In the history of comedy, few comedians have reached a point in their careers where their mainstream success has made them the richest in their professions. Kevin Hart has held the top spot for the better part of the last decade, and before him, Eddie Murphy was the most lucrative comedian. But there’s one comedian that many tend to overlook, which is remarkable considering that he’s wealthier than both Eddie Murphy and Kevin Hart combined. The name may surprise you, but that comedian is none other than Jerry Seinfeld.
I know what you’re thinking. “Jerry Seinfeld?! From the Seinfeld show? How is he richer than Eddie Murphy and Kevin Hart? He hasn’t done anything in years!”
You’re not wrong, given Eddie and Kevin’s impressive filmographies and business deals. But there’s one thing Jerry Seinfeld has that the other two don’t: his hit sitcom, Seinfeld.
Born April 29, 1954, Jerry Seinfeld started performing stand-up comedy while attending college, performing at various open mics on campus. According to PBS, he lucked into an opportunity to appear on television when he first appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1981, which soon led to more appearances on other late-night shows like Late Night With David Letterman.
Eight years later, Seinfeld met and teamed up with former SNL writer Larry David to create a pilot loosely based on Seinfeld’s life as a stand-up comic, which was later named Seinfeld. NBC believed the show was going to be so successful that they paid Seinfeld handsomely for the first season.
For the first five episodes of Seinfeld, Jerry received $20,000 per episode for a total of $100,000. By the second season, that pay was doubled to $40,000 per episode, which added up to an impressive $3.5 million. By the start of the fourth season’s 70-episode run, the comedian was receiving $100,000 per episode, raising his overall price tag to $7 million. He later received another pay raise for the 7th and 8th seasons, bringing his salary to a whopping $500,000 per episode for a total of 46 episodes, which led him to bring $23 million home that year. For the show’s ninth and final season, NBC paid Jerry $1 million per episode for the 24-episode series finale, allowing him to take home another $24 million by the end of the series.
If you add it all up, Seinfeld made just about $100 million off of his show alone during its primetime run. At his peak, many figured that he would try his hand at another show or transition to film after Seinfeld ended. Instead, the comedian retreated to the shadows and barely showed his face except for brief cameos and a few stand-up specials.
It’s natural to assume that Seinfeld’s absence from the spotlight meant that the comedian wasn’t receiving any more work. And if he wasn’t working, then he couldn’t possibly be making more money, right? Interestingly enough, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
There’s a good chance that you’ve seen Seinfeld or Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns on various smaller networks like WGN. Nine times out of ten, you probably thought to yourself, “There’s nothing on but reruns,” and immediately changed the channel. Well, those reruns are part of a contract between the networks and the actors to broadcast a show’s seasons for a certain amount of compensation, which most people have come to know as syndicated television. And with Seinfeld being one of the most syndicated shows in history, Jerry Seinfeld has made a ridiculous amount of money without ever having to lift a finger.
Before Seinfeld went into syndication, the comedian owned 7.5% of the show’s back-end equity points. That amount increased with the show’s success and doubled Jerry’s share to 15%. So when Seinfeld was first sold into syndication in 1998 and brought in $1.7 billion in revenue, the comedian earned $255 million. And when the show was sold to Hulu for $180 million, Seinfeld earned an extra $27 million. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the show has brought the comedian over $800 million between DVDs, merchandise, and syndication. And that’s before Netflix purchased the show for $500 million, earning Seinfeld another payday of $75 million.
Seinfeld was also on Netflix’s list of comedians to work with as they built up their original comedy programming and they went on to work with him on the popular Netflix show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. In 2020, the streaming platform paid the 67-year-old comedian $20 million for the exclusive rights to his original stand-up comedy special 23 Hours To Kill. Thanks to that and his stand-up shows all over the country, Seinfeld earned about $50 million between 2019 and 2020.
So What Is Jerry Seinfeld’s Net Worth?
Currently, Jerry Seinfeld is worth about $950 million. That’s more than double the net worths of Eddie Murphy ($200 million) and Kevin Hart ($200 million) put together. This explains why Seinfeld wasn’t in a hurry to jump back into the spotlight after his sitcom ended; he had made so much money that he didn’t really need to work. And with his show going into syndication, he was likely aware that he wouldn’t have to work again for the rest of his life. Of course, with a net worth like Seinfeld’s, there’s a good chance that a lot of us would feel the same way in his shoes.