You probably already know that the famous sitcom was once called The Seinfeld Chronicles. And you likely also know that the show was never actually pitched as “a show about nothing.” Jerry Seinfeld revealed that the real pitch that he and Larry David brought to NBC in 1988 was a show about how a comedian gets his material. He said: “The show about nothing was just a joke in an episode many years later, and Larry and I to this day are surprised that it caught on as a way that people describe the show, because to us it’s the opposite of that.”
Anyway, my point is that even if you know that stuff, what are the chances you remember each and every cameo on the sitcom? Sure, we remember the most talked-about g, like Teri Hatcher and what makes her “spectacular.” But do you know which actor’s first-ever TV appearance was on the show?
Check out who made appearances on Seinfeld before they became famous…
Role on Seinfeld: Melissa
Episode: “The Pilot” (May 20, 1993)
With “The Pilot” casting underway, Jerry needed an Elaine, of course. During the auditions, Jerry was smitten with Mariska Hargitay, who was trying out for the role of Elaine. She didn’t end up getting the part, but she made a lasting impression.
Since Seinfeld: If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last few decades, then you know that Hargitay has been cracking the skulls of evil people as Olivia Benson on Law And Order: Special Victims Unit ever since the series debuted in 1999. The 56-year-old’s last appearance was on Saturday Night Live in 2019 as Olivia Benson.
Role on Seinfeld: Tim
Episode: “The Limo” (February 26, 1992)
Before he was driving a hearse on the series Six Feet Under, Peter Krause played a white supremacist who rides in a limo with Jerry and the gang.
Since Seinfeld: Krause has gone on to become a leading man in a number of series, most recently on Parenthood. He was also on Sports Night (1998–2000), Six Feet Under (2001–2005), The Catch (2016–2017), and 9-1-1 (2018–present). His role on Six Feet Under earned him nominations for three Primetime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards. The now 55-year-old won twice for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Role on Seinfeld: Valerie
Episode: “The Millennium” (May 1, 1997)
Lauren Graham played Jerry’s speed-dial ranking girlfriend. She was the girl who demanded getting prime real estate on his speed dial. The then-unknown actress was showing promising signs of becoming a real star.
Since Seinfeld: A few years after she got dumped by Jerry, Graham landed the most famous role of her career: Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls. She’s also well-known on Parenthood, where she plays Peter Krause’s sister. Lorelai’s other half, Luke, played by Scott Patterson, also had a guest-starring role on Seinfeld. He was Elaine’s sponge-worthy boyfriend, Billy, in the episode aptly called “The Sponge.”
Role on Seinfeld: Michael Barth
Episode: “The Pilot” (May 20, 1993)
Jeremy Piven snagged the role of the actor who auditions for the part of George in Jerry and George’s TV show project. In the two-part episode, Piven played Michael Barth. Everyone in the casting room thought he was great, but, of course, the real George was visibly offended.
Since Seinfeld: Piven has had a long and successful career in TV and film ever since Seinfeld. His name, however, has become synonymous with the irate super-agent Ari Gold from HBO’s Entourage. Piven is now in his mid-50s and has been working on two movies in 2020: Crabs in a Bucket and Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind.
Role on Seinfeld: Nina
Episode: “The Letter” (Season 3, Episode 20)
It took years for Catherine Keener to get her career really rolling. Most consider her big break to have been in 1999’s Being John Malkovich. Before that, though, she did the occasional role here and there, like playing Jerry’s artist girlfriend who plagiarizes a love letter. She also painted the famous portrait of Kramer that ended up in many dorm rooms.
Since Seinfeld: Keener ended up becoming that actress whom you’ve seen in so many movies that you can’t even recall them all. The now 61-year-old was in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Capote (2005), Get Out (2017), and Into the Wild (2007), to name just a few.
