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Newman
First appearance The Revenge (voice only) (1991) The Suicide (on-screen appearance) (1992)
Last appearance The Finale Part II (1998)
Cause/reason End of Show
Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David
Portrayed by Wayne Knight
Information
Aliases White Whale
Norman
The Cleaner
Gender Male
Occupation Mailman

Newman is a recurring character on the television show Seinfeld, played by Wayne Knight from 1991 until the show's finale in 1998.

Contents

Personality

"People frequently ask me 'Why did Jerry hate Newman?' [...] Frankly, he was the only one to express [his dislike for Newman]; nobody really liked Newman"

Newman was created as a counterpart to the Jerry character, though the reason for their animosity is never revealed. Seinfeld once described Newman as Lex Luthor to his Superman.[1] Knight has described him as "pure evil".[2]

Newman's role is primarily as a villain/enemy to Jerry and a collaborator in the elaborate and bizarre schemes of Kramer. He is also the closest thing the show has to a main antagonist. Often described as Jerry's "sworn enemy" ("The Andrea Doria"), his character is cunning and occasionally acts like a weasel. He speaks often in a humorously sinister tone (mainly to Jerry). Jerry refers to Newman as "pure evil" on more than one occasion. The two generally greet each other this way, Jerry in a distrustful, baleful voice, Newman in a falsely jovial one:

Newman: "Hello, Jerry."
Jerry: "Hello, Newman."

Jerry's mother also greets Newman in the same way.

The origin of the Seinfeld/Newman feud is never revealed. Newman's dislike of Jerry appears to stem from anger at Jerry's status as a relatively famous comedian. Newman considers Jerry to be undeserving of his fame, referring to Jerry's audience as a "half soused nightclub rabble". Newman's own talents as a poet and wordsmith are not inconsiderable, yet similar recognition to Jerry has so far eluded Newman.

When asked about why the character Jerry hates Newman, Jerry Seinfeld explained it in the Season 3 DVD inside look of the show:

He was the first person on the show, my own show, who was coming on to sabotage me in some way. And so why would I not hate him forever for that?

Newman's character is a frequent source of annoyance to Jerry, such as in attracting fleas to the apartment ("The Doodle"), and generally making Jerry's life more difficult. However, the depth of their enmity seems to vary between episodes—or even within the same episode ("The Soul Mate")—and Jerry sometimes seems to consider him merely an annoying neighbor, like Kramer, rather than an outright enemy. At times they even work together on some scheme, though with some reluctance on Jerry's part (and usually with mutual friend Kramer as a buffer). In the final scene of "The Soup Nazi", their interaction is such that they could be taken for friends (although this is clearly based more on their shared love of the Soup Nazi's soup than on anything else). In "The Old Man", Jerry casually mentions "a couple of friends", meaning Kramer and Newman—thus calling Newman a "friend". In "The Blood", Newman even does a considerable favor for Jerry, seemingly without ulterior motive (though the nature of the favor actually makes it quite distressing to Jerry). In any event, Newman often seems quite amused at how effectively he irritates Jerry (which of course only irritates Jerry all the more), although any battle of wits between them rarely leaves Newman the victor.

Newman is a good friend of Kramer's, and the pair are forever participating in various get-rich-quick schemes. In "The Bookstore", Newman and Kramer decide to use a rickshaw to transport people from place to place. In "The Old Man", Newman and Kramer try to find valuable records to sell for cash. "The Bottle Deposit" features the most creative scheme between Kramer and Newman to bring many deposit bottles (5 cents in New York) in a mail truck all the way to Michigan (10 cents each). Even Newman's friendship with Kramer, however, can be overcome by Newman's obsession to win in any situation; in "The Label Maker", he and Kramer play a game of Risk and when Kramer leaves the gameboard in Jerry's apartment for safekeeping, Newman goes so far as to sneak into Jerry's apartment via the fire escape with intent to rearrange the pieces' layout in his favor, although he is detected and flees before he actually changes anything.

As Kramer puts it in the episode "The Reverse Peephole", Newman can climb trees "like a ring-tailed lemur," a skill he claims to have learned in the Pacific Northwest. Despite his girth, Newman is a "fantastic" tennis player and a nimble runner. He is seen running athletically in several episodes.

Newman alternately takes his job as a mailman very seriously (as long as it is not raining, a violation of the postal worker's creed), or is depicted as lazy and shiftless (in one episode, he has hidden bags of mail in Jerry's basement storage locker rather than delivering it). He also impulsively protests the idea of any mail being considered "junk". He is sometimes known to use his job for corrupt purposes, such as purposely withholding mail (often utility bills or the like) for blackmail revenge, or using the Union to get himself out of jail. In "The Label Maker", Jerry also agreed with George that Newman is "merry", which appeared to be a compliment of sorts.

