One of the great strengths of Seinfeld was its rotating cast of supporting characters, many of whom would become almost as iconic as the central four: Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George. But of all of the secondary characters that appear, fans frequently note that Estelle Costanza is one of the best.
Indeed, many of George’s strange, and sometimes downright pathological, character traits can in some ways be traced back to his mother and her behavior. And, of course, there are her many quotes that have gone down as some of the funniest in the show.
10 When She Catches George In A Vulnerable Situation
“I Go Out For A Quart Of Milk, I Come Home, And Find My Son Treating His Body Like It Was An Amusement Park!”
Estelle is constantly oscillating between belittling George and praising him, and in this remark she opts for the former, taking particular aim at the fact that he has been pleasuring himself while she was away, leading to her stay in the hospital.
The entire exchange is one of the funniest scenes in the show, and it shows just how much these two characters have a fraught relationship and how much Estelle refuses to see her son as a grown man, rather than a child.
9 When She Praises George’s Hands
“I Knew It. I Knew It. I Always Knew You Always Had Beautiful Hands. I Used To Tell People. Frank, Didn’t I Use To Talk About His Hands?”
On the opposite side of the scale, in this quote, Estelle goes on at length about how beautiful George’s hands are. While it, at first glance, appears to be a compliment, since this is Estelle, she tends to go on about them for just long enough that it starts to feel strange.
What’s more, her husband Frank (one of Jerry Stiller’s best roles) continues to interrupt her and challenge her memory of the event. One can always count on these two to argue.
8 When She Thought She Was Getting Advice From Someone Else
“Long Island? I Thought I Was Getting Advice From A Chinese Woman.”
There are many iconic scenes in Seinfeld, but this one is very much at the top of the list. It emerges Estelle realizes that a woman that she has been talking to and taking advice from is not, in fact, Chinese but American.
Her horror is both very funny and, unfortunately, cringe-worthy, since she clearly holds some stereotypical beliefs about Chinese people. It’s one of Estelle Costanza’s best moments and one of those that fans of the show almost always remember.
7 When She Takes George Down A Notch
“So What If They Have A Lobster? Suddenly You’re A Shell-Fish Connoisseur.”
It sometimes seems as if George can never get a break when it comes to his parents, even when they’re supposed to be having a nice dinner. In this case, Estelle can’t seem to help herself, giving him a dressing down when he mentions that the restaurant that they’re eating at has lobster.
It’s one of those moments that Estelle manages to blow up into a much larger affair than it needs to be, which is, of course, one of her specialties as a character.
6 When She Catches Frank Trying On The Bro/The Manssiere
“I Lived With Him For 40 Years, I Never Saw Him Trying On My Underwear. As Soon As He Leaves The House, He Turns Into J. Edgar Hoover!”
Frank and Estelle have many classic moments together during the course of the show, most of which involve one or the other of them shouting at one another. In this case, Estelle has seen Frank trying on a bra for men.
This being Estelle, she can’t resist making quite a few comments about it, including a comparison to J. Edgar Hoover (who supposedly wore women’s clothing), suggesting that there is something wrong with it or lacking in Frank’s vision of his own masculinity.
5 When She Blames Herself For George
“Poor Georgie. Was It Our Fault This Happened To Him? Did We Do Something Wrong? Maybe It Was Our Fault.”
Even though she spends so much of her time either praising or dismissing George without much thought as to the damage she might be causing, there are a few times when she seems to realize that she might not have been the best influence on him.
In this quote, she has one of her rare moments of self-realization, though of course, she doesn’t really seem to believe that either she or Frank could be possibly responsible for George’s many neuroses.
4 When She Gives Frank Another Dig About Wearing The Bro
“Hey, He Only Sells Them. He Doesn’t Wear Them!”
Given how volatile the marriage between Frank and Estelle is, it’s inevitable that they would enter a period of estrangement, which is exactly what happens. However, the hilarity doesn’t stop there, because when Estelle starts to go out with a bra salesman, Frank commands her not to do so (hardly surprising, given that Frank Costanza has many great quotes).
Given her horror at seeing him dressed in The Bro, she can’t resist bringing it up again, pointing out that her own date, unlike Frank, doesn’t wear them.
3 When She Reveals Her Feelings About The Seinfelds
“You Know, I Was Thinking Today. I Never Liked Those Seinfelds Anyway. He’s An Idiot, Altogether.”
George isn’t the only one who has a difficult relationship with Estelle, because she makes it clear time and again that she’s not especially fond of any members of the Seinfeld family.
As she demonstrates in this quote, she thinks that Jerry is nothing less than an idiot. However, given that Estelle seems to look down on most people, including her husband and her son, this is not terribly surprising.
2 When She Finds Out What George Did In Her Bed
“I Can’t Sleep In There. I Can’t! I Can’t!”
There are times when it’s impossible to imagine what must be going through George’s head, such as when he decides to have sex in his parents’ bed and leave a condom wrapper there as evidence.
Estelle, unsurprisingly, goes into hysterics when she discovers it, going on to scream that she simply cannot sleep in that bed anymore. It’s one of those moments that demonstrates just how skilled Estelle Harris is at delivering these types of lines.
1When She Says Kramer Made A Pass At Her
“Well, It’s Already Working. Kramer Made A Pass At Me.”
When Estelle decides to have some cosmetic surgery on her eyes, it makes her feel much better at herself, and it allows her to talk back to Frank, creating many great Estelle and Frank moments, in the process.
In fact, as this quote demonstrates, she clearly feels good enough about herself that she comes to believe that Kramer — who is always getting entangled with the Costanzas in one way or another — actually flirted with one another. It is, in its own way, refreshing to see Estelle take such confidence in her appearance, however misguided she sometimes is.