Role on Seinfeld: Video store clerk
Episode: “The Couch” (October 27, 1994)
A committed member of the mid-‘90s stand-up circuit, comedian Patton Oswalt made his first TV appearance on Seinfeld as the video store clerk in this episode. His first acting gig was a role in which he had to refuse to let George know who had rented Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Since Seinfeld: Oswalt’s career went far after that first appearance. He went on to do TV, movies, stand-up, books, and even video games. The 51-year-old was recently on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, driving around in a DeLorean to get a cup of coffee.
Role on Seinfeld: Emily
Episode: “The Money” (January 16, 1997)
Actress and stand-up comedian Sarah Silverman popped up on the show back in 1997 as Kramer’s girlfriend, Emily. She was the one whose “Jimmy legs” were keeping the K-Man up at night. It got so bad that the couple was forced to move into separate beds.
Since Seinfeld: The 49-year-old sharp-tongued comedian has had her own show (The Sarah Silverman Program), released an autobiography, and also joined the lucky bunch as one of Jerry Seinfeld’s joy-riding guests on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. She is making a film called Marry Me, playing the part of Parker, which is supposed to be released in 2021.
Role on Seinfeld: Steve
Episode: “The Stranded” (November 27, 1991)
In the early ‘90s, Michael Chiklis was one of those serial guest-stars on shows like Miami Vice, L.A. Law, and, of course, Seinfeld. He played a friend of the gang’s who lives way out on Long Island.
Since Seinfeld: In the same year as his Seinfeld appearance, Chiklis landed his first big role. He was in The Commish, a show that ran until 1996 on NBC. After those roles, the now 57-year-old actor found his most-known fame as well as critical acclaim on The Shield and in Fantastic Four. His latest film, Hubie Halloween, is currently in post-production (as of 2020).
Role on Seinfeld: Marla
Episode: “The Virgin” (November 11, 1992)
Jane Leeves played the “pure” character of Marla Penny, who eventually leaves Jerry for the one and only John F. Kennedy, Jr. The English actress first appeared in “The Virgin,” but Marla was the most frequent of all of Jerry’s girlfriends, that is, except for Elaine.
Since Seinfeld: The 59-year-old clearly impressed the NBC network considering she was cast as Daphne on Frasier just months after that episode first aired. Since 2018, Leeves has been a regular on The Resident. Although she was an NBC star, she has been married to Marshall Coben, a CBS Paramount Television executive, since 1996.
Role on Seinfeld: Eric, the Clown
Episode: “The Fire” (May 5, 1994)
Funny guy Jon Favreau played Eric the Clown, who was at the kids’ birthday party that was interrupted by a fire. You might not have recognized Favreau, who put the fire out, but who could forget George’s cowardly escape?
Since Seinfeld: Favreau turned his own struggles of making it big in the business into the surprise hit and cult classic Swingers. It was his breakout moment that led to his successful career as an actor, writer, and director. From Swingers to Iron Man, Favreau has helped shape pop culture. He was also in another super sitcom – Friends – as Monica’s fighting-obsessed boyfriend, Pete.
Role on Seinfeld: Beth
Episode: “The Yada Yada” (April 24, 1997)
Messing played Beth, a friend of Elaine’s as well as Jerry’s date, in two episodes: “The Wait Out” in 1996 and “The Yada Yada” the following year. In this episode, Jerry swooped in right after Beth’s separation, only to find out that she was a closet racist and anti-Semite.
Since Seinfeld: It was only a few months after her final appearance on Seinfeld that Messing landed the gig of her lifetime. She became Grace on the popular sitcom Will & Grace. The 52-year-old has two movies scheduled for 2020: Irresistible and The Dark Divide. But thanks to the pandemic, who knows when these new movies will be released.
Role on Seinfeld: Tony
Episode: “The Bottle Deposit” (May 2, 1996)
Brad Garrett was already a successful stand-up comedian who had even performed on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson before he made his appearance on Seinfeld. He played Tony, the over-zealous mechanic who stole Jerry’s car in order to give it a better home.
