When Jerry Stiller Modeled Kramer’s ‘Bro’ as Frank Costanza on ‘Seinfeld’
Following the death of Jerry Stiller at the age of 92, you heard salutes from fans and performers from every corner of the entertainment industry. Between his 1951 acting debut and his final credited role in the Zoolander franchise in 2016, there wasn’t much Jerry Stiller didn’t do a a performer.
But for his younger generations of fans, Stiller’s work on The King of Queens (1998-2007) and, most of all, Seinfeld (1993-98) made him a part of everyday life. If you judge by laughs per second of screen time, his Frank Costanza
might have been was the funniest Seinfeld character of all time.
During his run on the show, Stiller’s Costanza might explode at the slightest provocation. But that wasn’t the only thing that made his character great. There was a genuine weirdness about the elder Costanza that regularly came to the fore (see: Festivus) and got audiences howling with laughter.
In “The Doorman,” the 17th episode of season 6 (1995), Stiller really ran to the edge with his character after Kramer (Michael Richards) discovered Frank had developed breasts. The solution — called a “bro” or “man-ssiere,” depending — belongs in the Seinfeld hall of fame.
Kramer suggested Frank Constanza get support for his breasts
In “The Doorman,” we find Frank separated from his wife Estelle (Estelle Harris) and sleeping on the couch in the apartment of his son George (Jason Alexander). One night, as Kramer and George wait for Frank to change clothes for dinner, they notice he’s developed breasts.
While George is repulsed by the sight of his father’s chest, it gets Kramer thinking. “Frank can’t be comfortable with those [breasts] clanging around,” Kramer muses over lunch. “He should wear something for support.” That leads him to his idea of “a support undergarment specifically designed for men.”
At first, Frank Costanza also has his doubts about the prototype Kramer shows him. But after he pops a cha-cha record on his hi-fi (recently loaned to Kramer), Frank agrees to slip into the “bro.” Unfortunately, it couldn’t happen at a worse time.
Just as Kramer is securing the bro, the door opens and Estelle sees Frank gyrating to cha cha with only the support undergarment on his chest. (Stiller really gets into the dancing here.) It’s not a good look for him, given the circumstances.
Jerry Stiller gives everything as Frank in support of the ‘bro’
Once Frank Costanza see the benefits of the bro, he’s ready to spread the word. After Kramer suggests they take it to a bra manufacturer, Frank agrees. However, he had a note before they make their pitch.
Since bro is “too ethnic” for Frank’s taste, he suggests “the man-ssiere.” Soon enough, they get a chance to run the names by George. As Frank, Stiller puts his whole body in the question.
The scheme falls apart, of course. Though the bra chief likes their idea, he offends Frank when he asks if he can take out Estelle. “You wanna go out with my wife?” he asks quietly before Stiller ramps up the volume. “WHERE DO YOU GET THE NERVE TO ASK ME SOMETHING LIKE THAT?”
With Frank Costanza, you were always just one slight comment away from a blow-up, and that happened following a productive discussion about the bro. As with Jerry Stiller’s other roles, it’s hard to imagine someone doing it better.