Newman's angry rants directed against Jerry and, at times, the United States Postal Service in various episodes tend to be bombastic and verbose, displaying an impressive command of language. One of his most well known speeches takes place in "The Finale", after Jerry refuses to take him to Paris:

"All right! But hear me and hear me well! The day will come, oh yes, mark my words, Seinfeld! Your day of reckoning is coming, when an evil wind will blow through your little playworld and wipe that smug smile off your face! And I'll be there in all my glory, watching, watching as it all comes crumbling down!"

Jerry Seinfeld has been quoted as saying that he almost feels sorry for Wayne Knight, as his portrayal of Newman has typecast him to the point that "everywhere he goes, he must be greeted with 'Hello, Newman.'" In fact, during the Seinfeld DVD's special features, Knight recounts an occasion when he was having a particularly bad day, where after a series of unfortunate events a fan happened to yell "Hello, Newman." This resulted in Knight releasing his long day's built-up anger on the unsuspecting fan.

For the other sides of Newman, there's a couple of episodes where he's not just there to be Jerry's enemy and Kramer's friend. He collaborated with George in "The Calzone" in an attempt to find another way to get a calzone to Steinbrenner. He fell in love with Elaine in a few episodes but this ends in "The Reverse Peephole", in which Elaine tries to get the fur back for Joe Mayo.

He has a few friends from the post office and girlfriends in a couple of episodes. One moment in "The Bottle Deposit", after he was dumped from his mail truck, he goes to a farmer's house to have pie with his daughter, but is kicked out and his daughter is seen waving goodbye to "Norman". Most prominently in nearly every episode he's been in, he loves food. So much so, he even goes so far as to try and eat Kramer in "The Butter Shave".

United States Postal Service

Newman is an employee of the United States Postal Service, which is portrayed in the series as a powerful and nefarious, yet bureaucratic and inept organization. When they're arrested in "The Engagement", Newman assures Kramer and Elaine that they will not be prosecuted: "Don't worry about a thing. In 20 minutes, that place'll be swarming with mailmen. We'll be back on the street by lunch."

In "The Junk Mail", Kramer realizes the Postal Service has become obsolete and starts an anti-mail campaign; he's soon abducted by Post Office security men. Newman attempted earlier to dissuade Kramer, pleading, "You don't know the half of what goes on here!" At the end of the episode, for his efforts to save Kramer, Newman is seen being escorted by Postal Service employees with a bucket on his head, pleading for Kramer to "tell the world my story."

In "The Package", Newman's business card is shown; it reads "NEWMAN". In "The Junk Mail", he's referred to only as "Postal Employee Newman".

Newman claimed that he once worked the same postal route as murderer David Berkowitz ("Son of Sam") and "we once double-dated". When asked what it was like, Newman commented the route had "a lot of dogs," but joked that they only told him "to lay off the snacks." Newman retains Berkowitz's mailbag as a valuable collector's item. When the police come to arrest him in "The Engagement," his first words to them are, "What took you so long?", the same words Berkowitz used when arrested.

Newman makes several claims about the Postal Service, including:

  • ZIP codes are meaningless
  • No mail carrier has successfully delivered more than 50% of their mail (comparing such a feat to a three-minute mile) ("The Andrea Doria").
  • Photos in the mail with a "Do Not Bend" stamp can be creased, crumpled and crammed. ("The Andrea Doria").
  • "When you control the mail, you control information." ("The Lip Reader").
  • Post office workers go on killing sprees because the mail never stops ("The more you get out, the more you get in"). Some may infer that he is referencing David Berkowitz, although his name is not mentioned in this scene.
  • Nobody really needs mail (said to Kramer when he tries to cancel his mail in "The Junk Mail").

Development

Series co-creator Larry David conceived the character when writing the script for season two's "The Revenge". Newman was envisioned as Kramer's African-American suicidal friend. He was set to appear in one scene, in which he explained that he jumped from the apartment building, but an awning had broken his fall. Tim Russ, who would go on to star in Star Trek: Voyager, auditioned for the role, as did William Thomas, Jr., known for his appearance on The Cosby Show, who was cast in the part.[3][4] However, between the first and the second draft, the plot was significantly reduced; the scene in which the character appeared was cut, and Newman's role in the episode was cut down to a brief dialogue with Kramer, with Newman off-screen.[4] David recorded the lines himself,[3][4] though he was not credited.[5]

While conceiving a plotline for the third season episode "The Suicide", the writing staff decided to create a friend for Kramer.[2] Though they never had the intention of having the Newman character return on the show,[6] they felt it was easy to use him again, as he had already been introduced.[2] Newman was initially envisioned as the son of the landlord who owned Jerry and Kramer's building,[1][7] making him able to snitch about the building's inhabitants without being punished for it.[1] However, in between drafts the writing staff decided to make Newman an inhabitant of the building and more of a nemesis to Jerry.[2]