Since Seinfeld: Garrett has lent his deep voice to animated hits like Tangled and Finding Nemo. But the show that made him a star was Everybody Loves Raymond. He made guest appearances on Law and Order: SVU. He was also Hulk Hogan on Rock N’ Wrestling. The 60-year-old’s latest TV role was as Douglas in Single Parents.
Role on Seinfeld: Ellen
Episode: “The Van Buren Boys” (February 6, 1997)
Christine Taylor made an early appearance as one of Jerry’s many flames. But the seemingly perfect Ellen must have something wrong with her. Jerry “saw the light” after he had her meet his parents, who both liked Ellen a lot. Typical Jerry.
Since Seinfeld: Taylor has starred in hits like Zoolander and Dodgeball. In 2000, she married funny guy Ben Stiller. Most of you know that his real-life late father, Jerry Stiller, starred on Seinfeld as George’s father, Frank Costanza. Taylor is now approaching 50 and just finished shooting a film called Friendsgiving. Her last TV role was in Insatiable as Gayle Keene.
Role on Seinfeld: Ben
Episode: “The Abstinence” (November 21, 1996)
Ben was Elaine’s almost-doctor boyfriend, who went to medical school but didn’t make it long enough to pass the licensing exam. It was one of Odenkirk’s early acting roles.
Since Seinfeld: Odenkirk turned out to be a surprisingly great dramatic actor, considering his Emmy nominations for Better Call Saul. Of course, before that, he was known as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad. The spinoff show, however, features by far his stand-out role (and my personal favorite). His role as Jimmy/Saul is simply a masterpiece in acting. The show itself is renowned for its directing, writing, and cinematography, but the glue that holds it all together is the talented Bob Odenkirk.
Role on Seinfeld: Meryl
Episode: “The Wife” (March 17, 1994)
Courtney Cox played Meryl, Jerry’s girlfriend, who pretends to be his wife in order to share his dry cleaning discount. It was that same year that Cox scored her biggest and luckiest role ever.
Since Seinfeld: It goes without saying that Cox will always be known for her role as Monica on Friends. It’s kind of funny to think that Friends’ decade-long stint sat right next to Seinfeld on Thursday nights. Later on, Cox produced and starred in her own show, Cougar Town. The 56-year-old’s latest film is a documentary called You Cannot Kill David Arquette – clearly about her ex-husband.
Role on Seinfeld: Bob Grossberg
Episode: “The Friar’s Club” (March 7, 1996)
Comedian and former SNL cast member Rob Schneider actually opened for Jerry Seinfeld while they were both still on the stand-up circuit before he ever appeared on the show. He was cast as Elaine’s partially deaf colleague in the Season Seven episode.
Since Seinfeld: Schneider has gone on to star in memorable comedies like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and Grown-Ups. The 56-year-old recently worked on two movies: The Wrong Missy and Hubie Halloween with fellow Seinfeld cameo star Michael Chiklis. He also has his own show called Rob and another one called Real Rob, which features his real-life wife and daughter.
Role on Seinfeld: Sidra
Episode: “The Implant” (February 25, 1993)
In the same year that Hatcher got her big break alongside Dean Cain in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, she appeared as Jerry’s most memorable girlfriend, Sidra. She’s the one whom Elaine thought had implants. Her oft-quoted remark, “They’re real, and they’re spectacular,” was all Jerry needed to know. But it was already too late.
Since Seinfeld: After her stint on Lois and Clark, she became known for her role in Desperate Housewives. Hatcher also starred as a Bond girl in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. The 55-year-old debuted her YouTube channel, Hatching Change in 2018.
Role on Seinfeld: Jason “Stanky” Hanky
Episode: “The Apology” (December 11, 1997)
Spader was in several notable films before he appeared on Seinfeld, but it was, nonetheless, a great performance. He played the part of Jason, a recovering alcoholic who was in the middle of his 12 step program. During the ninth step, he has to apologize to everyone whom he has ever wronged… except for George.
