The restaurant exterior belongs to Tom's Restaurant, which is the same restaurant that was immortalized in the Suzanne Vega song "Tom's Diner." It is near the Columbia University campus in Manhattan at West 112th Street and Broadway.
Larry David famously instituted a policy of "no hugging, no learning", meaning that the show must avoid sentimentality and moral lessons, and the characters must never learn or grow from their wrongdoings.
As Kramer became more popular, his entrance applause grew so prolonged that the cast complained it was ruining the pacing of their scenes. Directors subsequently asked the audience not to applaud so much when Kramer entered.
It was originally intended that Elaine's formidable father, famous author Alton Benes of whom Jerry and George are terrified, be a recurring character, but in an odd case of life imitating art, veteran character actor Lawrence Tierney really did so frighten and intimidated the other cast members that it was decided he should never return.
Before the show was set to air, Jerry Seinfeld asked Jason Alexander what he thought their chances for success were. Alexander said he thought they "didn't have a chance." When asked why, Alexander responded, "Because the audience for this show is me, and I don't watch TV."
Michael Costanza, Jerry Seinfeld's friend whom George is named after, filed a $100-million lawsuit against Seinfeld, Larry David and NBC, claiming invasion of privacy and defamation of character. Costanza claimed damages due to the show's alleged use of his likeness. The case was dismissed.
When the final episode aired on May 14, 1998, the TV Land network honored the occasion by airing no programming in the show's timeslot. Instead the network just showed a still photo of a closed office door.
The Soup Nazi is based on the actual owner, Al Yeganeh, of a take-out soup business in Manhattan on West 55th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Just like in the sitcom, his soups were known for their excellent quality, but Yeganeh was also famous for the unusual way he treated his customers. Instead of calling him a Nazi, local patrons called him a terrorist, presumably because they knew Yeganeh was born in Iran, not Germany. Yeganeh was so angered by the episode that he forbid the use of the "N word" in his restaurants. Even the slightest reference to "Seinfeld" would push his buttons (it can be seen in an interview he did with CNN). So when some cast members and writers from "Seinfeld" bravely visited the restaurant after the episode aired, Yeganeh claimed that the show had ruined his life.
Jason Alexander originally based his portrayal of George on Woody Allen, which is why he wore glasses. When he realized that George was actually based on Larry David, he began basing his performance on David's mannerisms.
During the original airing of the finale, MTV aired original cartoons that were specially timed to fit into the finale's commercial breaks, so that viewers could freely watch both of them and not worry about missing anything.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus was pregnant while shooting part of this series. Her pregnancy was disguised with her carrying props to hide her changing body. This was parodied on The Nanny (1993) when the very-pregnant Lauren Lane mentioned them hiding Elaine "behind all these huge props" while standing in front of a poster with "Baby" on it.
The character of Cosmo Kramer is based on Kenny Kramer, a man who worked across the hall from co-creator Larry David. In a self-confessed move to cash-in on the sitcom's popularity, Kenny Kramer formed the "Kramer Reality Tour", an officially-recognized New York City tour which visits the real-life locations often featured in the sitcom. In the 1997 season of "Seinfeld", Cosmo Kramer's memoirs are published by J. Peterman as his own. Wanting to make the most of the situation, Cosmo Kramer starts a "Peterman Reality Tour", offering a tour of the real-life locations featured in the memoirs.
In the episode where Elaine dates a man named Joel Rifkin, she tries to have him change his name, since Joel Rifkin is also the name of a man involved in a notorious New York City murder case. One of the initial suggestions for a new name was O.J. This episode was shot in 1993, a year before O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
Many plots of the early episodes were completely based on the episode writer's real life troubles, including "The Chinese Restaurant", "The Jacket", "The Robbery", "The Cafe", "The Nose Job", and many others.
One of only three series in American history to rank #1 in the ratings for its entire final network season. The other two were I Love Lucy (1951) (in 1956-57) and The Andy Griffith Show (1960) (in 1967-68).
The apartment used for exterior shots of 129 West 81st Street, New York, New York, is not actually in New York at all, but is 757 S. New Hampshire Avenue, Los Angeles, California. There's a Taco Bell directly across from it.
Jerry, George, and Kramer each had alter-egos that they used on occasion. Jerry's was Kel Varnsen, George's was Art Vandelay, and Kramer alternated between Dr. Martin Van Nostrand and H.E. Pennypacker.
An episode titled "The Bet" in which Elaine buys a gun from Kramer's friend was written for season 2. It was not filmed because the content was deemed unacceptable and was hastily replaced by the episode "The Phone Message".
