Michael Richards as Cosmo Kramer
|First appearance||"The Seinfeld Chronicles" (as "Kessler")|
|Last appearance||"The Finale, Part II"|
|Created by||Jerry Seinfeld
|Portrayed by||Michael Richards|
H. E. Pennypacker
Dr. Martin van Nostrand
Professor Peter Van Nostrand
The K Man
|Occupation||Bagel Shop Worker
Entrepreneur (Kramerica Industries)
Tennis Ball Boy
Tony Awards Seat-filler
Personal Beauty Consultant
|Family||Babs Kramer (mother)|
The character is loosely based on comedian Kenny Kramer, Larry David's former neighbor across the hall. Kramer is the friend and neighbor of main character Jerry Seinfeld, residing in Apartment 5B, and is friends with George Costanza and Elaine Benes. Of the series' four central characters, only Kramer has no visible means of support; what few jobs he holds seem to be nothing more than larks.
His trademarks include his upright hairstyle and vintage wardrobe, the combination of which led Elaine to characterize him as a "hipster doofus"; his taste in fresh fruit; his love of occasional smoking, Cuban cigars in particular; his bursts through Jerry's apartment door; frequent pratfalls and his penchant for nonsensical, percussive outbursts of noise to indicate skepticism, agreement, annoyance, and a variety of other feelings. He has been described as "an extraordinary cross between Eraserhead and Herman Munster". Kramer appeared in all but two episodes: "The Chinese Restaurant" and "The Pen", in the second and third seasons, respectively.
- 1 Background and family
- 2 Personality
- 3 Development
- 4 Romantic relationships
- 5 Protégés
- 6 Bizarre beliefs and philosophies
- 7 Employment
- 8 Inventions, entrepreneurship, and lawsuits
- 9 Physical moments
- 10 Pseudonyms
- 11 Reception
- 12 In popular culture
- 13 Explanatory notes
- 14 Citations
- 15 External links
Background and family
In "The Trip", Kramer admits that a man in a park exposed himself to him when he was a young boy. In "The Big Salad" Kramer reveals to Jerry that he grew up in a strict household where he had to be in bed every night by 9:00PM. In "The Letter", Kramer tells two art patrons that he ran away from home at age 17 and stowed away aboard a steamer bound for Sweden.
Kramer was estranged for a long period from his mother, Barbra "Babs" Kramer, who works as a restroom matron at an upscale restaurant. Unlike George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld, Kramer's character does not have a well-developed network of family members shown in the sitcom. He is the only main character on the show whose father never makes an appearance; however, in "The Chinese Woman", Kramer mentions that he is the last male member of his family, implying that his father died. He also mentions in "The Lip Reader" that he has or had a deaf cousin, from whom he learned fluent American Sign Language (but when Kramer attempts to communicate in ASL, he speaks complete gibberish and he cannot correctly translate the ASL he sees others using). He also apparently has no (biological) children, although he did adopt mile 114 of the Arthur Burkhardt Expressway in "The Pothole".
During an opening discussion, Kramer reveals to Jerry that in 1979 he was struck on the head by a falling air conditioner while walking on the sidewalk. Jerry asks if that was when Kramer lived in Greenwich Village, to which Kramer replies that he cannot remember. This is discussed in the beginning of "The Little Kicks".
In "The Strong Box", it is revealed that Kramer spent a brief time in the Army, although information about this time is "classified". In episode three of season one he says he lived in Los Angeles for three months.
Kramer has conflicting personality traits. A painting of him was described in "The Letter" by an art patron as "a loathsome, offensive brute"; he is sometimes shallow, callous, and indifferent. Though eccentric, Kramer is more often than not caring, friendly and kind-hearted; he often goes out of his way to help total strangers, and tries to get his friends to also help others and to do the right thing even when they do not want to. His quirkiness, strange body movements, and frequent gibberish mutterings (including "Yo Yo Ma!") [possibly a result from a blow to the head in "The Pitch"] have become his trademark.
Kramer also gets his friends directly into trouble by talking them into unwise or even illegal actions such as parking illegally in a handicapped space ("The Handicap Spot"), urinating in a parking garage ("The Parking Garage"), committing mail fraud ("The Package") or even hiring an assassin (who turns out to be Newman) to get rid of a dog ("The Engagement"). Kramer is also known to mooch off his friends, particularly Jerry. Kramer regularly enters and uses Jerry's apartment without his consent or knowledge, and he often helps himself to Jerry's food. Kramer is also known to use tools/appliances of Jerry's, only occasionally with permission, and often returning them in a state of disrepair. The reason for all of this is because Kramer is told "What's mine is yours" on his first meeting with Jerry ("The Betrayal").
Kramer is known for his extreme honesty and, correspondingly, his lack of tact; in "The Nose Job", he tells George's insecure girlfriend that she is as pretty as any girl in New York City; she just needs a nose job. Similarly, in "The Kiss Hello" when Elaine tries to take advantage of this personality quirk by inviting Kramer to meet her friend, Wendy, whom she feels has an outdated hairstyle, Kramer immediately comments on her hair as expected, but rather than hating it, he tells her he loves it. Instead of being horrified, many characters end up thanking Kramer for his candor. Kramer rarely gets into trouble for it, but his friends often do; this happens memorably in "The Cartoon" where Kramer makes comments to Sally Weaver (Kathy Griffin), who then blames Jerry for "ruining her life" as a result.
