Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Top Ten Supporting Characters on "Seinfeld"

I think I'll start doing random "Top Ten" lists of favorite things of mine, on whatever odd topics I can think of. (And feel free to suggest more topics, folks!) Those crazy kids at Tosy and Cosh have been doing this for a while, and as always, there's no idea I'm not too crass to steal outright. So here we go with my first random "Top Ten" list: my favorite supporting characters from Seinfeld. (For the purposes of this post, I will define "supporting characters" as none of the four leads, no one who appeared in only one episode prior to the series finale, and none of Jerry's revolving-door girlfriends. Oh, and no Newman or the Seinfeld or Costanza parents, because those characters are so recurring as to almost be regulars.)

10. Mr. Krueger.

The last of a long line of colorful bosses George Costanza had in the course of the series, this guy was probably overshadowed by the ultimate colorful boss, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (famously shown only from behind). Krueger presided over his own fun bit of insanity in the workplace, though, most memorably thwarting George's plan to adopt the nickname T-Bone and instead dubbing him "Gammy". Krueger was played by Daniel von Bargen, who is one of my favorite character actors.

9. Bob "The Maestro" Cobb

The orchestra conductor who, despite the fact that he conducts third-rate amateur orchestras, insists that everyone call him "Maestro", even during sex. (When Elaine lets out a squeal of "Oh, Bob!", he stops and glares at her until she corrects herself.) He only appeared a couple of times, but they're both hilarious appearances.

(By the way, in one of these episodes, Elaine starts ripping off some lyrics from a Verdi opera, and nobody bats an eye. When's the last time a teevee show depicted a knowledge of opera as something perfectly normal?)

8. Susan Ross

Alas, poor Susan, to be engaged to George Costanza and then to die from the effects of licking toxic envelope glue. I think that Susan's demise marked the emergence of a stronger meanness in the show's comedic stance, although it remained mostly funny up until the end (I've never held with the general derision that the show's last season has attracted). But as for Susan, she gets a mention because she so often was the straight-woman to the antics of our four leads, and the season in which she was George's fiancee produced many of the show's funniest episodes.

7. Mr. Wilhelm

George's supervisor while working for the Yankees was hilarious, whether joining an office-cleaning cult or speaking to George in some kind of weird code using the Petula Clark song "Downtown".

6. Kenny Banya

Jerry's hyper-annoying fellow comedian, who enjoys success despite an apparent complete lack of comedic talent. Known for arguing over whether soup at a nice restaurant constitutes a "meal".

5. Mr. Pitt

My favorite of Elaine's bosses, the staggeringly eccentric Mr. Pitt launched from one obsession to the next with wild abandon: one week he hates ink pens, the next he's obsessed with his socks, the next he loses hours staring at one of those 3D poster things, the next he's unwittingly evoking Adolf Hitler. I was always disappointed that he didn't stick around longer.

4. Bob Sakimano

OK, this is a bit of cheating, since (to my knowledge) we never actually see Bob Sakimano in any episode of Seinfeld. But his presence is always felt, as Kramer is constantly citing "my friend, Bob Sakimano" as justification that any of his hare-brained schemes will work perfectly.

3. Jackie Chiles

Chiles is an interesting character these days. He's still hilarious in re-runs, many years after Johnny Cochrane rose to prominence in the OJ Simpson trial. Most times topical humor like the Chiles character becomes stale, but Jackie isn't just a riff on a specific lawyer, but a riff on the whole notion of ambulance-chasing shyster lawyers.

2. Mr. Thomassoulo

George's boss from a short-lived stint with a sporting-goods company. He only appeared in a couple of episodes, but he engages George in a nasty battle of wills, and at one point he demonstrates a surprisingly astute understanding of George's character when he allows all employees access to George's personal bathroom. Played memorably by Gordon Jump, who turns in a nice contrast to his soft boss from WKRP In Cincinnati.

1. David Puddy.

Elaine's oafish, lugheaded New Jersey Devils fan boyfriend with whom she keeps breaking up and returning to, over and over again, sometimes several times in the same episode. Elaine's intelligence and Puddy's dense nature make for a hilarious couple.


Anonymous said...

Great idea for a list. I didn't think through to come up with my own list before reading yours, but David Puddy jumped into my head upon reading it as a good choice for the top spot (whether or not your list is supposed to be in order of importance...) And I applaud your inclusion of Bob Sakimano - made me laugh just seeing the name in the list.

Jeff said...

Great List - there is always one or two that someone will say, "I can't believe so-and-so didn't make it. My so-and-so is Mr. Bookman - the library cop. His rants and attacks on Jerry were priceless.

Anonymous said...

Of course Puddy is number one!

High five. lol.

Yeah, Bookman was a classic, joyboy.

Great. Now i'm gonna be quoting Seinfeld lines in my head for the rest of the day, ya chucker.