We here at RoboFist’s Revenge love Seinfeld to the point where it may be unhealthy. So to celebrate this groundbreaking show about nothing’s 25th birthday, without further ado, here are my
25. The Chicken Roster
"You don’t know what it’s like in there! All night long, things are creakin’ and crackin’ and that red light is burning my brain!”
Kramer boycotts the new chicken roaster whose neon sign glows right into his apartment window. while Elaine gets busted for abusing her access to the Peterman expense account.
The thing about Seinfeld is that sometimes the most memorable scenes can come from otherwise forgettable episodes. I don’t remember much about the big fur hat that Elaine bought George with Peterman’s money, but the scene where Jerry switches places with Kramer is legendary. The mannerisms, the voice, even the interactions with the enigmatic Bob Sacamano display Jerry’s (usually sub-par) acting abilities at their absolute finest.
24. The Merv Griffin Show
"Where are the cameras?"
After Kramer discovers the set of the old Merv Griffin Show in a dumpster, he sets it up in his apartment and promptly interviews whoever walks in. Meanwhile, Jerry’s new girlfriend has an awesome toy collection that she won’t let him play with, George is forced to take care of a squirrel he ran over, and Elaine is driven crazy by a man she never hears coming.
While the “Kramer is a talk show host” gag always steals the show, the real highlight is the toy collection! Everything from Etch-a-Sketch and Gumby to G.I. Joe and Easy Bake Oven, it’s a smorgasbord of childhood nostalgia.
23. The Dealership
After Elaine’s boyfriend, David Puddy, is promoted from mechanic to salesman, Jerry goes to the dealership to score a good deal on a new car. Meanwhile, Kramer takes a car on a never-ending test drive, while George struggles to buy a Twix from the vending machine.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here: Any time Patrick Warburton’s “David Puddy” character is on-screen, it’s guaranteed to be a fantastic episode. His voice, squinty eyes, and bone-dry humor never fails to entertain, and he’s easily the best side character the show has to offer. When Jerry calls him a “grease monkey”,for example, he responds by stating, with a completely straight face, “I don’t know too many monkeys who could take apart a fuel injector.” It’s laugh out loud funny.
Plus, Kramer’s Thelma and Louise-style storyline is one for the books, proving what everyone was already thinking: you really can go on for miles on an empty tank of gas.
22. The Yada Yada
"I met this lawyer, we went out to dinner, I had the lobster bisque, we went back to my place, yada yada yada, I never heard from him again."
George’s new girlfriend Marcy is fond of the expression “yada yada yada.” Meanwhile, Jerry feels uncomfortable when his dentist converts to Judiasm, Kramer and Mickey have trouble deciding which girl they each prefer when they double date, and Elaine accidentally prevents a couple from adopting a child.
If someone told you to say a catch phrase from Seinfeld, after you said “No soup for you!” in your worst Middle Eastern accent, you’d say “Yada yada yada.” The very best example of this phrase is used by George when describing his home life to his new girlfriend. Then again, if I lived with George’s parents, I’d “yada yada” over everything, as well.
Plus, we get more of dentist Tim Whatley (Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston), which is always a pleasure.
21. The Race
"I choose not to run!"
Jerry is finally dating a woman named Lois, but her new boss is a high school rival who Jerry once beat in a track meet, and now wants a rematch. Meanwhile, Elaine finds out that her boyfriend is a Communist, and Kramer gets a job as a mall Santa.
There’s something about this episode that seems so self-aware of itself, which just makes it all the funnier. Everything from the dialogue (“He’s hated me ever since…and now he’s back!) to the slow-motion rematch at the end set to John Williams’ original Superman theme screams superhero parody, and it works like a charm. Jerry’s fourth-wall-shattering wink to the audience at the end just seals the deal.
20. The Dinner Party
"You sold us a hair with a cake around it."
On their way to a dinner party, Jerry and Elaine stop to buy a cake, while George and Kramer stop to buy a bottle of wine.
While it doesn’t sound like much as an elevator pitch, so much hilarity happens in this episode. George’s big coat accidentally knocks over bottles of wine, the cake Elaine buys has a hair on it, Jerry talks racial equality via a cookie, and Kramer tries to break a hundred dollar bill by buying candy bars and magazines. Sometimes, you have to appreciate the little hilarious moments within the bottle episodes of this series.
