What makes the main four Seinfeld cast's characters such a dynamic group is not necessarily their respect for one another, but their tolerance of each other’s shortcomings. However, one person whom Jerry Seinfeld’s onscreen alter ego could never bring himself to tolerate is his sworn enemy: Newman, played by Wayne Knight.
Despite being good friends with Michael Richards’ Cosmo Kramer, the boisterous United States postal worker had an animosity toward the comedian that was more than just your typical friendly sitcom rivalry — which is appropriate since the popular ‘90s TV show co-created by Seinfeld and Larry David was anything but typical (let alone friendly) for its time. The question is, where did this feud start and what might we count as its peak moments of conflict? Let’s take a quick look at some of the best Seinfeld episodes and trace the history of Jerry and Newman’s clashes, quarrels and yada, yada, yada.
A Feud Almost As Old As The Character Itself
Before we actually start talking about Jerry and Newman’s feud, we must start by talking about the origins of Newman himself, who was conceived as the kind of TV character you never saw onscreen at first. The character’s debut “appearance” was in Season 2’s “The Revenge,” in which we only hear him speaking to Kramer, making repeated threats to jump from the top of their apartment building. At that point, the role was voiced by none other than Larry David, but for the episode’s later syndicated airings, his lines were dubbed over by Knight, who took over the role the following season.
It was then, in the season’s 15th episode, “The Suicide,” when the signs of Jerry and Newman’s animosity started to take form. It was already clear by the way the comic greeted the mail carrier with his iconic “Hello, Newman” for the very first time, but it only grows more intense as Jerry begins to fear Newman might reveal to their comatose friend Martin (C.E. Grimes) that he has been with the friend’s lover, Gina (Gina Gallego). In the end, Jerry’s attempt to buy Newman’s silence with a Drake’s Coffee Cake is thwarted by a hungry Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).
What the episode does not provide, however, is an inciting reason behind Jerry and Newman’s mutual disdain, but to never reveal the feud’s true origin was kind of the point. Years later, Jerry Seinfeld told CBS News that “it just seemed funny to hate Newman.” That being said, one of the most fascinating revelations from Seinfeld’s Reddit AMA in 2014 is that, out of all the hilarious side characters on Seinfeld, Newman is his favorite.
Jerry And Newman’s Attacks And Grievances Against Each Other
Most of Newman’s funniest moments on Seinfeld, indeed, involve his various attempts to condemn, embarrass, or simply annoy his nemesis — such as in Season 5’s “The Barber” when he helps Jerry’s long-time hairdresser, Enzo (Anthony Ponzini), figure out he has been secretly taking appointments from his nephew, Gino (David Ciminello).
This is one of several times Newman struck at an opportunity to give Jerry trouble, like in the “The Label Maker,” when he accepted a Super Bowl ticket that Jerry was initially forced to give up to his dentist, Tim Whatley (Bryan Cranston), or when he ratted out the Jewish comedian to his parents for making out with his girlfriend, Rachel (Melanie Smith), during one of the best movies of the ‘90s, Schindler’s List, in “The Raincoats.”
Some of Newman’s schemes against Jerry would grow even more elaborate, with two of the most notable examples appearing in Season 8. In “The Soulmate,” Newman assists in one of Kramer’s most ridiculous and despicable schemes: stealing Jerry’s girlfriend, Pam (Kim Myers). He later attempts to convict Jerry of mail fraud — which results in even more embarrassment for George Costanza (Jason Alexander) — in “The Package.”
There were also some episodes in which Newman would not have to put out much effort to give Jerry trouble, such as in Season 6’s “The Big Salad” when Jerry’s relationship with Margaret (Marita Geraghty) is ruined by the discovery that she not only dated Newman, but he dumped her. Another time, in Season 9’s “The Blood,” Jerry receives a second transfusion from Newman, much to his chagrin.
Jerry And Newman's Occasional Alliances
Because of how extreme Jerry’s feud with Newman would become, the few times when they were forced to put aside their differences resulted in some of the most epic enemy team-ups in pop culture history. Of course, a good few of them were in collaboration with Kramer — such as in Season 5’s “The Sniffling Accountant” when they attempted to catch their supposed drug-abusing accountant in the act, or when they tried to solve their building’s water pressure problem in “The Shower Head” from Season 7.
There was, however, a time when the nemeses both conspired against Kramer in the aforementioned Season 8 episode, “The Soulmate.” When Jerry discovers Newman tried to help Kramer woo Pam, Newman offers to help him win her back if he agrees to help Newman land the woman of his dreams: Elaine.
Arguably the pair’s most memorable alliance occurs in a later Season 8 episode called “The Andrea Doria,” when Jerry discovers Newman has been using his self-storage container to store mail he's reluctant to deliver after he is denied a transfer Hawaii. However, when the opportunity arises once again, Jerry offers to help Newman get rid of every last piece of mail he illegally stored, going as far as taking over the mail route when Kramer’s bite on Newman’s ankle leaves him unable to complete the task. Unfortunately, the scheme backfires when "too many people [get] their mail.”
If we are to brand Newman as the main antagonist of the TV comedy, than I suppose you could say that it is “pure evil” which prevails in the end. In the controversial series finale of Seinfeld, Newman gives an impassioned speech envisioning that Jerry’s “day of reckoning is coming” and that he would “be there in all my glory, watching, watching as it all comes crumbling down." This turns out to be a pretty spot-on prediction of the episode’s conclusion, in which Jerry and the gang are sent to prison for ignoring a “Good Samaritan Law,” ensuring that Newman wound up being the victor in this momentous conflict.