Where would the world be without the timeless wisdom of George Costanza? Surely it’d be a very dark place. For its nine-season run on NBC Thursday nights, Seinfeld graced us with one of the most quotable, and arguably most relatable characters in television history. Jason Alexander might not have won an Emmy for his portrayal of the bald pariah, but he definitely won a place in all of our callous hearts.
George, who was actually based largely on showrunner Larry David, is known for constantly getting himself into equally hilarious yet humiliating situations. For the many faux pas they generate, George’s constant mishaps are also conduits for incredible wisdom. He is the most pathetic yet most inspirational version of ourselves all at once. Here are some of George’s most iconic quotes, to be preserved for all of eternity, ranked.
7 “I’m Disturbed, I’m Depressed, I’m Inadequate – I’ve Got It All!”
Self-deprecation has always suited George remarkably well. What’s so ironic about this quote, though, is that “dark, disturbed and depressed” is exactly what his romantic interest was looking for – and she happened to find it in Jerry. When the group had gone out to dinner, Jerry was simply “too funny,” so George ordered him to boot the humor and be a bit darker. Naturally, the plan backfired, as all great Costanza plans do, and the woman falls in love with Jerry. It’s hilarious to see George saying these words in a total panic, as a last attempt to get the woman to take interest in him. The real kicker is that we can definitely see George saying this in a million other contexts.
6 “The Sea Was Angry That Day, My Friends. Like An Old Man Trying To Send Back Soup In A Deli.”
Ah, the great George Hemingway Costanza, latex salesman to some, world-renowned marine biologist to others. In this oft-quoted episode, George pretends to be a scientist of the sea in order to impress an old crush. Of course, things go awry when they encounter a beached whale that must be saved. This quote comes from George’s iconic retelling of the story, in which, motivated by love, he rushed out to sea, was pushed by a wave on top of the whale, and pulled out whatever was “obstructing its blowhole.” What makes this quote so iconic is George’s brilliant, hilarious storytelling capacity, along with the expert physical comedy that accompanies it when he pulls the “object of obstruction” from his jacket. The monologue was added on last minute and shot in only one take, making it all the more irreverent.
5 “Please, A Little Respect, For I Am Costanza, Lord Of The Idiots”
In this episode from season two, George pulls off a clever social experiment by wearing a wedding ring around to see what effect it will have on women. He ends up missing out on not only a number of romantic propositions, but also curbside seats to every sporting event at Madison Square Garden. As always, Alexander’s delivery of this line is what makes it so perfect – he’s not bombastic or melodramatic, but rather seems to totally have accepted himself and his lordly idiocy. What makes the scenario even funnier is that Jerry and George had been arguing over who’s the bigger idiot for the rest of the episode. This line certainly informs how we’ll be seeing George for the rest of the show.
4 “You Should’ve Seen The Look On Her Face. It was The Same Look My Father Gave Me When I Told Him I Wanted to Be A Ventriloquist.”
Before national college scandals, there was George Costanza I.Q. test fraud. In “The Cafe,” George persuades Elaine to take the test for him in order to impress an intellectual woman – only, Elaine doesn’t do so well. Distracted by the environment of the Dream Cafe, she scores a whopping 85. George is extremely surly, to say the least. This hilarious quote explains so many aspects of his character, when it comes to his failed dating life, his relationship with his parents, and his whimsical aspirations.
3 “You’re Giving Me The ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’ Routine? I Invented ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me.'”
Yet again, this scene is priceless and proves Jason Alexander’s monumental acting skills – George Costanza will not be dumped on the wrong terms. When a woman tries to pull this famous line on him, George instantly admonishes her without so much as batting an eye. Someone like George takes pride in being broken up with, so much so that he forces the woman to tell him that it is, in fact, him who is the problem. The quote is so brilliant because it shows just how petty and arrogant George can be despite his identification as loser-adjacent.
2 “Was That Wrong? Should I Not Have Done That?”
When George lands a job at Pendant Publishing, where Elaine also works, one of his first moves is to have sex with the cleaning lady on top of his desk. After an unfortunate series of events revolving around a tainted cashmere sweater, the cleaning lady ultimately comes clean to George’s boss, Mr. Lippman, who fires him. George hilariously tries to plead ignorance on the matter, appearing dumbfounded after hearing Lippman’s decision. “If anyone had said anything to me that that sort of thing was frowned upon…” Jason Alexander’s perfect timing and facial expressions make this scene so legendary – he truly appears as if he had just been told the sky is orange. Before we remember it’s all an act, we almost want to side with George.
1 “It’s Not A Lie If You Believe It.”
The words for George’s tombstone. Not only is this saying so quintessentially Costanza; it is also such profound wisdom that not even Freud or Plato could compete. Of course, these words are uttered not to psychoanalyze humankind, but to help Jerry pass a lie detector test that he doesn’t watch a soap opera. Such an expert at casually lying, Jerry turns to George for help. George initially says, “I can’t help you. It’s like saying to Pavarotti, ‘Teach me to sing like you.” Not everyone can lie like George Costanza. That’s part of why we love him so much.