‘Seinfeld’: One Actor Got Fired for Terrorizing Actors and Being a ‘Nut Job’

Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George Costanza (Jason Alexander), and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) make up one of the well-know comedy casts of all-time for their work on the sitcom Seinfeld. Besides the main cast of the show, Seinfeld featured many guest stars and recurring characters helped to make the show as popular as it is.

Characters such as the Soup Nazi (Larry Thomas), Newman (Wayne Knight), and Jerry’s parents Morty (Barney Martin) and Helen (Liz Sheridan) all helped to round out the beloved sitcom’s cast of zany characters. While these characters had multiple appearances over the show’s nine seasons, one character did not have a sustained run due to the actions of the actor who played him. 

What is ‘Seinfeld’ about? 

Jerry Seinfeld on stage.
Jerry Seinfeld | Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Spike TV

The show about nothing was created by Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David and is loosely based on Seinfeld’s life. The sitcom follows Seinfeld and his friends as hilariously make their way through life in New York. Some of the main topics of the show include romantic relationships, the challenges of finding a fulfilling career, and the numerous strange experiences and encounters of adult life.

Many pop-culture sayings are attributed to the show including “Festivus” and “yada-yada-yada,” “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” among others. The parents and family members of several of the main characters are a frequent part of the show, including the late great Jerry Stiller who played George’s father Frank Costanza.

Elaine’s father was set to become a regular part of the show in the second season, but that plan was eventually canceled because of the on-set actions of actor Lawrence Tierney. 

Who is Lawrence Tierney and his character Alton Benes?

The father of Elaine and her sister Gail, Alton Benes, made his first, and only, appearance in the show during the episode, The Jacket. In the episode, Alton meets George, who he compares to a choir boy, and Jerry, who reminds Alton of his former Army buddy in Korea.

Alton also ruins Jerry’s suede jacket when he doesn’t allow Jerry to turn it inside out during a snowstorm. Other references are made to Elaine’s father throughout the show, including the information that he is an author of the book Fair Game, and is known as an intimidating figure.

Besides his episode of Seinfeld, Tierney was an accomplished actor known for a number of film roles, mostly as a member of the mob. He was the titular gangster John Dillinger in the 1945 Dillinger, and also made an appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s classic film Reservoir Dogs. Tierney was set to join the various parents on the show as a series regular, but the actor who played him exhibited such wild behavior that Dreyfus later labeled him as a “nut job.” 

What did Tierney do to terrorize the cast and crew? 


The ‘Seinfeld’ Decision That Cost Jerry Seinfeld $110 Million

After appearing in The Jacket, Tierney’s character was set to become a recurring character in the show.

This plan was scrapped after Tierney stole a knife from the set of Jerry’s kitchen, which the real Seinfeld called him out for doing. Realizing that he had been caught, Tierney tried to make the strange incident into a joke as he began to pretend to stab at Seinfeld as if in the movie Psycho.

Seinfeld’s co-stars Dreyfus and Alexander saw the situation and were extremely frightened by the actor’s behavior. Tierney’s actions caused the cast and crew to be so frightened that Tierney was never asked back onto the show.

Tierney was known as a “tough guy,” both on-screen and off, which made it surprising that he would be cast in the comedic role. The actor had a number of run-ins with the law before and after his episode of Seinfeld but continued to act until his death in 2002.