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Seinfeld Moments That Were Completely Improvised

In Season 4, Episode 3 of "Seinfeld," "The Pitch/The Ticket," Jerry Seinfeld, the character, is approached to create a TV show for NBC — a metafictional nod to the origins of how "Seinfeld" came to be from the minds of creators Seinfeld and Larry David. In one scene, Jerry and his closest friend George Costanza (a thinly veiled stand-in for David), sit down at a diner for lunch. The two go back and forth in a conversation about salsa. It's pointless, mundane, but undeniably funny. "This should be the show," George says. "What?" Jerry asks. "This. Just talking." This deceptively simple sitcom premise completely changed how we think about situational comedies. It also received considerable acclaim, winning the coveted Emmy Award for outstanding comedy series in 1993.

You might think the show's low-stakes situations would lend themselves to improvisation, but the show was tightly scripted. The strict schedules of most TV shows leave little room for last-minute changes. Even in a room full of comedians "just talking," it's essential to follow the text more often than not. Sometimes, however, there might be a lucky mistake, a stroke of genius, or simply extra time allotted for actors to interact off the cuff. When these moments of improvisation occur and land with the live studio audience, they can end up being some of the most memorable moments from the show. Perhaps you'll recognize a few of your favorites from these "Seinfeld" moments that were completely improvised.

Elaine's signature shove

Introducing Elaine as a series regular was the second-best decision "Seinfeld" creators David and Seinfeld ever made; casting Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the first. So much of what fans have come to know and love about Elaine can be attributed to Louis-Dreyfus' distinct personality. Much like Louis-Dreyfus, who carved out her place in a male-dominated profession, Elaine stands out with her assertive personality, sarcastic wit, and sharp tongue. As an accustomed New Yorker and the only woman in a group of men, she isn't afraid to tell it how it is. Or, in this case, show it how it is — with a physical outburst that's become a staple for the character.

As a reaction to happy, upsetting, or surprising news, Elaine is known to show her emotions through a quick shove played for laughs, often following the expressions "shut up" or "get out." "The way that she would shove guys — that's the way she had to treat us," Louis-Dreyfus' college friend Paul Barrosse tells The New Yorker. "That kind of physicality was on display very early." Louis-Dreyfus first debuted the shove in Season 2, Episode 5, "The Apartment," when Jerry refers Elaine to the property manager for an apartment upstairs. Jerry reveals the rent is only $400, an unbelievable number that justifies Elaine's first ever "get out," followed by a shove to the chest.  

Sidra's breakup with Jerry

Leading man and serial womanizer Jerry Seinfeld is by no means new to the dating game, but that doesn't mean he's an expert in the field either. Whether the ladies are drawn to the comedian for his charm or wit, it never seems to last, seeing as Jerry has a new partner in almost every episode. Among the many notable actors who have played the part of Jerry's girlfriend include Courteney Cox, Lauren Graham, Lori Loughlin, Anna Gunn, and Teri Hatcher, who happened to get a quick line change on the spot in Season 4, Episode 19, "The Implant."

In the episode, Jerry struggles to figure out if his new girlfriend Sidra has had work done on her breasts after Elaine voices her suspicions. In his classic scummy fashion, Jerry breaks things off with Sidra to be on the safe side, but after further investigation, Elaine believes her breasts are, in fact, real. The date is back on, but when Sidra discovers Jerry sent Elaine into the locker room to confirm their suspicions, Sidra breaks things off with Jerry with a memorable line that's stuck with the actor ever since: "They're real, and they're spectacular." According to Hatcher per Vanity Fair, this was a last-minute change by David. "I remember that being one of the lines he fed me when, after I'd said it, it just stuck. I don't think it was the original script; I'm pretty sure he just came up with it on the spot," she recalls.

The car's mechanical issue

Episode 6 of Season 3, "The Parking Garage," has become known as a classic for the entire realm of situational comedies. In the episode, the group faces a dilemma known all too well to anyone who's ever parked in a garage. After purchasing a new air conditioner at the mall, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer head back to the car only to discover they can't remember where they parked. Each of the four friends experiences their own assortment of mishaps and shenanigans until they finally find the car hours later. Exhausted — both in the show and on set, according to the cast in a Season 3 DVD interview — they get in the car, ready to drive off.