19. The Abstinence
"So you’re enjoying the not enjoying?"
George’s new girlfriend is struck with mono, resulting in no sex for six weeks. Elaine is dating a doctor who hasn’t yet passed his licensing exam, so he denies sex so he can study. While Elaine becomes deprived and idiotic, George becomes a downright genius.
Aside from the hilarious main story (watching George evolve as Elaine devolves is exactly as phenomenal as you’d expect), Kramer’s storyline about smoker’s rights is also fantastic. The whole “Don’t look at me, I’m hideous!” scene is physical comedy gold.
18. The Beard
“They’re only comfortable with their equipment.”
Elaine attempts to convert a gay man to heterosexuality. Meanwhile, Kramer sets George up with a bald woman, and Jerry takes a polygraph test to see whether or not he’s seen the show Melrose Place.
Elaine’s story takes front and center, sure, but I find Jerry’s to be far more hilarious. Once he starts dating a woman who is convinced he’s seen Melrose Place, he tries to beat a lie detector test with some sage advice from George: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” The resulting outrage is ridiculously funny.
Also, Elaine reacting to George’s toupee will forever be the highlight of this episode. Angry George is funny, but Furious Elaine is downright hysterical.
17. The Marine Biologist
"The sea was angry that day, my friends. Like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli."
George starts dating a woman who thinks he’s is a marine biologist. Meanwhile, Elaine’s electronic organizer injures a person after being launched from a limo by a Russian novelist, and Kramer decides to golf on the beach.
This is a rare case of the last five minutes making the entire episode work. George’s exhausted monologue about saving a beached whale is Jason Alexander at his absolute best, telling the story with such gusto and passion that, once the punchline hits, it hits hard. What seals the deal is Kramer’s sheepish reaction, establishing that scene as one of the best in the series’ history.
16. The Comeback
"George, the ocean called. They’re running out of shrimp."
George comes up with a comeback to a co-worker’s insult, albeit far too late, and then becomes obsessed with getting revenge. Meanwhile, Jerry gets sold a bad tennis racket by a terrible tennis player, and Elaine develops a crush on a video store employee she’s never met due to their shared taste in movies.
Everything works in this episode. George’s obsession with his “jerk store” comeback is classic Costanza, and Elaine’s crush on enigmatic video store clerk Vincent is as endearing as it is entertaining. Jerry’s foil this episode, a pathetic tennis salesman named Milos, is also outstanding, the climax to his story the obvious stand-out of the episode.
15. The Note
"I think it moved."
George gets a massage from a man, which haunts him. Meanwhile, Jerry gets his dentist in trouble after getting a bogus doctor’s note, while Kramer insists upon seeing John DiMaggio in Dinky Donuts.
While not as funny in today’s more politically correct society as it was twenty years ago, it’s always fun watching George Costanza struggle with his own heterosexuality, mostly because he’s the only one ever panicking. “Men have been popping into my sexual fantasies,” he admits while Jerry is talking about something completely different. Jason Alexander is the master at looking uncomfortable, and it’s showcased perfectly in this episode.
14. The Calzone
"I am never putting on another piece of clothing unless it’s straight out of the dryer."
George gets Steinbrenner hooked on eggplant calzones, and panics once he’s banned from the restaurant he buys them from. Meanwhile, Kramer refuses to wear clothes that aren’t straight from the dryer.
You know, as hilarious as this episode is (Kramer trying to pay for a calzone with pennies is some of the best physical humor Michael Richards has to offer), I think the reason why I like it so much is because it introduced me to the magical calzone. Damn, I love calzones!
13. The Revenge
"I drive naked, I clean naked, I cook naked…naked, naked, naked!"
George takes revenge on his boss for not hiring him back after he quit, while Jerry and Kramer take revenge on a dry cleaner after Jerry accuses him of stealing $1,500 from his laundry bag.
