Elaine Benes
Seinfeld character
First appearance"The Stake Out" (1990)
Last appearanceSaturday Night Live (2016)
Created byJerry Seinfeld
Larry David
Portrayed byJulia Louis-Dreyfus
In-universe information
Nurse Paloma
Lois Loan
Queen of the Castle
Wanda Pepper
OccupationAssistant to Mr. Pitt
Copy Writer for J. Peterman
Editor at Pendant Publishing
FamilyAlton Benes (father)
Unnamed mother
Gail Benes (sister)
Grandma Mema (grandmother)
RelativesHolly (cousin)
Pete (uncle)
unnamed nephew
Birth DateJanuary 29, 1962
Alma MaterTufts University

Elaine Marie Benes (/ˈbɛnɪs/) is a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Elaine's best friend in the sitcom is her ex-boyfriend Jerry Seinfeld, and she is also good friends with George Costanza and Cosmo Kramer. Louis-Dreyfus received critical acclaim for her performance as Elaine, winning an Emmy, a Golden Globe and five SAG Awards. She reprised the role during season 41 of Saturday Night Live in 2016.

Elaine's debut

Unlike her three close friends, Elaine is absent from the pilot episode. Previously the female role was supposed to be Claire, the waitress at Pete's Luncheonette played by Lee Garlington, but Monk's Cafe replaced the luncheonette and Garlington was dropped from the role. Elaine first appears in "The Stake Out," but in production order she appears in a final scene eating M&Ms in "Male Unbonding." NBC executives felt the show was too male-centric, and demanded that Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David add a woman to the cast as a condition for commissioning the show, as revealed in the commentary on the Season 1 and 2 DVD. In addition to the first episode, Elaine doesn't appear in "The Trip" (Louis-Dreyfus having been in the late stages of pregnancy at the time of filming) and therefore appears in fewer episodes than George and Jerry.

Real-life inspiration

After it was discovered that Jerry Seinfeld once dated writer and comedian Carol Leifer, speculation grew that Elaine was based on Leifer, though that was later largely denied. Leifer, who wrote or cowrote a number of episodes for the show, has said only some elements of the backstory of the character — that she and Seinfeld had dated and have remained good friends since the relationship ended — relate to her.[1] Leifer has said some elements of the character of Elaine, especially her assertiveness, intelligence and sense of humor, are drawn from the off-screen personality of Julia Louis-Dreyfus herself. According to Jerry Seinfeld's biography (written by Jerry Oppenheimer), Elaine was based in part on Susan McNabb (who was dating Seinfeld when the character was created), though eventually named after friend and fellow comic Elayne Boosler. The character was also partially based on Monica Yates (daughter of novelist Richard Yates), whom Larry David once dated; they remained good friends after they broke up.[2][page needed]

It has been reported that other actresses were in line to play the character, including Rosie O'Donnell, Megan Mullally, Jessica Lundy, Patricia Heaton, Mariska Hargitay, and Amy Yasbeck.[3][4][5]

Background and education

Unlike George, Jerry and Kramer, Elaine is not a native of New York City, having grown up in the affluent Baltimore suburb of Towson, and is shown to be a fan of the Baltimore Orioles.[6] She attended finishing school and completed her undergraduate education at Tufts University, revealed to be her safety school in "The Puerto Rican Day", as a French literature major. In "The Dog", she tells George she moved to New York in 1986, which, by coincidence, is the year Jerry moved into his apartment across the hall from Kramer. She started dating Jerry later that year. In "The Doodle" it is stated by George that Elaine takes a drawing class at The New School with his girlfriend Paula.

Elaine's religious beliefs are never fully confirmed, and she appears to have little interest in religion. She expresses shock when Puddy is revealed as a devout Christian. She views saying "God bless you" as a "silly superstition" in "The Good Samaritan". It is likely that Elaine was raised Catholic, as her last name is Czech in origin (see Edvard Benes) and the Czech people are, for the most part, historically Catholic. It is strongly suggested in the show that Elaine is Catholic when she is seen making the sign of the cross before entering Jerry's apartment to retrieve a manuscript while the apartment is being fumigated in "The Doodle", and crosses herself again in "The Betrayal" after turning her back on a Hindu altar. Furthermore, in "The Pick", Elaine is horrified when she realizes she sent a Christmas card which features her nipple to "Sister Mary Catherine" and "Father Chelios". Also notable was Elaine's celebration of Christmas as we see her apartment-holiday decor skills on full display (including a grand Christmas tree) in "The Race". In multiple episodes, including "The Strong Box" and "The Wizard", she can be seen wearing a crucifix. In "The Postponement" and "The Fatigues", Elaine states that she is not Jewish.


