Widely regarded as the best American sitcom ever made, Seinfeld celebrates its 25th anniversary this coming Saturday. The seminal show laid the template for the modern American sitcom, and everyone from Friends to Frasier has taken inspiration from it.
The exploits of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer delighted fans for over ten years through nine hit seasons, and inadvertently changed society in surprising ways (blogger That Guy With The Glasses has a five-point list here).
To mark the upcoming milestone, Alex Nelson takes a look – in no particular order – at 25 of the best moments from the influential sitcom.
1. The Magic Loogie
Episode: The Boyfriend, Part 1
Key quote: “There had to have been a second spitter!”
Jerry meets his idol – former New York Mets baseball player Keith Hernandez (appearing as himself). Kramer vents his hatred for Hernandez and he and Newman accuse the baseball star of spitting on them during a Mets game at Shea Stadium. However, Jerry supports a “second-spitter theory”, offering a precise explanation and perfectly sending up the ‘Magic Bullet’ scene from Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991) in the process.
2. You think you’re better than me?
Episode: The Doorman
Key quote: “You think you’re better than me?”
After an awkward exchange, Jerry quickly forms a rivalry with the doorman at Elaine’s boss’ building. Despite Jerry’s every effort to avoid the doorman, they run into each other repeatedly and exchange barbs; the doorman taking offence from Jerry’s passing comments. Eventually the pair become ‘friends’ and the doorman asks Jerry to watch his post for him – at which point Jerry soon finds himself on the opposite end of the abuse.
3. Man in a cape
Episode: The Chinese Woman
Key quote: “Well, it is good cape weather: cool, breezy.”
An acquaintance of George’s father, played by Larry David, is seen wearing a cape. It has little bearing on the episode’s overall narrative, but that doesn’t stop this short scene from being a chuckle inducer. Jerry is initially supportive of the bold fashion statement, before quickly changing his mind and saying: “You’re right, it is strange. In fact, let’s cross to the other side of the street.”
4. The Jacket
Episode: The Jacket
Key quote: “This is huge! When did this happen?”
The idea that a new item of clothing could have such a relevance on everyday life seems like a strange idea, but think about it. Every time a friend gets a new jacket, you do treat it with the same gravitas as George does in this clip. OK, maybe not that much gravitas, but you get the idea. A clip that perfectly represents the relationship between two of the show’s leading characters, Jerry’s jacket causes quite a stir (aside from the candy stripe lining of course).
5. Zip codes (they’re meaningless)
Episode: The Betrayal
Key quote: “I’ll tell you a little secret about zip codes…”
Jerry’s arch-rival (and US postal service mail man) Newman manages to sum up all that is evil about him in just eleven words. There’s not many nemeses who could do that. Great sitcom villain: could he be the greatest sitcom villain?
6. Stressed epidermis
Episode: The Puffy Shirt
Key quote: “Stress is very damaging to the epidermis!”
In an episode built around a central theme of ‘looking ridiculous’ (George becomes a hand model; Jerry wears a pirate shirt on prime time television), this is one of the finer moments. George attempts to groom his hands while his two parents bicker over him. Eventually it all becomes too much.
7. ‘The Beach’ cologne
Episode: The Intervention
Key quote: “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but that’s not a bad idea.”
Cosmo Kramer comes up with a lot of bold ideas for inventions throughout Seinfeld’s nine series (a full playlist of them all can be found here). But by far our favourite is a cologne that makes you smell like you’ve just come back from the beach.
Episode: The Fusilli Jerru
Key quote: “I’m not the assman, I think there’s been a mistake!”
We’ve all been there: picking up new number plates for our cars, only to discover there’s been a mix-up and we’re now a licensed ‘Assman’. But what to do about it? Well, if you’re anything like Kramer, you assume those plates were meant for a proctologist, and use that theory to your advantage by parking in a “Doctors Only” spot. What could possibly go wrong?
9. George’s bra fascination
Episode: The Sniffing Accountant
Key quote: “I didn’t know in what way or on what level but I knew… I wanted to be around brassieres.”
When George’s father lands him an interview for the position of a women’s underwear salesman in season five, he must blag his way through it. What follows is one of the most cringe-inducingly hilarious scenes in Seinfeld history, not least because George perfectly sums it up when he says “two cups at the front, two loops at the back. How do they do it?”
10. Hoochie Mama!
Episode: The Serenity Now
Key quote: “Hoochie Mama! Hoochie Mama! Hoochie Mama!”
For the most part Seinfeld’s humour lay in its cleverly subtle brand of observational comedy. At other times it relied on Kramer screeching “Hoochie Mama!” at the top of lungs while being covered in silly string. This is that time.
11. Snickers bar etiquette
Episode: The Pledge Drive
Key quote: “I am eating my dessert. How do you eat it? With your hands?”
Seinfeld held a mirror up to the absurdities of social etiquette and challenged the norm, and its influence has been far felt. We’re not sure many people took up eating their chocolate bars with cutlery after this season six episode though. Next time a friend offers you a Mars, ask for a knife and fork.
12. A Festivus (for the rest of us)
Episode: The Strike
Key quote: “The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances.”
If you’re fed up with the over commercialization of Christmas, why not look to ‘Festivus’ – Frank Costanza’s alternative holiday. A “Festivus for the rest of us”, the celebration features traditions such as the Airing of Grievances, where each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year, and an undecorated aluminium pole instead of a tree.
