Judge Reinhold’s ‘Close Talker’ Genuinely Upset ‘Germaphobe’ Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry seems to enjoy his personal space
Judge Reinhold’s ‘Close Talker’ Genuinely Upset ‘Germaphobe’ Jerry Seinfeld

Elaine Benes had a number of truly odd boyfriends throughout the course of Seinfeld — I mean, one of them was literally a psychotic clown with a history of violence — but one of the most memorably eccentric of the bunch was Aaron, the “close talker” played by Judge Reinhold.

While the term “close talker” has subsequently become part of our cultural lexicon, filming this particular scene really weirded out one of the Seinfeld cast members. 

During a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, Reinhold discussed his experience shooting the close-talker scenes. Apparently, during rehearsals, he would get incrementally closer to each person he talked to, before finally ending with Jerry Seinfeld. “The crew was laughing in a way that … it seemed like something was going on,” Reinhold explained.

When the lunch break came, he asked some of the crew members: “Why were you guys laughing so hard when I get to Jerry?” 

“Because he’s such a germaphobe he’s terrified of what you’re doing,” they responded.

After learning that he was disturbing the show’s star, Reinhold, to his credit, still didn’t hold back during filming. “By the time they got to camera, I was almost touching his nose. Our nostril hairs were almost touching,” Reinhold told Eisen. 

Jerry’s alleged paranoia concerning germs occasionally surfaced in Seinfeld episodes, such as when his character tossed a shoelace because it may have touched the bathroom floor, threw out a belt buckle that grazed a urinal and tore apart his apartment and then slept in his car, just because his girlfriend dipped an undisclosed item from his apartment into the toilet bowl.

This issue cropped up in real life not too long ago, when the non-sitcom Jerry Seinfeld made headlines for refusing to hug Kesha during a red carpet interview in 2017. Some saw it as confirmation of his “reputation as a germaphobic misanthrope.”

But Seinfeld later claimed that he just didn’t know who the hell she was, telling Extra, “In my reality, I don’t hug a total stranger,” likening it to the “Kiss Hello” episode of Seinfeld. Kesha, meanwhile, called it “the saddest moment of my life.”

When COVID hit and the world shut down, the New York Times asked Seinfeld whether or not the pandemic had validated his “neat freak” mentality. But Seinfeld flat-out stated, “I’m not a germaphobe,” clarifying that his obsession is “more about organized behavior routines.” 

Still, it’s not hard to believe that Seinfeld got super-bothered when the guy from Fast Times at Ridgemont High violated his personal space. 

Incidentally, Reinhold’s work as the close talker was so convincing that when Julia Louis-Dreyfus ran into him years later, she instinctively started “backing up” before realizing, “Oh no, that was the part he played. It wasn’t him.” 

If they gave out Emmys for psychologically messing with your co-stars, Judge Reinhold would have been a shoo-in.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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