For 9 years, the nation watched a show about four people who liked to judge others and went around being mean to everyone they came across in New York City – and everyone absolutely loved it. Seinfeld is still a pop culture phenomenon with firm roots in day-to-day dialogue (you know you found an excuse to use the word “shrinkage” in the last week), and it’s still funny even after years of syndication. In those 9 years, a lot of soon-to-be-famous faces found their way to the show.
You may not have even noticed them the first time around, but take a closer look at those reruns and you’ll start seeing stars. Many of them found their way to Seinfeld to trade jokes with Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer before they went on to star in projects of their own.
Seinfeld was solid when it came to the four cast members, but the rest of the show was a revolving door of girlfriends and guest stars. Many people who would go on to have big careers ended up spinning around that revolving Seinfeld door before they found the road to fame and success. See if you remember these famous faces – before they became famous faces – from when they briefly appeared as mere guests on Seinfeld.
10. Denise Richards
Denise Richards was little more than a pretty face in 1993, when she played an NBC executive’s 15-year-old daughter Molly in “The Shoes.” She’d appeared briefly on shows like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Saved By the Bell before George Costanza totally blew Jerry’s sitcom deal by getting caught staring at Molly’s cleavage.
This required Elaine to put on something low-cut and trick the NBC exec into staring at her chest, which ultimately lead to the destruction of Jerry’s sitcom pilot anyway. It just goes to prove the power of cleavage. A few short years after giving George a good look at her goods, Denise Richards started making movies like Starship Troopers and Wild Things.
9. Jane Leeves
Jane Leeves was working on breaking into American television when she was cast as Marla on Seinfeld. She’d been in a dozen or so episodes of Murphy Brown and briefly appeared in some other shows before she was asked to play a virgin opposite Jerry Seinfeld. Leeves was so good at it, she was asked to come back for the finale episode.
She first appeared in “The Virgin” in 1992, and came back for one of the most iconic of all episodes, “The Contest.” You can also see her very briefly in “The Pilot,” a 1993 episode, before she testifies against Jerry in the 1998 finale. NBC must have seen something they liked in her. In 1993, she was cast as Daphne in Frasier. Leeves has been in TV ever since, most recently as one of the stars of Hot in Cleveland.
8. Maggie Wheeler
Everyone remembers Janice from Friends, the one with the annoying voice that Chandler wouldn’t stop dating. But before that, she was an annoying friend of Elaine’s on Seinfeld – only this time, without the voice. Maggie Wheeler appeared in “The Fix Up,” and her fix up was George Costanza. Their date was instigated by Jerry and Elaine and wrecked by Kramer, in keeping with the general themes of the show.
As is typical with George’s love life, for a brief moment it seems that he’s found a match in Cynthia… before he predictably screws it all up by the end of the episode. It’s okay. Maggie Wheeler adopted a new voice and moved on to Chandler Bing without ever leaving the city of New York.
7. Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt was in a 1994 episode of Seinfeld for about three lines of dialogue. You’ll seen the famous stand-up comedian and actor in “The Couch.” He plays a video store clerk who won’t give George Costanza any information about the people who rented Breakfast at Tiffany’s. George is hoping to score the movie so he won’t have to read the book.
Oswalt is so barely-there, he’s officially credited as “Clerk” in the episode. He conveniently walks away and leaves the scene entirely so George can peek at the computer and track down the people who rented the movie he wants to see. Since then, Oswalt has headlined several stand-up specials and appeared in more than 100 TV and movie projects. He’s famously the voice of the rodent in Ratatouille.
6. Kristin Davis
It was 1997, the year before Sex & the City would take HBO by storm. Kristin Davis was a short-lived Melrose Place cast member when she appeared on Seinfeld as Jerry’s girlfriend Jenna. The character is best-known for being the one who had her toothbrush in the toilet. This incident happened on “The Pothole” episode, which is mostly about George losing his special key ring. But poor Jenna’s toothbrush ends up in the toilet bowl thanks to Jerry, who does not tell her what happened and goes on to have a “Neat Freak” fit over the whole situation.
Jenna appears again, very briefly, in “The Butter Shave.” This time, she’s dating Seinfeld’s comedy nemesis Kenny Bania (played by Steve Hytner). The next year, she became Charlotte and soon everyone wanted her to be their girlfriend.
5. Courteney Cox
Before Scream and Friends, but after she appeared as a girlfriend on Family Ties, Courteney Cox was Jerry’s fake wife Meryl. Cox is in the 1994 episode “The Wife,” and became one of Jerry’s most memorable girlfriends because she was his wife for the episode. It was in name only, of course, a ruse put together so she could take advantage of a dry cleaning discount offered to Jerry. The relationship comes to a halt when Jerry meets another woman he’d like to share the discount with, and Meryl discovers her clothes in the dry cleaning.
Friends would come to NBC that year and turn Cox into a household name and a television staple, but only after her fake divorce from Jerry Seinfeld was finalized.
4. Jon Favreau
Before directing Elf, Iron Man and a dozen other projects, Jon Favreau was an unknown actor dressed like a clown in 1994. He briefly appeared as Eric the Clown in “The Fire,” an episode where George Costanza first mocks Eric’s name and then pushes him out of the way to escape a small fire. Eric the Clown puts the fire out with his big shoe, according to George.
Favreau went on to get plenty of acting and voice credits, but he’s now also known as a big-time Hollywood producer. He’s an executive producer on Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3 and plenty of other big projects. That’s a long way from Eric the Clown.
3. Megan Mullally
TV and film fans know Megan Mullally as the high-pitched actress from Will and Grace and Tammy Swanson on Parks and Recreation. But before she was all sass and shriek, Mullally was a hard-of-hearing girlfriend to one George Costanza. She played Betsy in “The Implant” in a 1993 episode, after several other TV roles that were mostly guest spots. George is trying to make a move on her when she gets a phone call that a family member has died.
This sets up one of the most iconic moments in Seinfeld history – the famous double dip. George is at the funeral for Betsy’s relative when he is caught double dipping, and a big argument ensues. Needless to say, his relationship with Betsy doesn’t last.
2. Sarah Silverman
Sarah Silverman had starred on one season of SNL and a couple of episodes of Star Trek: Voyager when she played Emily in a 1997 episode of Seinfeld. Silverman was dating Kramer in the episode, where he complains that she’s got the “jimmy legs” when they sleep together in bed. He convinces her that it’s best for them to sleep alone, a plan that eventually backfires. The episode is mostly about Jerry buying back the Cadillac he bought for his parents, who sold it to their Florida neighbor.
Silverman went on to appear in numerous TV shows and headlined her own series for Comedy Central after appearing on Seinfeld.
1. Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston, who will live for ever in TV history as Walter White, was a regular Seinfeld guest. He did a lot of TV work, mostly in short-lived guest roles, before he came to the show about nothing in 1994. Until 1997, he played dentist Tim Whatley in a handful of episodes. You can see Cranston in “The Mom and Pop Store,” “The Label Maker,” “The Jimmy,” “The Yada Yada” and “The Strike.”
Whatley appears more than once because he interacts with several characters on the show. He’s Kramer’s dentist, he dated Elaine and he even threw a party that the whole gang was at. After Seinfeld, Cranston became well-known as a TV dad on Malcolm in the Middle in 2000. From there, he totally spiraled out of control and started making meth.