Jerry's last words -? The show's namesake says goodbye

So that’s it, huh? we showed up faithfully every Thursday night. We whispered all those sweet nothings: master of the domain. Yada, yada, yada. Sponge-worthy. We ate Junior Mints and sipped soup and watched Jerry’s girlfriends (Mulva, the Virgin, the spectacularly chested Teri Hatcher, etc.) come and go. Mostly go. And now, after nine years, suddenly the whole shebang’s over. Kaput. What happened, Jerry?

”Well,” says the man himself, ”Seinfeld‘s all about breakups. And ultimately the show had to break up with the country. In the end, it just couldn’t commit.”

Still, breaking up is hard to do, even for the dean of disposable relationships. Those last few days of Seinfeld were a veritable sentiment-fest, more appropriate to Hallmark than to TV’s most heartless sitcom. Take the final episode’s double-top-secret taping: Scoop-seeking reporters hovered in choppers overhead, but inside, everything was warm and gushy — a huggable collection of friends, family, and of course, the CEO of Porsche. ”There was a show behind the show,” says Seinfeld, who confessed that even he was moved. ”You’re doing a scene, but there was an equally dramatic scene going on in your head. It’s like those stereo-vision goggles.”

Several days later, at the wrap party, also on Seinfeld‘s famous Stage 9 in Studio City, things got even more achingly wistful. At one point, the jazz band stopped playing, the A-list industry types quit snacking on the typically Seinfeldian fare (Chinese food, soup, Rice Krispies), and all strained to listen to the goodbye speeches.

It was Jason Alexander — when he said he had never really thanked Jerry — who made the aloof stand-up cry. Sob, even. ”I was standing near [Seinfeld], so I handed him a tissue,” says Estelle Harris, who plays George’s high-strung mom, Estelle. ”He didn’t even know it was me who handed it to him. But I don’t mind. So he owes me a tissue.”

And how does Seinfeld remember that final farewell? With characteristic glibness. ”It was like getting married to myself,” he says. ”Everyone I knew was there, everyone was congratulating me. And yet I still got to go home alone.”

So off goes TV’s most famous single guy, leaving America with 169 reruns and a new word: Seinfeldian. That adjective, says Seinfeld, is his proudest achievement. ”Even The New York Times uses it,” boasts the 44-year-old noun in question. ”Seinfeldian! It’s the next best thing to Seinfeldesque.” He pauses for a moment, changes his mind. ”Actually, I prefer Seinfeldian.”

If any sitcom deserves its own adjective, it’s his show. (Veronica’s Closetish and Urkelesque just don’t work.) Seinfeld, this improbable hit about a New York stand-up and his three morally bankrupt friends, was the most influential sitcom of the decade. It changed the tone of TV, our Thursday-night plans, the way we talk. It launched a thousand careers, from writers to actresses. It transformed the network business (introducing stratospheric sitcom salaries, Must See TV, etc.) and boosted sales of Jujyfruits and Kenny Rogers’ chicken among a grocery cart of other featured products. It helped make New York cool again. It made medical history — a journal reported that a Massachusetts fan laughed so hard, he kept fainting.

  • TV Show