Actor Jason Alexander sat down for an interview with Archive of American Television and talked about working with the cast and crew of Seinfeld. At one point he was asked to describe what a typical work week for the show was like. Jason said it went something like this;
They would get the scripts and do a table read. The producers, writers, representatives would be present. The higher-ups would have a powwow, make their notes, Larry would quit, and the notes were thrown away. Larry would agree to stay to the end of the day, and then the 4 of them, Julia, Michael, Jerry, and Jason would start staging the show. One of the interesting things about this show was that the directors didn’t stage it which is unusual.
And the script itself didn’t provide any behavioral information, just the dialogue. Of course, the cast couldn’t just all stand there and say the lines, they had to be doing something, so the four of them would play off each other to find what worked best, each moving around, or moving the others around, finding what worked for each character. The attitude among them wasn’t, “What am I going to do?” But rather, “What are we going to do?” At the end of the day, the writers would gather the notes up, and head off to do a rewrite.
The cast would all do a quick read through of the new script in the morning. Then, they would do a big run through for the in-house producers and writers. After that, the writers would take the script again for another rewrite and give it back to the actors in the morning for another go.
The cast does another in-house run through for the producers. This one is most likely going to be the final script. The group starts to make final decisions on what actions they will be doing for the live taping so things were more or less set for the day 5. The network and Castle Rock would come down and watch the run through. They would give notes again, and Larry would quit.
This was camera block day. The ensemble would run the scenes, cameras would be given assignments. They used 4 cameras to tape the show. Every scene was rehearsed so everything could be done seamlessly for the final. As time went on during the sitcoms run, they started doing the outside work, and day 4 became the outside day also.
Shoot day. In front of a live audience. There was a laugh track but not used the way people would think. The machine was only used to blend the audience laughter from different takes. Because Jerry and Larry were standup comedians, they felt that if there was no real laughter then the scene wasn’t right.
Because of this integrity, Jason says, it made for some of the longest shoot nights. If lines didn’t get the proper reaction, they would rewrite script until it worked. The greatest example of that is the marine biologist show. The end scene where they are at the diner was written on the spot as the first ending didn’t get enough laughs. The original scene ended with George walking into the ocean. The audience liked it, but it was just… okay.
Larry decided to rewrite the script to include the final scene in the diner right then, in front of an audience. Starting with, ” The sea was angry that day my friends.” And then the golf ball coming out of George’s pocket. Jason says the reason for that long pause before Kramer spoke was they had one of the longest sustained laughs in the history of the show from the audience. It was more than a minute before Michael could get out the line “Is that a Titleist? Hole in one.”
All we can say is, “Thank you” to everyone on Seinfeld for some of the best half hours we spent watching something about nothing.
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