Jerry Seinfeld Thinks Only One Other Comedian Could Have Played Kramer Besides Michael Richards

Seinfeld is such a television institution, it’s impossible to imagine it with any other cast. Jerry Seinfeld as himself, Jason Alexander as George, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine and Michael Richards as Kramer are an impeccable foursome. In the decades since the show went off the air in 1998, Seinfeld himself only just heard one suggestion that could have sold him on a different Kramer.

Michael Richards on Seinfeld
L-r: Wayne Knight, Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander | Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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Seinfeld appeared on The Howard Stern Show on May 20 to discuss his Netflix special, 23 Hours to Kill. When they got to talking about the great standup comedians in history, Stern had a suggestion Seinfeld actually liked. 

Jerry Seinfeld agrees Andy Kaufman could have played Kramer on ‘Seinfeld’

Stern suggested the abstract performance artist Andy Kaufman could have made a good Kramer. Of course it is entirely hypothetical, because Kaufman died in 1984. Seinfeld wouldn’t even begin until 1989. Kramer was a definitive role for Richards. He’s done little on screen work since except some Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes, a role on Kirstie and his own short-lived sitcom in 2000.

Seinfeld
L-r: Michael Richards, Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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“Michael Richards is one of those parts you could never cast somebody else, but now that you mention it, Andy could’ve pulled off Kramer,” Seinfeld said. “The only name I’ve ever heard that, now that you mention it, the only other guy who could’ve pulled off Kramer.”

Jerry Seinfeld was an Andy Kaufman fan

Kaufman got noticed for his shenanigans on Saturday Night Live and professional wrestling. Seinfeld got to see him perform live on stage when he was just discovering standup comedy himself.

Andy Kaufman
Andy Kaufman | Paul Natkin/WireImage

I worshiped 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.’ We thought that’s the funniest thing I ever heard. We gotta see this guy. So then I went into Catch a Rising Star to see what it was. That’s how the whole thing started.”

Jerry Seinfeld, The Howard Stern Show, 5/20/2020

Stern pointed out that Seinfeld is a much more traditional comedian, telling jokes with setups and punchlines. That doesn’t change his appreciation for what Kaufman did.

“If it’s good, we love it,” Seinfeld said. “It’s the same with music. You love classical, you love jazz, you love rock, punk, grunge. If it’s good, you love it.”

Comedians on television

Kaufman would star on the sitcom Taxi. Seinfeld said he always expected to transition from the standup stage to a TV show, because he say his predecessors and contemporaries do that.

Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

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“I saw Andy Kaufman and I saw Robin Williams,” Seinfeld said. “I saw these people go from the club to the TV or movies and just explode. Freddie Prinze was from my era. People don’t even know who that was. We saw that happen a lot. In your mind, you think it’s going to happen to you too.”