It is no question that Seinfeld helped launch some great careers in entertainment. However, I am not necessarily referring to the main Seinfeld cast, but the guest stars who were not so well known at the time, such as a pre-Entourage cast Jeremy Piven. Also, you may remember Bryan Cranston’s recurring role, but may not realize he is not the only Breaking Bad cast member to appear on the sitcom, nor is Courteney Cox the only Friends cast member with a prominent guest role. When Seinfeld hits Netflix on October 1, 2021, see if you can spot any of the following as soon-to-be stars, starting with another groundbreaking comedian.
Sarah Silverman (Emily)
With a short stint on Saturday Night Live and a couple of years on HBO’s Mr. Show with Bob and David, Emmy-winning comedian and actress Sarah Silverman was still an up-and-comer when she appeared on the Seinfeld Season 8 episode, “The Money.” She plays Kramer’s girlfriend, Emily, whom Michael Richards’ character claims is great in bed, but not fun to share a bed with when it comes to getting shut-eye afterward.
Bob Odenkirk (Ben)
Also known for Mr. Show with Bob and David as the “Bob” from the title, Bob Odenkirk, who played a medical student Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) dates in the hope of eventually achieving her dream of dating a doctor in another Seinfeld Season 8 episode, “The Abstinence.” The former Saturday Night Live writer went on to lead a hit action movie called Nobody and, of course, earn Emmy nominations as Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad and the prequel spin-off Better Call Saul.
Anna Gunn (Amy)
Another Breaking Bad alum who appeared on Seinfeld earlier in her career is two-time Emmy winner Anna Gunn (Walter White’s wife, Skyler), who played a girlfriend of Jerry’s whom George (Jason Alexander) is convinced he saw smooching with Jerry’s cousin after losing his glasses in Season 5’s “The Glasses.” I could actually make a whole list of Breaking Bad actors who have appeared on Seinfeld, but let’s move on to another cable drama star for now.
Michael Chiklis (Steve Pocatello)
Michael Chiklis rose to fame as the Emmy-winning lead of FX’s The Shield, as The Thing in two Fantastic Four movies, and as part of the American Horror Story cast in Season 4. Years earlier, he was on Seinfeld Season 3 as a party host who ends up hosting Jerry and Elaine longer than anticipated, after their ride (George) leaves early for a one night stand, and later causes Jerry trouble when he appears at his building unexpected.
Daniel Dae Kim (Student #1)
Another star of a popular TV crime drama is former Hawaii Five-0 cast member Daniel Dae Kim, who is also well known from the Lost cast as Jin-Soo Kwon. On Seinfeld’s final season, Kramer and his friend Mickey (Danny Woodburn) were hired to pretend they had symptoms of certain diseases for medical students to guess, and the actor plays the student who correctly diagnoses Kramer with gonorrhea.
Mariska Hargitay (Melissa)
One of TV’s top crime procedural stars is Law and Order: Special Victims Unit cast member Mariska Hargitay, who has earned several Emmy nominations and one win during her two decades playing Olivia Benson. She probably would have earned some awards recognition for playing a fictionalized version of Elaine on the sitcom-within-a-sitcom, Jerry, if George had not cut off her audition (and if the show hadn’t been cancelled, too) in the Seinfeld Season 4 finale, “The Pilot.”
Jeremy Piven (Michael Barth / TV George)
Also in the Seinfeld Season 4 finale, Michael Barth does an unmistakable imitation of George Costanza when trying out for the role based on Jason Alexander’s character, which he ends up landing. However, you could have mistaken Barth for someone other than Jeremy Piven, who looks nothing like his Emmy-winning Entourage character, Ari Gold, in the episode.
Brad Garrett (Tony Abado)
Another Emmy-winning sitcom star who once guest starred on Seinfeld is Brad Garrett, who made his Season 7 appearance mere months before debuting on Everybody Love Raymond as Robert Barone. He plays a mechanic so overly protective of Jerry’s car that he steals it for himself, unaware that he is carrying a set golf clubs once used by President John F. Kennedy.
Megan Mullally (Betsy)
A winner of two Emmys as Will & Grace’s Karen Walker (and who should have been nominated for playing the ex-wife of her real-life husband, Nick Offerman's, character on Parks and Recreation) is Megan Mullally. One of her earliest sitcom appearances was on a classic Seinfeld Season 4 episode (“The Implant”) as a woman dating George, who accompanies her to the funeral of a loved one where he is accosted for “double-dipping” a chip.
