Jason Alexander speaks to sold-out crowd at Tech, most well-known as Seinfeld’s George Costanza

Alexandra Finkel

Updated March 13, 2:29 p.m.

Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander traded in laughs from a live studio audience for applause from hundreds of Northwestern students Thursday night. The actor, known for his role as George Costanza, spoke to a sold-out crowd at Ryan Auditorium about his big break in musical theater, his experience on the “show about nothing” and what his cast members were like in real life.

NU’s Fiedler Hillel Center brought Alexander as its spring speaker not only because of his Jewish roots, but because of his popularity among NU students, said Hillel President Scott Topal.

“We were looking for someone who would really be relevant in students’ lives,” the SESP junior said. “We have so many theater majors who would appreciate what he had to say about acting, but there are just as many Seinfeld fans.”

“An Evening with Jason Alexander” was organized like an episode of ‘Inside the Actors Studio,’ complete with clips of memorable ‘Seinfeld’ moments, a series of pre-selected questions about his life and a brief question-and-answer session with the audience.

After hosting an ‘Inside the Actors StuCo’ event for a student theater production, Communication sophomore Aaron Eisenberg was chosen to moderate the interview.

Eisenberg said he has been a fan of the sitcom since elementary school.

“It was basically like a religion in my house,” he said. “I remember when I was in third grade, my family would sit and watch it every Thursday.”

Alexander first spoke about his love for magic as a child and how a performance of ‘Pippin’ changed his life.

“As I was watching the show, I thought, ‘that trick I could probably do,'” he said. “And from that point on that same sort of psychotic focus that I had on magic as a kid transformed into performing.”

After dropping out of Boston University, Alexander moved to New York to pursue a career in theater. In the early ’90s, he received a script for a sitcom that he thought was destined to fail. Five years later, it was an American phenomenon.

Alexander emphasized that he was nothing like the character he portrayed on TV and that George was based on ‘Seinfeld’ creator Larry David.

“George tends to histrionics and outbursts and public displays of emotion and I don’t tend to do that,” he said. “I thank God every day that Larry was right in front of me because I was able observe and pick and choose the elements that would make a good character.”

During the Q&A, Alexander spoke about his relationship with his costars including NU alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Communication ’82, Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Richards.

“I guess I’m going to have to disappoint you; we’re not the closest friends in the real world,” he said. “Jerry is exactly like Jerry because he can’t act, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has such a fast wit and is really funny and Michael is insane but in ways other than Kramer.”

Despite being typecast after playing George on Seinfeld, Alexander said he doesn’t regret the role.

“I always think acting is a very selfish endeavor,” he said. “But I would get letters from people who said ‘I never thought I would laugh again until I saw your show’ so that makes doing what we do seemingly worthwhile.”

Jessica Danielson, who scrambled to get a ticket at the last minute, said she was surprised by the event’s mix of practical advice with Alexander’s personal stories.

“I didn’t know what to expect going in,” the Communication junior said. “But I thought there was a really good balance of his comedy and talking about his background.”

For Eisenberg, the interview hit even closer to home.

Four years ago, Eisenberg played Jacob Marley in his high school’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ the same year Alexander played the role in the made-for-TV movie.

“My mom got tickets to the premiere and they were auctioning off items from the production,” Eisenberg said. “My parents bought me the jacket Jason wore in the movie and I ended up wearing it in my show.”

Eisenberg presented the jacket to Alexander in between questions, but the actor told him he could keep it.

“I’m 20 years old,” he said. “I never expected to be interviewing Jason Alexander.”

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