The original script was called "Stand Up". It was to be a 90-minute mockumentary about how a stand-up comedian writes his jokes based on his everyday life. It was to air in place of Saturday Night Live (1975) for one night. NBC liked the script so much that they decided to develop it into a pilot instead.
While they are waiting in the Chinese restaurant, Jerry lists the many people that will be getting phone calls as a result of him being seen there. One of the included people was his sister. His sister never appeared on the show, nor is she ever referred to again.
Though Larry David played George Steinbrenner, the actual George M. Steinbrenner III was filmed playing himself for use in an episode. However, the scene was never shown on the series. Steinbrenner did appear with Jason Alexander (in the part of George) in a 1996 promotional spot for MLB All-Star Game balloting.
Kramer's wardrobe of mostly 1960s and 1970s clothing was not intended to make him into retro fashions, so much as to suggest that he hadn't bought clothes in several years. The pants in particular were always about an inch too short in order to stress this. In later seasons, appropriate clothing became increasingly difficult for producers to find, due to the combination of it getting older and older as well as the extreme popularity of Kramer as a character, forcing them to have tailors personally make Kramer's clothing out of retro fabrics. Often, they would create numerous back-up copies of the clothing in case it was damaged during the physical comedy.
In one of the episodes, Jerry is walking down the street with one of his buddies, and in the background, there's a building with a sign on it that reads "Kal's Signs". Jerry Seinfeld's real life dad's name is Kal, and he really made signs for a living.
Throughout the run of the series, Kramer rarely says "Yes". Nearly all of his positive responses are slang variations ("Yup", "Yeah!", "Giddyup" etc). Five episodes where he does actually say "Yes" are "The Puffy Shirt", "The Sniffing Accountant" "The Subway", The English Patient", and "The Little Jerry".
ABC Entertainment executive Lloyd Braun lent his name to a character appearing in three episodes, "The Non-Fat Yogurt", "The Gum", and "The Serenity Now", and is a neighbor and nemesis of George Costanza.
Kramer's line "These pretzels are making me thirsty" is an homage to Jeff Goldblum and his one and only line in "Annie Hall" a Woody Allen film. Goldblum's line is famous in movie history for his delivery.
Lee Garlington was originally supposed to be a member of the cast, as Claire, the coffee shop waitress who gave Jerry and George friendly advice. She appeared in the pilot episode. But when the show was picked up, her character was dropped. According to Jason Alexander, Garlington offended Larry David by rewriting her lines.
At Jerry Seinfeld's high school, Massapequa HS on Long Island, there was a teacher named Mr. Bevilaqua - he was the wrestling coach there. In one of the episodes Jerry had a race that was officiated by Mr. Bevilaqua.
In the very first show, Kramer's last name was Kessler. Jerry is heard saying Kessler exactly the same way as he does Kramer. This was because Kenny Kramer would not allow his name to be used on the show unless he was allowed to play Kramer. Eventually Kenny Kramer's list of demands were met, and the name Kramer was used.
Elaine is loosely based on Carol Leifer, a friend of Jerry Seinfeld's whom he also used to date. She is also based on model Susan McNabb, who was Seinfeld's long-time girlfriend, and Monica Yates, whom Larry David dated.
Jerry is the only character to appear in every episode. Elaine does not appear in "The Seinfeld Chronicles" and "The Trip (Parts 1 and 2)", Kramer does not appear in "The Chinese Restaurant" and "The Pen", and George does not appear in "The Pen".
In the series finale, Kramer suggests that he, George, Elaine, and Seinfeld do a musical such as "Bye, Bye, Birdie" or "My Fair Lady". Jason Alexander, who plays George, did in fact star in Bye Bye Birdie (1995) as Albert Peterson.
Newman was originally written as the African-American son of Jerry's landlord. William Thomas Jr. was cast and a scene featuring him was filmed but it was deleted. Tim Russ also auditioned for the role.
Kramer's first name was originally going to be "Conrad". This was planned to revealed in a season 2 episode titled "The Bet" written by Larry Charles. But the episode was scrapped due to its controversial storyline in which Elaine buys a gun. Kramer's first name was finally revealed to be "Cosmo" in the season 6 episode, "The Switch".
Bob Balaban played an NBC network executive who approved a sitcom pilot to be called "Jerry". Balaban was chosen because of his resemblance to NBC executive Warren Littlefield, the man who allowed Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David to produce the "Seinfeld" pilot. Balaban also played Littlefield himself in the HBO movie The Late Shift (1996).