Though her ethnicity is never made clear, the name Beneš is a common Czech surname. Her boyfriend incorrectly assumed that she was Hispanic in "The Wizard". In "The Wink", her cousin Holly repeatedly mentions a "Grandma Memma" who apparently shared a mutual dislike with Elaine's side of the family. Elaine claims to have an IQ of 145 (although her scores range from 85 to 150).

Elaine's father, a gruff novelist named Alton Benes (Lawrence Tierney), was featured in "The Jacket". In "The Wait Out", Elaine reveals to David Lookner that Alton left her and the rest of her family when she was nine years old. Elaine is the only main character in the series whose mother never makes an appearance.

Elaine has a sister, Gail, and a nephew; they are first mentioned in "The Pick". In "The Airport", it is revealed that Gail lives in St. Louis. Elaine has a cousin, Holly, who appears in "The Wink", where reference is made to Elaine's grandmother Mema, from whom Holly inherited a set of cloth napkins. It is not revealed if Mema is her maternal or paternal grandmother.

In "The Stock Tip", Elaine mentions she has an Uncle Pete. In "The Secret Code", she mentions an uncle who worked in the Texas School Book Depository with Lee Harvey Oswald. Whether the two uncles are the same person is not revealed.


During Seasons 2 to 5, Elaine works at Pendant Publishing under her boss Mr. Lippman, where she served as a copy editor. She loses her job at the end of Season 5 when the company goes bankrupt and a misunderstanding resulting from her penchant for chewy, speech-impairing Jujyfruit candies thwarts a merger that might have saved the company. ("The Opposite").

Elaine later becomes a personal assistant to the eccentric, demanding Justin Pitt, starting in "The Chaperone", but later is fired when Mr. Pitt thinks she and Jerry are conspiring to kill him in "The Diplomat's Club".

Elaine meets J. Peterman on the street ("The Understudy") and becomes an editor at his J. Peterman Catalog, where she remains employed for the rest of the series. Starting in "The Foundation", she takes charge of the catalog when Peterman suffers a nervous breakdown and flees to Burma. Once Peterman returns to find an ineffective reshuffling of employees in "The Money" she is demoted back to her former position. Peterman also fires her twice: first when her penchant for poppy seed muffins causes her to fail a drug test in "The Shower Head" and later in "The English Patient" when she expresses her hatred for the movie The English Patient. She is able to recover her job by agreeing to live temporarily in a remote cave in the desert of Tunisia.


In "The Sponge", Elaine is desperate to buy a cache of discontinued contraceptive sponges before existing stock is exhausted. She coins the word "spongeworthy" debating her then-boyfriend's prospects of intimacy at the expense of her inventory.[7]

In "The Stall", Elaine is dating Tony, a very good-looking athletic type. After a rock climbing accident mangles Tony's face, Elaine admits to Jerry that she cannot date somebody who is unattractive and wonders how long she is obligated to stay with him post-accident.

Elaine has a particular affection for A Streetcar Named Desire. In "The Pen", Elaine shows her love for the movie when she becomes unintentionally high on muscle relaxers and repeatedly screams "Stella" at a fancy awards dinner for Morty Seinfeld in Florida.

In "The Boyfriend", Elaine reveals her disgust for smokers, which leads to a breakup with Keith Hernandez. Her dislike of smoking also leads to an argument with a fortune-teller in "The Suicide". However, in "The Calzone" and "The Foundation" she is seen smoking a Cuban cigar.

Jerry revealed in the episode, "The Pilot", that Elaine's favorite film is Shaft.

Elaine is a breathtakingly poor dancer. Her performance at a J. Peterman company party, the central plot theme of "The Little Kicks", causes George to describe it as "a full-bodied dry heave set to music." The moves are repeated in her bedroom in a short scene of "The Slicer". Both clips appear in "The Clip Show, Pt. 1".[8]


In "The Andrea Doria", Elaine dates Alan, a "bad breaker-upper", who makes her feel insecure about having a big head. In the episode she describes herself as a "walking candy apple" after a bird runs into her "giant, freak head."

In "The Smelly Car", Elaine repulses her boyfriend Carl when her hair smells of body odor from riding in Jerry's car. She goes to extreme lengths to get the smell out but nothing works, and he continues to be grossed out.

