No sitcom in TV history is quite like Seinfeld, and to drill it down a little deeper, no character in TV history is quite like Cosmo Kramer, a firecracker of a next-door neighbor whose talents for entering doorways was only rivaled by his endless line of money-making agendas. With over 20 years having passed since the show ended, it's easy to think that the only actor who could have ever played Kramer was Seinfeld star Michael Richards, but now Jerry Seinfeld has other thoughts.
In promotion for his recently released Netflix special, titled 23 Hours to Kill, Jerry Seinfeld has been taking on all kinds of interviews lately. One of the most interesting happened during his recent visit to The Howard Stern Show, where the comedian's future in stand-up was discussed. At one point, the late, great stand-up mastermind Andy Kaufman's name came up, at which point Stern opined that Kaufman would have fit in well on Seinfeld (the show) in the way that Michael Richards did with Kramer. It turns out Seinfeld (the man) agreed wholeheartedly. In his words:
You know, it’s funny that you say that, because Michael Richards is one of those parts where you could never cast somebody else. But now that you mention it, Andy could have pulled off Kramer. He is the only other name I've ever heard, now that you mention it, the only other guy who could have pulled off Kramer.
As iconic as just about every single character is within the world of Seinfeld, Kramer remains the most unique and one-of-a-kind, although I guess that can be widened to two of a kind now that Jerry Seinfeld has welcomed the idea of Andy Kaufman being a suitable replacement for Michael Richards. Like few comics who came before or after his unfortunately short-lived reign, Kaufman was a character day in and day out, from his Taxi work as Latka Gravas to his Tony Clifton persona to his sketch show shenanigans to his real-world stunts and mini-controversies. Taking on a role like Kramer would have presumably been an easy enough venture.
Naturally, Andy Kaufman's Kramer likely would have been completely different than Michael Richards' take on the character, given their different styles of physical comedy. I'm not sure Kaufman would have ever done the bit where Kramer drank half a beer with a cigarette still in his mouth, or if he would have showcased Richards' manic, high-pitched reactions. But he would have likely been perfecto for the episode "The Merv Griffin Show," in which Kramer turned his apartment into the classic talk show's TV set. (Now I also wish that Kaufman had a talk show at some point in the style of The Eric Andre Show.)
Unfortunately, such a hypothetical scenario as "Andy Kaufman's Kramer" isn't realistic by any standard, considering the comedian died of lung cancer in 1984, five years before Seinfeld's Season 1 premiere. Granted, there are quite a few people out there who STILL think that Kaufman faked his own death and is surviving away from Hollywood's limelight, but even if that were somehow true, we still wouldn't know what he'd be like as Kramer. Unless he'd been secretly crafting a top-secret Kramer spinoff over the years...
Of course, despite some of his more questionable acts, Andy Kaufman is still widely appreciated and adored by comedy fans, while Michael Richards took a huge dive from peak popularity in 2006 when he repeatedly used racial slurs while going off on a group of audience members. Though he later apologized, and made appearances on Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and on Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Richards' stand-up career basically ended, and his on-screen roles have been few and far between.
Given Jerry Seinfeld's almost exclusively straight-laced style of observational comedy, Howard Stern didn't even think Andy Kaufman would have been someone that Seinfeld enjoyed. That apparently isn't the case at all. According to Seinfeld:
I worshipped Andy Kaufman. He was the first comedian I ever heard of on Long Island. That's why I went into the city to go to these clubs because my friend told me, 'There's a guy in New York. He's going on at this club, he's playing the bongos, and he's crying in rhythm to the bongos.' And we thought, 'That's the funniest thing I ever heard. We gotta see this guy.'
There's something kind of awesome in thinking about Andy Kaufman playing shows in the early '80s as an up-and-coming Jerry Seinfeld watched from the crowd. In a display of poetic karma, maybe someone that was in the crowd for the 23 Hours to Kill special will end up becoming the next Andy Kaufman.
Fans can watch Seinfeld streaming in full on Hulu, with a move to Netflix coming in the future. Meanwhile, you can watch 23 Hours to Kill on Netflix now. Check out some other cool shows coming to the streaming service soon, as well as our entire Summer 2020 TV premiere schedule.