‘Seinfeld’: The Unique Method Michael Richards Used to Make Kramer So Memorable
One reason fans loved Seinfeld so much was the memorable characters. Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer may have had over-the-top personalities. But, they were meant to resemble real people, even if it was in an exaggerated manner.
Out of four main characters on Seinfeld, Kramer was by far the zaniest. Jerry’s neighbor across the hall was well known for entering the comedian’s apartment unannounced, usually with some bizarre observation. Actor Michael Richards gave life to the character and made him hilarious in every situation.
It turns out Richards used a very specific technique to convey the physical comedy of Cosmo Kramer.
Kramer on ‘Seinfeld’ was based on a real person
Many details from the NBC sitcom Seinfeld took inspiration from real life. The character Kramer was loosely based on Larry David’s real neighbor, Kenny Kramer. Early episodes of the series depict Kramer as “Kessler” because the real Kramer hadn’t authorized use of his name yet.
According to the New York Post, the real Kramer was “a jobless schemer with whom David shared a car, a TV and one pair of black slacks in case either had a special occasion.” Seinfeld’s Kramer had all those traits and more, including a very skewed sense of boundaries.
Michael Richards allowed his inner Kramer to come out
Prior to joining the cast of Seinfeld, Richards worked as a stand-up comedian plus had credits on several films and television shows. However, the role of Kramer forced the actor to push the limits of physical comedy. He’d often go to the corner of the set alone to practice scenes and make sound effects.
“The sound effects were all made up… they just came through,” Richards told Oprah during an interview. When the host asked if Richards was playing Kramer or vice versa, the Seinfeld star affirmed that the character took over.
“Yeah, the task was for me to get out of the way,” Richards said. His physical comedy commitment was so intense, the crew allegedly kept extra door hinges on hand in case his epic entrances ever got out of hand.
He couldn’t stand when George laughed during a scene
Kramer was meant to be hilarious. However, Richards couldn’t stand when co-star Jason Alexander or anyone else started cracking up during filming because it made him break character.
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong wrote in the book Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, “When Alexander laughed during a scene… Richards begged, ‘You can’t, please. You don’t know how hard it is for me.’”
But even with the threat of giggle fits, Richards managed to capture the essence of Kramer and create one of the most enduring television characters ever. Armstrong wrote that his devotion to the part was so intense that his castmates weren’t entirely sure where Richards ended and Kramer began.
She wrote that his co-stars, “didn’t feel like they knew him, even later, after years on the set together.” It appears all the effort and weirdness he put into creating Kramer worked even better than planned.