Twenty-one years ago, the “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld became iconic. To this day, soup eaters around the country can be heard shouting, “No soup for you!”
Today, on this very special episode of Where Are They Now?, I present to you: Larry Thomas, the actor who played the soup Nazi.
“I don’t know if an actor ever even dreams that any one job is going to be more than just one job. Seinfeld was my favorite TV show at the time, so that was the cool part of it.”
Twenty one years later, Larry is still riding his six minutes of Soup Nazi fame. He still acts and he’s the spokesman for The Original Soupman, soups available in grocery stores, made by Chef Al Yeganeh, the real Soup Nazi the character was based on.
I met Larry at a Seattle Fred Meyer where he was signing autographs and giving out soup samples. He told me the origin story of the Soup Nazi.
“The soup was on 55th and 8th Avenue, since around 1984. The Letterman writers were around the corner at the Ed Sullivan Theater. They were big fans of the soup and they were the ones who came up with the nickname the Soup Nazi for the chef, Al Yeganeh, because of the rules: know your soup, have your money ready, place your order and step to the left. One of the writers, Spike Feresten, got hired on Seinfeld and that was his first script.”
They were looking for someone to play the chef with a middle eastern accent.
“What I came up with was an imitation of Omar Sharif, because he’s Egyptian and I knew it would be the right accent. No one ever went, ‘You sound like Omar Sharif!’ So it was my little secret.”
And that tiny, six minute part still has people coming up to him daily. They Larry to say his famous catchphrase.
“I’ve said it, like, 20 times today already. I’ll say it for you if you want. No soup for you!”
The fact that Larry is hawking soup for The Original Soupman is rather interesting, considering the real Soup Nazi hated that episode and Jerry Seinfeld. Here’s a clip from the Seinfeld extras, voiced by the episode’s writer, Spike Feresten.
“Jerry said, ‘Let’s go to the Soup Nazi for lunch.’ And I said, ‘It’s really not a good idea.’ And he said, ‘Why? I made him famous.’ I go, ‘He doesn’t see it that way. He sees you as ruining his life.’ And he goes, ‘Come on!’ So, reluctantly, the group of us trooped down to the Soup Nazi. Jerry got in line. When Jerry’s turn came up it was like a triple take the Soup Nazi did, he kept looking and looking because I guess there had been a lot of Jerry Seinfeld impersonators coming, but here’s the real deal. He had his money there and [The soup Nazi] said, ‘You [expletive] [expletive]!!!.’ He just unloaded on him, and then kept unloading on him and then kept unloading on him. It was a very uncomfortable moment, people were shocked. And he goes, ‘I demand an apology!’ Jerry turned around and gave the most sarcastic apology I’ve ever seen anyone give. And he went, ‘No soup for you!!'”
But Larry still eats plenty of soup, despite the reaction he gets when he does.
“If I go to a restaurant and I hear the soup is good I’ll try it. I do get a smirk and a giggle from the waiters most of the time.”