Jennifer Coolidge (Jodi)
Seinfeld also marked the acting debut of Jennifer Coolidge, who later played Stiffler’s Mom in American Pie, Paulette in Legally Blonde, and joined the 2 Broke Girls cast as Sophie Kachinsky. The White Lotus cast member appeared in Season 5 as a masseuse dating Jerry, whom he can’t seem to get to give him a massage. Not to mention, she hates George so much, he starts to become obsessed with her.
Courteney Cox (Meryl)
Jennifer Coolidge has also guest starred on Friends, which, of course, made a star out of Courteney Cox just months after her Seinfeld appearance. She also appeared in Season 5 as a girlfriend of Jerry’s who pretends to be his wife so they can both get a discount at their local dry cleaners.
Debra Jo Rupp (Katie)
You may remember that Debra Jo Rupp had a recurring spot on Friends as Phoebe’s sister-in-law, Alice, before she played Kitty in the That ‘70s Show cast and, even later, had a role on WandaVision. However, she also had a recurring role on Seinfeld, appearing in two episodes as Jerry’s loyal, but extremely incompetent, agent, Katie.
Maggie Wheeler (Cynthia)
Probably the funniest and most memorable recurring role on Friends was Janice, played by Maggie Wheeler, who also had an earlier role on Seinfeld. In Season 3’s “The Fix Up,” Jerry and Elaine crack a scheme to pair the romantically challenged George with Elaine’s romantically fed-up friend Cynthia (Wheeler), which, expectedly, has its ups and downs.
Jon Favreau (Eric The Clown)
Another actor who landed a recurring role on Friends was Jon Favreau, before he became one of the most successful filmmakers working today as the director of Iron Man and the creator of the Star Wars spin-off series The Mandalorian, to name a few achievements. I bet you had no idea that he was the birthday clown who told George to get over his predilection for Bozo in the Seinfeld Season 5 classic “The Fire.”
Tobin Bell (Ron)
Speaking of clowns, one of the creepiest clowns in horror movies is Billy, the puppet whom Jigsaw often talks through in the Saw movies. I bet you didn’t realize that the man who played Jigsaw, Tobin Bell, appeared on a Seinfeld Season 4 episode (“The Old Man”) as a record store owner who offers Kramer and Newman an unjustly low price for some used vinyl, including a Frank Sinatra album in mint condition.
James Spader (Jason Hanky)
Also known for playing great villains (such as Raymond “Red” Reddington on The Blacklist or the AI enemy of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron) is James Spader. The three-time Emmy-winner actually channels some of that same signature sinister energy to play Jason Hanky, who refuses to apologize to George for a past insult despite being required to make amends as part of a 12-step program, on a Seinfeld Season 9 episode.
Patton Oswalt (Video Store Clerk)
Also known for playing a Marvel villain (voice of the title character in the animated series M.O.D.O.K.) is Patton Oswalt, a popular comedian even better known for sitcoms like The King of Queens and movies like Ratatouille. One of his very first acting appearances was on Seinfeld as an employee at a video store from which George tries to rent Breakfast at Tiffany’s so he does not have to read the book.
Catherine Keener (Nina West)
A Scream Queen in her own right (mostly for appearing in one of the best horror movies in recent memory, Get Out) is Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener, who also had an early Seinfeld appearance. In Season 3, she plays the painter of Kramer’s iconic portrait and a girlfriend of Jerry’s who toys with his head with a letter she plagiarizes from a Neil Simon movie.
Stephen Tobolowsky (Tor Eckman)
A character whose methods to cure George’s inflamed tonsils remind me of Catherine Keener role in Get Out is Tor Eckman in the Season 2 episode, “The Heart Attack.” The holistic specialist is played to ridiculous perfection on Seinfeld by actor Stephen Tobolowsky, whom many will recognize from Groundhog Day, his recurring role in the Silicon Valley cast, and as Sammy Jankis in Christopher Nolan’s Memento.
Lauren Graham (Valerie)
Another acclaimed star of TV (like from being in the Gilmore Girls cast) and movies (such as Bad Santa) is Lauren Graham, who played the other half of one of Jerry’s most overly complicated romantic relationships on Seinfeld. When Valerie (Graham) puts Jerry on her speed dial, her stepmother (Louan Gideon) is initially furious, until she begins to take a liking to him and wants to put him on her speed dial, which threatens Jerry’s position on Valerie’s list!
I am not even sure if that is the weirdest relationship Jerry has ever been in, nor am I convinced that we have covered all the best Seinfeld characters with this list. However, what I do know is that you may never watch the hit sitcom the same way again, knowing that it was once a big break (or an obscure highlight) for some of your favorite celebrities.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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