‘Seinfeld’: ‘The Contest’ Was Real for Larry David, And He Won Too

Seinfeld first aired over three decades ago, but to this day the show gains new fans, and favorite episodes are still discussed. But perhaps no episode stands out quite so much as “The Contest.” The infamous “master of your domain” episode was such a hit that Jason Alexander says it made Seinfeld a success. And while the episode is an example of comedic writing at its finest, it also comes from show creator Larry David’s real-life experiences. And according to Larry David, he won. 

Larry David sourced ‘The Contest’ from real life

Seinfeld, and even Curb Your Enthusiasm, are ultimately shows about the ludicrous, frustrating, and sometimes unnavigable situations life and society throw our way. They’re so beloved because they are relatable. In the case of “The Contest,” that may be because the plot actually happened to Larry David. 

“Yeah that was based on something that actually happened to me,” Larry David told Conan O’Brien, who then asked why he engaged in such a competition. 

“I just…got a little tired of it, you know? It seemed like it was, it seemed like it was in the air. There was too much of it going on, I wanted out! I didn’t wanna have anything to with it anymore,” David replied.

“I needed some motivation to get out of that. Cause you know, you gotta be motivated to do it. I was talking to a friend of mine one day, and we decided on this contest.”

“Because in the show, you pretty much are the George Costanza character. Are you the one that won the contest, just as George did in the show?” Conan O’Brien asked.

“Yeah, I won the contest. But I was weakening in the last couple of days,” Larry David confessed.

“Okay. Very nice. Very nice that you could share that though, with America,” Conan shot back. 

‘Seinfeld’ creator would have quit over ‘The Contest’

When it came to Seinfeld, Larry David was very protective of his work. He wanted to make sure that NBC didn’t meddle with his plans or scripting, and this was especially true of “The Contest.”

“The series always was completely unpredictable, and Jerry and Larry never followed rules, right?” former NBC President Warren Littlefield explained to Vulture

“They made up their own rules. When it came time to do the table read for ‘The Contest,’ no one knew about the subject matter ahead of time. Rick Ludwin, the program executive on the show, he didn’t know what was coming.”

“I remember being nervous because the NBC executives were there. I really had this thing going on in my head where, well, if they don’t like it, I’m just going to quit the show,” Larry David told the publication.

“I really had this built up in my head where there’s no way they’re going to do it and I’m just going to quit if they don’t do it.”

Jason Alexander says it made the show a success

'Seinfeld' creator Larry David, who wrote 'The Contest,' attends the Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 premiere
‘Seinfeld’ creator Larry David wrote ‘The Contest’ | Mike Pont/FilmMagic

Jason Alexander, who played George Costanza on Seinfeld, says that Larry David’s “The Contest” script helped make the show a success. 

 “I don’t think any of us have necessarily a favorite episode, but we will all tell you ‘The Contest’ to a certain degree because it’s the one that really changed the fortunes of the show,” Jason Alexander said during an Archive of American Television interview. 

“We had been starting to do well that season, but when that show aired, we became what is now called a water cooler show. We were on news programs, we were on the net, we were being talked about on The Tonight Show,” he added. 

“I mean it became the thing to talk about and it cemented the future of the show. We knew from that point on we could do the show as long as we wanted to do it. So we, I’m sure all four of us, hold that as a very unique episode.”

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