'Seinfeld' star reveals the wild J. Peterman monologue the show cut
On a series filled with strange characters, no one on Seinfeld was quite like J. Peterman (John O'Hurley).
Elaine's (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) boss would speak in long, evocative passages, and it turns out that many of his most insane moments ended up on the cutting room floor. O'Hurley says he remembers them all, and why wouldn't he? The man is dedicated to his craft.
After Seinfeld finished, he perpetrated one of TV history's most meta moments ever when in 2001 he bought a sizable stake in the real J. Peterman Company and co-owns it with John Peterman, the man he played on television for years. The pair recently shot a pilot for The Travel Channel called Uncommon Goods, which he describes as a show about "the two of us looking for unusual things around the world."
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, O'Hurley shares his favorite abandoned monologue and reveals why he initially said "no" to Seinfeld.
The writers seemed to have a lot of fun writing for Peterman. Why do you think that was?
The character had this tremendous arc to it. He went from this self-absorbed man of style to this raving corporate lunatic. Which made him even more fun. Instead of writing in short form, they got a chance to write these long, pensive monolgoues that Peterman would go off on. Sadly, most of them were cut from the show. The show was always ten minutes too long and the easiest thing to do is say, "Well, we just have to cut the Peterman monologue." The funny thing is, I still do the monologues and I remember every one of them. They are hysterically funny.
Which is your favorite of the cut?
I'll tell it to you exactly. It was the "Friar's Club" episode. Rob Schneider was playing my hard of hearing assistant. And instead of trying to tell them his next assignment, I just said, "Oh forget about. Elaine, you just do it." She was getting pissed off because of was putting everything onto her that was supposed to be his. I thought they were having a little Tête-à-tête office time. And so I decided I was going to play Cupid and try to encourage it. I bought them two tickets to the Karamazov Bros. Circus and I told her that she and Bob could knock off a little early and get ready. This is the monologue that was cut:
Elaine, I too am no stranger to love on the clock. As a youngster, my father apprenticed me to a honey factory in Belize. The chief bee keeper was this horrible hag of a woman with gnarled teeth and a giant wart that she called a nose. Wooh! She was not attractive, even by backwoods standards. But love is truly blind, Elaine, and as the days went on, working closer and closer together, that sweet smell of honey in the air, I knew I had to have that horrible creature. And I did. So you and Bob have a good time tonight.
What was the casting process like for Seinfeld?
I was on my own series at the time, a sitcom called A Whole New Ballgame. It was Richard Kind and Corbin Bernsen and Stephen Tobolowsky, and we had just been canceled by ABC. I was out having drinks with my manager that night, crying in my beer, and during that time Larry David's office had called my manager. Originally I said no. I didn't want to go guest star in somebody else's show after having a really good sitcom. But my manager never canceled the audition.
What do you think landed you the role?
They gave me a copy of the catalogue. They said, "We just want him to sound the way the catalogue is written." It was long adventure story about an Oxford button down. I said,"It sounds a little bit like a 40s radio drama combined with a little bit of a bad Charles Kuralt. That's where the bombastic voice and the self important, "Mr. MaGoo, legend in his own mind" character kind of started. In the first episode, they hadn't even finished writing the script when we did the table read. By the time they finished it, Elaine was working for me and I had a job. Everyone turned to me and said "looks like you have a job now."
Have you been able to pinpoint what made Seinfeld so different from other sitcoms?
The first time I read the script, I sat down at the table read and go "This is the No. 1 show on television? It's not even funny." And it doesn't read funny. It performs funny. That was the difference and that was what made the show so different.
What is the ultimate Peterman memory for you?
I loved being at the show because my office was my dressing room. I never went to my dressing room. I had one, I just never went to it. The office for me was the most joyful place to be. I had all of my personal stuff on my desk there. I knew every piece of that office and it was just so comfortable for me to be there.
What are some of your favorite memories from the show?
My office set was next to Jerry's apartment. I was privy to the stuff that was going on. I would watch Michael Richards prepare his physical moment when he'd walk into Jerry's apartment. Those skid stops he did were never the same. You'd have to go back to Buster Keaton to find that physicality in a comedic actor. It was brilliant. I used to sit in my chair and I would watch him. I'm watching greatness. Jerry would wander around, almost like he was a tourist. A bowl of cereal in one hand. A pair of jeans and an Oxford button down and sneakers. Cereal, constantly during the day. He was always standing along the back and taking it all in.
More on The Hollywood Reporter:
'True Detective' discussion: Why did the Season 2 premiere miss with critics?
'St. Elmo's Fire' cast then and now
Amy Schumer fires back at critics: "I am not racist"