George Louis Costanza is a fictional character on the United States-based television sitcom Seinfeld (1989–1998), played by Jason Alexander. He has variously been described as a "short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man" (by Elaine Benes), "Lord of the Idiots" (by Costanza himself), and as "the greatest sitcom character of all time".
George is neurotic, self-loathing, and dominated by his parents, Frank and Estelle. He has been best friends with Jerry Seinfeld since their middle school years.
George exhibits a number of negative character traits, among them stinginess, dishonesty, insecurity, and neurosis. Many of these traits form the basis for his involvement in various plots, schemes, and awkward social encounters. Episode plots frequently feature George manufacturing elaborate deceptions at work or in his relationships in order to gain or maintain some small or imagined advantage. George appears in every single episode except for "The Pen" in the third season.
His relationships with women are always unsuccessful. His most disastrous relationship, an engagement to Susan Ross, is one of the few that ends "well" for George; he fears marriage and Susan's unexpected death saves him from the commitment. However, even this comes back to "bite him in the butt" — her parents create a foundation in her honor and endow it with the land, mansions, and money that George might have inherited.
Although occasionally referred to as being dumb by his friends (notably Elaine), a contention George does not really argue with, there is every reason to believe George is quite an intelligent man despite his neurotic behavior. He is considered an expert liar, and is often able to talk his way out of extraordinary situations. His skeptical, almost paranoid nature also makes it extremely difficult for someone to put one over on him. In one episode, it is discovered George has what would appear to be genius-level intelligence but that he can never access it because his mind is always so completely focused on sex. When circumstances allow him to temporarily remove sex from his mind, he is able to reach his true potential.
George is based primarily upon co-creator Larry David (see 5th Season DVD Special Feature "Jason + Larry = George"), and named after Jerry Seinfeld's college classmate Michael Costanza (who appeared in the 3rd Season episode "The Parking Space"). Many of George's predicaments were based on past real-life experiences of David. In "The Revenge", for example, when George quits his job in a fury only to realize his actions were a mistake, he goes back the next day as if nothing happened, mirroring David's actions while working as a writer for Saturday Night Live, when he quit and then returned to his job in the same manner.
Alexander, from his first audition for the part, based the character George on Woody Allen. As the show progressed, Alexander discovered that the character was based on David. As Alexander explains in an interview for the Seinfeld DVD, during an early conversation with David, Alexander questioned a script, saying, "This could never happen to anyone, and even if it did, no human being would react like this." David replied, "What do you mean? This happened to me once, and this is exactly how I reacted!"
George has shown on several occasions that he is extremely afraid of contracting lupus. Costanza shows his distress about it in The Heart Attack when the doctor notifies that there is indeed something wrong with him. He shows his distress once again in The Suicide when a mystic teller tells George not to take his vacation to the Cayman Islands. Since George had not got an answer as to why, he panicked and thought that he would contract lupus. He usually shouts: "Lupus?! Is it lupus?!"
George is half Italian (on his father's side) and presumably Jewish (on his mother's), the son of Frank and Estelle Costanza, who are described as "psychopaths" by Jerry ("The Puffy Shirt"); "loud" and "always fighting" by Helen Seinfeld ("The Raincoats, Part 1"); and "sick" by the father of Susan Ross ("The Rye"). The constant bickering and bizarre behavior of his parents is often cited as a reason for George's adult neurosis and eccentricity: Jerry comments that George "could have been normal" had the Costanzas divorced thirty years earlier ("The Chinese Woman"), and George describes himself as "the result of my parents having stayed together" ("The Shoes"). In "The Suicide", George makes reference to a brother who "once impregnated a woman named Pauline". The brother is referenced again in "The Parking Space" when George explains that no one in his family pays for parking, but the brother is never referenced elsewhere, nor does he make an appearance in the series.