One explanation as to Kramer's personality and traits, with respect to his mysterious childhood and background, is hinted in "The Chicken Roaster". After a series of conflicts, Jerry is forced to live in Kramer's apartment and vice versa, which quickly has an effect on both characters. Jerry, bothered endlessly by the many oddities and idiosyncrasies associated with Kramer's home (as an example, the apartment creaks "like the hold of a ship" at night), quickly begins acting like his wacky friend. Conversely, when Kramer begins living in Jerry's regular and normal apartment, he quickly and briefly becomes more like his calm and quick-witted friend. The clear implication is that Kramer is radically and negatively influenced by his living environment, but has grown so used to it that he does not even realize the impact it has on him.
His relationship with George and Elaine is as moderately strong as with Jerry. He helps Elaine in "The Watch", "The Engagement", "The Soup Nazi" and "The Slicer", and helps George in "The Busboy", "The Stall" and "The Slicer". He clashes with Elaine in "The Seven" and with George in "The Susie".
His relationship with Jerry is very questionable. Simply put, Kramer excels at persuading a usually reluctant Jerry into doing things against his better judgment. Kramer also at times gets into arguments with Jerry, in episodes such as "The Chaperone", "The Kiss Hello" and "The Caddy". On the other hand, Kramer has displayed an almost unbending loyalty toward Jerry in many episodes (although he does once comment that he would turn Jerry in were he wanted for murder) especially when choosing to help him against Newman in many episodes, including "The Suicide" and "The Millennium" (in this episode, Kramer calls Jerry "my buddy" and even keeps a photo of them arm in arm at a previous New Year's Eve on his nightstand). In the same respect, Jerry has helped Kramer out of good will in some episodes and always seems to forgive and ultimately accept his friend's mooching tendencies. At times, Jerry is clearly quite entertained by Kramer's antics, which may also be a factor in the friendship's endurance. In "The Serenity Now", an overemotional Jerry declares a near-brotherly love for Kramer, to which Kramer easily responds, "I love you, too, buddy." The duo are so close that in one instance when Kramer was locked out of his apartment, Jerry even let him sleep in the same bed with him ("The Wig Master").
His relationship with Newman is defined from the start in "The Suicide", in which they get along very well. Like the main characters they also get into conflict with each other, most notably "The Junk Mail". Their get-rich-quick schemes are noted in "The Old Man" and "The Bottle Deposit". Kramer's most notable conflict other than with Newman is with Keith Hernandez in "The Boyfriend" until the baseball star straightens out the facts, along with the famous JFK parody and a battle-of-wits game of Risk, where the two are pitted against one another in a battle for world domination ("The Label Maker").
His relationship with Susan is mixed. Although they get along in "The Pool Guy", there are many episodes in which he makes her life a mess. He vomits on her in "The Pitch", unwittingly burns her father's cabin in "The Bubble Boy", dates Mona while Susan is a lesbian in "The Smelly Car" and after calling her "Lily" in "The Invitations," she insists that he not be an usher at her and George's upcoming wedding (she was also concerned that "he'd fall or something ...[and] ruin the whole ceremony").
Kramer's apartment is the subject of numerous radical experiments in interior design. Oftentimes, the "experiments" never happen due to Kramer's inherent short-attention span, including for example, his plan to eliminate all furniture and build "levels... [like] ancient Egypt" in "The Pony Remark". Other times, the experiments do come to fruition, like his reconstruction of the set of The Merv Griffin Show in "The Merv Griffin Show". Inside views of Kramer's apartment are seldom seen, but it is known that he installed hardwood flooring and woodgrain-like wallpaper to, as he explains to Jerry, "give it the feel of a ski lodge." The apartment is centered around a large hot tub and couch styled after a 1957 Chevy. The apartment is decorated with many small statues of people, all made entirely out of pasta: Kramer also gives these to his friends as gifts, for example to Jerry in "The Fusilli Jerry" and Bette Midler in "The Understudy". Kramer has also experimented with his apartment entrance, including reversing his peephole "to prevent an ambush" in "The Reverse Peephole and installing a screen door (after salvaging it from George's parents' house) in "The Serenity Now".
Kramer has a liking for smoking Cuban cigars. It starts in "The Wallet" and in "The Abstinence" he sets up a smoking club in his apartment, which included a regularly-scheduled "pipe night" for those who preferred pipe tobacco to cigars and/or cigarettes. His face gets ruined after so much smoking and he hires Jackie Chiles to sue the cigarette company, but instead ends up getting his image as the Marlboro Man on the Marlboro billboard in Times Square. At one point, he goes so far as to attempt to hire Cuban cigar rollers in an effort to make his own Cuban cigars (presumably for himself as well as for profit) in "The English Patient", but sadly (and typically), the scheme goes awry when the "Cubans" turn out to be Dominicans.
Interestingly, Richards' portrayal of the Kramer character closely resembles that of Stanley Spadowski, a janitor-turned-children's-television-host he played in the 1989 comedy UHF, starring Weird Al Yankovic.
He almost always drinks a milkshake whenever he is at a coffee shop or eatery.