One of the first episodes where we start to see these characters for what they really are. George quits his job over something petty, immediately regrets it, and then gets the idea to just walk back in like nothing ever happened. It’s so pathetic, and classic Costanza. We also see the first physical comedy home-run from Michael Richards, who struggles to fill a laundry machine with concrete. I mean, watch this clip and tell me it’s not brilliant.
12. The Library
"She needs a little tenderness. She needs a little understanding. She needs a little Kramer."
After getting a visit from “The Library Cop” Jerry is forced to prove that he returned a library book from 1971. Meanwhile, Kramer falls for an introverted librarian, and Elaine becomes paranoid that her boss is going to fire her.
Seinfeld is filled to the brim with hysterical side-characters, but the one who I constantly go back to is Philip Baker Hall as Lt. Bookman, the Library Cop. He’s on-screen for maybe five minutes, but the impact he had on that episode was phenomenal. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say that without Bookman, there would be no Puddy, Babu, or even the Soup Nazi.
11. The Heart Attack
"You should’ve been born in August."
George thinks he suffered a heart attack, only to discover that he has inflamed tonsils instead. Kramer helps him seek alternative medicine as opposed to surgery. Meanwhile, Jerry has trouble reading his handwriting on a note from the night before.
Not many people would put “The Heart Attack” this high on the list, especially because it’s such a George-centered episode, and none of the B-stories are particularly interesting (Elaine’s “date gone wrong” story never goes anywhere, and the conclusion to Jerry’s arc is anticlimactic, to say the least). However, Stephen Tobolowsky as holistic healer Tor is exactly as hilariously bizarre as you’d expect, and the result of his treatment is equally delightfully silly.
10. The Boyfriend
“That is one magic loogie.”
In the show’s first two-parter, Jerry becomes best friends with Mets first baseman, Keith Hernandez. However, Kramer and Newman are bitter because they insist he spit on them, while Keith himself has the hots for Elaine. Meanwhile, George concocts a scheme to keep his unemployment checks coming.
Man, this episode was insane. The first hour-long episode, the first big celebrity guest star, and even the first intentional spoof (the entire “he spit on us” scene is a brilliant rip on Oliver Stone’s JFK film). In fact, that scene alone makes this episode a classic. George’s desperate “Vandelay Industries” arc is also filled with laughs, especially Jerry’s improvised “And you want to be my latex salesman” line.
9. The Bubble Boy
Jerry and Elaine agree to meet a boy who lives in a plastic bubble, but end up at a diner after getting lost. George and his fiancée, Susan, visit the bubble boy instead, resulting in a brutal game of “Trivial Pursuit.”
What is it about people born with immunodeficiency that makes for such comedy fodder? Is it the ridiculous concept of a grown man living in a giant bubble? Either way, it works out for the best here, mostly because the disease itself isn’t played for laughs; Donald, the titular bubble boy, is an absolute bastard, making him the perfect foil for George. Who’d have thought a simple game of “Trivial Pursuit” could result in an epic throw-down?
8. The Parking Garage
"Everything looks the same! We’re like rats in some experiment!"
After a day at the mall, the four get hopelessly lost in a parking garage.
To me, Seinfeld is at its best when the characters are in perfectly normal situations. Yes, it’s great when something extraordinary happens to Jerry (such as, for example, the bubble boy), but Seinfeld is so much better at capturing the hilarity and frustration at normal, everyday occurrences. You can’t find the car. You have to go to the bathroom, but there isn’t one around. You finally find your car…but you’ve lost all of your friends. It’s episodes like these that let the normality act as the joke, substituting your typical three-act structure with something even more memorable.
7. The Jimmy
"Jimmy doesn’t like misunderstandings…"
Kramer is given too much Novocain at the dentist, and is accidentally mistaken for a mentally handicapped man. Meanwhile, Jerry suspects his dentist is violating him sexually while he’s under the gas, and George is under suspicion of stealing Yankees equipment.
In what is arguably the show’s riskiest episode in terms of offensive content, I still can’t help but crack up at Michael Richards’ performance as Kramer on Novocain. People have cried foul in the past, but I think it’s exactly the right balance of offensiveness and comedy gold. Jerry being sexually violated while under nitrous oxide is also something you couldn’t get away with today, adding to Whatley’s already-established jerkiness.