George has two known cousins. One of them is Shelly, who appeared in "The Contest", and his other cousin Rhisa appears in "The Junk Mail", referred to by George as Frank's "brother's daughter", although this uncle does not appear, either; however, it is mentioned at another time that George has an uncle Moe, who "died a young man" ("The Money"). George also had an aunt, "Aunt Baby", who died at the age of 7 of internal problems ("The Money"). When asked by his wife how old Aunt Baby would be today if she had lived, Frank Costanza replied, "she never woulda made it". In "The Doll", it is revealed that Frank Costanza has a cousin, Carlo, in Tuscany. The townspeople in Tuscany refer to Carlo as the "village idiot". As of the first season episode "The Robbery" George had a living grandmother and grandfather whom he had recently visited. These are likely his father's parents as in another episode George asks his mother about her mother, whom he never really knew and had only seen pictures of.
* George attended John F. Kennedy High School and Queens College with Jerry. They played basketball together in high school.
* George's favorite drink is Bosco mixed with milk, as referenced in "The Secret Code".
* George gets out of relationships by telling the girl, "It's not you, it's me." In "The Lip Reader", a girl tries to use it on him, and he tells her that he invented it.
* George, like Jerry, is a fan of the New York Mets, the New York Knicks, and the New York Rangers. Later George becomes a fan of the New York Yankees when he begins working for the team.
George's best-friendship with Jerry is arguably the main relationship in the series. Despite their trademark shallowness, there does appear to be a deep fraternal bond between Jerry and George that only makes itself clearly shown very rarely. At one point George mentions his dislike for telling people he loves them remarking casually to Jerry "I like you, I don't tell you." to which Jerry replies "We can only thank God for that." Likewise, once when Jerry's emotionally cold exterior gets broken and his emotions comes flooding out of him he tells George that he loves him as well, which makes George very uncomfortable.
The extreme closeness of the friendship (despite being entirely platonic as Jerry and George are both heterosexual) is occasionally mistaken for homosexuality. One episode deals with a reporter from a New York University college paper mistaking Jerry and George for a gay couple, and in another episode George dates someone who Kramer insists is merely a "femme Jerry", when George is forced to note to himself that the idea of a female Jerry with whom he can have a close personal relationship and also a sexual relationship would be everything he's ever wanted, George breaks off his relationship with the woman in disgust.
George becomes engaged to Susan Biddle Ross, a wealthy executive at NBC who approved Jerry and George's show-within-the-show sitcom pilot. George and Susan date for a year, during which time the commitment-phobic George is constantly trying to find ways to end their relationship without actually having to initiate the breakup with her. In "The Engagement", he proposes to her in a short-lived bout of midlife crisis, after he and Jerry had made a "pact" to move forward with their lives. When Jerry breaks up with his girlfriend and declares the deal over, George panics and again tries repeatedly to weasel out of his engagement. He gets his wish days before the wedding in "The Invitations", when he inadvertently causes her death by selecting cheap envelopes for their wedding invitations, not knowing they contained toxic glue. When notified of her death at the hospital, George displays a combination of shock, apathy and relief. Susan's parents, never knowing the specifics behind her poisoning but suspecting George was somehow involved, never forgive him for this, and they appoint him to the Board of Directors of the Susan Ross Foundation to keep him trapped under their influence and to ensure that he would never get any of Susan's inheritance.
Unlike Jerry, George is never specifically identified as Jewish - or any other religion. But according to some hints given in the show, it is most likely that he is Catholic. Larry David once claimed in an interview that George is half-Jewish/half-Italian, although that could merely be by nationality. If this is the case, then the obvious conclusion to draw is that Estelle is the Jewish half of the equation, as the name "Costanza" comes from Frank, he hails from Tuscany and all references to the possible Catholicism of the Costanza family are due to aspects of Frank, not Estelle.
* In the episode "The Fatigues," it is learned that Frank, George's father, is a member of the Knights of Columbus, an all-Catholic fraternal organization.
* It is revealed Frank has relatives in Italy, and lived in Italy for part of his early childhood
* In "The Understudy" Jerry tells Elaine that Frank Costanza sold religious articles like statues of Jesus and the holy virgin Mary, which are obviously symbols of the Catholic religion.