Kramer is a fan of Canadian football, as explained in the episode "The Label Maker", where Jerry has Super Bowl tickets; he explains he cannot give them to Kramer because Kramer only watches Canadian football.
He has seizures whenever he hears the voice of Mary Hart, co-anchor of the show Entertainment Tonight, as seen in the episode "The Good Samaritan." This is a real condition, which has been dubbed the "Mary Hart Syndrome" – an actual case was reported and published more than a year before the episode aired.
Kramer is extremely sensitive to being told to drop dead. In "The Handicap Spot", Lola (the lady for whom Kramer replaced her wheelchair) dumped him, telling him that he was not good-looking enough for her, that he was a hipster doofus, and (of course) to drop dead. In “The Betrayal”, Kramer's friend FDR (Franklin Delano Romanowski) repeatedly wishes that Kramer drop dead, and Kramer goes to great lengths to avoid that fate.
Kramer is inexplicably popular with both George's and Jerry's parents, although not at first. In "The Handicap Spot", Estelle Costanza calls Kramer "trouble" and expresses her dissatisfaction at her son hanging around him, although he is good friends with Frank Costanza. It is revealed in "The Blood" that he calls the Seinfelds once a week. George's parents let Kramer stay at their house in an episode when they are away on a trip. They even let Kramer bring women to their house (upsetting George because he was never allowed to bring women over). He even briefly moves into Jerry's parents' retirement community in Florida, where Morty Seinfeld recruits him to run for Condo Board President in an attempt to establish a puppet régime. Kramer even manages to befriend "The Soup Nazi", which seemed impossible because of the Soup Nazi's short temper and his outbursts at anyone who holds up the line.
Kramer's conversation sometimes contains onomatopoeia or nonsensical sounds, difficult to transcribe, in order to emphasize an emotional point or describe earlier actions. He sometimes expresses his agreement with a sentiment or suggestion via the word "Giddyup!"
In "The Visa", George comments, "Kramer goes to a fantasy camp. His whole life is a fantasy camp. People should plunk down $2,000 to live like him for a week. Do nothing, fall ass-backwards into money, mooch food off your neighbors, and have sex without dating. That's a fantasy camp." This likely refers to Kramer's various strokes of financial luck over the course of the series, such as optioning his coffee table book about coffee tables to a major Hollywood studio in "The Wizard", winning $18,000 in "The Subway" successfully betting on horse races, and signing a contract with Calvin Klein in "The Pick". It may also indicate that Kramer came into money at an earlier, unseen time and is thus independently wealthy to some degree, explaining his not having to work.
The character of Kramer was originally based on the real-life Kenny Kramer, a neighbor of co-creator Larry David from New York. However, Michael Richards did not in any way base his performance on the real Kramer, to the point of refusing to meet him. This was later parodied in "The Pilot" when the actor that is cast to play him in Jerry and George's sitcom refuses to base the character on the real Cosmo Kramer. At the time of the shooting of the original Seinfeld pilot, "The Seinfeld Chronicles," Kenny Kramer had not yet given consent to use his name, and so Kramer's character was originally known as "Kessler."
Larry David was hesitant to use Kenny Kramer's real name because he suspected that Kramer would take advantage of this. David's suspicion turned out to be correct; Kenny Kramer created the "Kramer Reality Tour", a New York City bus tour that points out actual locations of events or places featured in Seinfeld. The "Kramer Reality Tour" is itself spoofed on Seinfeld in "The Muffin Tops." In the episode, when Kramer's real-life stories are used by Elaine to pad the biography of J. Peterman she was ghostwriting, he develops a reality bus tour called "The Peterman Reality Tour" and touts himself as "The Real J. Peterman," even though, as Jerry notes, reality is the last thing Kramer is qualified to give a tour on.
Richards' physicality can be seen in his early 1980s appearances on The Tonight Show, the early 1980s ABC sketch comedy show "Fridays", and his appearance in the film "Young Doctors in Love" where he plays a hit man; a nod to this appears in the "Air Conditioner" episode.
Given and surnames
Cosmo Kramer was known only as "Kramer" during the show's first five seasons (from 1989 to 1994), though in the pilot, "The Seinfeld Chronicles", Jerry referred to him as Kessler, which was his original name for the show, until it was changed to Kramer. George finds out his unusual first name through an encounter with Kramer's long estranged mother, Babs (played by Sheree North), in the season six episode, "The Switch". Despite this, most characters continued to call him Kramer for the remainder of the show's run (although many minor characters did refer to him as "Cosmo"). In the season 9 episode "The Betrayal", when we see how Jerry met Kramer, Kramer says that his name is incorrectly listed as "Kessler" in the apartment building. This retcons the pilot's use of "Kessler" as the character's name.
Additionally, the episode of "The Bet" would have revealed Kramer's first name as "Conrad", but it was never filmed.
Of the four main characters, Kramer has the fewest on-screen romantic relationships. He does not seem to have trouble attracting women, but his relationships often come to an embarrassing end, and, like Jerry's, are usually short lived. Some of Kramer's most notable relationships include:
- In "The Conversion," after Kramer attracts the attention of a young Latvian Orthodox novice, Roberta, he learns from the priests that he has the Kavorka (lure of the animal).
- In "The Puffy Shirt," Kramer dates Leslie, a "low talker," a woman who speaks quietly.
