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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

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

NBc

71

Evie

Best-known episode: "The Red Dot"
Long before she was a cleaning lady at Pendant Publishing, having illicit after-hours sex with George, Evie (played by Bridget Sienna) was a little girl in Panama with big dreams. One day a rich American man came to her town wearing the softest, most beautiful sweater. She said, "What do you call this beautiful fabric?" He said, "They call it cashmere." She repeated the word — "cashmere…. cashmere" — and asked him if he could have it and he said, "No, get away from me." He started to walk away, but she grabbed onto his leg, screaming for him to give her sweater and he dragged her to the street. And then he kicked her with the other foot and threw some change at her. Oh, but she didn't want the change, Georgie. She wanted the cashmere. JENNY ELISCU

NBC

70

Darryl Nelson

Best-known episode: "The Wizard"
Unlike Donna Chang, who seemed to be making conspicuous efforts to be mistaken for Chinese, Darryl Nelson doesn't really do anything to suggest a particular ethnic identity. But Elaine is nonetheless confused and intrigued after Jerry mistakes her new beau for being "a black guy." Darryl (played by Samuel Bliss Cooper) complicates matters further when he explains the reason he has so many traditional African masks hanging in his apartment: They are from South Africa, he says. "My family used to live there, but they got out years ago…for obvious reasons." Although he mirrors Elaine's excitement about being part of an interracial couple after he assumes she is Latina ("Your name's Benez…you kept taking me to those Spanish restaurants"), Darryl doesn't seem too fazed when they figure out that they're "just a couple white people," and gladly agrees when Elaine suggests they "go to the Gap." 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

NBC

69

Carol

Best-known episode: "The Hamptons"
"Elaine, you gotta have a bay-beeee!" With her intense Long Island accent and bouffant hairdo, Carol is a devoted mother of two who just wants her friend Elaine to feel the same joy she feels: being so in love with your spawn that their shit ceases to stink. ("Because it comes out of your baby, it smells good!") We first meet Carol in "The Boyfriend, Pt. 2," when she chastises Jerry for taking so long to see her firstborn — a baby girl whom Kramer says looks like Lyndon Johnson. But it's her featured role in "The Hamptons," when she is oblivious to how ugly her baby boy Adam is, that solidifies her place among the series' best recurring characters. She makes her final appearance in "The English Patient," when she is aghast that Elaine hated the movie of the same name. JENNY ELISCU 

NBC

68

Darin

Best-known episode: "The Voice"
If only every intern were as devoted as Darin, an NYU student who's up for everything: mending chicken-wire, "high tea with a Mr. Newman," taking notes on Jerry and George's conversation at the diner because "Mr. Kramer is in a meeting with Mr. Lomez." The NYU dean determines that Kramer's make-believe business, Kramerica Industries, is "little more than a solitary man with a messy apartment that may or may not contain a chicken," but Darin (played by Jarrad Paul) remains committed. Even after the internship is canceled, he shows up at Kramer's door declaring, "I don't care about the internship. I care about Kramerica." JENNY ELISCU

NBC

67

Dr. Abbott

Best-known episode: "The Yada Yada"
"If this wasn't my son's wedding day, I'd knock your teeth out, you anti-dentite bastard." Robert Wagner made one of the all-time classic Seinfeld cameos as a snarling dentist and mentor to one Dr. Tim Whatley. Wagner, of course, is a Hollywood legend — always the dashing gentleman, the essence of polished charm, husband to Natalie Wood and Jill St. John. So it's a shocker to see Mr. Smooth as Mickey Abbott's dad, with St. John right there on his arm, staring at Jerry with cold-blooded rage. He might have less dialogue than anyone on this list, but he definitely earns his spot in the pantheon. ROB SHEFFIELD

The Drake, Seinfeld

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66

The Drake

Best-known episode: "The Handicap Spot"
Just as Homer couldn't describe the ocean as anything other than "the wine-dark sea," the gang can't let a mention of their pal "The Drake" (Rick Overton) pass without chorusing "Love the Drake!" When the Drake finds out his wedding (to "The Drakette") coincides with the Super Bowl, he tries to reschedule it; consequences include the Drakette dumping him, the gang having trouble getting back the large-screen TV they gave them and Jerry sitting next to Newman at the Super Bowl. GAVIN EDWARDS

NBC

65

Milos

Best-known episode: "The Comeback"
The tortured tennis-club employee with a terrible secret: He can't play. Unfortunately, Jerry discovers this only after Milos has convinced him to buy an expensive racket, and Milos goes to great lengths to keep the matter private, sending his wife to Jerry's apartment as a form of "medieval sexual payola." The plan backfires ("That's the risk you run when you dabble in the flesh trade"), and Jerry must let Milos beat him in tennis so the hapless salesman can regain the respect of his wife. His exuberant celebrations annoy Jerry ("ANOTHER GAME FOR MILOS!") but in the end, he allows Milos to win back his wife. Since the role, actor Mark Harelik has shown up on Scandal, Monk and Breaking Bad. Not too shabby for a guy without a backhand. JAMES MONTGOMERY

Joseph Del Valle/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

64

The Rabbi

Best-known episode: "The Postponement"
The rabbi in Elaine's apartment building is probably an excellent spiritual advisor — but avoid telling him your secrets. In Season Seven's "The Postponement," the rabbi (identified as Rabbi Kirschbaum or Rabbi Glickman at different times during Seinfeld's run) ruins Elaine's life by spilling her darkest confessions, including the crush she has on a neighbor and her belief that George is a loser. (Well, maybe that last admission wasn't so surprising.) Police Academy alum Bruce Mahler made the character's hilariously nasal pronunciation of "Eeeee-lane" nebbish-y perfection. TIM GRIERSON

Alice S. Hall/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

63

Sid Fields

Best-known episode: "The Old Man"
Among all Seinfeld's feisty old coots, Sid Fields stands out as one of the feistiest. Jerry meets him as a charitable senior-citizen volunteer, but 87-year-old Sid just spews insults at Jerry, bites Kramer and rails against the Senegalese housekeeper. ("She plays that freaking voodoo music, tries to hypnotize me!") Veteran actor Bill Erwin had screen credits dating back to I Love Lucy; he kept working up until he died in 2010 at the age of 96. ROB SHEFFIELD

NBC

62

Vincent

Best-known episode: "The Comeback"
Elaine loves his picks. Vincent is a mysterious employee at Champagne Video, where Elaine enjoys his selections on the "Staff Picks" rack. She ends up falling for Vincent, based on their shared taste in movies, even though she hasn't met him in person. But when Kramer (who dismisses Vincent as an "art-house goon") convinces Elaine to rent Weekend at Bernie's II, Vincent is heartbroken and takes it as a personal betrayal, sending her the play button from his VCR. In a proto-Catfish twist, Elaine discovers that Vincent isn't quite the man she imagined. For one thing, he's 15. ROB SHEFFIELD

NBC

61

Sam

Best-known episode: "The Summer of George"
All men seem to love a catfight, and Elaine gets into a doozy when she makes an enemy out of Sam (a glorious Molly Shannon), a colleague in the accounting department at Peterman who doesn't swing her arms when she walks. ("They just hang like salamis." "She walks like an orangutan." "It's like she's carrying invisible suitcases.") Elaine suggests Sam learn to swing her upper limbs so she's not lurching around like a caveman and Sam responds by violently swinging all of Elaine's belongings off her desk. Reer! CARYN GANZ

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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