In "The Postponement", Elaine confides in a rabbi that she is jealous of George's engagement to Susan Ross because George would be getting married before her and she considers George a loser. The Rabbi proceeds to tell everybody in Elaine's apartment complex and later on his cable TV show about her insecurity.

Influence/effect on others

In "The Chinese Woman", Jerry describes how Elaine has had a destructive effect on her relationship with her friend Noreen. It is revealed that over the course of their friendship, Elaine has convinced Noreen to join the Army, then go AWOL, dump her "high-talker" boyfriend and then her "long-talker" boyfriend. Eventually, Kramer steps in and forbids Elaine to have any more contact with Noreen.

In "The Muffin Tops", Elaine convinces her ex-boss Mr. Lippman to start his own business selling just "muffin tops". However, they soon run into problems when no one will take the leftover stumps, and only by calling in "The Cleaner" (who turns out to be Newman) can they get rid of them.

In "The Non-Fat Yogurt", Elaine suggests to Lloyd Braun, an advisor to Mayor David Dinkins, that everybody in the city should wear name tags. Lloyd Braun suggests this idea to the mayor, who likes it so much that he adds it to his campaign, subsequently leading to his loss in the mayoral elections. In "The Gum", it's revealed that Lloyd Braun also loses his job and later has a nervous breakdown.

Romantic relationships

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry and Elaine dated for a while before the show started. They started dating in 1986 (as revealed in "The Truth") and dated until 1990. In "The Deal", Elaine states they only had sex 37 times. In "The Stakeout", Jerry tells his parents that the reason for the break-up had to do with fighting too much and "physical chemistry".

In "The Deal", Jerry and Elaine create a set of rules whereby they can be sexually intimate but remain only friends. However, their theory is ruined when Elaine is furious over Jerry giving her $182 as a birthday gift. In "The Mango", Jerry is shocked to discover that Elaine had feigned her orgasms while they were together.

In "The Serenity Now", Jerry's uninhibited, exaggerated emotional state causes him to ask Elaine to marry him. Shocked, she makes an excuse and leaves. She returns later to accept his proposal, but Jerry has by that time settled to his usual stable emotional state and says "I don't see it happening." In "The Finale", when they think their airplane is about to crash, Elaine says "I've always loved y...", but the pilot is able to steady the airplane. Elaine later explained in court that she was going to say "I've always loved United Airlines."

During her interview on Inside the Actors Studio, Julia Louis-Dreyfus said she believed Jerry and Elaine were soul mates but would never end up together because they were both too "insane and messed up."

In the reunion episode featured in Season 7 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, it is revealed in the years since the finale Jerry has donated sperm to Elaine that results in her having a daughter, who has taken to calling Jerry "Uncle Jerry", but by the episode's end, it is said she now refers to him as "daddy" to Jerry and Elaine's clear discomfort.

David Puddy

Elaine's longest relationship, besides that with Jerry, is with Puddy (Patrick Warburton), an auto mechanic turned car salesman. Elaine begins dating David in the latter half of Season 6, and later for the majority of Season 9. Puddy has a casual approach to their relationship as seen in "The Voice" when Puddy claims he just likes her for the sex. In the same episode, when Elaine tells him that they're back together, he answers "Oh, no". In "The Finale", when Elaine is about to be taken away to prison, she emotionally tells Puddy to "not wait for her". Puddy answers back with a simple, casual, "Alright."

Other notable boyfriends

Elaine dates baseball player (and Kramer and Newman's nemesis) Keith Hernandez in "The Boyfriend".

Over several episodes in Season 4, she dates Joe Davola, who is--unbeknownst to Elaine--simultaneously stalking Jerry.

In "The Masseuse", she dates a man named Joel Rifkin, who shares the same name as a notorious serial killer.

In "The Sniffing Accountant" she dates Jake Jarmel, an up-and-coming writer and star client of Pendant Publishing. She dumps him because of his reluctance to use exclamation points.

In "The Bizarro Jerry", she dates Kevin, the nice, kind antithesis of Jerry whose friends Gene, Feldman and Vargas are polar opposites of George, Kramer and Newman, respectively, each described as coming from the backwards Bizarro World of Superman comics.

In "The Stall", her boyfriend Tony, dubbed a male bimbo or "mimbo" by Jerry, becomes George's new idol.

