I often have trouble deciding on my favorite of the Seinfeld characters, but Elaine Benes has a pretty solid case. Former SNL star Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who also went on to lead the Veep cast and join the Marvel movies) earned one of her 11 Emmy Awards for playing Jerry’s vivacious and slightly off-kilter ex-girlfriend, who contributed to many of the long-running NBC sitcom’s most hilarious moments.
To prove just how important Elaine was to the the series’ success (despite not showing up until Episode 2), we came up with 13 classic examples of her greatest hits and could not bring ourselves to cut any of them out of the following list, which starts with one of the first glimpses of her irresistible dark side.
Elaine Is Desperate To Get Her Boyfriend On A Plane To Seattle (Season 2,"The Busboy")
Elaine’s subplot in the Seinfeld Season 2 classic “The Busboy” involves a reunion with a one night stand from Seattle whom she grows to loathe and greatly anticipates his flight home. Unfortunately, they oversleep on the day of his departure, plunging her into an erratic uproar trying to get him packed and ready in the little time they have. Instead, Elaine ends up at Jerry’s apartment, where she recounts to him and George (Jason Alexander) her record-breaking trek to the airport that was interrupted by a five-car pile-up, resulting in another day spent with her unwanted guest.
Elaine Suffers In Coach On A Flight To New York (Season 4, "The Airport")
Elaine has suffered a number of horror stories involving air travel on Seinfeld, such as in “The Airport,” when she and Jerry board a flight back home from St. Louis. Jerry claims an open first class spot, where he lands a date with the beautiful model seated next to him, while Elaine is stuck dealing with obnoxious passengers, rude attendants, and a revolting bathroom in coach. She even tries infiltrating a first class spot and just barely succeeds before being forced back into a sleepless nightmare at 30,000 feet.
Elaine Avenges A Public Bathroom Injustice (Season 5, "The Stall")
Say, speaking of bathrooms, in Seinfeld’s fifth season, Elaine had an awkward run-in with a woman in the bathroom stall next to her who adamantly and unreasonably refuses to “spare a square” of toilet paper. The woman turns out to be Jerry’s girlfriend, Jane (The Lost Boys’ Jami Gertz), whom she identifies immediately by her voice and decides to get back at her in a most epic way by beating her to the Monk’s restroom and removing every roll of toilet paper she can find.
Elaine Mocks Jerry's Dirty Talk (Season 4, "The Cheever Letters")
In the previous season, Elaine had an exchange with another one of Jerry’s girlfriends that proved especially (and hilariously) awkward for him. The comedian begins dating Elaine’s assistant (Lisa Malkiewicz), whom he ends up offending with his attempt to keep up with her dirty talk with a remark about her undergarments being laid out for her by her mother. Jerry’s fear that the comment will make it back to Elaine comes true when, at the very end of the episode, she mentions that her mother bought her some new panties and “they’re all laid out for me.”
Elaine Needs To Know If Her Boyfriend Is "Sponge-Worthy" (Season 7, "The Sponge")
Elaine’s own love life has also had its issues, and sometimes because of her own actions, as it turns out. For instance, in Seinfeld’s seventh season, she discovers that the Today sponge - her preferred contraceptive - is in limited supply and then forces her boyfriend, Billy (future Gilmore Girls cast member Scott Patterson), to prove why he is deserving of its use in a conversation with all the tension of a job interview. However, when they finally consummate their relationship, Elaine ultimately decides that Billy is not “sponge-worthy” after all.
Jujyfruits Ruin Elaine’s Relationship And Job (Season 5, "The Opposite")
Elaine also managed to cause problems in her love life and her professional life by the same means in one of the all-time best Seinfeld episodes, “The Opposite.” After offending her hospitalized boyfriend, Jake Jarmel (Marty Rackham), by stopping for Jujyfruits before visiting him after his car accident, the chewy candy later prevents her from warning a sick Mr. Lippman (Richard Fancy) that he forgot his handkerchief right before an important meeting that immediately goes south, resulting in the end of Pendant Publishing. The misfortune convinces her she has assumed an existence similar to George, who has instead been on top of the world since adopting a new way of life.
