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From Soup Nazis to Nuts: 100 Best ‘Seinfeld’ Characters

Close talkers, braless wonders, library cops and bad tennis pros: we rank the most memorable members of the ‘Seinfeld’ universe

From Soup Nazis to Nuts: 100 Best 'Seinfeld' Characters

NBC

For “a show about nothing,” Seinfeld certainly had a lot of somebodies weaving in and out of its fictional Upper West Side universe. 

For every one of the sitcom’s main foursome, there were practically dozens of agitated relatives, annoyed ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, beleaguered shopkeepers, bad dates, celebrity drop-bys and put-upon coworkers. (There were even nice “opposite” versions of Seinfeld, George and Kramer — the “Bizarro Jerry” crew.) In fact, when we talk about our favorite Seinfeld episodes or quote our favorite lines, many of them revolve around the nut cases, nasty New Yorkers and “no soup for you!” villains who entered in the main characters’ orbit: Hey, remember the one with the “close talker”? Or the one where Kramer’s girlfriend has the “Jimmy legs”? “So my ex-boyfriend came over last night, and yada yada yada, I’m really tired today.” “Elaine, you gotta have a bayyy-beeeee!”

So we’ve assessed and assembled the 100 greatest Seinfeld characters, and ranked them in order of their significance to the Seinfeldverse, their overall hilarity factor and our own personal preferences. Yes, Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer are here — and so are the soup nazis, the library cops, the bubble boys and the horny dentists who make the series so endlessly re-watchable. Sit back, grab some Junior Mints and enjoy.

kevin the bizarro jerry

Courtesy of NBC

100

Kevin

Best-known episode: "The Bizarro Jerry"
Superman fans will tell you that there exists a place called "Bizarro World," where everything is the exact opposite of the Man of Steel's adopted home. ("Up is down, down is up, he says hello when he leaves and goodbye when he arrives.") It's from this alternate Earth that Elaine's ex-boyfriend Kevin apparently hails — where, because he's reliable and considerate, he's the "Bizarro Jerry." The parallels don't stop there: Kevin hangs out with his friends Gene (bald, bespectacled) and Feldman (lanky, eccentric) in an apartment that's the mirror-image of Jerry's. Eventually, Elaine finds herself kicked out of Kevin's up-with-people universe; as for "Bizarro Jerry," his shiny, happy sitcom seems to go on without her, complete with lots of hugging and learning. DAVID FEAR

Joey Delvalle/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

99

Rebecca DeMornay

Best-known episode: "The Muffin Tops"
The violent clerk at Housing Works Thrift Shop has a movie-star name and a charitable job. But do not make her mad. She rages at Elaine in "The Muffin Tops" for donating stumps to the homeless shelter, and makes a deal with George in "The Bookstore": "You get your toilet book out of here, and I won't jump over this counter and punch you in the brain!" Actress Sonya Eddy is better known to General Hospital fans as nurse Epiphany Johnson. But this Rebecca DeMornay is no relation to the real-life Hollywood actress, most famous for deflowering Tom Cruise in Risky Business. ROB SHEFFIELD

NBC

98

The Polar Bear Guy

Best-known episode: "The Pez Dispenser"
Thank God Kramer's buddies from the Polar Bear Club show up at Jerry's apartment just as he's about to host an intervention for Richie Appel, an old comedian friend who's messed up on drugs. No one knows what to say or do, but the lead Polar Bear, played by Allen Bloomfield, has some experience to draw on: "We used to do that when one of our polar bears stopped coming. We'd go to his house, ‘What you don't wanna be a polar bear anymore? The water's too cold for you?'" He also educates Elaine on the concept of male kangaroo "pouch envy." JENNY ELISCU

Mrs. Hamilton seinfeld

Courtesy of NBC

97

Mrs. Hamilton

Best-known episode: "The Millennium"
Speed dials were a new thing in the Nineties, but they were already a tricky dating issue. When Jerry climbs to the Number One spot on the speed dial of his girlfriend Valerie (a not-yet-famous Lauren Graham), her jealous stepmother Mrs. Hamilton jumps into Jerry's car to interfere. (Like much of the episode, this scene is a brilliant twist on The Graduate.) "Jerome, I have a deliciously naughty idea — why don't I put you on my speed dial?" Sadly, actress Louan Gideon just passed away in February. Here's to you, Mrs. Hamilton. ROB SHEFFIELD