Since Seinfeld: Spader has been an actor of mostly indie films, but he has also won three Emmys for his TV work. In his most recent role, he plays Raymond “Red” Reddington on The Blacklist. The 60-year-old was known for playing the creepy guy in most of his early roles during the ‘80s/’90s.
Role on Seinfeld: Molly Dalrymple
Episode: “The Shoes” (February 4, 1993)
When she played the daughter of NBC’s head of programming, Richards’ character Molly was wearing a low-cut top that almost cost George and Jerry their show-within-a-show during the fourth season. This was long before Richards became Mrs. Charlie Sheen and starred in cult classics like Starship Troopers, Drop Dead Gorgeous, and Wild Things.
Since Seinfeld: Richards went on to be the Bond girl in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. Outside of her acting gigs, she was known as the wife of Charlie Sheen. But the two divorced in 2006. The almost 50-year-old is now married to Aaron Phypers.
Role on Seinfeld: Amy
Episode: “The Glasses” (Season 5, Episode 3)
The episode revolved around George believing that he saw Jerry’s girlfriend, Amy kissing his cousin across the street. He tries to trap Amy in her lie, but, in the end, it was actually a policewoman he saw petting her horse.
Since Seinfeld: Gunn’s biggest role came a long time after her appearance on Seinfeld. We all know her as Skyler White on Breaking Bad – a role that earned her two Emmy awards. The 52-year-old also played the lead role in the financial thriller Equity. But speaking of Breaking Bad, there’s another series star who spent his early acting days on the set of Seinfeld…
Role on Seinfeld: Tim Whatley
Episode: “The Mom and Pop Store” (November 17, 1994)
Bryan Cranston had a recurring role as Jerry’s dentist. He was the original re-gifter who converted to Judaism, apparently for the jokes. According to Jerry Seinfeld, he knew the actor would go on to become a star the second he walked on set… despite calling Jerry an “anti-dentite.”
Since Seinfeld: Before he got his Emmy-winning role as Walter White in Breaking Bad, he was the father in the sitcom Malcom in the Middle. The 64-year-old actor whom many people once thought was one best kept for comedies surprised the world in his superb performance as a dramatic actor. He, like Odenkirk, basically stole the show.
Role on Seinfeld: Lanette
Episode: “The Summer of George” (May 15, 1997)
Amanda Peet, who was known for her roles in comedies, played Lanette, Jerry’s date to the Tonys. Her male roommate were what caught Jerry totally off-guard.
Since Seinfeld: Peet’s movies after Seinfeld include Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Whole Nine Yards. Like other comedians who proved their drama chops to the world, Peet has recently showed hers in Netflix’s Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story. For those of you who have yet to see the series, you need to. The 48-year-old’s starring role in the second season is one to remember.
Role on Seinfeld: Kid
Episode: “The Frogger” (August 23, 1998)
Bell was featured in one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of moments during this Season Nine episode. He was the kid who is playing the Frogger machine and loses after hearing Jerry and George’s unsolicited advice.
Since Seinfeld: The 24-year-old Nickelodeon star turned musician has come a long way since showing off his gaming skills on Seinfeld. His first TV appearance was actually on Home Improvement. Bell has a career in music, which started in the early 2000s when he was on The Amanda Show with the band Drake 24/7. He co-wrote and performed the Drake & Josh theme song Found a Way.
Role on Seinfeld: Jenna
Episode: “The Pothole” (February 20, 1997)
After unknowingly using a toothbrush that had fallen into the toilet, Kristin Davis’ character Jenna became another one of Jerry’s ex-girlfriends who never made it to the next episode.
Since Seinfeld: By the time she was seen on the sitcom, Davis was already a familiar face to Americans. She was in the teen drama Melrose Place. It wasn’t until a year later that she hit the big time with her performance as Sex and the City’s resident prude, Charlotte. And no one plays a pure and proper character like Kristin Davis. She’s now 55, by the way, and hosts a show called Labor of Love.
Let’s stay on the ‘90s sitcom train and take a look back at one of the best shows of the decade: Home Improvement…