- In "The Friar's Club," Kramer tries to copy Leonardo da Vinci by only sleeping 20 minutes every three hours, but he eventually falls into such a deep sleep that his girlfriend, Connie, thinks he is dead, puts him in a sack and dumps him into the Hudson River.
- In "The Smelly Car," Kramer "converts" Susan's lesbian lover, Mona, to heterosexuality, one of the many reasons why Susan hates Kramer.
- In "The Chinese Woman", Kramer dates Elaine's friend Noreen, whom he tries to steer away from what he perceives as Elaine's "destructive influence... over her life". In this episode, Kramer is preoccupied by the fact that despite having slept with many women, he has never gotten a woman pregnant, and he consults a doctor about sperm count. By the episode's end, it is implied he may have impregnated Noreen, but the possibility is never raised again.
- In "The Non-Fat Yogurt", Kramer's passionate encounter with Cheryl, a lab technician, results in the accidental mix up of Rudy Giuliani's blood test.
- In "The Pie", Kramer dates Olive from the coffee shop, whose super-long nails are the only cure to his itchy back. When he loses his itch and wants to break up with her, he uses a mannequin that looks like Elaine as his pretend new girlfriend.
- In "The Wife", he gets overly-tanned after falling asleep on a tanning bed and then horrifies his African-American girlfriend Anna and her family who think he's doing blackface.
- In "The Maid", his girlfriend Madeline moves to downtown Manhattan and Kramer cannot handle the "long-distance relationship".
- In "The Dog", Kramer has a relationship with Ellen, whom all of his friends hate.
- In "The Library", Kramer attracts the Librarian/Poet Marian after claiming "she needs a little tenderness, she needs a little Kramer." He eventually falls in love with her poetry; however, it doesn't work out. Kramer mentions in "The Tape" that one night he was sleeping in bed with her, so therefore, their relationship supposedly ended between that episode and "The Nose Job" (the next episode), as Kramer begins dating Audrey, George's ex-girlfriend.
- In "The Soul Mate", Kramer falls for Jerry's girlfriend Pam and with Newman's help tries to win her over. He even gets a vasectomy for her because he finds out she is not interested in having children, though the surgery was botched, rendering him even more potent.
- In "The Money", Kramer dates Emily (played by Sarah Silverman) who has the "jimmy legs" which keep him up at night.
- In "The Shoes", Kramer briefly dates Gail, Jerry's ex-girlfriend.
- In "The Truth", Kramer dates Elaine's roommate Tina who enjoys making out in the living room and dancing to tribal music.
- In "The Soup", Kramer dates Hilde, a waitress that works at Reggie's.
- In "The Fusilli Jerry", Kramer dates Sally, a big butted girl whom he met as a result of the ASSMAN vanity plate on his car.
Kramer has on a few occasions taken people under his wing and aggressively protected their interests.
- In "The Chaperone", he becomes the personal coach of Miss Rhode Island (Karen) at the Miss America pageant. He trains her on poise, walk and even on singing technique.
- In "The Understudy", Kramer becomes a super-protective bodyguard and nurse to Bette Midler after she is run over and injured by George in a close play at the plate in a softball game. He is so protective of her that he even prevents George and Jerry from apologizing to her at the hospital.
- In "The Voice", Kramer gets an intern from New York University (NYU) who is supposed to be working for "Kramerica Industries", but he really ends up "mending chicken wire", having "high tea with a Mr. Newman" and setting up lunch appointments with Jerry at the coffee shop, which as Kramer explains is "business as usual at Kramerica Industries". Darin the intern becomes so loyal to Kramerica that he even continues on as Kramer's assistant after the internship is revoked by the university—but later Kramer announces Darin "is going away for a very long time" (implying he will be going to jail) after the failed oil tanker bladder system test.
- In "The Gum", Kramer takes Lloyd Braun—who recently was released from a mental institution—under his wing and helps him get back on track by letting him help in the restoration of the Alex Theatre.
- In "The Chinese Woman", Kramer becomes especially protective of Elaine's friend Noreen.
- However, in "The Fatigues", the role is reversed when Kramer has no cooking skills and needs Frank Costanza to help cook Jewish food for his community.
- In "The Merv Griffin Show", it is revealed that Kramer may have had a mentor-like relationship with the offspring of zoologist Jim Fowler, where Kramer claims that Fowler agreed to appear on his talk-show because "I practically raised his kids."
Bizarre beliefs and philosophies
Kramer is known to embrace strange philosophies unique to himself, and to reject acceptable social behaviors or established facts. For example:
- In "The Jimmy" he insists that you have to eat before undergoing surgery because "you need your strength", even though patients are told not to eat before an operation because doing so can interfere with anaesthesia. Kramer does insist, however, that one should not brush one's teeth 24 hours before seeing the dentist, although he never explains why.
- In "The Heart Attack", Kramer reveals he does not believe in being treated at hospitals when he warns George that his friend Bob Sacamano went in for a hernia operation which was botched and now speaks in a falsetto voice. Because of this he recommends for George to opt for a holistic healer. When George finds out how much cheaper it is, he goes with Kramer's advice, which he later regrets.
- In "The Slicer", Kramer reveals that he once had his picture taken with President Ford, but eventually airbrushed "that Ford right out of there".