In "The Checks", her boyfriend Brett is so obsessed with the song "Desperado" that she feels ignored whenever it comes on. She tries to find a song that they can share and comes up with "Witchy Woman", but it does not work. Both songs are by the Eagles.

In "The Wizard", Elaine is not sure if her new boyfriend Darryl is black or not and gets mixed signals when she tries to find out. It turns out he is white and he thought Elaine was Hispanic.

In "The Non-Fat Yogurt", Elaine dates Lloyd Braun. Since Lloyd works for the mayor, she tells him that the city would be a better place if everybody wore name tags. He mentions this to the mayor, who eventually loses re-election as a result.

In "The Maestro", Elaine starts dating Bob Cobb, a conductor who insists on being called "Maestro". They eventually go to Tuscany together.

In "The Junk Mail", Elaine dates Jack, the TV pitchman for The Wiz.


In "The Betrayal", Elaine is so unhappy at receiving an "unvitation" (a deliberately last-minute invitation) to Sue Ellen Mischke's wedding that she travels all the way to India just to attend. At the wedding, George reveals that Elaine had once dated the groom, leading Sue Ellen to rip out Elaine's nose-ring.

In "The Cigar Store Indian", Elaine angers Frank Costanza by taking his TV Guide without asking and then spilling her gyro on it. Then, in "The Little Kicks", she and Frank come to blows after George is arrested along with Elaine's coworker Anna. Elaine says to Frank, "I could drop you like a bag of dirt." Frank replies, "You want a piece of me? You got it." Later, when Jerry chides her for fighting with an old man, she says, "Hey, he wrote the check. I cashed it."

Elaine's abortion argument with restaurateur Poppie gets him so angry that he loses control of his bladder in "The Couch" and again in "The Doorman".

In "The Soup Nazi", Elaine refuses to abide by the rules of a strict soup stand owner nicknamed "The Soup Nazi" and therefore becomes the subject of his ire. When she finds his secret recipes that he accidentally left in an armoire, she hints that she will drive him out of business, gloating that he's "through."

In "The Summer of George", Elaine makes an enemy of her coworker Sam (Molly Shannon). First, when Elaine criticizes Sam's way of walking ("It's like she's carrying invisible suitcases"), Sam gets furious and threatens revenge. Then, Raquel Welch (who was recently fired from a musical for dancing without swinging her arms), sees Elaine describing the walk to the police and thinks that Elaine is making fun of her and attacks her.

In "The Understudy", after she thinks her Korean manicurists are making fun of her, she angers them by bringing in Frank Costanza, who is fluent in Korean, to eavesdrop on them.

In "The Fire", Elaine reveals her hate for her overly energetic, always-happy colleague Toby. Then, when Toby loses her pinky toe in an accident (caused by Jerry), an outpouring of office sympathy leads Toby to a major promotion instead of the more qualified Elaine.

In "The Visa" she and Jerry anger Pakistani immigrant Babu Bhatt after she fails to notice Babu's visa application in Jerry's mail that she is picking up for him.

In "The Susie", co-worker Peggy tells Elaine--who she thinks is a woman named Susie--that Elaine is a "dolt" and "disaster". Later, in "The Apology", Peggy thinks Elaine has germs, and in retaliation Elaine intentionally coughs on Peggy's doorknob, rubs her stapler in her armpit, and rubs her keyboard on her backside.

In "The Package", it is revealed that Elaine's medical charts characterize her as a "difficult" patient to such a degree that she cannot receive treatment for a rash because one doctor after another refuses to treat her.


  1. ^ Lyman, Rick (September 7, 1997). "Touching Moments with Leifer? Get Real". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  2. ^ Bailey, Blake. A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates. Picador, 2003.
  3. ^ "Seinfeld: The Actresses Who Almost Played Elaine Benes". ScreenRant. 2022-01-01. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  4. ^ "Rosie O'Donnell was almost cast as Elaine on Seinfeld but was told to get out". www.fark.com. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  5. ^ Haviland, Lou (2020-03-24). "'Seinfeld': Rosie O'Donnell Was Almost Cast as Elaine Benes". Showbiz Cheat Sheet. Retrieved 2022-04-26.
  6. ^ Sweeney, Alexis. "From Towson to Tinseltown," The Baltimore Sun, Friday, February 23, 2001. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  7. ^ "Seinfeld - NOW PLAYING - The Sponge". Sonypictures.com. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2011-09-11.
  8. ^ "Seinfeld - Cast and Characters". Sonypictures.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-17. Retrieved 2011-09-11.