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|First appearance||"The Seinfeld Chronicles"|
|Last appearance||"The Finale, Part II" (Seinfeld)|
|Portrayed by||Jason Alexander|
Body Suit Man
Koko the Monkey
(constantly changes throughout series)Assistant to the traveling secretary for the New York Yankees
Real estate agent
Representative for Kruger Industrial Smoothing
Sales rep for Pendant Publishing
Sales rep for Play Now
Sales rep for rest stop supply company
Frank Costanza (father)|
Estelle Costanza (mother)
|Spouse(s)||Susan Biddle Ross (fiancee; deceased)|
Aunt Baby (deceased)
Uncle Moe (deceased)
Henny (first cousin once removed)
|Religion||Latvian Orthodox Church, Catholic (by upbringing)|
George Louis Costanza is a character in the American television sitcom Seinfeld (1989–1998), played by Jason Alexander. He has variously been described as a "short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man" (by Elaine Benes and Costanza himself) and "Lord of the Idiots" (by Costanza himself). George and Jerry were junior high school friends and remained friends afterwards. He is friends with Jerry Seinfeld, Cosmo Kramer, and Elaine Benes. George appears in every episode except "The Pen" (third season).
The character was originally based on Seinfeld co-creator Larry David but is surnamed after Jerry Seinfeld's real-life New York friend, Mike Costanza. Alexander reprised his role in an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, reuniting with Jerry Seinfeld and Wayne Knight (also reprising their roles as Jerry and Newman, respectively).
George is the son of Frank (Jerry Stiller), an Italian-American and Estelle Costanza (Estelle Harris), presumably Jewish-American[dubious ]. George twice mentions that he has a brother (although never again after season 3). Lloyd Braun is his childhood nemesis who George feels was the son his parents always wanted. George's best friend Jerry Seinfeld described Frank and Estelle as "psychopaths", and said in "The Chinese Woman" that, if they had divorced when George was young, he "could have been normal". George also describes himself (and by implication many neuroses) as the result of his parents having stayed together.
In "The Junior Mint", he states he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he went to a public school. In a previous episode he mentions he went to high school on Long Island. He met Jerry during his youth, and they remained friends from that point on. George and Jerry both attended John F. Kennedy High School, class of 1971. During their high school years, George and Jerry frequently hung out at a pizzeria called Mario's Pizzas, where the former, having the highest score "GLC", would play Frogger. George was picked on by his gym teacher Mr. Heyman (Biff Yeager), who deliberately mispronounced his name as "Can't stand ya" and gave him wedgies.
Two of George's cousins appear on the show: Shelly, who briefly appears in "The Contest", and Rhisa, who George plans to date in order to shock his parents in "The Junk Mail". George talks to his parents about his family in "The Money", during which it is revealed that he had an "Uncle Moe", who "died a young man" and an "Aunt Baby", who died at the age seven of internal problems. It is also revealed that his mother has a "Cousin Henny". In "The Doll", it is revealed that Frank Costanza was born in Italy and has a cousin, Carlo, who still lives there. As of "The Robbery", George had living grandparents who he had recently visited, although it is never made clear whether these were his mom's or dad's parents.
George is neurotic, self-loathing and dominated by his parents, yet also prone to occasional periods of overconfidence that invariably arise at the worst possible time. Throughout Seinfeld's first season, George is depicted as moderately intelligent – at one point, he mentions an intellectual interest in the Civil War and, in some early episodes, appears almost as a mentor to Jerry – but becomes less sophisticated, to the point of being too lazy even to read a ninety-page book (Breakfast at Tiffany's), preferring to watch the movie adaptation at a stranger's house instead. However, one Chicago Tribune reviewer noted that, despite all his shortcomings, George is "pretty content with himself".
George exhibits a number of negative character traits, among them dishonesty, insecurity and neurosis, many of which seem to stem from a dysfunctional childhood with his squabbling parents Frank and Estelle, and often form the basis of his involvement in various plots, schemes and awkward social encounters. George's relationship with Frank is estranged. Episode plots frequently feature George manufacturing elaborate deceptions at work or in his relationships in order to gain or maintain some small or imagined advantage or (pretend) image of success. He had success in "The Opposite", where he starts (with Jerry's encouragement) to do the complete opposite of what his instincts tell him to do, which results in him getting a girlfriend and job with the New York Yankees. His neurosis is also evident in "The Note", where he begins doubting his sexuality after receiving a massage from a male masseuse.
George sometimes refers to himself in the third person (for example, "George is getting UPSET!"), after befriending a person with a similar trait in "The Jimmy".