- In "The Opera", Kramer wears casual clothes to an upscale opera, commenting that "People do [dress up when they go to the opera]; I don't." Kramer also admits that he suffers from coulrophobia (fear of clowns). Kramer also expresses his belief that Italian people used to sing to each other, but they stopped because "they couldn't keep it up; they got tired".
- In "The Strike", Kramer is enthusiastically eager to celebrate Festivus, a holiday ("for the rest of us") created by Frank Costanza. He has an abrupt change of heart at the end of the episode, and walks out on the Festivus dinner without performing the "Feats of Strength" as instructed by Frank.
- In "The Cartoon", Kramer remarks to Jerry he believes UNICEF is a money-laundering operation, saying "It's the perfect cover ... No one can keep track of all those kids with the little orange boxes of change."
- In "The Andrea Doria", when he develops a severe cough, Kramer refuses to see a doctor because they are all "a bunch of lackeys and yes-men all toeing the company line", claiming that one botched his vasectomy (seen in "The Soul Mate") and rendered him even more potent. He instead prefers to be treated by a veterinarian. His rationale is that veterinarians are superior physicians because they "gotta be able to cure a lizard, a chicken, a pig, a frog – all on the same day."
- In "The Foundation", Kramer inspires a despondent Elaine to have greater self-confidence with the "Katra" philosophy that she thinks he learned in his karate class. As it turns out, "Katra" is a Vulcan trait that Kramer saw in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and in actuality, Kramer is only successful at karate because he is the only adult in a class full of children.
- In "The Sponge", arguing that it is a meaningless gesture compared to actually walking, Kramer adamantly refuses to wear a ribbon at an AIDS walk for charity, causing fury (and eventually physical violence) among his fellow walkers (including two men who stole an armoire he was saving for Elaine in "The Soup Nazi").
- In "The Butter Shave", Kramer finds butter is a better protection for his skin after shaving. His skin feels so good with butter he takes to spreading it all over his body (which entices Newman's voracious appetite).
- In "The Cafe", Kramer adamantly insists that a time limit on the application of a law is a "statue of limitations". Jerry attempts to correct him on this, but gives up in the face of Kramer's stubborn ignorance.
- In "The Wallet", Kramer declares that he believes that all home package deliveries should be abolished because it renders homeowners vulnerable to intruders.
- In "The Dinner Party", Kramer tells George that he never carries a wallet because it throws his hips "off kilter".
- In "The Engagement", Kramer claims that he does not use a watch, and that he tells time by the sun. He also claims that he can guess "within the hour". When pressed, he does acknowledge that it is "tougher" to tell time without a watch at night but didn't think it was a big deal since night is "only a couple of hours".
- In "The Hot Tub", Kramer tells Jerry that he does not use or trust alarm clocks and that he uses his "mental alarm clock" claiming that it never fails. He also says that your body knows what time it is. It should be noted that almost immediately after making this statement, Kramer overslept, causing an acquaintance to nearly miss running in the New York City marathon.
- In "The Masseuse", Kramer tells Jerry and Elaine that Joel Rifkin was a serial killer because he was adopted and that being adopted is one of a serial killer's major traits.
- In "The Old Man", Kramer says senior citizen services are fronts for money launderers and cons who steal old people's life savings.
- In The Reverse Peephole, Kramer claims that "nobody carries wallets anymore", and, instead, he carries "a couple of cards and [his] bankroll" with the big bills on the outside (although in Kramer's case, the "big bill" is a five). He later convinces Jerry to (briefly) do the same.
Despite the failure of the majority of his schemes and his unwillingness to even apply for a normal job, Kramer always seems to have money when he needs it. In the episode, "The Shoes", Jerry remarks that Kramer received a "ton of money" at some earlier point in his life (presumably via inheritance). In "The Visa", George makes a comment about Kramer going to a fantasy camp, and how Kramer's "whole life is a fantasy camp. People should plunk down two thousand dollars to live like him for a week. Do nothing, fall ass-backwards into money, mooch food off your neighbors, and have sex without dating. That's a fantasy camp." The biggest example of this demonstrated on the show was in the episode "The Subway", in which Kramer places a $600 bet on a horse at 30-to-1 odds, which amounts to winning $18,000.
As a younger man, Kramer appears to have had several jobs. In the episode "The Strong Box", Kramer says one of the things in his strongbox is his military discharge. Upon being asked, "You were in the army?", Kramer replies, "Briefly," and claims the reason for his discharge is classified. Also, in the episode "The Muffin Tops", Kramer mentions shaving his chest when he was a lifeguard. His long term unemployed status is partially, if nonsensically, explained in "The Strike", when he went back to work at H&H Bagels after being on strike for over a decade. His union finally settled the strike when the minimum wage of New York was raised to the hourly rate the strikers had been demanding ten years earlier (Kramer still felt the strike was a success although his fellow strikers apparently all moved on a decade earlier). He only worked at H&H Bagels a short time before he was fired, and, during the brief period he was re-employed there, he went on strike at least once more because he was unfairly forced to work on Festivus, a holiday only celebrated by Frank Costanza (he "caved" and called off the strike when he needed to use the bathroom).