* George sometimes refers to "Mother of God", using it as an expression of being stunned (e.g. in "The Rye").
* In the episode "The Gum," George tells Jerry he has to drop off Christmas gifts at his parents' house.
Other allusions to the question of religion:
* In "The Conversion", George converts to Latvian Orthodox so that he can date his girlfriend who will only date within her faith. When George's parents discover his plan to convert, they are furious (Frank thinks that it is the group that "goes around mutilating squirrels").
* In "The Strike", it is revealed that George's father Frank invented the December holiday Festivus to counter the commercialism of Christmas. When George was a child, he was forced to celebrate the holiday, and as a result George hates Festivus. George shows his feelings for the holiday when he refuses to take down Frank in the Feats of Strength (but Frank provokes him into doing it anyway).
* In "The Pilot, Part 1", it is revealed that George does not believe in God except for the "bad things" in life.
George's professional life is unstable. He is unable to remain in any job for any great length of time before making an embarrassing blunder and getting fired. Very often the blunder is lying and trying to cover it up only to have it all fall apart.
Over the course of the series, he works for a real estate transaction services firm (Rick Bahr Properties), Elaine's company (Pendant Publishing), the New York Yankees (his longest running job), a playground equipment company (Play Now), an industrial smoothing company (Kruger Industrial Smoothing), and other places. He is fired from his job at Pendant Publishing for having sex with the cleaning woman on his desk in "The Red Dot" (he professes he is always been attracted to cleaning women).
His original job when the series starts is as a real estate agent; he ends up quitting, only to slip his boss a mickey in "The Revenge". It remains to be seen why George would be able to collect unemployment when he quit his job without any good reason. He always wanted to pretend that he was an architect; he first designs to be one in "The Stakeout", and he claims in "The Race" that he had designed "the new addition to the Guggenheim." In "The Van Buren Boys", he denies his young protégé a scholarship from the Susan Ross Foundation when the young man decides he no longer wants to be an architect, and wants to become a city planner instead. In "The Marine Biologist", Jerry tells a girl George wanted to impress that George is a marine biologist. The plan backfires when George is called upon to save a beached whale with a Titleist golf ball in its blowhole; he saves the whale, but the woman tells him off when he confesses that he is not, in fact, a marine biologist.
During the fourth season of the series, George gains experience as a sitcom writer as he helps Jerry to write the pilot for the fictitious show Jerry. While pitching the concept of a "show about nothing" to NBC executives, George claims to have written an off-off-Broadway play entitled La Cocina, about a Mexican chef named Pepe. George claims Pepe mimed the preparation of tamales, and it was the mime aspect that made the play so funny.
* Dairy Queen employee for one summer, from which he was fired for "cooling his feet in the soft serve machine". (mentioned in "The Millennium")
* Waiter for children at a fat camp (dates unknown; mentioned ("The Busboy"))
* Real estate agent (from the first episode, "The Seinfeld Chronicles", until "The Revenge")
* Parking cars in place of "Sid" while Sid was out of town tending to his ailing nephew ("The Alternate Side")
* Reader at Pendant Publishing ("The Red Dot")
* Writer for a sitcom pilot called Jerry for NBC (Season 4, from "The Pitch" to "The Pilot, Part 2")
* Hand model (until he burned his hands on an iron). ("The Puffy Shirt")
* Bra salesmen for Sid Farkus, a friend of his father Frank Costanza (although this job lasted all of about two minutes). ("The Sniffing Accountant")
* Sales rep at a rest stop supplies company. ("The Barber")
* "Assistant to the Traveling Secretary" for the New York Yankees ("The Opposite" through "The Muffin Tops") (Despite this seemingly low-level position, George gets a spacious office overlooking Yankee Stadium and a personal secretary, attends high-echelon board meetings, and associates with George Steinbrenner and Yankees team members such as Danny Tartabull, Derek Jeter, and Bernie Williams.) This was his longest-lasting job during the course of the series. He lost this job due to the Yankees trading him to Tyler Chicken for a supply of chicken for the concession stands.