Tony the Deranged Mechanic seinfeld

Courtesy of NBC

96

Tony the Mechanic

Best-known episode: "The Bottle Deposit"
Most of Seinfeld's quirky characters were harmless oddballs — but others, like Crazy Joe Davola, crossed the line from offbeat to disturbing. The same year he debuted as Ray Romano's goofy brother in Everybody Loves Raymond, Brad Garrett appeared in this two-parter as the creepily obsessed grease monkey Tony, who seems competent until he accuses Jerry of automotive abuse ("You barely know the car…when was the last time you even checked the washer fluid?"). Finally, he kidnaps Jerry's car, complete with JFK's golf clubs in the trunk — that final dark-side-of-the-loon touch. DAVID BROWNE

Seinfeld

Photo courtesy of NBC

95

Tina Robbins

Best-known episode: "The Truth"
Elaine's roommate Tina proves why we're lucky the Seinfeld characters mostly dodged the traditional New York curse of annoying roommates. Because Tina is really annoying. When Tina dates Kramer, Elaine's domestic life becomes a nightmare, especially all the make-out sessions in the living room. (As Kramer explains, "Tina likes the couch.") Actress Siobhan Fallon had a short-lived stint in the Saturday Night Live cast, usually stuck playing one-third of the Delta Delta Deltas. ROB SHEFFIELD

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94

Jean-Paul

Best-known episode: "The Hot Tub"
The tardiness of a long distance runner: Jean-Paul was an athlete from Trinidad & Tobago staying at Elaine's pad in the days prior to the New York City Marathon. This episode confronted man's eternal struggle against alarm clocks, snooze buttons and our tendency to oversleep in the direst of circumstances: Jean-Paul had previously dozed through his Olympics trial ("No snooze, wasn't a.m./p.m… it was the volume," he explains), and Jerry becomes obsessed with making sure the runner gets to the marathon on time. Of course, things go awry. After actor Jeremiah Birkett played the runner, he became a prolific TV presence and played Tackleberry on the Police Academy television series. But his claim to fame may be that he was the guy who accidentally threw Kramer's hot tea in his own face. DANIEL KREPS

Dr. Ben Seinfeld

Courtesy of NBC

93

Dr. Ben

Best-known episode: "The Abstinence"
Elaine's doctor boyfriend isn't really a doctor — he finished med school, but he keeps flunking the licensing exam. And when there's an actual medical emergency at the coffee shop, Ben has no idea what to do. By the time he played Ben, Bob Odenkirk was already a comedy cult hero on Mr. Show. He went on to play Saul on Breaking Bad — alongside fellow Seinfeld alumni Anna Gunn (Jerry's girlfriend in "The Glasses") and "dentist to the stars" Bryan Cranston. ROB SHEFFIELD

the fatigues seinfeld

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92

Eddie Sherman

Best-known episode: "The Fatigues"
Poor Eddie Sherman can't get over that time he went on a couple dates, thought the woman really liked him, and then things cooled off. On the bright side, if his army fatigues and dark vibes hadn't mistakenly given Elaine the impression that he was a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran on the verge of a murderous rampage, he'd be out of a job. Too freaked out to fire him, she promotes him twice at Peterman — first to copywriter, then director of corporate development. He and Elaine eventually write the whole catalog themselves, with Elaine helping soften entries like the one he wrote for Bengalese galoshes: "It's tough keeping your feet dry when you're kicking in a skull." JENNY ELISCU

Seinfeld

NBC

91

Ned Isakoff

Best-known episode: "The Race"
He reads The Daily Worker, wears bland, drab, olive-colored clothing and feeds Kramer ideology that gets him fired from his job as a Santa at Coleman's department store. Yes, he's a communist. "We still got China, Cuba… we had a good run," Ned (Todd Kimsey) laments to Elaine as she uncovers his political identity. But the last straw comes when Elaine gets him blacklisted — from Hop Sing's, the Chinese restaurant where his father used to plot his survival during the McCarthy era. She named names. CARYN GANZ

rachel goldstein seinfeld

Courtesy of NBC

90

Rachel Goldstein

Best-known episode: "The Raincoats, Part 2"
Best known as the woman Jerry makes out with during Schindler's List, Rachel Goldstein actually had a remarkably long run as his girlfriend, considering how fickle he could be. Their relationship spanned four episodes in Season Five — Jerry's longest relationship in nine seasons. She returns in "The Hamptons," where she walks in on George with his pants down and gossips to his date about his shrunken member. Jerry may have been perfectly happy with Rachel, but he agrees with her suggested breakup in "The Opposite," because he figures "things always even out for [him]" anyway. JENNY ELISCU

