American stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld became a household name for his self-titled comedy show, which ran on NBC between 1989 and 1998. Seinfeld quickly grew into one of the most successful shows in U.S. television history. The sitcom ran for nine seasons, winning over 76 million viewers for its much-publicized finale. Not bad for a comedy often described as “a show about nothing.”
Over the course of nine seasons and 180 episodes, not very much happened to Jerry, a fictional version of Seinfeld, or his dysfunctional friends, George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards). Set mainly in an apartment building in Upper West Side, New York City ⏤ where the cast members continually complain, undermine each other, and make wry observations ⏤ it was a master class in the minutiae of life.
From stand-up to sitcom
The show was based on Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy. While studying at Queens College, he developed his craft, and open-mic nights led to appearances in HBO specials and sitcoms. Successful appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and other late-night shows led to his first headlined HBO special. Stand-Up Confidential aired live in September 1987, and a year later, Seinfeld developed The Seinfeld Chronicles with Larry David, taking inspiration from 1950s sitcom The Abbott and Costello Show.
That 23-minute pilot went through a few changes, including a shortened name, but the mix of Seinfeld’s stand-up and mundane plots drawn from the writers’ real-life experiences created a winner. By its third season, the show was the most-watched sitcom on American TV.
When Seinfeld announced on Dec. 25, 1997 that the show would be finishing at the end of its ninth season, it made newspaper headlines, including the New York Times. The final episode, titled The Finale, remains the fourth most-watched series-closer for a regular series in U.S. television history.
Since ending his show on a high, Seinfeld’s projects have included Bee Movie (2007) and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (2012 to present). He’s returned to his famous sitcom persona on several occasions, most notably joining the cast of Seinfeld for a fictional reunion in Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm ⏤ a neat cycle, worthy of both shows. Larry David, who plays a fictional version of himself in Curb, wasn’t just Seinfeld’s co-creator, but also an inspiration for George Costanza.
In March 2022, Seinfeld earned a spot on the cover of one of DC Comics’ revamped World’s Finest issues. The huge Superman fan ⏤ who has frequently referenced the pop culture icon in his work ⏤ is shown taking the Batmobile for a spin with Superman in the passenger seat and a less-than-impressed Batman perched behind him.
What is Jerry Seinfeld’s net worth?
Jerry Seinfeld’s net worth is currently estimated to be at $950 million, per Celebrity Net Worth. That figure makes him the richest comedian in the world by a long stretch. The comedians who come closest are South Park creators Matt Stone (£600m) and Trey Parker ($700M) as well as The Simpsons creator Matt Groening ($600M). Those creators have successful shows under their belts, which have lasted far longer than Seinfeld’s run, but they still have a ways to go if they want to beat America’s king of comedy.
The vast majority of Seinfeld’s wealth came from his sitcom, which is regarded as one of the most profitable programs in TV history. By the show’s ninth and final season, Seinfeld was thought to be earning $1 million per episode, quite a leap from the $20,000 he’s said to have made per episode during its first year.
However, salary wasn’t where Seinfeld made most of his money from the show’s immense success. Seinfeld set record-breaking syndication deals, where networks re-broadcast the show, paying an excellent price to stakeholders. It’s been estimated that the show has made over $3 billion since it entered syndication in the mid-1990s. Along with Larry David, Seinfeld retained a percentage of the show’s backend payments, meaning that both have taken a considerable share of rerun profits.
It’s also become a valuable piece of media real estate in the streaming wars. In October 2021, Netflix started broadcasting Seinfeld as a part of a five-year deal reported to be more than $500 million. The streamer believes that the show still has an important role in the fast-moving world of modern TV.
Few media creators have earned so much from their work, particularly shows that supposedly had their heyday during the analog 1990s. That has helped the comedian restrict his returns to those he knows will keep the show’s legacy alive. Seinfeld reportedly turned down the most lucrative deal in television history to record a 10th season at the turn of the century. Two decades later, he’s shown the same resolve. While sitcoms like Roseanne and Will and Grace enjoyed reboots in 2018, it’s thought that Jerry Seinfeld rejected a similar offer for a revival on Peacock.