13. ‘Happy birthday?’ No such thing…
Episode: The Visa
Key quote: “For the rest of our sad, wretched, pathetic lives, this is who we are to the bitter end.”
Jerry Seinfeld offers his dour view on aging and birthdays, upsetting a perfectly romantic double date in the process. A heart wrenching monologue on the complexities of human existence, one day this scene may be held in as high regard as Shakespeare. Until then, surprise a friend on their birthday with this clip and remind them that there is no such thing as a happy birthday.
14. Dying with dignity
Episode: The Pilot, Part 1
Key quote: “How could you be a doctor and not say ‘get outta here’? It should be part of the training at medical school: ‘Cancer?! Get outta here!'”
In keeping with the cheery theme of death, George explains how he’ll avoid dying with dignity. “I lived my whole life in shame, why should I die with dignity?”
15. George’s routine
Episode: The Lip Reader
Key quote: “You’re giving ME the ‘its not you, it’s me’ routine?! I invented ‘it’s not you, it’s me’!”
George Costanza as a central character provides most of the self-deprecating wit of the show, which isn’t surprising since he was based on show creator and perpetually sardonic pessimist Larry David (who went on to create the equally funny Curb Your Enthusiasm). Here, he lays claim to the tired cliche of the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ break-up technique.
16. George’s cinema rant
Episode: The Opposite
Key quote: “If you think I’m kidding just try me. Try me. Because I would LOVE IT!”
We’ve all wanted to do it; the annoying oiks sitting behind us at the cinema, rustling their popcorn, making thick-skulled comments and kicking our seats. We’ve all wanted to turn around and give them a piece of our minds. Maybe we should be more like George Costanza, who in this fifth season classic episode has taken to doing the very opposite of everything his mind tells him to, with the hopes it will improve him as a person.
17. The Moops
Episode: The Bubble Boy
Key quote: “Oh no… I’m so sorry, it’s ‘the Moops’. The correct answer is ‘the Moops’.
This season four episode (one of the most critically acclaimed in the show’s history) sees George and his girlfriend Susan visiting the ‘bubble boy’, who lives behind a plastic divider which creates a germ-free sterile environment. During a game of Trivial Pursuit, the bubble boy is particularly arrogant, so George does not allow him credit when a misprint forces him to answer a game winning question ‘incorrectly’.
18. The Contest
Episode: The Contest
Key quote: “I didn’t know whether to try and keep her from falling or zip up.”
Another Seinfeld episode that raked in a load of awards and critical acclaim, the premise was built on innuendo and double entendre. The four friends decide to hold a contest to see who can go the longest without, y’know… The writers of the show managed to craft a 20-minute episode without mentioning the sordid act by name once, but we’re not quite as talented. You’ll just have to watch the clip!
19. The Shrinkage
Episode: The Hamptons
Key quote: “I WAS IN THE POOL!”
Jerry’s girlfriend walks in on George changing after a swim (and lets out a foreboding giggle), so George calls upon Jerry to help him explain the phenomenon of post-pool depreciation. It’s a phrase/excuse that has become synonymous with men the world over.
20. Telemarketing put-down
Episode: The Pitch
Key quote: “Well now you know how I feel…”
Just as George taught us all how to be better people by eating our Twixs with a knife and fork, so Jerry teaches us an ingenious way to deal with those annoying telemarketing calls that always seem to come through at innappropriate times. Give it a try!
21. ‘She just needs a nose job…’
Episode: The Nose Job
Key quote: “You’re as pretty as the rest of ’em…”
Kramer sticks his foot right in while saying what everyone else was thinking in this scene in which he meets George’s new girlfriend for the first time and notices a particularly predominant facial feature.
22. The dingo ate your baby
Episode: The Stranded
Key quote: “The dingo ate your baby.”
Another one of those moments where the Seinfeld characters find themselves wound up in situations we’ve all been in before. Here, Elaine excels as she finds herself alone at a party full of strangers. She keeps herself entertained with this absurd one-liner, which was actually in reference to a major news story at the time.
23. Not bloody likely!
Episode: The Tape
Key quote: “It’s my cockney accent!”
A throwaway comment between Kramer and Jerry probably won’t make many greatest moments lists, but it has a special place in our hearts. It comes out of nowhere and is never referenced again – which, for Seinfeld, is very rare indeed – but that’s precisely why we love it. A little bit of randomness never hurt anyone…
24. Kramer drives ‘on the E’
Episode: The Dealership
Key quote: “Oh, I’ve been in the slash many times…”
Not a reference to the already zany character of Kramer experimenting with illicit drugs, and not strictly a ‘moment’ (Kramer’s test driving antics make up the bulk of his story ark in this particular episode). No, Kramer’s ‘driving on the E’ takes a hilariously stupid concept and, through typically ingenious writing, turns into one of the most dangerous sounding activities you could ever partake in while travelling.
25. Cigarettes and alcohol
Episode: The Sniffing Accountant
Key quote: “Here’s to feeling good all the time!”
Another great Kramer moment to round off our list. In this episode, he gets sent on a spying mission to determine whether Jerry’s ‘Sniffing Accountant’ is actually a cocaine user. In an attempt to ‘blend in’ with the patrons of a hip bar, Kramer adopts a bohemian disguise, complete with loose hanging cigarette and a glass of beer. After declaring he sucks down cigarettes “like Coca Cola”, he reveals he may not be accustomed to the hedonistic lifestyle after all…