George's occasional impulsiveness often gets him into trouble, like when he flees a burning kitchen during his girlfriend's son's birthday party, knocking over several children and an old woman in the process, so he can escape first in "The Fire". However, there are moments where George exhibits remarkable courage, but usually accidentally and often in support of inane lies he would rather not confess to. For instance, in "The Marine Biologist", he goes into the sea alone to save a beached whale because his date, a woman on whom he had a crush in college, thinks he is a marine biologist and even tells her the truth about his occupation after he saves the day. However, this causes her to reject him immediately, and he is forced to take the bus home.
George often goes to impressive measures to build and maintain his relationships with women. In "The Conversion", he goes through the process of converting to the Latvian Orthodox religion as his girlfriend’s conservative parents would not let her date somebody outside their religion. In "The Susie", he deems it so important that he make a grand entrance at his work’s ball with his attractive girlfriend Allison that, upon finding out that she plans to break up with him, George goes to great lengths to avoid her before the ball, stating "If she can't find me, she can't break up with me." Ultimately though, the one relationship he holds long-term, with his fiancé Susan, is the one about which he is seemingly least enthusiastic, as shown by his ongoing attempts to first postpone, and later cancel, their wedding and his rather nonchalant reaction when she suddenly dies. In fact, in "The Foundation", George shows greater emotion while discussing the death of the Star Trek character Spock in the movie, The Wrath of Khan than after Susan's death.
In some episodes, George aligns with both Kramer and Elaine, each of whom he is also frequently pitted against. While he gets into arguments with Elaine, they also work together, most notably in "The Cadillac", although George states in "The Dinner Party" that he is frightened of her. George and Kramer usually feel awkward around one another but find themselves working together (and against one another) in "The Busboy", "The Stall" and "The Slicer". "The Susie" is the only episode where their relationship is as prominent as the relationships between the other characters. Some episodes, like "The Raincoats", "The Money", "The Doorman" and "The Fusilli Jerry", would suggest that Kramer has a more comfortable rapport with George's parents than George.
He has an interest in nice restrooms and his personal bathroom habits border on obsession. In "The Revenge", he quits his real estate job solely because he is forbidden to use his boss' private bathroom. In "The Voice", he admits that one of the reasons he is staying at a job his boss has asked that he resign from (for feigning a disability) is that it gives him "private access to one of the great handicapped toilets in the city". In "The Busboy", he claims to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the locations of the best public bathrooms in the city. He proves this in "The Bizarro Jerry" when he directs Kramer to "the best bathroom in midtown" at the offices of Brand/Leland, even describing the layout, marble, high ceiling and toilets that flush "like a jet engine". In "The Gymnast", he told Jerry that he always removes his shirt when using the bathroom because "it frees me up... no encumbrances". It is unclear if he dropped this habit after an embarrassing incident where he walked out of a bathroom shirtless at a lunch party attended by his girlfriend, her mom and other female members of her family. When working for the Yankees, he suggested having the bathroom stall doors stretched all the way to the ground (letting people's legs not be seen while in the stalls), and, in many episodes, he shows a fascination with toilet paper and its history. He also displays a fear of diseases, like lupus and cancer. In "The Wife", George gets into trouble for peeing in the shower at a gym but defends his action with, "It's all pipes! What's the difference?" even threatening to call a plumber to back him up.
Although occasionally referred to as dumb by his friends, many signs point to the fact that George is actually quite intelligent despite his neurotic behavior. George's foolishness is displayed in "The Cafe", where he has Elaine take an IQ test for him. Apparently, George's neurotic stupidity would progress until it became one of his primary characteristics. By "The Couch", he could not even concentrate enough to read a ninety-page book (Breakfast at Tiffany's). In "The Abstinence", it is discovered that George actually has what would appear to be genius-level intelligence but can never access it because his mind is always so completely focused on sex. When circumstances let him temporarily remove sex from his mind, he is able to reach his true intellectual potential, solving a Rubik's Cube, answering a string of questions on Jeopardy! and giving Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams pointers on hitting based on Newtonian physics.
George and Jerry have been best friends since meeting in high school gym class. The extreme closeness of their friendship is occasionally mistaken for gayness. "The Outing" deals with a reporter from a New York University college paper mistaking George and Jerry for a gay couple, and, in "The Cartoon", George dates somebody who Kramer insists is merely a "female Jerry". When George is forced to note to himself that the idea of a female Jerry who he can have a close personal and also sexual relationship with would be everything he has ever wanted, George, in horror, breaks off his relationship with the woman. When something goes wrong, George has been known to hold his head.