* Play Now, a playground equipment company ("The Butter Shave" and "The Voice")
* Computer salesman for his father's computer selling scheme, "Costanza and Son" ("The Serenity Now")
* Kruger Industrial Smoothing, described as the perfect job for George due to the fact that there was "no management whatsoever." Eventually even George got annoyed with Kruger's inability to buckle down and get some work done. ("The Slicer" through "The Maid")
Jobs he falsely claimed to hold:
* Architect (First in "The Stakeout" and in numerous episodes thereafter)
* Marine biologist ("The Marine Biologist")
* Playwright author of La Cocina ("The Pitch")
* Stock trader of some kind (he only says that he is "in the big market") to impress a woman on the subway ("The Subway").
* Latex salesman, although he is only trying to be hired by Vandelay Industries, the fake latex company which holds Jerry's phone number, so that he is still able to obtain unemployment checks, because that qualifies as legitimately looking for work. ("The Boyfriend, Part 1")
* Hen supervisor at Tyler Chicken
* Art Vandelay (taken from the name prefixes van, de, and lé) first appears in the episode "The Stakeout", in which George and Jerry need an excuse to give to a woman as to why they are waiting in the lobby of the office building where she worked. Their excuse is that they were meeting Art Vandelay, an importer/exporter, for lunch. The name originates as Art Core, before an indecisive George morphs it first into Art Corevelay, and finally, Art Vandelay. In one instance ("The Boyfriend, Part 1"), George tells the unemployment office he is close to getting a job at "Vandelay Industries." The name is also used as a fake boyfriend of Elaine. Here, Art is also an importer/exporter, and used as a cover story for when George is going on a date with Marisa Tomei, claiming that George and Elaine are meeting to discuss a problem with her boyfriend so that Susan does not think that George is having an affair "The Cadillac, Part 1". George also uses the pseudonym when interviewing for a job with Elaine's boss in "The Red Dot". When asked which authors he reads the answer is "Art Vandelay" from New York. In "The Serenity Now", George calls up fake customers, one of which is "Mr. Vandelay", pretending to get computer orders. In "The Bizarro Jerry" George goes to an office and asks for Mr. Vandelay, as part of a setup to approach an attractive secretary. Finally, in "The Puerto Rican Day", George pretends to be Vandelay (along with Jerry as Varnson and Kramer as Pennypacker) to try and sneak into an open house to watch a Mets game that they had left because they were getting blown out. In the episode "The Finale", the name of the presiding judge is actually Arthur Vandelay, much to the amazement of George. George says he thinks it is "good luck" that that is the judge's name.
* At one point ("The Maid"), George wants to be known as T-Bone, but his co-workers at Kruger Industrial Smoothing nickname him Koko because of the way he had flailed his arms when demanding the nickname "T-Bone" back from a coworker. George deliberately hires a woman named Coco to work there, only to be nicknamed Gammy instead.
* George reveals that if he were to be a porn star, his name would be Buck Naked. ("The Outing")
* During a very long period of unemployment for George, Jerry calls George Biff, referring to the Biff Loman character in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. George is also compared to Biff Loman by the daughter of Lorene Sokol, the woman in charge of George's unemployment benefits.
* George once assumes the identity of a man named O'Brien in order to take his limousine ("The Limo"), only to later discover this man was the leader of a white supremacist neo-nazi group and was on his way to make his first public appearance, at Madison Square Garden.
* In "The Watch", a doorman mistakenly tells Mr. Dalrymple that a "George Bonanza" has arrived to see him.
* In "The Chinese Restaurant", the host calls for a "Cartwright" to answer a call from George's girlfriend.
* George's attempt to streak at Yankee Stadium while wearing a body suit earned him the name Body Suit Man. ("The Millennium")
* In "The Library", George is reunited with his former old high school teacher who always called him "Canstanje" as in "can't stand ya".
* George's famed alias Art Vandelay is the name of a burrito on the menu at Moe's Southwest Grill, a chain of fast casual restaurants (Moe's spells it "Art Vandalay").