George Costanza is one of the funniest and most painfully relatable characters in the history of television. He’s a curmudgeon, he protests against every social convention that we wish we had the guts to protest against, he’s constantly down on his luck, nothing ever goes right for him, his friends are all more successful than he is, he’s lost his hair, and he’s never happy with anything. Despite having few likable qualities, the – in the immortal words of Elaine Benes – “short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man” won the hearts of audiences everywhere. So many publications have listed George among the best characters in TV history and the best sidekicks in the history of fiction. Ricky Gervais has described him as “arguably the greatest sitcom character of all time.” George was based on his co-creator Larry David, but Jerry Seinfeld named the character after his friend Mike Costanza, who later sued the network for having his name associated with “the lord of the idiots.” But who could be upset about being associated with such a brilliant character, no matter how idiotic? George is a timeless and iconic legend whose words ring true, even after twenty years. Here are the 10 greatest George Costanza quotes of all time.
10. “My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.”
This is a timeless quote, applicable to everyday situations. A Reddit user has posted a fan theory that George Costanza actually started doing the opposite of his natural instincts for everything following the episode “The Opposite” where he decided to do just that, but because of his tendency to take things one step too far, he still kept failing, because the step too far reverted his behavior back to classic George. The Reddit user explains, “George as a character has two really big flaws. The first, as he points out in ‘The Opposite,’ is that every instinct he has is wrong. He corrected that. The second flaw, which shows up time and time again, is that he takes everything a step too far, whether it be quitting his job then getting revenge on his boss for a perceived injustice, converting to Latvian Orthodox to date a girl, or not admitting to countless lies until the truth comes out invariably, blowing up in his face. What I’ve come to assume happened in between ‘The Opposite’ and the following episode is this: George continues to do the opposite of what he thinks he should, so long until it finally becomes his nature. He completely changes his instincts, but taking things a step too far as usual, he does the opposite of those. Effectively, he performs a double negative and reverts back to classic George.” Fascinating, right?
9. “Nobody tells me it’s them, not me. If it’s anybody, it’s me.”
Over the course of nine seasons of Seinfeld, the character of George Costanza – a man who openly admits to understanding nothing about women – went through a lot of breakups. He always struggled in relationships and either dumped or got dumped. George sums up the entire world of dating in three short sentences: “Oh, what’s the point? When I like them, they don’t like me. When they like me, I don’t like them.” This is essentially the problem that everybody has when they’re circumnavigating the dating scene, and George epitomizes those struggles. In one Seinfeld episode – “The Lip Reader,” to be exact – a girl breaks up with George and uses the “It’s not you, it’s me” routine on him to end things. George, who has broken off so many relationships that, as he sees it, he’s become a sort of master of the art, takes offense to this, and angrily tells her, “You’re giving me the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ routine? I invented ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ Nobody tells me it’s them, not me. If it’s anybody, it’s me.” Oh, boy. George Costanza is a guy who has so few achievements to cling onto that he will take pride in being the reason that a relationship has failed.
8. “It’s about nothing.”
A classic example of George Costanza making it abundantly clear that he is the “lord of the idiots” is his pitch for the NBC show that Jerry has been offered: he wants to make “a show about nothing.” He’s just chit-chatting with Jerry, like any other day, and says, “See, this should be a show. This is the show. Just talking.” Jerry wisely says, “I think you may have something there.” To be fair to George, it’s pretty much how Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David got their idea for Seinfeld in the first place back in the late 1980s – but they didn’t make a show about nothing. They made the opposite of that, and told stories and made social points and observations. The real life Jerry Seinfeld insists that the “show about nothing” concept was only supposed to be a joke during the NBC pilot storyline in season 4 of the show. It was never supposed to become a blanket term that could be used to describe the show. It was supposed to be a joke about what an idiot George is! Anyway, for better or for worse, that’s how the show came to be known after that fateful joke was made.
7. “If she can’t find me, she can’t break up with me.”
This has to be one of the dumbest and most absurd plans that George Costanza ever cooked up. In the season 8 episode “The Susie,” he’s invited to a ball hosted by his boss George Steinbrenner and he’s excited to show off his tall, gorgeous girlfriend Alison by bringing her in with a “grand entrance.” But then he discovers that she’s planning to break up with him before the ball, and rather than let that happen, he goes off the grid so that she’s unable to locate him or get in touch with him, and therefore can’t break up with him, and therefore will have to go to Steinbrenner’s ball with him. The idea was simple: “If she can’t find me, she can’t break up with me.” This episode is also notable for being the one where we hear George’s iconic and hysterical answering machine message, since he’s not answering the phone to avoid Alison. To the tune of the theme song from The Greatest American Hero, he sings, “Believe it or not, George isn’t at home / Please leave a message at the beep / I must be out, or I’d pick up the phone / Where could I be? / Believe it or not, I’m not home.”
6. “Don’t you ever just get down on your knees and thank God that you know me and have access to my dementia?”
You could say that George Costanza is an insane man. He’s definitely crazy. In fact, he’s borderline sociopathic. When he found out his fiancée was dead, he didn’t seem to show the slightest hint of emotion. In fact, he seemed a little happy about it, because he was having doubts about the wedding and this conveniently solved that problem for him. However you might be able to spin it, this is certainly a mentally unhinged man. But as with all seemingly crazy people, George’s insanity and sociopathy occasionally gives ways to flashes of genius. He has terrible ideas and he takes them way, way too far. But sometimes they have unexpectedly brilliant results. For example, the time when Jerry wanted to “switch” from one roommate to another (kind of like Three’s Company, but trickier to negotiate) led to George concocting an elaborate plan involving an offer of a ménage à trois, and that, in turn, led to the offer being unexpectedly accepted. George is ecstatic that this is how his plan turned out, and he tells Jerry, “Don’t you ever just get down on your knees and thank God that you know me and have access to my dementia?” Yes, George, we do!
