He’s a Tony-winning song-and-dance man, but Jason Alexander’s main claim to fame is that he played George Costanza, Jerry Seinfeld’s balding buddy – and a poster boy for underachievers – on “Seinfeld” (1989-98). The classic TV sitcom about “nothing” also starred Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine and Michael Richards as the manic Kramer.
Alexander, born 55 years ago Tuesday as Jay Scott Greenspan, will perform Sunday at uptown’s Knight Theater. Although the show is a fundraiser for Temple Beth El and Temple Israel, two Charlotte synagogues, it’s open to the public.
Alexander talked this week to the Observer about his one-man show, his Jewish upbringing, his last time in Charlotte, and, of course, “Seinfeld.”
Q. You’re bringing your one-man show to town to help Charlotte’s Jewish community. Is this something you do around the country?
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A. You mean doing my show or helping Jews? (Laughs.) I tend to do both. The show is a stand-up comedy/variety show that I’ve been doing for about a year and a half all over the place. And a lot of the time it is for things just like this – either corporate events or organizations doing big fundraisers at a theater.
Q. It’s being advertised as “An Evening with Jason Alexander ... and His Hair.” It won’t be that toupee that Elaine ripped off George’s head in “Seinfeld,” will it?
A. No, Elaine threw that out the window. If you look at the poster for the show, you’ll see what the hair looks like. It’s rather, I’ve been told, dashing. And completely bogus.
Q. You were in the movie “Shallow Hal,” which was shot in Charlotte. Any memories? It’s a much cooler town now than back then (in 2001).
A. It was a pretty cool town then. I loved being in Charlotte. We had our weekends free and I will not remember the name of the sort of gorgeous giant lake that’s not far from town. But I used to go out there with a lot of the crew members and some of the cast. Every weekend, we’d rent Jet Skis and WaveRunners. I got to go to some Hornet games. And Poison was playing in town when I was there, and I actually hung out with those guys.
Q. You stopped filming “Seinfeld” back in 1998. Sixteen years later, the reruns are still all over TV. Any theories about why it’s still going strong?
A. I guess, at the end of the day, all we cared about when we made the show was: “Is it funny?” We didn’t really focus on character integrity or learning or growing or hugging or any of that stuff. Is it funny?
Q. What’s your take on George? Lovable loser? Not-so-lovable loser?
A. I understood – not initially, but very quickly – that George was an alter ego for (the show’s co-creator) Larry David. And I am incredibly fond of Larry David, with all his quirks and eccentricities. Most of the things that happened to George on the show happened to Larry in real life.
Q. Do the four of you get together these days?
A. We were great work friends. We loved playing with each other, and we enjoyed each other thoroughly. We never really had a habit of being social friends. At the end of the workday, Jerry would go back to the writers’ room, Michael would go back to Mars or wherever, and Julia and I had families. We wanted to get home and be moms and dads. When the show ended, we had no history of being social friends. And we all kind of went very different ways. So we don’t see each other all that much.
Q. Favorite “Seinfeld” episode?
A. Not a favorite. I think if you ask the four of us, was there one episode that kind of turned our fortunes around, it would be the masturbation contest. We were just hanging on by a thread the first two seasons. NBC finally put us on after “Cheers,” which was the No. 1 comedy. We started at the same number that “Cheers” had. And by the time that episode was over, we had built on that audience. People were calling their friends and going, “You’ve got to turn this on. They’re doing a show on masturbation!”