Along with his stint at H&H Bagels, Kramer is engaged in a variety of other short-lived jobs. He works part-time as a department store Santa before being fired for spreading Communist propaganda to young children in "The Race". In "The Bizarro Jerry", he works at an office where he is not actually employed, describing his daily activities to Jerry as "T.C.B. You know, takin' care of business." His boss, "old man Leland", eventually fires him, commenting that his reports resemble work by someone with "no business training at all", which, of course, was the truth. In "The Beard", Kramer works as a "lineup decoy" for the NYPD, earning $50 per lineup. This job ends when the witness to a jewelry story heist, a homeless man who'd had a recent unrelated altercation with Kramer, fingers Kramer as the perpetrator. A story arc of the fifth season includes Kramer's idea for a coffee table book about coffee tables, which is eventually published in "The Fire". His success in that particular endeavor is short-lived, however, because he spews coffee all over Kathie Lee Gifford at the first stop of his book tour on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee in "The Opposite". In "The Pick", he becomes an underwear model for Calvin Klein, which must account for at least some of his income. The biggest boost to Kramer's income would have to be in the episode "The Wizard" when his coffee table book is optioned for a movie by a "big Hollywood so-and-so", earning Kramer enough royalty money to retire to Florida (although he moves back to New York almost immediately after a "political scandal" involving going barefoot in the clubhouse, which costs him the election for condo board president at Del Boca Vista, Phase 3).
He is a compulsive gambler who successfully avoids gambling for several years until "The Diplomat's Club", in which he bets with a wealthy Texan on the arrival and departure times of flights going into New York's LaGuardia Airport. In "The Susie", when Kramer's friend, Mike Moffit, becomes a bookie, he immediately places an outlandish bet on the Knicks "for Jerry", and, when the Knicks shockingly cover the 30+ point spread winning Jerry one thousand dollars, Kramer immediately and compulsively presses Jerry to make more bets. "The Pony Remark" and "The Subway" also show Kramer's compulsiveness as it relates to gambling on just about anything.
A struggling (and terrible) actor, Kramer's first gig was a one-line part in a Woody Allen movie in "The Alternate Side" (his line, "These pretzels are making me thirsty", becomes the show's first catchphrase). Although he is fired before completing his scene, he says he "caught the bug" because of it, and briefly moves to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood. While there, he accosts Fred Savage, appears in a minor role on Murphy Brown, and is a suspect in a string of serial killings ("The Keys", "The Trip"). After returning to New York, Kramer auditions for the role of "Kramer" in the pilot of a new sitcom called Jerry, using his stage name of Martin Van Nostrand ("The Pilot"). Unfortunately, he was unable to complete the audition due to an intestinal problem and didn't get the part. Kramer later works as a stand-in on a soap opera with his friend Mickey Abbott in "The Stand In" and various other low-paying or non-paying theater projects, such as acting out illnesses at a medical school in "The Burning".
Kramer's financial status seems to be contradicted across episodes. For example, in one episode George asks Kramer if he can break a twenty-dollar bill, to which he replies, "I only have hundreds" ("The Mango"). However, in another episode, in which he explains to Jerry that wallets are a nuisance and that he should use a money clip, Kramer advises Jerry to "keep the big bills on the outside" and shows Jerry his own money clip as an example. Jerry quickly notes that the "big bill" on the outside is "a five" ("The Reverse Peephole"). When Kramer decides to pay off Jerry (for all the food that he took from Jerry in a week) which was $50 he says, "I don't have that kind of cash." He ends up selling his bicycle to Newman to settle Jerry. In "The Calzone", Kramer claims that he only carries change. It could be that Kramer's money is in a trust or other long term investment, which pays him a regular stipend sufficient to cover his monthly expenses but which makes it difficult to obtain additional cash when unexpected, short-term needs arise.
Kramer is also paid by J. Peterman a small, one-time royalty of $750, in the form of a check, for "the whole lot" (all of Kramer's life stories). After being told by Peterman to "name your price, man", Kramer ponders the question for a moment before asking for $1500. Peterman replies, "I'll give you half that." Kramer quickly agrees (at which point Peterman writes out and signs the $750 check).
Inventions, entrepreneurship, and lawsuits
Kramer shows an entrepreneurial bent with "Kramerica Industries," for which he devises plans for a pizza place where customers make their own pie ("Male Unbonding"), a bladder system for tankers that will "put an end to maritime oil spills" ("The Voice"), and a product that will put ketchup and mustard in the same bottle.
In "The Friar's Club", he creates a concept restaurant that only serves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which he calls P.B. & Js. While it is unclear if Kramer ever pursued the concept further, similar restaurants have since successfully opened in various locations including New York City and Louisville, Kentucky.
He also comes up with the idea of a beach-scented cologne in "The Pez Dispenser", but a marketing executive for Calvin Klein tells him the idea is ridiculous. However, in "The Pick", it is revealed that Klein has produced a cologne called Ocean based on the same idea, leading Kramer to declare, "I could have been a millionaire! I could have been a fragrance millionaire!" When Kramer confronts him about this, his interaction with Calvin Klein lands him a photo shoot in connection with the cologne as an underwear model.
In "The Doorman", Kramer and Frank Costanza co-develop a prototype for a bra for men called the "bro" or the "manssiere". It's mentioned again in "The Fusilli Jerry" when Frank believes that Kramer used "the move" - stopping short by quickly applying the brakes of a car in order to get a quick feel of a woman in the passenger seat. In "The Understudy" Frank tries to do "the move" on an old flame from his days as a traveling salesman in Korea that fails to rekindle their relationship.
