4. Cosmo Kramer
Best-known episode: "The Merv Griffin Show"
The history of TV comedy is full of wacky neighbors, but none so crazed as Kramer — this guy lives in a world all his own, bristling with so much manic energy, his hair seems to give off Bride of Frankenstein-style electric sparks. A wholly original comic creation, he's like the Jewish Falstaff that Shakespeare must have always wanted to create. To his mother, he's "Cosmo"; to the DMV, he's "ASSMAN"; but to everyone else, he's simply Kramer. "His whole life is a fantasy camp," as George says. "Do nothing, fall ass-backwards into money, mooch food off your neighbors and have sex without dating."
Michael Richards was years older than his castmates — he had a good decade on Jason Alexander or Julia Louis-Dreyfus. And since he'd toiled in relative obscurity his whole career, Kramer came as a total surprise — that hair, those pants, that voice, the body rebop that kept earning very un-Seinfeld-like bursts of affectionate applause. It's safe to say Kramer would have topped this list back when Seinfeld was still in production. (Richards' offstage troubles might have hurt the Kramer mystique a bit — or maybe The Big Lebowski, which cleverly cloned the character as "the Dude.") But Kramer remains one of a kind. He is a loathsome, offensive brute — yet we can't look away. ROB SHEFFIELD