In the previously mentioned interview, David reveals the original scripted ending had the group driving out of the garage, followed by the rolling credits. However, in an unplanned turn of events, the car wouldn't start. "When that car didn't start, I knew instantly we had a blow," Michael Richards says. The mishap couldn't have been a more perfect ending to one of the show's most notable episodes. In fact, if you look closely, you can faintly see the cast breaking character inside the car as they try to hold in their laughter.

Kramer's struggles with an AC unit

In that same exact scene of "The Parking Garage" episode, Richards takes his physical comedy to a new level with a bit that left the actor with a minor injury. It was revealed in the Season 3 DVD interview that despite having the option to fill Kramer's box with something light like styrofoam, Richards insisted that the box hold an actual air conditioner to make the acting look more realistic. So after hours of lugging the nearly 100-pound box around, the four friends find some relief when they finally find their car. In an improvised moment, Richards decides to do a "Kramer," in the words of Jason Alexander. He shoves the box containing the air conditioner into a small trunk, busting his lip in the process.

"When I threw the box in the back of the car, I banged my face. Which was good for the comedy, but I had a bit of a bump. Bumps are good," Richards says in the interview. The first time Richards tries out his move, Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld, and Alexander can't help but laugh. Richards, on the other hand, never breaks character. In an attempt to keep the scene going, Richards tries, "I really hurt myself, Elaine." Alas, no one can pull it together. In the second take, Richards shoves the box in once again, and it makes it to the final cut.

Jerry's guesses at his girlfriend's name

Jerry finds himself caught up in more dating problems in Season 4, Episode 20, "The Junior Mint." After meeting a woman in the produce section of a grocery store, Jerry doesn't catch her name. Instead of owning up to this, Jerry decides to try to trick her into saying her name without him having to ask. The only hint he gets is that it rhymes with a part of the female anatomy. He goes to great lengths to decipher her name: going through her purse, introducing her to his friends, and making awkward guesses. Finally, his date realizes he doesn't know her name.

In the original script, the name was going to be left a mystery, but in between scenes, the live audience was asked what they thought the name would be. Someone shouted out, "Dolores!" "When the audience member shouted it out, and the audience laughed, it was like this is a great exclamation to put on the end," writer Andy Robin reveals to HuffPost. Apparently, Seinfeld liked it so much that he made the last-minute script change to include the name.

Kramer's memorable entrances

Kramer's eccentric, unpredictable quirkiness, paired with his wacky hairstyle and fashion sense, make him one of "Seinfeld's" most beloved characters. How else would you explain his three Emmy wins for outstanding supporting actor? So much of his physical comedy, mannerisms, and charm comes directly from Richards himself. It isn't surprising that many improvised moments can be attributed to the actor. While many of his on-the-spot stunts go under the radar, one in particular stuck with the character for the remainder of the show's nine-season run.

Kramer's famous unannounced entrances became a staple for the character after a supposedly improvised moment in Season 1, Episode 3, "The Robbery." In a Season 1 and 2 DVD interview, it's revealed that Kramer's slide-in entrance was a result of Richards missing his cue. It was such a hit that Richards continued to recreate the bit throughout the series, upping the ante as the show went on. Some other memorable scenes featuring grandiose entrances that took things even further include an impressive continuous slide from the door to the kitchen counter, a tap dancing performance, and the one time Jerry decides to lock his door, causing Kramer to slam into it.

Kramer's sound effects

The bizarre characteristics of the multifaceted Kramer don't end with his entrances. If you're a "Seinfeld" fan yourself, you've likely noticed a tendency Kramer has when it comes to unusual speech mannerisms. Turns out, this Kramer trademark is yet another off-the-cuff idea from Richards. The sound effects heard in-between dialogue can't be found in the script, but the addition couldn't be a more fitting quirk for the zany neighbor. Natural pauses are filled with unusual vocalizations as another way for Kramer to express himself.