In "The Muffin Tops", Kramer cries foul after failing to receive due credit for J. Peterman's book success which is based on Kramer's misadventures. He then confronts Peterman during a book signing and is kicked out of the event. Kramer then declares himself "The Real Peterman" and initiates The Real Peterman Reality Bus Tour (even though according to Jerry, "the last thing [he's] qualifed to give a tour on is reality"), charging customers $37.50 for a tour of his life. On the matter of this tour, Jerry commented that it is "basically $37.50 for a 3 Musketeers."
He participates in lawsuits against various people and companies and considers himself "very litigious". He is always represented in these lawsuits by Jackie Chiles, a parody of Johnnie Cochran. In "The Maestro," he settles one such suit (though receiving no monetary compensation) against a coffee company whose beverages are too hot (a reference to the McDonald's coffee case). In "The Abstinence," Kramer sues a tobacco company for the damage its products cause to his appearance, and in "The Caddy," he sues Sue Ellen Mischke for causing a traffic accident that ruins his chances of becoming a professional golfer.
Coffee table book about coffee tables
A storyline running throughout the fifth season is the development of one of Kramer's few successful ideas. Kramer first thinks of the book in "The Cigar Store Indian", although he later claims that he first had the idea when skiing. Throughout the season, his quest to get the book published becomes a running gag. Although Elaine is shown as disliking the idea, Mr. Lippman, her boss, likes it, which surprises her. Pendant Publishing (where Elaine and Kramer's then-girlfriend work) decides to publish it in "The Fire".
In "The Opposite", Kramer starts his "book tour" with an appearance on Regis and Kathie Lee. By accidentally spitting his coffee over Kathie Lee Gifford ("All over my Kathie Lee Casuals!"), his book tour immediately goes down in flames. Also in the episode, as a result of a bizarre chain of events, Elaine inadvertently causes the end of Pendant Publishing and therefore the end of Kramer's book. Nevertheless, the book is mentioned later in the episode "The Wizard" where it is revealed that the book is being made into a movie and the money Kramer makes allows him to briefly retire to Florida and run for president of the condo board at Del Boca Vista, Phase 3.
The book itself is full of pictures of celebrities' coffee tables, and even had a pair of foldable wooden legs so that it could itself be turned into a coffee table. He also says that he has plans for a coaster to be built into the cover.
Kramer's other inventions and ideas
- A pizzeria where you make your own pizza pie. ("Male-Unbonding") It falters because of a dispute between Kramer and Poppie over whether cucumbers can be pizza toppings ("The Couch").
- Installing a garbage disposal as the drain in his shower, so that he can prepare vegetables while showering ("The Apology").
- Redoing his entire apartment in imitation wood wallpaper - "It's wood, Jerry." ("The Junior Mint").
- Redecorating his apartment with the set of The Merv Griffin Show ("The Merv Griffin Show").
- Adding a screen door outside his apartment front door ("The Serenity Now").
- Using the homeless to pull rickshaws in New York City ("The Bookstore").
- Reversing the peephole in his apartment front door so he can see inside to see if someone is waiting to "jack" him "with a sock full of pennies", something that happens to another character at the end of the episode ("The Reverse Peephole").
- Taking half of Jerry's food and inserting I.O.U.'s in a nearby jar ("The Seven").
- Buying his own chicken to obtain "cage-free, farm fresh" eggs because he doesn't like "sweatshop eggs". He later discovers that the chicken is really a rooster and trains him to become a cock fighter ("The Little Jerry").
- Saving his blood in a refrigerator ("The Blood") after his blood bank raised rates, and later using the blood to fill Jerry's radiator when his car overheated.
- Joining Newman who re-attempts an original (and refined) idea by Kramer, using a mail truck to take cans to a Michigan recycling plant, where the bottle deposit return is worth 10¢, as opposed to New York's 5¢ ("The Bottle Deposit").
- Getting rid of his refrigerator so that he will only eat fresh food ("The Soup").
- Placing oil in a giant rubber bladder to prevent oil spills. However, during the test of the giant ball of oil at Play Now, it falls on the unsuspecting head of Jerry's girlfriend, after which he complacently remarks, "Well, that didn't work." He then has the idea to put ketchup and mustard in the same bottle. ("The Voice")
- A small statue of Jerry made of fusilli pasta (because he's silly), a macaroni statue of Bette Midler (Macaroni Midler), and a ravioli statue of George (presumably "ravioli George"). All pastas "capture the essence" of their respective personae. ("The Fusilli Jerry", "The Understudy", seen in the background of his apartment in various preceding episodes).
- A cologne that smells of the beach, an idea eventually stolen by Calvin Klein. ("The Pez Dispenser" and "The Pick")
- Blacking out the divider stripes on two of the lanes in a four-lane highway to make it more "luxurious." ("The Pothole")
- A brassiere for men. ("The Doorman", later mentioned in "The Fusilli Jerry") Kramer and Frank Costanza dream this up as a business partnership. It never happens because they strongly disagree over the name for this product: Kramer wants to call it the "Bro", but Mr. Costanza considers it "too ethnic" wants to call it the "Manssiere" instead.
