The 1990s produced many great sitcoms, but Seinfeld is still the king of TV comedy. To this day, the show is still played in syndication on numerous channels and has sold an amazing amount of DVDs. If there’s one old show that could come back and still be just as, if not more successful than it was in its heyday, it would be Seinfeld. The stellar main cast and exceptional writing are certainly some great reasons why it was successful, but one element that Seinfeld had that really separated it from other shows was its abundance of hilarious minor characters and one-time characters. The show would bring in characters whom the main cast would either briefly befriend, acquaint themselves with or engage in a feud of ridiculous proportions. Whatever purpose they served, these are undoubtedly the 10 most memorable one-off characters in the epic sitcom’s history. This does not include minor recurring characters such as Kenny Bania, David Puddy or Tim Whatley. These are one-offs, not including their appearance in the finale, which saw many of the show’s past characters brought fourth to testify against the New York four.
10) Sid Fields, The Old Man
Feeling like they’re not giving enough back to the community, Jerry, George and Elaine begin spending time with senior citizens in need of friendship.
Jerry’s down on his luck, as his new companion is Sid Fields (Bill Erwin), an old grouch who is convinced his housekeeper is stealing from him and doesn’t seem to enjoy any human company at all. He winds up having something interesting to Jerry; a pile of old records, as Kramer and Newman are attempting to score big on selling them.
Commotion ensues, as Sid bites Kramer and his false teeth fly into the sink and are mangled by a garbage disposal. While taking him to the dentist, Jerry, Newman and Kramer lose him and Jerry is kicked out of the volunteer program.
Sid Fields’ angry demeanour makes for some great lines, rudely and sarcastically demeaning Jerry. Mean is funny on Seinfeld.
9) Slippery Pete, The Frogger
With their old pizzeria hangout closing down, Jerry and George discover the joint’s old frogger machine, on which George still holds the high score. Hoping to save the machine and preserve his legacy forever, George is in need of a rogue electrician who can rig the machine to keep it powered long enough to move it to his place.
Luckily Kramer knows a guy, who he clearly states is no friend of his, who’s perfect for the job; Slippery Pete (Peter Stormare). Pete is at odds with Kramer, due to Kramer making out with his mail-order bride, but agrees to help George. He is not your conventional electrician, not knowing the simplest of electrical components, including outlets; “oh, you mean the holes.”
He is also uncomfortable in the fact that doing this job for George doesn’t involve stealing anything; “I need a battery for this job, can I at least steal a battery?”
He ends up draining the battery once he’s rigged the machine by attempting to beat the high score on the move. As George scurries to get the machine to an outlet, the machine is destroyed. Slippery Pete just couldn’t stay disciplined for George.
8) Jean-Paul, The Hot Tub
Elaine ends up taking in a marathon runner from Trinidad and Tobago named Jean-Paul (Jeremiah Burkett), a talented runner who overslept at the Olympics, missing a race.
Determined to win the race to put his traumatizing experience behind him, Jean-Paul plans to be extra careful in not over-sleeping. Jerry becomes concerned as Elaine has an old alarm clock. Jerry takes Jean-Paul to a hotel but after thinking he’s offended the wake-up guy, takes Jean-Paul back to his apartment. A power failure, caused by Kramer, leads to them over-sleeping but they still get to the race in time. Jean-Paul mistakenly grabs Kramer’s hot tea instead of water, scalding his body in the midst of the race.
Jean-Paul delivers some memorable lines, like “why separate knob??” as he explains the volume knob on his alarm was different from the volume knob on the radio. His best line comes when he’s taught supposed major-league lingo by George. After feeling Kramer’s hands, he innocently exclaims, “this son of a bitch is ice cold!” He also gets kicked out of Elaine’s apartment for calling a single mother’s child a “cute little bastard” thinking it’s a charming thing to say.
Yet another character whom the gang unintentionally screws over.
7) Tony, The Bottle Deposit
Jerry is at odds with his amazing, yet obsessive mechanic Tony (Brad Garrett) who nags Jerry over every little detail about the car, making Jerry feel guilty over everything that’s wrong with it.
After Kramer and Newman shove groceries under Jerry’s hood, his mechanic Tony wants to overhaul his entire engine. He accuses Jerry of putting in cheap motor oil, not checking the washer fluid enough, yelling “the washer fluid is not fine!” He’s disgusted that Jerry wrote down the wrong mileage on the car, exclaiming “you barely know your own car.”
After Jerry decides he wants to take his business elsewhere, Tony drives off with the car, calling Jerry a while later, promising to take care of the car better than Jerry ever did. Kramer spots Tony driving the stolen car on his way to Michigan, but fails to catch him. Tony resorts to throwing JFK’s golf clubs, which Elaine had purchased for Mr. Peterman and were lying in the backseat.
6) Joe, The Mango
Kramer eats a bad peach, which he bought from the neighbourhood’s best fruit market, Joe’s, and decides to return it. Kramer drops the peach on Joe’s counter, demanding Joe (Leonard Termo) for a refund.
