‘Seinfeld’: Could Jerry Seinfeld Afford his Manhattan Apartment?

Jerry Seinfeld, as a real person, has a net worth of $950 million. Between a successful standup career, and an even more successful television career, Seinfeld will never have to worry about how to make ends meet. The television character of the same name, however, wasn’t nearly as well known. So, could Jerry Seinfeld, the tv character, afford the rent on his New York City pad?

How much money would Jerry have made?

Standup comedy has changed a lot in the years since Seinfeld went off the air. Today, comics living in and around New York often have the opportunity to supplement their income with social media influencing, podcasts, and even guest posting on popular blogs and websites. Comedy doesn’t always pay the bills, and even some seasoned comics still don’t make enough from their standup to pay their rent. The New York Times profiled several comics and their incomes.

The publication found that there is a broad income range. Some comics earned just $30,000 per year, while others were living comfortably on $200,000 per year. Even with vastly different incomes, the comedians profiled all seemed to have one thing in common; the majority of their income did not come from their standup gigs. Most were walking home with between $50 and $100 per set.

Back in the 1990s, when Jerry was working the New York circuit, he wouldn’t have had a ton of opportunity to parlay his comedy into other income streams. Market Watch estimates that Jerry would have made around $35,000 per year as a somewhat successful standup comedian. That figure takes into account that he was well enough known to appear on several late shows.

How much would Jerry have paid in rent?

Jerry’s apartment, located at 129 West 81st Street, was in a rather nice neighborhood. The Upper West Side, known for it’s proximity to Central Park and Riverside Park, is among the greenest communities in Manhattan, and the price tag of the apartments tend to reflect the neighborhood’s proximity to nature.

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Rushing or dragging, Jerry?! RUSHING OR DRAGGING?!

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Today, a one-bedroom unit in Jerry’s building would cost about $3,000 per month. Back when Jerry rented, he claimed the building was rent-controlled and suggested Elaine could occupy the apartment above him for just $300. That, however, seems unlikely. Rent-control is a trope that is often employed by writers who are trying to make the finances of a character work. Realistically, Jerry’s pad would have run about $1,200 per month back in the late 1990s.

So, could Jerry really afford his lifestyle?

Whether or not Jerry could afford his lifestyle isn’t that cut and dry. Anyone who has seen an episode of Sex and the City knows that Carrie Bradshaw, who occupied a similarly rent-controlled unit in Manhattan, couldn’t swing her lifestyle. Jerry’s finances, however, are a bit harder to nail down. Save for a few significant expenses; he didn’t spend money wantonly. He generally ate at home and seemed to prefer a bowl of cereal to a meal in a restaurant.

Jerry’s biggest expense was likely his rent and his car. In early seasons, Jerry drove a BMW. In later episodes, he drove a Saab 900 convertible. According to Auto Trader, Jerry’s Saab would have cost around $40,000 brand new in 1994. While he clearly enjoyed a luxury vehicle, he didn’t bother renting a parking spot and, instead, relied on street parking, which would have saved him significantly on the cost of car ownership in Manhattan.

All told, Jerry likely could have afforded his lifestyle if he had snagged a rent-controlled apartment. If he was paying full price, though, Jerry would have been strapped for cash most of the time. He certainly wouldn’t have been able to buy his father a Cadillac outright.