See Also:

• And They're Spectacular! 10 Actors on Their Memorable 'Seinfeld' Roles
• Master of Their Domain: 10 Great 'Seinfeld' Episodes
• Not That There's Anything Wrong With These: 5 'Sein-Fail' Episodes
• Stopping Short: 10 'Seinfeld' Episodes You Forgot You Loved
• Close Talkers and Double Dippers: 15 Phrases 'Seinfeld' Spawned
• Yada, Yada, Yada: Larry David on 25 Years of 'Seinfeld'
 Milos, Mets, Magic Loogies: The 25 Greatest 'Seinfeld' Sports Episodes

Seinfeld

NBC

89

Donna Chang

Best-known episode: "The Chinese Woman"
Her full last name is Changstein and she is a white chick from Long Island. But Donna Chang (played by Angela Dohrmann) is more than happy to have Jerry and the gang assume she's a "Chinese woman," when her phone line is crossed with George's and she keeps getting his calls. She suggests a Chinese restaurant when Jerry asks her out, takes acupuncture class and calls the phone company's screw-up "ridicurous." She even briefly helps stave off a divorce between George's parents, when she offers "a few bits of wisdom from Confucius" to a receptive Estelle Costanza. JENNY ELISCU

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88

Mr. Morgan

Best-known episode: "The Diplomat's Club"
George Costanza's boss at Yankee Stadium, Mr. Morgan (played by Tom Wright, veteran of several John Sayles films) fumes at George's dumb ideas — like the Yankees hosting a Jon Voight Day — and even dumber remarks. ("You look a lot like Sugar Ray Leonard!") But Mr. Morgan loses his job after George gets squirted in the eye with grapefruit juice and can't stop winking. He was one of George's unluckiest co-workers, which is saying something. ROB SHEFFIELD 

the rye seinfeld Mabel Choate

Courtesy of NBC

87

Mabel Choate

Best-known episode: "The Rye"
Late in life, actress Frances Bay established a career playing sweet little old ladies in films like Happy Gilmore. On Seinfeld, she had a brief but impactful appearance as Mabel, the feisty bitty who buys a bakery's last marble rye and refuses to sell it to Jerry. (Ever the gentleman, he just wrestles it away from her and calls her an "old bag.") Fear not: She'd have her revenge a few episodes later when she vindictively cast the deciding vote in Jerry's father's impeachment. TIM GRIERSON

NBC

86

Emily

Best-known episode: "The Money"
The 27-year-old Sarah Silverman had one season of Saturday Night Live under her belt, but she was still a relative unknown when she was cast as Kramer's girlfriend, the Jimmy-leg suffering Emily. Her restless leg syndrome causes Kramer to lose sleep, so he starts going back home after they have sex — only to change his mind when he thinks a cat burglar (actually Jerry's father, exercising in the hallway) is breaking into his apartment. When he tries to stay over at her place, though, Emily declines: "You're right, I sleep so much better alone," she explains. "And you scream in your sleep." Fortunately, Jerry's parents return to Florida, and Kramer and Emily find pre-marital bliss sleeping in their separate twin beds. CADY DRELL

Sarah Silverman on Her Seinfeld Role

the susie seinfeild

Courtesy of NBC

85

Peggy

Best-known episodes: "The Susie"
Peggy (played by Megan Cole) is a designer at J. Peterman who is initially under the impression that Elaine is someone named Susie. As far as she's concerned, Elaine Benes is "that dolt" who "nearly ran the company into the ground." After Susie "dies" and Peggy realizes she's been talking to Elaine all along, she becomes convinced that Elaine is riddled with germs. In Season Nine's "The Apology," Peggy refuses to drink from a bottle of water that Elaine touched and uses a seat-protector in the ladies room, even though they're the only two women with access. She eventually explains that she's concerned that Elaine "seem[s] to be with a lot of men." JENNY ELISCU

