‘Seinfeld’: 1 Actor’s Mistake Was So Funny, Producers Left the Error in the Series
Few modern sitcoms hold higher regard than Seinfeld. For a show about nothing, Jerry Seinfeld’s series seemed to dive into every topic from parking in a handicap spot to the hands of women he dated.
While the show thrived under Seinfeld. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards, its supporting cast was just as popular. However, none of the side characters developed the cult following of Newman, a man who, despite one error in the show, is never known by any other name,
‘Seinfeld’ was a show about nothing
Seinfeld lived up to its show about nothing moniker. Yes, it featured Seinfeld as a fictionalized version of himself and a cast of characters representing others from the comedian’s real life.
Still, it was a show that thrived on utter nonsense. It took a standard sitcom plot, the young comedian trying to make his way in New York City, and turned it on its head. As Aiden McNicholas noted for ScreenRant, every Seinfeld character has a dark side.
Everyone on the show was despicable in their way, fromthe main cast’s rampant selfishness to an array of guest stars and side characters who gave us some of the most memorable moments. From the Soup Nazi to George Costanza’s parents and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, everyone in the show had a chip on their shoulder. That chip often provided the plot for a given episode.
In a show where seemingly everybody is somewhat villainous, however, few hold the mantle as well as Wayne Knight’s Newman.
Wayne Knight has been a staple of the screen for thirty years, and while Seinfeld wasn’t his first role, Knight’s audition changed his life forever. Knight didn’t know what he was getting ready for when he took the audition. Believing it to be a one-off role, he went to the audition, got the part, and waited while society became obsessed with his portrayal as Seinfeld’s main protagonist. He spoke about it with The AV Club.
“That was just a straight audition. I came in, did the audition, got the job for the one-off of Newman. Larry David had done the voice of Newman prior,” the actor told the website. “They’d created this idea of this guy who was kind of like the building snitch. Originally, the plan was that he was the landlord’s son or nephew, and he was a snitch.”
That grew into something bigger. Introduced in an episode about when it’s the right time to hit on someone’s partner when they’re in a coma, Newman’s role grew with every appearance. Save for Kramer, Newman may have been the most popular recurring character in the show’s history. Seinfeld’s “Hello, Newman” became an unofficial catchphrase for the show and beyond.
Perhaps, the best part of Newman was the air of mystery around him. While we get glimpses into his life, we never actually hear his name outside of Newman. Whether it is a first name or a last, this sticks throughout the series. However, when one character accidentally called him the wrong name, the show’s creators loved it so much that they kept it in.
According to Thought Catalog, in the episode “The Bottle Deposit, Part 2, a farmer’s daughter shouts, “Goodbye, Norman.” This wasn’t scripted. The script called for his real name. It was meant to be a clever riff on the catchphrase that became a standard of every interaction. However, rather than reshooting and editing around it, producers kept it in.
To this day, we don’t know what Newman’s real name is, but the Norman gag is not meant to stoke these flames. For a character with many mysteries, it adds a million other questions without answering any of them. This, more than anything else, is what makes Seinfeld such a unique moment in television’s history.