Jerry Seinfeld Says He Never Gave Jerry Stiller a Note on 'Seinfeld': "Whatever He Did, That's It"

"What I loved about him is he so completes the George story," the comic says of the iconic actor who died Monday at the age of 92.

Jerry Seinfeld says he never gave the late Jerry Stiller a single note during his tenure on Seinfeld because his method for the character of Frank Costanza was perfect. 

Seinfeld on Thursday visited with What a Joke With Papa & Fortune on SiriusXM’s "Netflix Is a Joke Radio" channel. Stiller died Monday at the age of 92. 

"He had the most amazing comedic stuff that he — we didn't know if he was planning it or it just came out that way, or he couldn't remember the line, or we didn't know what it was, but we did not want to disturb it in any way," Seinfeld said. "We never gave Jerry Stiller a note. I never adjusted his performance once. Whatever he did, that's it. We're putting that out there." 

Series co-creator Larry David wanted Stiller to play the elder Costanza from the start, but the actor turned it down initially because he had not heard of the NBC show and he was in the middle of a play on Broadway. So, a different actor was cast, but he just did not have the right feel for the producers, so after Stiller's show closed, David went back and asked him again to do the show. Stiller said yes the second time. 

Seinfeld remembered Stiller as a live wire when the cameras rolled and everyone just stayed out of his way. "I don't know why he did it like that. I don't know why he screamed on that line. It doesn't matter. It's funny," he said. "I am such a dedicated believer in if it's funny, don't touch it. I don't care why it's funny. I don't care what the line was supposed to be. He said it that way, we're doing it that way." 

Stiller said in an interview years ago that David wanted him to play Frank much more subdued and even-keeled, the opposite of the yelling, hysterical Mrs. Costanza, played by Estelle Harris, but the actor knew that wouldn't work.

"We started rehearsing the first show, and she's screaming at me all the time and I am taking it. And I said to myself, 'I am going to get fired the same way as the other guy because nothing is happening onstage,'" Stiller recalled. "So when we shot the dress rehearsal before we go onstage with a live audience, she started screaming at me, and I out of instinct, instead of just saying my lines, I [screamed back]."

Continued Stiller, "Everybody starts laughing and David said, 'Jerry, keep it that way.' And that was the beginning of Frank Costanza." 

Said Seinfeld of Stiller's work on the show: "What I loved about him is he so completes the George story. When you meet the father, you go, 'Oh, now I understand why he's like that.' It was — the perfect finishing of the painting of George Costanza was Frank Costanza."