Seinfeld

NBC

84

The Lawyer in a Cape

Best-known episode: "The Chinese Woman"
Larry David shows up a lot on Seinfeld — most often as the voice of Yankees' owener George Steinbrenner. Since nobody knew what Larry looked or sounded like in those pre-Curb Your Enthusiasm days, he usually stayed anonymous. But he makes his most eye-grabbingly bizarre onscreen cameo when he appears as Frank Costanza's lawyer, wearing a long black cape for no apparent reason. Everybody spends the rest of the episode puzzling over the cape — as George says, "I don't trust men in capes." Way to make an entrance, Larry. ROB SHEFFIELD

'Desperado' Brett seinfeld

Courtesy of NBC

83

Brett

Best-known episode: "The Checks"
Elaine's boyfriend Brett might seem like a nice guy — but as always with Elaine's boyfriends, there is a catch. Brett is obsessed with furniture designer Karl Farbman and the Eagles song "Desperado." He even shooshes Elaine when it comes on. ("He's in his own world when he hears that song. It's like I'm sitting there in the car, and he's out riding fences.") Unfortunately, Elaine hates "Desperado" and tries to convert Brett to "Witchy Woman," with no luck. Things get dark for poor Brett after he suffers a bizarre axe injury at Kramer's apartment — the ER doctor is a really big "Witchy Woman" fan. ROB SHEFFIELD

Photo courtesy of NBC

82

Mr. Heyman

Best-known episode: "The Library"
Most folks would observe a homeless man doing calesthenics on the steps of the New York Public Library and see nothing but a person who fell on hard times. If you're George Costanza, however, you recognize that, beneath the craziness and filth, is the gym teacher who made your high school years a living hell. Back in the day, Mr. Heyman used to torment the young George, calling him "Can't-Stand-Ya" and organzing massive atomic wedgies administered by his athletic toadies. These antics — along with George "tattling" on him — got the coach fired, resulting in a downward spiral for Heyman. But the former teacher has the last laugh, both metaphorically (guess who has that missing copy of Tropic of Cancer?) and literally. DAVID FEAR

Mr. Lippman

NBC

81

Mr. Lippman

Best-known episode: "The Muffin Tops"
One of the few Seinfeld supporting characters to be played by two actors — Richard Fancy took over for Harris Shore — the boss of Pendant Publishing gradually discovered what we all knew: Elaine is a terrible employee. Mr. Lippman endlessly suffered as she blithely added exclamation marks to manuscripts and dumbly insisted that War and Peace was originally titled War, What Is It Good For? That didn't stop him from falling in love with Elaine, though — or going into a muffin-top business with her. TIM GRIERSON

NBC

80

Wendy

Best-known episode: "The Kiss Hello"
Elaine's friend Wendy, the physical therapist, has a tragic flaw: her old-fashioned Fifties-style haircut. As Jerry says, "If you were hitch-hiking, you'd never get into a car with someone with a hairdo like that." At least Kramer likes it. Wendy also infuriates Elaine by dropping her off three blocks from her apartment with a load of ski gear. The ever-glamorous Wendie Malick has starred in comedies from Kate and Allie to Just Shoot Me; she's currently on Hot in ClevelandROB SHEFFIELD

See Also:

• And They're Spectacular! 10 Actors on Their Memorable 'Seinfeld' Roles
• Master of Their Domain: 10 Great 'Seinfeld' Episodes
• Not That There's Anything Wrong With These: 5 'Sein-Fail' Episodes
• Stopping Short: 10 'Seinfeld' Episodes You Forgot You Loved
• Close Talkers and Double Dippers: 15 Phrases 'Seinfeld' Spawned
• Yada, Yada, Yada: Larry David on 25 Years of 'Seinfeld'
 Milos, Mets, Magic Loogies: The 25 Greatest 'Seinfeld' Sports Episodes

NBC

79

Gennice Graham

Best-known episode: "The Understudy"
The understudy to Bette Midler in the musical version of the movie Rochelle, Rochelle, Jerry's girlfriend Gennice (played by Adelaide Miller) bursts into tears when she drops her frankfurter, but has no reaction when she learns that her grandmother died. As Kramer notes, "understudies are a very shifty bunch," and Gennice is supposed to be the Tonya Harding of Broadway — suspected of foul play after Midler is hurt during a softball game with Jerry and George's team. JENNY ELISCU 

