25 years ago, Jerry Seinfeld decided to strike down the gargantuan cultural force of a TV series that bore his name. Yet like Obi-Wan, it has become more powerful than anyone could have possibly imagined.
A DVD set with “Notes About Nothing,” Syndication, Facebook Groups with endless quotes, a reunion on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and so much more…it has all proven that Seinfeld will never end. It continues to thrive like the Ted Danson plane. I mean, his sitcom career. And one specific way that has made me laugh about as much as any other is when some real-world event clearly references the show.
Here are 25 of the ones I have chronicled since May 14, 1998, the night Seinfeld went off the air:
1. Patrick Warburton face painting for a real-life New Jersey Red Devils game in April 2018.
Sometimes you just gotta support the team. THE DEEEVIILLLS!!!!! This picture was liked 12k times and shared 8.5k times on Warburton’s official Facebook/Instagram account.
2. This tweet from November 2022 by Twitter User @BenjaminCrew1
“She’ll always be Elaine to me.”
3. That time in December 2010 a soon-to-be-incarcerated drug felon named Malcolm Alarmo King convinced a California judge that he needed to be served three pre-packaged kosher meals due to his strict observance of “Festivus.”
This seems like parody, but this was in December 2010 before the parody/real-life lines got blurred in America. Read about it here.
4. That time in April 2015 Jason Alexander gave Kat Dennings every Seinfeld fan’s dream voicemail:
5. That time in 2018 Zach Galifianakis hosted Jerry on Between Two Ferns and brought out Wayne Knight.
Between Two Ferns is edgy and very unique and when it is on, it is superbly funny. Normally awkward is impossible for me to watch and Galifianakis does the impossible and makes it hilarious. That time he had Seinfeld on was one of the funniest interviews I have ever seen, and at the end, he brings out Knight to illicit a “Hello, Newman”. And fails miserably. You can watch the episode here (Warning: it may contain bad language).
6. That time in June 2010 when George Steinbrenner died and the Chicago Tribune gave a full page to his real life, and a half-page to his character on Seinfeld, which Steinbrenner never played
Larry David entertained us with his exaggerated depiction of the enigmatic Yankees owner. His performance was so good, people could not keep from talking about it when the actual man died 13 years ago.
7. That time in April 2017 a man named Newman got in trouble for impersonating an architect, in an investigation named “Operation: Vandelay Industries”
Yes, all of that is factual and not made up. It sounds too made up to be true, but Seinfeld is that amazing. Read about it here.
8. That time in May 2004, I preached a sermon at Northwest FWB Church in Chicago on how important each part of the body of Christ is, and I used Kramer saving Toby’s pinky toe from the Seinfeld episode “The Fire” as an illustration
I told the story exactly as Kramer did, arms flailing and with great passion, and I am forever grateful for a church that let me do that sort of unorthodox thing. Two people in the audience basically fell out of their chairs laughing and to this day, people from the church will come up to me randomly and say, “People kept ringing the bell!”
9. That time in October 2018 in a Cubs-Brewers game Anthony Rizzo blasted a homerun and announcer Karl Ravech said, “He’s the Rizz! And nobody beats him.”
I could make a list of dozens, perhaps hundreds of times that sports media has referenced Seinfeld with quotes like this. But this one sticks out because it’s not as well-known a subplot as others I have heard. Other fans have told me that Jim Deshaies slips a reference or two in about every broadcast.
10. That time in 2013 someone made actual posters with real actors’ names and pictures for the fictional movies in Seinfeld
Seinfeld’s made-up movies were an amusing part of several episodes, as when Elaine preferred “Sack Lunch” to the real Oscar-winning The English Patient. And when Kramer pretended to be the Movie Phone guy and had to describe movies like “Mountain High”. These posters a superbly done. See them in detail here.
11. That time in 2016 when the real J. Peterman and the fake J. Peterman made the fake Urban Sombrero into the real Urban Sombrero.
Again, this really happened. Only Seinfeld. Watch the real-world news story here. It includes the fascinating nugget that O’Hurley bought the real company after Seinfeld ended.
12. That time in 2004 Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Michael Licona released a scholarly work called “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” and worked in a reference to Seinfeld’s infamous self-description.
It’s true. I took a picture for proof:
13. Those times from 2014 to 2022 when the Mets’ Minor League Affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, had a Seinfeld night that included an Elaine dance-off
These pop culture theme nights are a dime a dozen (the only St.Louis Cardinal game I’ve been to this year was Friends themed) but this one, which they’ve done every year since 2014, is over-the-top and perfectly outrageous. Just as you’d expect any tribute to Seinfeld to be. Read about it here.