In an interview on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Winfrey dives into the mechanics of pulling off such a physical, offbeat character. Richards reveals he spent as much time as possible getting to the heart of the character in the short rehearsal timeframes provided. "You had to find all these little things," Seinfeld offers when talking about the script. "I remember watching him. I would see him working on something, and I go, what are you doing? 'I'm working on a little thing here.' ... and now when I watch it and see all that work he put into it that it all really made a difference." According to Richards, one of those little things was Kramer's sound effects, which were all ab-libbed on the spot. So next time you watch an episode of "Seinfeld," you can appreciate Kramer's weird pops and clicks just a little bit more.

Dr. Whatley's hit of laughing gas

Before Bryan Cranston became a drug kingpin on the hit drama series "Breaking Bad," he was Dr. Tim Whatley, Jerry's dentist whose practice toes the line of ethics. In Season 6, Episode 19, "The Jimmy," Jerry goes to his dentist appointment and gets weirded out by the salacious "Penthouse" magazines in the waiting room. When he goes back to get a cavity filled, he's put under with laughing gas and awakes to find his shirt untucked and sees Dr. Whatley and his dental assistant getting dressed. It's not exactly clear what conspired during the procedure, but Jerry can't help but feel violated.

From the moment Jerry sat down in the chair, something felt off. It's in Dr. Whatley's nature to do bizarre things, so when he takes a hit of laughing gas before securing the mask onto Jerry, it hilariously sets the scene. However, according to Cranston, this small gag wasn't in the script. When getting familiar with the set during rehearsal, Cranston hears a voice from a crew member on a ladder. "Hey, you know what would be funny? If you took a hit of the nitrous oxide first before you give it to Jerry." Cranston remembers thinking, "That's brilliant." The gag was, in fact, brilliant, so much so that it took 22 takes before Jerry could pull it together without laughing during the scene.

Kramer's Italian rant

Calzones are mainstay menu items of New York pizzerias. You'll find anything that can be topped on a pizza inside a calzone: pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, spinach, or onions. As far as George's boss George Steinbrenner is concerned, nothing beats a good eggplant calzone. In Season 7, Episode 20, "The Calzone," Steinbrenner gets a taste of George's calzone and can't get enough. He tasks George with supplying him with calzones from there on out. But when George gets banned from the Italian restaurant that makes them, he sends Kramer to retrieve the calzones for him, but things don't go as planned.

After convincing the restaurant worker to warm up his wet clothes in the pizza oven, Kramer attempts to pay for the calzones in change, but the worker won't accept the piles of pennies, insisting he needs bills. Change is all Kramer has, so the worker confiscates the calzones and starts berating Kramer in Italian. Instinctually, Kramer argues back in nonsensical Italian. In a Season 7 DVD interview, it's revealed that Kramer's rant was completely improvised by Richards. It works so well because who knows Kramer better than Richards? Probably nobody. These tics are what make the character.

Newman's jambalaya dance

Everyone remembers "The Soup Nazi" episode from Season 7, which lives on in popular culture with its many recurring references in advertisements, TV shows, and other media. "No soup for you!" has been repeated many a time following the legendary episode, and it all began with Jerry, George, and Elaine grabbing lunch at the new soup stand down the street. The soups are delicious, but the owner is secretly referred to as 'The Soup Nazi' due to his short temper regarding the ordering process. Mess it up, and you get your soup taken away. Everyone's deathly afraid of upsetting the Soup Nazi, but they'll do anything just to be able to leave with their hands full of the best soup in the city. Even Jerry decides to break up with his girlfriend so he doesn't lose his soup privileges.

Just about everyone in the city is lining up to get a taste, and one of those people happens to be Jerry's archnemesis, Newman. Newman orders a large jambalaya, careful not to make any mistakes. When he successfully secures the soup, he happily exclaims, "Jambalaya!" and does a little dance. In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Seinfeld credits actor Wayne Knight with the hilarious moment, explaining, "That moment, which I remember crystal clearly, is the enormous talent of an actor like Wayne Knight. And the script said 'Newman looks in the bag, and says Jambalaya' but the delivery and the dance was all his."