NBC

78

Toby

Best-known episode: "The Fire"
The overly enthusiastic, sublimely annoying Toby (played by Veanne Cox) allows Jerry to realize the comedian's ultimate dream: to heckle the heckler. When Elaine's excited-about-everything colleague at Pendant Publishing accompanies Kramer on a date to see Seinfeld's act, she boos and hisses bits she doesn't agree with, throwing Jerry off his game in front of an important critic from Entertainment Weekly (it was 1994, after all). Jerry takes his revenge at Toby's workplace, upsetting her so much that she sprints into traffic, gets run over by a street sweeper, and nearly loses her pinky toe. She gains, however, a promotion Elaine was coveting. CARYN GANZ

Gino Mifsud/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

77

The Subway Nudist

Best-known episode: "The Subway"
Live in New York long enough, and you'll see some crazy shit on the subway. That's the brilliant plot of the 30th episode of Seinfeld, where Jerry encounters a surprise nudist (played by Ernie Sabella) on his way to Coney Island. The good news? The naked guy's a Mets fan, so he and Jerry bond and take the train to the end of the line to ride the Cyclone together. The bad news? The Mets still have no bullpen. But you gotta like their chances. CARYN GANZ

NBC

76

Sid

Best-known episode: "The Alternate Side"
Sid is the older gentleman whom Jerry and his neighbors pay to move their cars in order to avoid parking tickets. He's retired, but earning upwards of $2,000 a month, working just a few hours a day at a job that he says is "don't take no more sense than putting on a pair of pants." Played by Jay Brooks, whose early acting career included recurring appearances on Amos & Andy, Sid resurfaces a few episodes later in Season Three, cutting down Mike Moffatt with the line, "Never mind who I am. I know who I am. Do you know who you are?" JENNY ELISCU

NBC

75

Jake Jarmel

Best-known episode: "The Sniffling Accountant"
Jake Jarmel is that rare creature — an Elaine boyfriend who manages to last three episodes. (And who isn't Puddy.) He wins her heart by approaching her in the office and flirtatiously feeling the fabric of her gabardine jacket. ("He just felt your material?") However, Elaine finds it hard to forgive Jake's punctuation habits when he writes down a phone message but neglects to add an exclamation point. He adds an exclamation point to his next sentence: "I'm leaving!" They later break up again over eyeglasses and Jujyfruits. ROB SHEFFIELD

 

NBC

74

Jeannie Steinman

Best-known episode: "The Invitations"
After Jeannie Steinman (played by Janeane Garofalo) saves Jerry's life, he discovers that she is his female counterpart, sharing all his obsessions from comic books to cereal. "Now I know what I've been looking for all these years: myself!" Jerry cries. "I've been waiting for me to come along, and now I've swept me off my feet!" They get engaged, but simultaneously break it off after Jerry realizes that "I can't be with someone like me  — I hate myself!" GAVIN EDWARDS

Joey Delvalle/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

73

Marla Penny

Best-known episode: "The Contest"
Professional closet organizer Marla Penny (Frasier's Jane Leeves) never met the right guy, and by the time her path crosses with Jerry Seinfeld's, it's revealed that she is still a virgin. When she's introduced in the series, she's sweet and naïve – that is until she has a chat with Elaine, who opens a Pandora's Box of horrors about men. Luckily for her, Mr. Right – John F. Kennedy Jr., whom Elaine was pursuing – shows up just after she's shuffled off the Seinfeld gang after learning about their "contest." She revisited that turn of events by offering it up as damning testimony in the series finale. KORY GROW

 

NBC

72

Willie

Best-known episode: "The Secretary"
In what has to be the most flagrant breach of the Dry Cleaner's Code in television history, Jerry thinks he sees his professional launderer, Willie, at the movies — steppin' out in the same houndstooth jacket that Jerry had just left with him. He warns Willie that he'll take his business elsewhere, but then runs into Willie's wife at Barney's, wearing his mother's fur coat that he'd also dropped off. Fortunately, he's able to attack her in the dressing room and get it back, but there's something refreshing about seeing Jerry's ridiculous suspicions about people actually confirmed for once. CADY DRELL