‘Seinfeld’: Jason Alexander on What Makes George Costanza One of the Greatest TV Sitcom Characters of All Time
The world of television has seen one amazing television character after another. There’s been Ralph Kramden, Archie Bunker, Michael Scott, and on and on.
Having spent nine years starting in 1989 on the NBC mega hit comedy, Seinfeld, Jason Alexander handily discussed what makes his former Seinfeld persona, George Costanza, one of the greatest television characters ever.
Jason Alexander was incredulous at first at playing George Costanza
Jason Alexander recalled in a conversation with the Television Academy Foundation in 2013 when it was brought to his attention that George Costanza was patterned after Larry David. The person who brought it to his attention was Larry David.
“’Larry, please help me,'” Alexander asked David about a script, “‘first of all, this wouldn’t happen to anybody, but if it did, no one would react like this.’” David responded, ‘What are you talking about? This happened to me, this is exactly what I did.'”
Stunned but enlightened, Alexander got right to work on perfecting this flawed character based on reality.
‘The greatest sitcom character of all time’
In a 2009 interview with Northwestern University’s North by Northwestern publication, Alexander was informed that actor Ricky Gervais called George Costanza,”the greatest sitcom character of all time.” The 60-year-old confirmed the sentiment by describing a plot line involving Costanza in one of his less-than-dignified moments.
“One of my favorite things that I ever got to do as George [was when] George was working at Pendant Publishing at the time and he was having sex with the cleaning woman,” he said. “It’s that scene where he’s called into the boss’s office and confronted with it. It’s basically thrown right in his face.”
George Costanza’s response to what would have embarrassed or shamed anyone else highlights for Alexander what sets this character from Seinfeld apart from others.
“As you’re a writer you would [think] there are a million responses here,” Alexander noted. “George takes that long moment to think about it and just says, ‘Is that wrong? Should I not have done that?’ That was brilliant because it lets you see him go through the entire Rolodex of, ‘Well, I could say this, I could say this, I could try this.’ And it was just, to me, just a delicious moment. I don’t think I ever would have tried that [tactic].”
Alexander addresses the longevity of ‘Seinfeld’
Speaking to Australian morning show Today in 2020, the father of two touched on the staying power of the iconic sitcom and how even today’s generation “gets” the show. It hasn’t lost its relevance.
“The audience kept growing and changing,” he explained. “And soon it became women were watching; soon it became elderly people that were watching; soon it became little kids watching, and then it broke out in different countries.”
Alexander mused on the show’s popularity and questioned fans who were proud to say they knew someone like George Costanza.
“We just don’t quite understand why it has remained as attractive,” he said. “I know college kids who are just finding the show now and they rave about it. We don’t have cell phones in that show, but it seems to hold up and keeps making people laugh.”
“[T]o have a character that people all over the world seem to relate to… everywhere I go, people say, ‘I know George, I have met somebody like George’ or people will say to me, ‘Everybody says I’m George.’ I keep trying to say that’s not a compliment. If your friends are telling you are George you either need therapy or new friends.”