- A necktie dispenser on the tie that replaces the tie if it becomes dirty during wear. ("The Stock Tip")
- Vowing to only wear clothes which were fresh out of the dryer. He ends up baking the clothes in the oven, having run out of quarters for the machine. ("The Calzone")
- Adding wooden levels to his apartment to create space and eliminate furniture "like ancient Egypt". Seen in both ("The Pony Remark") and in the pilot which Jerry and George create for NBC.
- A restaurant that serves only peanut-butter and jelly, called PB and J's. ("The Friars Club")
- A book called "Astonishing Tales of the Sea." (Kramer calls it "my book", but it is unclear from the context if Kramer has actually written the book, or if it is just a book he owns.) ("The Andrea Doria")
Kramer's physical eccentricities are a frequent source of humor. His entrance is a recurring gag. He frequently 'slides' into Jerry's apartment, often resulting in applause, as in "The Virgin". In "The Revenge" Kramer clumsily carries a dry sack of cement powder to the washing machine. In "The Foundation", he takes on a group of kids at a karate school, and in "The Van Buren Boys", after giving his stories to Elaine to write, he slips up on the golf balls and lands on the floor. It is interesting to note that many of his mannerisms resemble those of Danny Kaye's character in "White Christmas" though it has never been mentioned as an inspiration for Richards's characterization of Kramer.
Like the other three characters, Kramer has pseudonyms he uses in various schemes; H.E. Pennypacker, Dr. Martin Van Nostrand, and Professor Peter Van Nostrand are the most popular.
Under the name H.E. Pennypacker in "The Puerto Rican Day", Kramer poses as a prospective buyer interested in an elegant apartment in order to use its bathroom. Kramer also appears as Pennypacker to help Elaine get revenge on a Mayan clothing store, "Putumayo", by repricing all the merchandise in the store with a pricing gun in "The Millennium", though due a mishap with the pricing gun, Pennypacker was forced to instead remove the desiccants from clothes in the store in order to render them "noticeably musty in five years". In this latter capacity, he claims Pennypacker is "a wealthy American industrialist."
As Dr. Martin Van Nostrand, Kramer tries to get hold of Elaine's medical chart to erase the negative comments her doctor has made in "The Package". He also uses the Van Nostrand alias in the episode "The Slicer", posing as a "Juilliard-trained dermatologist" for a cancer screening at George's company, Kruger Industrial Smoothing. Mr. Kruger later recognizes him as Dr. Van Nostrand in "The Strike", but doesn't notice when Kramer says he has to work a double shift at H&H Bagels. Kramer uses the name Martin Van Nostrand (without the "doctor" prefix) while auditioning for the role of himself on the show Jerry in "The Pilot, Part 1". Kramer poses as Professor Peter Van Nostrand in "The Nose Job" in order to retrieve a favorite jacket from another man's apartment; Kramer's jacket, to which he attributes at least some of his amorous success, is a minor plot point in other episodes until, in "The Cheever Letters", he trades it to a Cuban embassy official for several boxes of authentic Cuban cigars.
Kramer is also referred to as "Assman" in reference to the license plate the state of New York accidentally gave him in "The Fusilli Jerry". He is also variously called "the K-Man" ("The Barber", "The Bizarro Jerry", "The Busboy", "The Note", "The Hamptons", "The Scofflaw" and "The Soup Nazi").
A derogatory designation for Kramer has been "hipster doofus", a moniker assigned to him by a woman in a wheelchair he once dated in the episode "The Handicap Spot", and occasionally directed at him by Elaine, as in "The Glasses". The nickname was first used in The Atlantic Monthly review of Seinfeld.
In popular culture
The band Kramer's Place made reference to the character Kramer.
- ^ As stated in "The Alternate Side", and according to, Jerry lives at 129 West 81st Street. In "The Keys", "5B" is seen on Kramer's door (about 10 minutes from the start).
- "The Glasses". Seinfeld. Season 5. Episode 3.
- David Aaronovitch (September 8, 1996). "Why American sitcoms are the best". The Independent. Retrieved November 10, 2009.
- Goddard, Peter (September 14, 1997). "The K-K-K- Kramer Effect". Toronto Star. p. F1.
- "Doctor Says Voice on TV Caused Seizures". New York Times. July 11, 1991. Retrieved Jul 27, 2008.
- "Diseases & Ailments – Mary Hart Syndrome". TV Acres. Retrieved Jun 16, 2009.
- "Seinfeld, Season 3 – DVD extras". Amazon.com. Retrieved Jun 5, 2009.
- "Welcome to Peanut Butter & Co". Ilovepeanutbutter.com. Retrieved 2014-05-10.
- "It's (Not Yet) Peanut Butter Jelly Time at The PBJ Shop [Food & Dining". Louisville.com. 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2014-05-10.
- "The Handicap Spot". StanTheCaddy.com. Retrieved Jun 16, 2009.
[I]n this episode, Kramer was referred to as a "hipster doofus," which is an inside joke Larry David wrote in response to a review of the series by Francis Davis that appeared in the December 1992 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. In the review, Davis describes one of the characters as "Jerry's across-the-hall neighbor, a hipster doofus known simply as Kramer."
- TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 191. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
- Tucker, Ken (January 10, 1992). "Seinfeld (1990–1998)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 6, 2009.
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