5. “Elaine, of course I’m concerned…I’m paying for those meals!”
In the season 6 episode “The Switch,” George begins dating a model named Nina who eats a lot of food before excusing herself to go to the bathroom at the end of every meal. This leads George and his friends to believe that she is bulimic, and this troubles George deeply – but not for the reasons you might expect. As the short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man explains, “Every time we go out to eat, the minute we’re done eating she’s running for the bathroom.” Confused by what she perceives to be genuine emotion from George Costanza, Elaine asks him, “And you’re concerned?” He replies, in a sincere tone, “Elaine, of course I’m concerned…” before adding, “…I’m paying for those meals!” So, he does care about his girlfriend and her bulimia problem – it’s just for all the wrong reasons. And George does all of this while simultaneously working out the “switch” for Jerry, where he’s dating one girl and likes her roommate more and wants to somehow make the switch. The plan for the switch backfires, but it does land Jerry an offer for a threesome, which George describes as “like discovering plutonium by accident!” That’s yet another iconic Costanza quote for you!
4. “I was in the pool!”
When Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer travel up to the Hamptons, they don’t bank on the sex farce that’s about to unfold. For starters, George is excited to finally see his new girlfriend naked, but before he can, Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine all see her bathing topless in the pool. As a kind of pseudo revenge, George then expects to see Jerry’s girlfriend naked by way of reparations for what he sees as a terrible misdeed. But before he gets the chance to, Jerry’s girlfriend actually walks in on George while he’s getting changed and sees him naked instead. She laughs at the size of his penis and then leaves, but George is frustrated by the inaccurate representation of him that she saw, since his time in the pool had resulted in significant “shrinkage.” As he later explains, “Look, you don’t understand. There was shrinkage.” When Jerry’s girlfriend laughs and closes the door, George frantically cries out, “I was in the pool! I was in the pool!” as an attempt to explain the situation, but by then, it’s too late. Word gets out, George’s girlfriend leaves him before he ever gets to see her naked, and everybody’s back to square one. Classic Seinfeld ending.
3. “The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”
At the end of “The Marine Biologist,” after George has lived out his life with his dream job and his dream girl, he delivers one of the most hilarious and memorable monologues in comedy history: “The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli. I got about fifty feet out and suddenly, the great beast appeared before me. I tell you he was ten stories high if he was a foot. As if sensing my presence, he let out a great bellow. I said, ‘Easy, big fella!’ And then, as I watched him struggling, I realized that something was obstructing its breathing. From where I was standing, I could see directly into the eye of the great fish.” Jerry butts in to correct him: “Mammal.” George quips, “Whatever,” and continues, “Then, from out of nowhere, a huge tidal wave lifted me, tossed me like a cork, and I found myself right on top of him – face to face with the blowhole. I could barely see from the waves crashing down upon me, but I knew something was there. So, I reached my hand in, felt around, and pulled out the obstruction.” And then he takes one of Kramer’s golf balls out of his pocket, revealing that the whole ordeal was actually his fault. He then explains that the girl of his dreams ran up to him after watching him save a whale’s life and he admitted to her that he wasn’t really a marine biologist. After this rich, layered, detailed, dramatic, almost Shakespearean monologue, he bluntly concludes, “She told me to go to Hell and I took the bus home.”
2. “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”
“The Beard” is a classic example of a Seinfeld episode where every single character has something really funny and entertaining going on that week. Elaine is acting as a “beard” for a gay friend who she then decides she wants to “convert” to heterosexuality when she starts to fall for him. Kramer has a falling-out with a homeless man over some Tupperware and gets a gig doing police line-ups (due to the eccentric nature of Kramer, of course these two things end up intersecting). George has a toupee and for his first date as a man with hair, he sees a girl who is bald (and then Elaine throws his toupee out the window). And Jerry dates a cop who doesn’t believe him when he says he’s never seen Melrose Place, so she subjects him to a lie detector test. Of course, he has seen Melrose Place – he’s just embarrassed of it. So, he has to lie and beat the test. We know that George Costanza is a master of lying. He lies all the time to get what he wants. Remember the time that he lied about a spasm in his elbow all the way to the mayor’s office? As Jerry prepares to face the lie detector test, his friend offers him some sage wisdom about the art of lying: “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.” Timeless advice for the deceitful and the duplicitous.
1. “I’m disturbed. I’m depressed. I’m inadequate. I got it all!”
As far as iconic Seinfeld one-liners go, this is up there with the greatest and best remembered ones. It also marks yet another example of George Costanza going overboard in trying to orchestrate social situations and having it backfire in his face. He makes his new girlfriend laugh, but then she meets Jerry and he makes her laugh more, so George, fearing that his sense of humor will pale in comparison to Jerry’s, makes the following request of his friend, the beloved standup comic: “Would it kill you not to be so funny all the time? That’s all I’m asking. This woman thinks I’m very funny, and now, you’re gonna be funny, so what am I gonna be? I’m gonna be a short, bald guy with glasses who suddenly doesn’t seem so funny.” So, Jerry starts acting dark and morbid and uncaring around her – but it turns out she’s even more attracted to that than the humor. The irony here, of course, is that George has the disturbed personality she craves, but he hid it from her and made his friend change his personality, because he’s so disturbed. It was the first time these qualities had ever been attractive to someone he liked, and he blew it!