Sad Epilogues for Real-Life ‘Seinfeld’ Characters
Much of Seinfeld was famously inspired by true events: Festivus was based on a real family’s chaotic holiday, Kenny Rogers actually did start his own chicken franchise and it turns out there’s even a real stand-up comedian named “Jerry Seinfeld” with an equally troubling dating history.
Presumably, because real life is a never-ending torrent of misery devoid of a laugh track, several Seinfeld characters’ non-fictional counterparts saw an unfortunate turn of events after the show ended, such as how…
J. Peterman’s Business Fell Apart for Non-Sombrero Reasons
A lot of us first became aware of the J. Peterman Company after Elaine started working there at the end of Seinfeld’s sixth season. But it is a real company, founded in 1987, with a real, wildly pretentious catalog — although we can be reasonably sure that the actual J. Peterman didn’t go full Colonel Kurtz at any point in Burma/Myanmar.
The attention from Seinfeld was good for business at first, with the real Peterman then building “15 brick-and-mortar stores around the country in addition to his catalog business,” but soon he “found himself in over his head.” J. Peterman’s company ended up declaring bankruptcy just a year after Seinfeld went off the air. It has since come back to life, thanks in part to the fake Peterman — i.e., actor John O’Hurley subsequently invested in the company and became a part owner.
Kenny Kramer’s ‘Seinfeld’ Tours Were Nearly Ruined by Michael Richards
As you’re no doubt aware, the real-life Kramer started his own Seinfeld Reality Tour business back in the 1990s, bussing tourists around New York City, showing off some of the real locations that inspired episodes of the show, which itself inspired an episode of the show.
But Kramer’s side hustle was nearly completely ruined by Michael Richards’ infamous racist rant during a stand-up set, which forced Kenny Kramer to go on a full-on PR campaign reminding everybody that he was a completely different person, irked that media reports were using the phrase “Kramer is a racist.” He even wrote an article for New York Magazine, expressing fears that the tour business may have been permanently damaged by Richards’ awfulness, while also reminding the world that he still had tour tickets and ASSMAN license plates for sale.
The Soup Nazi’s Business Was Revealed to Be Part of a Massive Tax-Evasion Scheme
The infamous “Soup Nazi” episode was inspired by real-life soup merchant Al Yeganeh, whose delicious offerings were profiled in the New Yorker in 1989, years before Seinfeld made him famous. At the time, Yeganeh told the publication, “My philosophy is: The customer is always wrong, and I’m always right.”
Despite being abjectly pissed off by the episode, Yeganeh attempted to capitalize on the newfound notoriety, franchising his business with “The Original Soup Man” line of restaurants. While he prohibited anyone within the company from using the word “Nazi,” he leaned into the Seinfeld association, signing a deal with Soup Nazi actor Larry Thomas to use his image on their products and even hiring Jason Alexander to star in “Soup Man” commercials.
Unfortunately for Yeganeh, and the soup-eating public in general, the company’s CFO Robert Bertrand was arrested and sentenced to nine years in prison due to a “nearly $600,000 tax-evasion scheme,” which left the company in massive debt, forcing them to declare bankruptcy and sell off their assets. Which is, weirdly, kind of how the episode ends.
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