JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – From the puffy shirt to Festivus, “Seinfeld,” the show about nothing, is filled with iconic TV moments.
One of those is the “No soup for you!” line delivered by Larry Thomas, who played the hilariously stern, stone-faced character known as the “Soup Nazi.”
While you’ve likely heard the phrase or seen the episode (multiple times), what you might not have known was that although the now-famous line was scripted, Thomas ad-libbed something along the same lines the night before the audition.
“A friend of mine who’s a stand-up comedian called me and he said, ’Improvise something for me right now.’ And I had already picked up the accent from Omar Sharif from ’Lawrence of Arabia,’ so I improvised this: I said, ’You, small fry, I don’t like your look. You’re bald. Get to the back of my line or you get no soup.’ And my friend said, ’That no soup thing is really funny,’” Thomas recalled Monday on “The Morning Show.”
“Then I went in the next morning, and, like I said, they had the first three of six final scenes. And I took them out in the alley behind the casting offices to say them out loud, and the third line in or something was ’No soup for you.’ And I went, ’Oh, that’s weird.’”
For a long time, Thomas said that he didn’t want to recite the catchphrase because he thought it was never going to sound the same as it would have in context. But that changed when he was asked to reprise his role for the “Seinfeld” series finale.
“Larry David beelined over to me and he goes, ’You know, it’s funny, you say it the exact same way you said it three years ago,’” Thomas said. “And from that moment on, I’ve said it, I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say, a million times.”
As for working with the cast, Thomas described it as amazing. He said Jason Alexander, who played George Costanza, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who took on the role of Elaine Benes, were two of the “nicest off the bat people I’d ever met.”
“Julia, just about every time I said something that made her laugh, she would stop and laugh, and she would like take my hand and go, ’You’re so funny,’” Thomas said.
He said Jerry Seinfeld was really nice, as well, but was also very busy.
“He was wearing like every hat — star, producer, sometime director,” Thomas explained.
Thomas even revealed that Seinfeld initially wanted him to portray the soup vendor differently when he auditioned.
“Jerry said to me, ’You know man, that was really funny, but I just don’t understand why the character has to be so mean.’ So he goes, ’Can you do it again and make him like a little nicer in places?’ And I did all six scenes, trying to make (him) nicer, and crickets — you could hear crickets. I mean, nobody laughed. So I thought I wasn’t gonna get it,” Thomas said.
“Then I got hired. And when I got to the set, Jerry walked right up to me and he goes, ’You know, man, forget about the direction I gave you in the audition. Just do what you did when you walked in. It was funnier.’ ... For a guy that powerful, you know, that was pretty cool.”
“Seinfeld” premieres Monday at 11:30 p.m. on WJXT’s sister station CW 17. Then, starting Sept. 14, it’s back-to-back shows with the classic lines you love at 11:30 p.m. and midnight.