Among the actors who auditioned for the part were Armin Shimerman, Dan Schneider and Wayne Knight.[1][8] Knight remarked that he was very excited to audition, as he was already a fan of the show.[2] David immediately thought Knight was "terrific" for the part,[2] and was also amused by Knight's hefty appearance as opposed to Kramer's slim figure.[7] Though Seinfeld felt introducing a friend of Kramer might ruin the character's mystique, Knight's performance convinced him otherwise.[2] The part was initially a one-time guest-appearance, but Seinfeld and David were impressed with Knight and felt Newman was a character they could further exploit; as Richards later explained "our show was driven by characters and there was no way they were going to let Wayne Knight go".[2] Newman would continue throughout all the show's nine seasons. To establish better continuity, Knight re-recorded Newman's lines in "The Revenge" for the syndicated version of the episode.[4][3] Both Knight's and David's dialogue were included on the Seinfeld: Volume 1 DVD boxset.[4][9]

When it was announced in 1998 that the show would end, Knight proclaimed "I'm gonna burn all of Newman 's clothes and those funky black shoes I've been wearing all these years. He dresses like Jack Ruby. Nobody's done more with a muted plaid than I have".[10] Prior to the finale, The Advertiser asked Knight if he would be interested in a spin-off focussing on Newman, to which he replied "I think he could show up on Law & Order as a snitch, but as for a weekly dose of Newman, well, I think if occasionally you're hit in the head with a ball-pen hammer, you might get slightly dazed. But if you were getting hit week after week, you might get pissed off."[11]

Reception and popularity

In a Sacramento Bee interview Knight explained that he was once pulled over by a police officer that merely stopped him to say "Hello, Newman".[12]Newman was ranked #1 on the list of ten most annoying neighbors.

Appearances

Season 2
The Revenge (played by Larry David)

Season 3
The Suicide
The Boyfriend
The Parking Space
The Keys

Season 4
The Pitch
The Ticket
The Pick
The Old Man
The Pilot

Season 5
The Sniffing Accountant
The Lip Reader
The Non-Fat Yogurt
The Barber
The Marine Biologist
The Raincoats

Season 6
The Big Salad
The Switch
The Label Maker
The Scofflaw
The Doodle
The Diplomat's Club

Season 7
The Engagement
The Soup Nazi
The Pool Guy
The Seven
The Shower Head
The Calzone
The Bottle Deposit

Season 8
The Soul Mate
The Package
The Chicken Roaster
The Andrea Doria
The Pothole
The Millennium
The Muffin Tops

Season 9
The Butter Shave
The Blood
The Junk Mail
The Merv Griffin Show
The Betrayal
The Reverse Peephole
The Cartoon
The Bookstore
The Finale

References

  1. ^ a b c d Seinfeld Season 3: Notes about Nothing - "The Suicide". [DVD]. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. November 3, 2004. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h David, Larry; Richards, Michael; Knight, Wayne; Seinfeld, Jerry. (November 3, 2004). Seinfeld Season 3: Inside Look - "The Suicide". [DVD]. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 
  3. ^ a b c Louis-Dreyfus, Julia; Richards, Michael; Alexander, Jason. (November 3, 2004). Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Audio Commentary - "The Revenge". [DVD]. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Notes about Nothing - "The Revenge". [DVD]. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. November 3, 2004. 
  5. ^ Group, Gale; Kondek, Joshua; Milne, Ira Mark; Jones, Angela Yvonne (1999). Contemporary theatre, film, and television. 23. Gale Research Company. p. 134. ISBN 9780787631598. 
  6. ^ Charles, Larry. (November 3, 2004). Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Audio Commentary for "The Heart Attack". [DVD]. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 
  7. ^ a b Esterly, Glenn (November 2, 1995). "That Lout on 'Seinfeld' Has a Pilot Underway, and He's Likable in it". The Philadelphia Inquirer: p. F10. 
  8. ^ Keller, Joel (August 16, 2006). "Seinfeld: The Suicide". TV Squad. http://www.tvsquad.com/2006/08/16/seinfeld-the-suicide/. Retrieved December 16, 2009. 
  9. ^ Werts, Diane (November 23, 2004). "Master of its Domain Sure to be at The Top of Every Fan's Festivus Gift List, The Seinfeld DVD Sets The Standard for TV Compilations.". South Florida Sun-Sentinel: p. 1E. 
  10. ^ Eler, Lynn (May 11, 1998). "Second Bananas say farewell to the rest of the Seinfeld gang". The Record: p. B8. 
  11. ^ Williams, Scott (April 22, 1998). "Goodbye, Newman!". The Advertiser: p. 56. 
  12. ^ Wisehart, Bob (July 26, 1993). "Busy Days for Actor Knight". Sacramento Bee: p. B6. 

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