Seinfeld co-creator Larry David based George largely on himself. Seinfeld and David created the character as a counterpoint to Seinfeld's character. In the first draft of the show's pilot script, called "Stand-Up" at the time, George's name was Bennett and he, like Jerry, was a comedian. In that same draft, the scene in the pilot in which George and Jerry discuss a woman Jerry met earlier, saw George and Jerry discussing their stand-up act. This idea however, was quickly abandoned and his name was changed to George, the real estate broker instead. George's last name comes from Michael Costanza, a college classmate of Seinfeld. "Louis", George's middle name is a homage to Lou Costello, whose 1950s television series The Abbott and Costello Show, inspired Seinfeld's writing style. Although he is often asked whether he wanted to play the character, Larry David has said that he was only interested in writing the show, that not only did he not want to act on the show, but it had never occurred to him and, even if it had, he highly doubted that NBC would have approved of his being cast.
Casting director Marc Herschfield stated that, during casting for the character, "we saw every actor we could possibly see in Los Angeles", but they could not find the right actor for the part. Among the auditionees were Nathan Lane, David Alan Grier, Brad Hall and Larry Miller. The Trivia page for the Seinfeld show on IMDb incorrectly states that George Schimmel auditioned for the Costanza role. A 2011 article by Bradford Evans in Splitsider claims those considered for Costanza include Danny DeVito and Nathan Lane, while Jason Alexander himself has noted that Chris Rock was also considered for the role.
On April 3, 1989, Herschfield sent a partial script to Jason Alexander, who was in New York City at the time. Herschfield had met Alexander when he was working on the CBS sitcom E/R. Alexander enjoyed the script and felt it read like a Woody Allen film; therefore, he did a Woody Allen impression on his audition tape, and bought a pair of glasses to better resemble the character. Though Alexander thought his audition was "a complete waste of time", both David and Seinfeld were impressed; Seinfeld stated "the second we saw him, like two lines out of his mouth, we went 'That's the guy'". On April 10, 1989 at 9:00 A.M. Alexander did his first official audition and met David and Seinfeld. While in the waiting room for his final audition, Alexander saw that Larry Miller was also auditioning. Alexander was aware that Miller and Seinfeld were very good friends, and so figured that he would not get the part. After his final audition he returned to New York City, and when he landed he received a phone call informing him that he was hired.
Many of George's predicaments were based on David's past real-life experiences. In "The Revenge", for example, when George quits his job in a fury only to realize he has made a mistake, he goes back the next day as if nothing happened; this mirrors David's actions while working as a writer for Saturday Night Live, when he quit and then returned to his job in the same manner. As the show progressed, Alexander discovered that the character was based on David. As Alexander explains in an interview for the Seinfeld DVD, during an early conversation with David, Alexander questioned a script, saying, "This could never happen to anyone, and even if it did, no human being would react like this." David replied, "What do you mean? This happened to me once, and this is exactly how I reacted." After that, Alexander changed his performance from an imitation of Woody Allen to what he has called a "shameless imitation of Larry David."
In 1998, Michael Costanza sued the show for US$100,000,000, claiming that he never gave permission for his name to be used and that, because of the character's appearance and behavior, he was not treated with respect. Costanza lost the suit, as the New York Supreme Court (the trial court in the State of New York court system) decided that Seinfeld and David "did not violate Michael Costanza's privacy rights when they created the character".
George becomes engaged to Susan Biddle Ross, a wealthy executive at NBC who approved his and Jerry's show-within-a-show sitcom pilot. George and Susan date for a year, during which time commitment-phobic George is constantly trying to find ways to end their relationship without actually having to initiate the breakup with her. In "The Engagement", he proposes to her in a short-lived bout of midlife crisis, after he and Jerry make a pact to move forward with their lives. When Jerry breaks up with his girlfriend almost immediately thereafter for eating "her peas one at a time" and declares the deal over, George panics and again tries repeatedly to weasel out of his engagement. He gets his wish about 2 weeks before the wedding in "The Invitations", when he inadvertently kills her by selecting cheap envelopes for their wedding invitations, not knowing they contained toxic glue. When notified of her death at the hospital, George displays a combination of shock, apathy and relief (later described by the doctor in Part 2 of The Finale as "restrained jubilation"). A few moments after being notified of Susan's death, he says to Jerry, Kramer and Elaine, "Well, let's go get some coffee." Susan's parents, recent divorcees, never knowing the specifics behind her poisoning but suspecting that George was somehow involved, never forgive him for this, and appoint him to the board of directors of the Susan Ross Foundation to keep him trapped under their influence and ensure that he would never get any of Susan's inheritance.
George is very bad at meeting women and even worse at maintaining his romantic relationships and, as a result, his relationships usually end badly. George also dated other women throughout the series:
In the season 7 Curb Your Enthusiasm episode "Seinfeld", George has married (and divorced) a woman named Amanda in the time since the finale. It is unclear, however, whether these events are considered canon in the Seinfeld series.
George's professional life is unstable. He is unable to remain in any job for any great length of time before making an embarrassing blunder and getting fired, and he is unemployed for a large amount of time throughout the series. Very often, the blunder is lying and trying to cover it up, only to have it all fall apart. Most of the many short-lived jobs George holds throughout the series are in sales.
