Monday, June 15, 2015

Before They Were Stars, They Were Guest Stars on Seinfeld: My 10 Favourite Guest Spots From One-Time Unknowns on Seinfeld

Between 1989 and 1998, Seinfeld was one of the most groundbreaking shows on TV. It has been a major influence on many of the situation comedies that came after it. Some shows even stole much of their shtick from Seinfeld. Yeah, I'm looking at you, How I Met Your Mother. But other than being a groundbreaking and influential show (and isn't that enough!?), Seinfeld was also a stepping stone to bigger and better things for their guest stars.  Granted, there were a few already established guest stars during the show's run, from James Spader to Wilford Brimley to Molly Shannon to Brian Doyle Murray to Jon Lovitz to Oscar winner Marlee Matlin to Bette Midler playing herself, but for the most part, Seinfeld's vast roster of guest spots were done by actors who would go on to become big name celebs on other shows. Some of these stars before they were stars who missed out on the list, aka, the runners-up, include Denise Richards, Amanda Peet, Lauren Graham, Marcia Cross, Christine Taylor, Peter Krause, Patrick Warburton, French Stewart, Kathy Griffin, Bob Odenkirk, Jennifer Coolidge, Kristen Davis, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally, and Maggie Wheeler, aka Janice on Friends - just to name a few. But what about the top ten? Well kids, let's stop all this pre-show babbling, and get right to that.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

10. Mariska Hargitay as Melissa

The Law & Order: SVU star was only in one little scene during the two part final episode of season 4 (six years before she became Det. Olivia Benson), where she plays a sexy actress trying out for the part of Elaine in the TV show pilot that Jerry and George are making for NBC, and said scene consists of just a handful of lines at best, but considering how big of a star she has become, and how her Melissa character owns the room during that one little scene (and those legs), I couldn't just leave her off the list. So, here she is. 

9. Jon Favreau as Eric the Clown
Favreau would go on to write and co-star in Swingers, before moving onto the directorial chair with such films as Elf and the first two Iron Man movies. Favreau's also been a guest on Friends (as Monica's super rich boyfriend) and recently directed and starred in the wonderful indie film, Chef. In his one episode of Seinfeld though, he is rather unrecognizable behind all that clown make-up, as he gets in an argument with George because he doesn't know who Bozo the Clown is. Nowadays, the guy's doing pretty well for himself, as he is one of the exec producers on most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. I guess he can pay the bills without having to play a clown anymore.

8. Jeremy Piven as Michael Barth
In the two-part final episode of season 4 (the same one that featured Mariska Hargitay), Jerry and George finally got NBC to agree to shoot a pilot for their show about nothing. Jeremy Piven was cast to play George in the pilot, and he did a pitch perfect job in the role. Piven had already started co-starring in the Larry Sanders Show by this time, but it would not be until his role on Ellen a few years later, and of course, his iconic douchebag Ari Gold on Entourage in 2004, for which he won three consecutive Emmy Awards, that Piven would come into his own as a success. No more schlubby losers for him.

7. Michael Chiklis as Steve
Before he became The Commish, before he was on The Shield, before he was on American Horror Story, even before he was The Thing in The Fantastic Four, Michael Chiklis was Jerry's friend of a friend of a friend from Long Island, where Jerry and Elaine overstay their welcome (thanks to George abandoning them at a party), and who later comes into the city to hang out with Jerry, only to get drunk and bring a hooker to his apartment. A hooker that ends up getting Jerry arrested for solicitation.And check it out, he had hair back then.

6. Catherine Keener as Nina
Before becoming the indie film darling that she is today, and starring in such films as Lovely & Amazing, Adaptation, Synecdoche New York, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Capote, and Being John Malkovich, and receiving Academy Award nominations for the latter two, Catherine Keener played Nina on an episode of Seinfeld. Other than just being another in a long line of guest star girlfriends to Jerry, Keener's role has a bit more importance, since she was the artist who created that now famous Kramer painting that hangs in every dorm room in America.

5. Courtney Cox as Meryl
Just a few months before she would break out big as Monica Geller on Friends, but a full decade after she was brought up on stage in Bruce Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark video, Courtney Cox was Jerry Seinfeld's wife. well, sorta. Cox played Meryl, Jerry's girlfriend. After pretending to be a married couple to get a discount at Jerry's drycleaner, the two began pretending they were married all the time. This of course would quickly spell disaster in the relationship (as if anything and everything else would not), and the couple would break up and get a make-believe divorce. It would work out better from  Monica and Chandler a few years later.

4. Brad Garrett as Tony
Before he would become the moaning and groaning brother to Raymond (whom everyone did not love), Brad Garrett was Tony, a mechanic who steals Jerry's car because he did not think Jerry was taking as a good a care of it as he should have been.  This would eventually lead to a chase scene involving Kramer and Newman in a mail truck, and Tony tossing the recently purchased JFK golf clubs out the window. Garrett was actually in another episode of Seinfeld three years earlier, but he can only be seen for a second or two, as he is one of an array of Kramer wannabes sliding through the door at the audition that also involved Jeremy Piven and Mariska Hargitay.

3. Teri Hatcher as Sidra
The year before she would become Lois Lane opposite Dean Cain, and several years before she would become a Desperate Housewife, Teri Hatcher was Sidra on Seinfeld. Sidra was a woman Jerry met at the gym, and who he wanted to date, but was put off when Elaine mentioned that she thought her breasts were fake. Later, Elaine would accidentally trip and fall, hands first, into said breasts in the sauna, making her recant her story about the authenticity of the breasts in question. So are they real, or not? The final answer, from Sidra herself, as she's walking out of Jerry's apartment in disgust: "By the way? They're real, and they're spectacular."

2. Jane Leeves as Marla the Virgin
A year before she would become the loverly Mary Poppinsesque Daphne Moon on Frasier,  Jane Leeves played a virgin on several episodes of Seinfeld, including one of the most iconic episodes, The Contest. As we all should know, The Contest involved the gang making a bet on who could be the master of their domain longer. If you don't know what that means, well...just watch the episode. Meanwhile, Marla, whom Jerry is chomping at the bit to deflower, finds out about the contest, and is disgusted by the whole shebang. But don't worry about Marla, as she finds love (and deflowerment) at the hands of JFK Jr.

1. Bryan Cranston as Tim Whatley

Six years before he was the idiot dad on Malcolm in the Middle, and 14 years before he became Heisenberg (his Breaking Bad wife, Anna Gunn, appeared in an episode of Seinfeld as well), Bryan Cranston was an obnoxious dentist on Seinfeld. Cranston would actually play Tim Whatley on five episodes over a three year period. In one episode, he turned his dentists office into an adults only place, complete with porno mags and even assistant swapping. In another episode, he would convert to Judaism, which offended Jerry, as he thought he was only doing it for the jokes. I don't recall there being any blue meth in any of these episodes (though the adult only dentists office may have had some) but he did get to date Elaine for a bit.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. Wow I never realized that was Michael Chiklis! Must be the hair... Solid list as usual!

    1. Thanx. Lots more lists to come. This will be the Summer of the Top Ten Lists!!

  2. I would have fallen over with a feather if you did not have Jane Leeves in this list. Great list as per norm. Now who played the woman with the "Man" hands and who was Delores? You know the name that rhymes with a female body part and it is not Mulva.

    1. Kristen Bauer was Gillian, the man-hands girl. She has since gone onto shows like True Blood and Once Upon A Time. Meanwhile, soap actress Susan Walters played Mulva/Delores. She was on Vampire Diaries.