Surprisingly, the most normal aspect of this episode is Anthony Starke as Jimmy, who refers to himself in the third person. While his performance is memorable, the story never seems to go anywhere.
6. The Outing
"Not that there’s anything wrong with that."
Jerry is interviewed by a journalism student from NYU, who is convinced that he and George are a gay couple. The more they try to convince her that they’re both straight, the more they accidentally convince her otherwise.
While not as funny in today’s more politically correct world, the classic “two men try to convince people they’re not gay” trope is turned up to eleven in this episode. Again, we see George paranoid of his own repressed thoughts, and nobody being surprised about Jerry’s outing because he’s “single, thin, and neat.” Really, this episode was pretty progressive for 1993, coining the phrase “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” while also flawlessly satirizing both homophobia and excessive political correctness.
Oh, and it also totally won a GLAAD Media Award. So…there’s that.
5. The Limo
"I may not look like a Murphy, but I act like a Murphy.”
George and Jerry lie their way onto a limo headed to Madison Square Garden under the guises of “O’Brien” and “Murphy.” They’re soon accompanied by a pair of Neo-Nazis, and discover O’Brien’s true identity.
You will never find “The Limo” this high on anyone else’s “Best Seinfeld Episodes” list, but it’s always been one of the best to me. The scenario George and Jerry find themselves in is both remarkably dark (they get threatened at gunpoint by Neo-Nazis) and extremely hilarious. I’ve come to terms with the fact that watching Jerry and George panicking is even funnier than watching them be snarky and narcissistic.
4. The Soup Nazi
"No soup for you!"
The group obsesses over a soup stand run by a ruthless owner. Meanwhile, Elaine’s armoire is stolen by effeminate street toughs.
I feel like, as this list goes on, I don’t even need to explain why these episodes are so funny anymore. Everyone knows about Larry Thomas’s portrayal of the Soup Nazi. Everyone knows the catch phrase. Everyone knows about the “street toughs” who steal Elaine’s armoire. If anything, this description is making you want to dive for your box sets and watch the episode all over again. Next!
3. The Opposite
"My name is George: I’m unemployed and I live with my parents."
After deciding that every instinct he has ever had has been wrong, George decides to start living his life by doing the opposite of what he would normally do, resulting in a new girlfriend, a new job, and a new apartment. Meanwhile, Elaine’s luck goes sour, while Jerry discovers that he is “Even Steven.”
Ahhh, “The Opposite.” The one (and only) episode where everything works out for George. To me, just by watching this episode, you can see everything that makes George who and what he is. He’s a pathetic and hot-headed loser who has no real reason for getting up in the morning. And yet, this episode established him as my favorite character, simply because even when he was doing the opposite of what his instincts told him, that didn’t make him a good person. In fact, it only made him more pathetic and selfish, which fascinates me to this day.
2. The Chinese Restaurant
"It’ll be five, ten minutes."
Jerry, George and Elaine wait for a table at a Chinese restaurant. Nuff said.
This is the episode that broke the camel’s back. No one at NBC wanted this episode to happen. They despised the script, claiming that “nobody wants to see three people waiting around for a table in real time.” It’s ironic, then, that this historic episode has gone on to become one of the most well-known episodes in sitcom history, simply because it broke the mold and made boring funny. Without “The Chinese Restaurant”, we wouldn’t have such shows as The Office, Parks and Recreation, or Community.
1. The Contest
After George is caught masturbating by his mother, the gang devise a contest to see who can go the longest without masturbating.
The definitive Seinfeld episode, and easily one of the most brilliant moments of comedy in TV history. Pleasuring yourself wasn’t something you talked about on prime-time television. Hell, it was still taboo to talk about in person in 1992. The genius of the episode is that “the M-word” was never even said, mainly because of the censors, but also because creator Larry David didn’t think it would’ve been nearly as funny. Instead, harmless euphemisms, like the now-famous “Master of your domain” catchphrase, were used.
People went crazy for this episode. It won a Primetime Emmy Award, is ranked #1 on TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” list, and is easily the best episode of Seinfeld, even 25 years later.
Did I miss one of your favorite Seinfeld episodes? Leave it in the comment section below!