One of the most famous minor characters in Seinfeld wouldn’t work today, according to one of the show’s writers. Though it ended 25 years ago, the so-called show about nothing, Seinfeld, is still very much alive in today’s pop culture. That’s thanks to memorable episodes and standout performances from a frequently stellar guest cast, even if their screen time was brief. One of those characters, The Soup Nazi (played by Larry Thomas), is among the most memorable.
In new comments shared with The Washington Post to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Seinfeld finale, writer Spike Feresten spoke candidly about why one aspect of The Soup Nazi wouldn’t work today. Feresten, who wrote the “Soup Nazi” episode, which aired as part of Seinfeld season 7, talks in the excerpt below about how the episode title and character name have a more negative connotation now because of the renewed visibility of real-life Nazis:
Feresten doesn’t figure he could get away with the Soup Nazi name today. “It was a time in America when there were no real Nazis around. So it didn’t really feel like that bad of a joke,” he said. “But I think about it all the time.”
“The Soup Nazi” (& Its Legacy), Explained
“The Soup Nazi” introduces the character of Yev Kassem, although Jerry tells Elaine that Yev is referred to as The Soup Nazi. This is because of how he demands that his customers behave a certain way when placing an order, but his soups are so delicious that most customers try to accept it regardless. Over the course of the episode, Elaine spars with Yev and she’s ultimately banned. This leads to a feud between the two.
The Soup Nazi character is actually based on a real-life person who didn’t appreciate his portrayal. Ali Yeganeh, an Iranian American soup vendor, ran Soup Kitchen International in New York City. Yeganeh was outspoken about his dislike for the episode and character. In the decades since the Seinfeld episode debuted, “The Soup Nazi” has been parodied and folded into pop culture well beyond its sitcom origins. The character has been used in advertising and referenced in other shows.
Seinfeld might not have been the first reference to a Soup Nazi, though. Sleepless in Seattle, the 1993 Nora Ephron film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, there’s a mention of a very mean man who sells “the greatest soup you’ve ever eaten.” Still, it’s Larry Thomas’s take on the character that has a place in the television history books.