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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.

NBC

60

Franklin Delano Romanski

Best-known episode: "The Betrayal"
A hot dog vendor known to his pals as FDR, Franklin Delano Romanowski (played by Michael McShane) has been holding a grudge against Kramer for two years when we meet him in Season Nine. In "The Betrayal," FDR gives Kramer "the evil eye" and wishes that he would "drop dead." The reason? Kramer beaned FDR with an ice-packed snowball a couple winters earlier. 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

Carin Baer/NBCU Photo Bank

59

Laura

Best-known episode: "The Lip Reader"
It wouldn't be Seinfeld if it didn't make fun of otherwise-sensitive subjects, so when Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin played Jerry's girlfriend, out came the deaf jokes. Jerry picks up Laura the Lip-Reading Lineswoman at the U.S. Open (a great excuse to get rid of his tennis-themed material in one go) and convinces her to use her lipreading as a party trick, because George wants to know why his girlfriend broke up with him. ("It's a skill, like juggling! She probably enjoys showing it off!") But lipreading is an art, not a science. Laura mistakes "sweep with" for "sleep with," George calls her an idiot, and the gang proves once again why they can't have nice things. CADY DRELL 

NBC

58

Bob Cobb

Best-known episode: "The Maestro"
His job description — conductor for the Police Benevolence Orchestra — is hilarious in and of itself. But it's the Maestro's pomposity that's the ultimate joke. In the world of Seinfeld, lowbow art (comic books Rochelle, Rochelle) always trumps the boring highbrow stuff (classical music, opera); in that way, the show pioneered the celebrate-trash aesthetic of our times. And what could be more insufferable than a low-rent Leonard Bernstein wanna-be (played with brilliant cluelessness by Mark Metcalf, a.k.a. the sadistic Neidermeyer form National Lampoon's Animal House) who insists on being called the Maestro? DAVID BROWNE

Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

57

Russell Dalrymple

Best-known episode: "The Shoes"
Based on real-life NBC president Warren Littlefield, this crucial Season Four character tickled us precisely because he didn't match our vision of a slick, soulless, screaming entertainment executive. Instead, as played by Bob Balaban (who would go on to portray Littlefield in The Late Shift), Russell was an ineffectual, nerdy guy who just happened to run a network. (Just don't leer at his daughter's cleavage.) Littlefield loved the performance so much he had Balaban record the audiobook for his memoir, Top of the RockTIM GRIERSON

NBC

56

Nina West

Best-known episode: "The Letter"
Without Nina, a painter Jerry dates in Season Three, we'd never have gotten the now-famous portrait of Kramer: a vision of "an innocent orphan in the postmodern world," according to the wealthy couple that buys it for $5,000. But Nina (played by Catherine Keener) is one of Jerry's most unlikeable sweethearts — jealous of his friendship with Elaine and annoyed when he "[has] fun with anyone but her." After Jerry tries to end things, she plagiarizes a scene from Neil Simon's Chapter Two for a letter chastising Jerry: "You want me, then fight for me. Because I'm sure as hell fighting for you." JENNY ELISCU

Seinfeld, Dr. Reston

NBC

55

Dr. Reston

Best-known episode: "The Watch"
Among the least comforting therapists in TV history, Dr. Reston embodied everyone's mental picture of a super-intense shrink: gravelly voice, intimidating intellect, smirking face, a fascination with our humiliating hang-ups. ("Elaine, have you been urinating a lot again?") It's telling that in Seinfeld's world of overgrown adolescents, he seemed like an actual adult — a mean one who bullied Elaine with his superior mind and manipulated Kramer into befriending him. No wonder our heroes never wanted to grow up. TIM GRIERSON

Dolores, Seinfeld

NBC

54

Dolores, a.k.a. ‘Mulva’

Best-known episode: "The Junior Mint"
Jerry's torrid affair with this mysterious lady (played by Susan Walters) takes a tragic turn when he forgets her name — all he knows is that it rhymes with a female body part. It could be Mulva, it could be Celeste, it could be Bovary or even Gipple. But once Jerry starts guessing, it's all over. ROB SHEFFIELD  

NBC

53

Jimmy

Best-known episode: "The Jimmy"
"Jimmy's gonna get you, Kramer! Jimmy holds grudges!" Jerry, George and Kramer have a basketball buddy named Jimmy (played by Anthony Starke), except Jimmy has a problem: Jimmy can't stop referring to himself in the third person, even when he's flirting with Elaine. ("Jimmy's been watching you…you're just Jimmy's type.") This causes a few misunderstandings — and Jimmy doesn't like misunderstandings. ROB SHEFFIELD

NBC

52

Beth Luchner

Best-known episode: "The Yada Yada"
Before the world had a chance to fall in love with Debra Messing in Will and Grace, we all got to see her on Seinfeld bonding with Jerry over their mutual hatred for dentists. Beth first appears in "The Wait Out," as Elaine and Jerry scheme to move in on both halves of a couple with a rocky marriage. Then in "The Yada Yada," Jerry finally gets his shot — after Elaine ruins Beth's second marriage. But it's a brief romance; after sharing her anti-dentite sentiments, Beth adds, "Not to mention the blacks and Jews." ROB SHEFFIELD

NBC

51

Mr. Kruger

Best-known episode: "The Strike"
After George gets fired from the Yankees, he goes to work for the head of Kruger Industrial Smoothing (noted for botching the Statue of Liberty job because "they couldn't get the green stuff off"). Though the deeply apathetic Mr. Kruger only shows real interest in nicknaming his employees, he's a catalyst for one of the greatest contributions to the Seinfeld lexicon when he catches George accepting donations for a fake charity, the Human Fund. George explains that he was really just protecting his belief in Festivus, a holiday his father made up — and invites his boss to his parents' house to prove it. Mr. Kruger gets to partake in the traditional Airing of Grievances and viewers are introduced to a Festivus for the rest of us. CADY DRELL

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