Over the course of the series, he works for a real estate transaction services firm (Rick Bahr Properties), rest stop supply company (Sanalac), Elaine's company (Pendant Publishing), the New York Yankees (his longest running job), a playground-equipment company (Play Now) and industrial smoothing company (Kruger Industrial Smoothing), and other places. He is fired from his job at Pendant Publishing for having sex with the cleaning woman on his desk in "The Red Dot" (he professes he has always been attracted to cleaning women).
His original job when the series starts is as a real estate agent; he ends up quitting and getting re-hired, but fired immediately afterward for drugging his boss. He always wanted to be an architect or least "pretend to be an architect". He first mentions this desire in "The Stake Out", and claims in "The Race" that he had designed "the new addition to the Guggenheim". In "The Van Buren Boys", he denies his young protégé a scholarship from the Susan Ross Foundation when the young man decides he no longer wants to be an architect and wants to become a city planner instead. In "The Marine Biologist", Jerry tells a woman who George wanted to impress that George is a marine biologist. The plan backfires when George is called on to save a beached whale with a Titleist golf ball in its blowhole. He saves the whale, but the woman tells him off when he confesses that he is not, in fact, a marine biologist: "She told me to go to hell, and I took the bus home." He then gets a job working for the Yankees, where he frequently encounters a fictionalized version of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (the voice of Steinbrenner is made by Larry David).
During Season 4, George gains experience as a sitcom writer as he helps Jerry to write the pilot for the fictitious show Jerry. While pitching the concept of a "show about nothing" to NBC executives, George dates executive Susan until "The Virgin", when she is fired. Following the only episode ("The Pilot"), executive Russell's obsession with Elaine has cost George and Jerry a shot at getting a television series.
George is known for his balding hair, which is less noticeable in "The Seinfeld Chronicles" or a flashback in "The Slicer", but gets thinner as the series progresses. In "The Beard", he starts to wear a wig, until Elaine throws it out the window in disgust. He also tries to restore his hair in "The Tape", when he starts using a Chinese cream that is said to be such a great cure for baldness that it will make him "look like Stalin". His hair is rarely seen styled. His clothing is usually very plain. He frequently wears jeans and Nike Cortez sneakers. In "The Pilot", George wears sweatpants; Jerry says that this makes George look like he has given up on life. In "The Subway", when his clothing is taken, he goes to the coffee shop with a sheet, causing a bystander to mistake him for a Hare Krishna. In "The Muffin Tops", he steals clothing from a tourist who asks him to watch his suitcase. "The Gum" has him dressed as Henry VIII, which, along with a far too small tux in "The Opera", are the only times he is seen entirely apart from his drab attire. George has, however, mentioned that his clothes are color-coded based on his mood. In "The Trip", Jerry asks him what mood he is in, and George replies, "Morning mist". Several times throughout the show, George mentions a desire to "drape" himself in velvet (if only it were socially acceptable), which he does in "The Doodle". In "The Bizarro Jerry", George can be seen styling his hair based on an Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) poster. His clothes on the show were usually a size too small for him, as opposed to Kramer, whose clothing was usually a size too big.
In a list of the "50 Greatest Sidekicks" compiled by Entertainment Weekly, George was placed third behind Robin from the Batman franchise and Ed McMahon, who co-hosted The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1962 to 1992. On a The Times-Union list of the 50 greatest sitcom characters of all time, George was ranked third, behind Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) from I Love Lucy and Barney Fife (Don Knotts) from The Andy Griffith Show. In 1999, TV Guide published a list of the 50 best characters in television history, on which George was ranked 10th. The People called George the greatest television character on a list of the 100 best television characters. British comedian Ricky Gervais and Guardian columnist Marina Hyde have both called George "arguably the greatest sitcom character of all time".
For his performance as George, Alexander was nominated for various awards. In 1992, he received his first Primetime Emmy Award nomination in the category Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series; however, he lost the award to Michael Jeter for Evening Shade. He received nominations in the same category the following six years, but failed to win each year. In addition, Alexander was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards—in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1998—in the Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television category, but never won the award. In 1995, Alexander received the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series, he also shared the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series with Seinfeld, Louis-Dreyfus, and Richards. From 1996 through 1998, Alexander was nominated in the same two categories, co-winning the ensemble award in 1997 and 1998. In 1999, he was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series for the last time, but lost to Michael J. Fox for his portrayal of Michael Flaherty on Spin City. In 1992 and 1993, Alexander won the American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Male Performer in a TV Series. He was also nominated for the award in 1996 (with Richards) and 1999, but did not win again.
Spotters will know that Jason Alexander's character in Seinfeld, the stooge George Costanza, is largely based on the real Larry David