than chemical.
5. Seinfeld Goes to Prison
Seinfeld in ‘Oz’ via Funny or Die
It was one of the oddest of all odd couples: Jerry Seinfeld and the HBO prison show Oz. In 1999 Seinfeld hosted Saturday Night Live, and one of his sketches wondered what would happen if the comedian lived in the maximum-security prison among shower shankings, neo-Nazi gangs and a serious lack of toiletries. The crossover bit even referenced one of the best Seinfeld episodes, “The Contest.”
6. Brutal Honesty about Marketing
In 2014, when Seinfeld received a Clio Award for “services to advertising,” he couldn’t resist taking his podium opportunity to blast marketing, advertising and those who “lie for a living.” It can be difficult to tell just how sarcastic or honest he’s being when he drops a deadpan statement like this one: “I think spending your life trying to dupe innocent people out of their hard-won earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy.” It definitely made a bland awards show more entertaining than it should’ve been.
7. But the Grand Prize of Acceptance Speeches Goes To…
Before his Clio Award clip went viral, Jerry Seinfeld also eviscerated actors and the awards industry when he accepted an HBO award in 2007. One of the most memorable lines? “It’s beyond me that we feel the need to set aside a night to give out these jagoff bowling trophies six times a year so all these people can pat each other on the back about how much money they’re making, boring the piss out of half the world.” Viewers will especially revel in his spot-on take toppling the acting industry.
8. The Lunch Slide-Over Scene
Seinfeld cocreator Larry David exhibited all the symptoms of a Constanza, which makes sense when you know David based Constanza on his own neurotic behavior. We are treated to more analysis of everyday minutiae in a Curb Your Enthusiasm scene when Jerry Seinfeld meets David for lunch and they refuse to slide over to let David’s friend Richard Lewis join them. Notice how David and Seinfeld perfectly complement each other by riffing off the societal hang-ups that made Seinfeld such a massive hit.
9. No Hug for You!
Sorry, wildly popular music star Kesha, but Seinfeld doesn’t know you or want to hug you. The only candid moment on our list: reporters caught Seinfeld on a red carpet refusing to hug a gushing Kesha, who excitedly asked the comedian for a quick embrace. He later explained he doesn’t hug people he doesn’t know, which a Seinfeld fan might recall from one of the best Seinfeld episodes, “The Kiss Hello,” in which Jerry doesn’t want to hug his fellow apartment tenants.
10. Obama FTW
When Seinfeld brought to the world Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee — his web series of casual conversations with comedy legends — no one could foresee the U.S. president sitting with Seinfeld for a cup of java. But that’s exactly what happened when Seinfeld pulled up to the White House in his 1963 Corvette Stingray split-window coupe. We’re treated to an off-the-cuff chat showing Obama’s lighthearted side, and even more insight into Jerry Seinfeld’s outlook on comedy thanks to Obama playing interviewer in the latter half of the episode.