Celibacy Has The Reverse Effect On Elaine’s Intelligence (Season 8, "The Abstinence")
Another time that George’s good luck had the opposite effect on Elaine occurred in Season 8’s “The Abstinence,” in which George’s temporary inability to make love to his girlfriend causes a major boost to his IQ. Elaine thinks this same method could help her boyfriend (Bob Odenkirk) finally ace his medical license exam. While the abstinence works in his favor, it turns Elaine into a self-described “moron” who can barely finish a complete sentence and is easily amused by a spinning tire display at an auto body shop.
Elaine Takes Too Many Muscle Relaxers In Florida (Season 3, "The Pen")
An even funnier example of Elaine exhibiting infantile behavior on Seinfeld occurs when she accompanies Jerry to Florida to visit his parents, who can only offer her an extremely uncomfortable pull-out sofa to sleep on. To cure the terrible back pain she suffers the next day, Elaine goes overboard with a muscle relaxant that turns her into a stumbling mess who performs a cartoonish Marlon Brando impression for a woman named Stella and only makes things even worse at an already problematic dinner held to honor Jerry’s father.
Elaine Has A Silent Freak Out On The Subway (Season 3, "The Subway")
Another funny Elaine moment from Seinfeld’s third season did not require her to say a word. When taking the subway to a wedding, her train suddenly stops, igniting an enraged, expletive-laced projection of her inner thoughts that we hear over voice over. The most amazing thing about that moment is that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was pregnant and fighting back intense nausea while filming, meaning the distressed look on her face is mostly genuine.
Elaine Gets Bit By A Rabid Dog (Season 5, "The Glasses")
Elaine’s fury would only become more prevalent, funnier, and much louder as Seinfeld went along, such as in Season 5. After she suffers a dog bite, Elaine suspects she has contracted rabies, especially after she begins to frequently snap at her friends - including Kramer (Michael Richards), whom she calls a “hipster doofus” during one fervent episode. Elaine’s illness is confirmed when she beings to have trouble swallowing and starts foaming at the mouth in one of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ finest displays of physical comedy.
Elaine Dances At Her Office Party (Season 8, "The Little Kicks")
Perhaps Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ all-time greatest display of physical comedy occurs in the Seinfeld classic “The Little Kicks.” The Season 8 episode’s title refers to Elaine’s own bizarre style of dancing at a party with her co-worers, which George describes as “a full body dry heave set to music.” Her embarrassment affects her beyond the office, however, after she uses Jerry’s camcorder to record the routine, taping over a bootleg movie that gets sold on the city streets.
Elaine Throws George’s Wig Out The Window (Season 6, "The Beard")
While we are on the subject of “best-ofs,” when naming Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ all-time greatest “freak out” on Seinfeld, my money is on Season 6’s “The Beard,” which was the first show after the series’ 100th episode celebration. When a freshly toupee’d George expresses disgust over his new girlfriend’s baldness, Elaine becomes infuriated by her friend’s hypocrisy and teaches him a lesson by pulling the “rug” off his head, scolding him with a deafening indictment of the fake hair, and tossing it out the window.
Elaine Ruffles The Soup Nazi’s Feathers (Season 7, "The Soup Nazi")
Retaliation is something Elaine has always reveled in, most notably in the iconic episode “The Soup Nazi.” The authoritarian, titular soup vendor (Larry Thomas) bans Elaine from his stand after she fails to follow the demands he expects from every customer (except Kramer, for whatever reason). However, after discovering his recipes in an armoire he unwittingly gifted to her, she threatens him with his signature “no soup for you” line, leading him to close up his business.
It is no secret that all of these classic Elaine moments (which fans can revisit on Netflix as of October 1, 2021) are, indeed, “sponge-worthy” and it should be easy to understand why it was impossible to narrow all of them down to a smaller quantity for this list. Honestly, as far as I am concerned, anyone who does not believe the Seinfeld cast was lucky to have Julia Louis-Dreyfus can get out! But, to the fans who are with me, which one would you consider to be the greatest Elaine moment of them all?
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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 almost any article about Batman.