They even got a picture of the players in puffy shirts:
14. And speaking of Elaine dancing, there’s the time JLD tweeted this after her son’s team made the NCAA Tournament, AKA “The Big Dance”:
Honestly, if you have followed Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s spectacular post-Seinfeld career, there are times it seems she has had severe Seinfeld fatigue. Even her appearance on Jerry’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee seemed a tad awkward. So I’m so glad she wasn’t too cool to make this reference.
15. That time in 2010 when someone made this movie trailer about a fictional film called “Hello, Newman”:
16. That time the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Kevin Newman and a Kevin Kramer sat next to each other in the dugout and gave Seinfeld fans a photo op that would be shared about a gazillion times on social media
True story: A few years ago the Pirates won a game where Kramer’s hit brought in Newman from 3rd for the walk-off win in extra innings. The Seinfeld Facebook fan pages went nuts in celebration like Jerry after winning The Race.
17. That time in 2017 when Keith Hernandez and David Ortiz debated which one of them was Keith Hernandez on the set of FOX’s MLB pre-game show
“I’m Keith Hernandez” is one of the truly iconic statements in a show overflowing with iconic phrases. It’s fantastic when Keith himself says it and his legendary cohort plays along. Read about it here.
18. That time in 2015 when my wife proved to me how real her fandom was with a Facebook post about our wedding invitations
My wife had minimal knowledge of the show and decided if she was going to be married to me she needed to bone up on it to understand half of what I said. She watched through the whole thing twice while we were dating/engaged. This post is perfect and it’s really the #poorlilly hashtag that does it for me. That’s when I knew she really got it as a fan.
19. That time in 2010 Phil Morris brought Jackie Chiles back in several “Funny or Die” Sketches
Jackie Chiles only appeared in five episodes, but he was a character of characters. And for Morris to want to bring him back after 12 years…says something about how deep a show Seinfeld was even in minor characters.
20. That time in 2005 when Dan O’Keefe, Seinfeld writer who offered up his real-world experience with a made-up family holiday as a plot point in the Season 9 episode “The Strike,” released a book telling the story behind the now mega-famous “Festivus”
I understand there have been a lot of cash grabs in the wake of Seinfeld’s exit, but this one was fascinating. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction and sometimes the truth just inspires the strangest fiction. Interesting trivia from the forward: Jason Alexander says to that day (18 years ago now, mind you) “Festivus” was the Seinfeld reference he heard most from fans in public.
21. That time in the early 90s that Steven Spielberg watched Seinfeld episodes to cheer him up while filming Schindler’s List
You can read about it here. This is an exception on this list, as I’ve focused until now exclusively on tributes since May 14, 1998. But this one is so golden, I had to include it. This is why Seinfeld featured multiple references to Schindler’s List.
22. All those times people from as far away as Australia and China came to New York just to visit Tom’s Restaurant (“Monks”)
Legions of fans have made the trek to NYC to both eat at the restaurant and to take the classic picture (as in mine below – the best fans know to not include “Tom’s” in the picture because it wasn’t in the show). But when people come from literally other continents, that is dedication. Read about it here.
By the way, I had to order the BIIIIIIIG SALAD!!!
23. That time on November 18, 2004, the Smithsonian added The Puffy Shirt
So appropriate! Read about it here.
24. That time in August 2017 when Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs got caught in a Seinfeld car rental plot
This has happened to so many people, and it’s often not funny when it does, but we can laugh at professional athletes I hope. Ben Zobrist went home on a Cubs off day and was late to the game the next day because he flew into Nashville and had rented a car. The problem? There were no cars at the Nashville airport when he got there. Cubs manager Joe Maddon referenced the Seinfeld episode to the press, even paraphrasing Jerry’s classic “They failed to hold the reservation”.
25. That time my friend Josh was at a fudge shop in Pidgeon Ford and he told his wife he wanted a spoon for the hard fudge and the employee said, “Next thing you know he’ll be cutting a Snickers with a fork and knife.” Josh and the employee exchanged a knowing glance.
These are the interactions that amaze me the most after 25 years. Simple comments between complete strangers allow them to bond immediately. I have had this experience dozens of times and it’s a joy every time. Like Cobra Kai, Seinfeld will never die. Because it lives in the hearts and minds of its fans and can make its way into seemingly any situation or conversation.
We invite additions to the list, or just comments in general, below!