As Larry David states on the DVD, the character of Elaine's father, the gruff war vet/author Alton Benes, was based on the late writer Richard Yates who was the father of his former girlfriend Monica Yates and author of the novel "Revolutionary Road"
In addition to Jerry having a sister who is only mentioned once (in "The Chinese Restaurant"), George has a brother who is mentioned only twice in the series: "The Suicide" (his brother impregnated a woman named Pauline) and "The Parking Space" (George's father, mother and brother never pay for parking). Elaine has a sister, Gail, who she visits in St. Louis, and who she calls after she sends Gail's son her exposed nipple Christmas card. Elaine also mentions a brother-in-law (presumably Gail's husband) in "The Phone Message" (he blurted out secret business information on an answering machine).
Elaine was not originally part of the series. During development, NBC expressed concern that the series would be too Male-Centric, and became insistent on including a regular female character. The Network was also said to make the casting request as a condition for picking up the series.
In the episode "The Watch", Elaine (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is asked by Joe Davola if he knows her from somewhere and she answers with a joke: that he probably recognizes her because her face is sculptured on Mount Rushmore, alongside the U.S. presidents, instead of Roosevelt's face. Way later, on 2015, a poster was released for the fourth season of the HBO series Veep, that shows the face of Selina Meyer (who's played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), sculptered on Mount Rushmore, but it appears instead of Jefferson's face.
Jerry's apartment number switches from 411 to 3A to 5A. In earlier episodes where the whole exterior of Jerry's building is visible, his apartment is clearly on the third floor. But in one episode, Jerry suggests that a bus stop on the corner is 10 floors down.
Kramer's first name Cosmo was not revealed until the show's sixth season. The revelation, and some promotional hype surrounding it, was criticized by some at the time for being too gimmicky or unnecessary.
In the Season 1 episode, "Male Unbonding" (aired June 1990), the character Elaine is sleazily hit on by Jerry's unstable 'friend', Joel, played by actor Kevin Dunn. 22 years later Kevin now plays the role of Ben Cafferty in the show Veep (2012-), as an advisor to the title character Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
In the episode "The Parking Garage", George is leaning up against a car with the license plate BIF725. Seinfeld often refers to George as Biff. This is an homage to Biff Loman from Death of a Salesman, whom Jerry compares George to in another episode.
For a period of time NBC stunted with having an interconnected story line or character crossover between their New York City set sitcom block which aired on Thursday nights. Seinfeld was the only one of the shows which refused to take part.
Since her appearance on the show, the actress who played Jerry's pea-picking girlfriend (the one who insisted on eating her peas one at a time) is on record as saying that she now eats her peas with a spoon.
In Massillon, Ohio, there is a restaurant called Kosmo, named after the Cosmo Kramer character. The restaurant sign features a pencil sketch of Cosmo Kramer. One of the menu items is called the "Newman," which is a meatball sandwich. The famous picture of George Costanza, posing half naked in his underwear, is hanging up in the lady's room.
While Jason Alexander never won an Emmy Award (nominated 6 times) for playing George, he's the only one of the four main actors to have won a Tony Award. He won a best actor in a musical award for "Jerome Robbin's Broadway" in 1989, the same year _Seinfeld_ started.
Three guest stars have worked with director John Landis. David Naughton (who appeared in the episode, The Red Dot), worked with Landis on An American Werewolf in London (1981). Peter Riegert (who appeared in The Finalie: Part 1) and Mark Metcalf (who appeared in the episode, The Maestro) worked with Landis on Animal House (1978).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the very first episode, the first conversation was between George and Jerry about a button. In the very last episode, when they were sitting in jail, the last conversation they had was the same thing about the button.
Larry David, co-creator and executive producer, appears several times throughout the series. He is the voice of George M. Steinbrenner III, The Man In The Cape (Frank's divorce lawyer), the owner of a newsstand (in the "Chinese Gum" episode he sells George gum), and the man who orders the Kosher meal (in the episode "The Airport"). He was also one of the last voices heard on the show, as the prisoner who yells "I'm gonna cut you!" at the very end of the final episode.
Susan Ross, George's fiancée, was killed off because the cast found it very difficult to work with Heidi Swedberg. According to Jason Alexander, while they liked Swedberg personally, Alexander was having difficulty playing his scenes with her. Julia Louis-Dreyfus joked about killing her which gave Larry David the idea to kill her character.
In the episode in which Kramer options his coffee table book for a movie and moves to Florida, several newspaper headlines are featured as he runs for condo council president. In smaller print on these pages, other headlines read, "Larry David Gets Hole in One" "Larry Dvid Injures Elbow", and "Larry David Never To Play Golf Again".