Joe chirps back at Kramer, that he only sells the peaches, he doesn’t make the peaches. He says a bad fruit is an act of God, “so if you have a problem, you talk to him!” Kramer insists Joe must stand behind his fruit, but Joe bans Kramer from his store. Kramer, desperate for Joe’s high-quality fruit, sends Jerry into the store to get his groceries.
Jerry nervously picks out Kramer’s fruits, bizarrely saying their names out loud. Joe catches on, confronting Jerry and proclaiming, “this fruit isn’t for you. Mango, plantains, plums with red on the inside, that’s Kramer!”
The delivery is simple. Stern, without tolerance and a little too confrontational over something as trivial as fruit. The most memorable line is still, “you’re banned!”
5) Gary Fogel, The Scofflaw
Jon Lovitz turned in a great performance as Gary Fogel, a friend of George’s who pretended to have cancer for a long time, enjoying the attention and care he received from others. Sounds like a perfect friend for George.
George, still thinking Gary had cancer is upset that he told everyone except him, telling George he can’t keep a secret. Feeling bad, Gary confides in George that he never had cancer, and his fears come true, as George quickly buckles and tells Jerry.
As an act of kindness, Jerry had already gotten Gary a coupon for a toupee, in case chemotherapy made him go bald. After getting the toupee, Gary develops a brash confidence, picking up a silent girl in the coffee shop and walking around with a never-ending strut.
Jerry finally confronts Gary that he’s in on his secret and that’s the last we see of him. It’s revealed in a later episode that Gary died in a car crash, having lost control of his car when adjusting his toupee. Ah, the dark humour of Seinfeld.
4) The Bubble Boy, The Bubble Boy
A man approaches Jerry at the coffee shop, revealing he has a son who’s a big fan of Jerry’s but is forced to live in a bubble. Feeling bad, Jerry agrees to see Donald (Jon Hayman) on the gang’s way to Susan’s country house.
While following George, Jerry loses sight of him, as George is driving too fast, wanting to make good time.
George and Susan wind up at the bubble boy’s house. The bubble boy turns out to be a very crude person, insulting George and shamelessly suggesting to Susan, “how about you take your top off?”
While waiting for Jerry, they play a game of Trivial Pursuit, with Donald gloating over how badly he’s beating George. Finally, the famous Moops line is heard. Due to a misprint on an answer card, rather than the Moors invading Spain in the eighth century, George insists, the answer is the Moops, as the card says.
A scuffle ensues between George and the bubble boy. The bubble deflates, which sends Donald to the hospital. The bubble boy is eventually seen in The Pilot, watching Jerry’s new NBC show disgusted that Jerry sold out. He also testifies against George in the finale, once again arguing over Moors/Moops.
3) Joe Bookman, The Library
Joe Bookman (Philip Baker Hall) is a library cop, who chases down delinquents. He takes his job a little too seriously. When he finds out that Jerry hasn’t returned a book in 20 years, he confronts Jerry and gets into an endless speech over how important his job is.
His dry, stern delivery is memorable, as the stamp that says “New York public library” means the world to him and he does it for the kids unable to afford to buy a book.
He later comes to testify against Jerry in the finale and questions Jerry’s morality. He delivers another memorable line that after 20 years, people like Jerry aren’t called delinquents; they’re criminals.
2) Babu Bhatt, The Cafe
We break the rule a little bit here, as Babu (Brian George) is just too memorable a character to leave off. He’s seen in two episodes before his testimony in the finale.
Babu owns the “Dream Cafe”, a restaurant across from Jerry’s building that’s failing to bring in customers. Jerry’s convinced the reason he’s not attracting patrons is because his menu is all over the place. Obsessively observing Babu, Jerry finally goes into the cafe himself.
Jerry convinces Babu to serve his native Pakistani dishes instead, as he’d have the only authentic Pakistani restaurant in the whole neighbourhood. Babu thinks the world of Jerry, “you good man, you very good man.”
After remodelling the restaurant, which achieves nothing, Babu snaps at Jerry, calling him a “very bad man!” and adds the iconic finger wave, undoubtedly still imitated by fans to this day.
In a later episode Jerry and Elaine mistakingly contribute in Babu not receiving his immigration renewal papers and he is deported. Babu gets his revenge in the finale, testifying against the group. Watch him and try not doing the finger wave yourself.
1) Yev Kassem, The Soup Nazi
The eccentric Soup Nazi, played marvellously by Larry Thomas, is a successful but very draconian owner. Yev Kassem enforces strict rules on ordering, as Jerry explains, every customer must state their order in a loud and clear voice, then move quickly down the line with their money ready.
Customers are so powerless against the delicious soup, they’re willing to put up with him.
George gets kicked out of line for asking for bread with his soup. Elaine is banned for a year after making small talk, telling Yev he looks like Al Pacino, thus giving birth to one of the show’s most memorable lines, “No soup for you!”
Yev befriends Kramer and winds up giving an armoire to Kramer, as he explains a friend (Elaine) was robbed of hers. After finding out who the armoire is for, Yev is again mean to Elaine. Elaine then puts him out of business when she discovers his recipes in that same armoire.
He ends up moving to Argentina, but comes back in the finale as well to testify.
The show was never short on great characters, no matter how small the part was, Seinfeld always made the most out of every character.