You probably don’t know the name Larry Thomas. But you know the face. He’s better known as The Soup Nazi from the eponymous episode of Seinfeld. He’s also been on shows like Scrubs and Arrested Development. I talked to him recently to promote the release of Seinfeld on Crackle.
Joshua Massre: What’s your favorite episode of Seinfeld?
Larry Thomas: The Bris. One of my favorite Seinfeld guest stars, an actor named Charles Levin, played Shakey the Mohel. He was hilarious…such a great actor.
Joshua Massre: Your own episode isn’t your favorite?
Larry Thomas: No. I’m tired of my episode.
Joshua Massre: I can imagine that after so many years you’d get tired of that one.
Larry Thomas: Everywhere I go to do events they play it in the background. I’m so tired of seeing it. I’m not tired of seeing Yule Vazquez and John Paragon as the armoire thieves though. Then again, it’s very hard to be objective. I understand why everyone likes it, because Spike Feresten’s script is amazing.
Joshua Massre: Seinfeld is going to be available online for the first time today, via Crackle. It’s one of the biggest shows of all time and it’s just getting put online now.
Larry Thomas: It’s great because even though a lot of people watch Seinfeld, I do occasionally meet people who say, “Oh I’ve never watched Seinfeld” or “I’ve never seen your episode.” Now I can just go tell them they can go watch it online.
Joshua Massre: I would think that if they haven’t seen it, it might be a bit of a relief to you. That way they don’t walk up to you going “No soup for you!”
Larry Thomas: That’s true.
Joshua Massre: That must get a little obnoxious after a while.
Larry Thomas: It does. I’d rather just say it myself. I’d rather they ask me then say it themselves.
Joshua Massre: Does it bother you that people do that to you? Or do you see it in a more postive way, that you’ve had a big enough impact on pop culture that people still remember the episode and recognize you after all these years?
Larry Thomas: I’m very cool about it. I always say that I’ve got the exact right amount of fame. I’m not like Jason Alexander where I can’t walk down the street with my kids. But at the same time, it’s nice to have people tell me that they appreciated my work. When they ask me to say “No soup for you” it usually pops out before they finish asking. It’s like a knee jerk reaction. I can tell it’s coming. People say “Can you say…” and I just yell “No soup for you!” and they jump. It usually surprises them. It’s like being hit in the knee with a hammer. It’s just a reflex at this point. I’ve said it at least a million times…and that’s a conservative estimate.
Joshua Massre: You were also on Arrested Development.
Larry Thomas: Yes, I did Arrested Development. I played a Saddam Hussein lookalike. They hired me because in one episode Jeffery Tambor’s character, George Bluth, had a picture of himself with Saddam Hussein. He goes “I thought he was the Soup Nazi. I told him I loved his work.” So when they wanted to do the episode with the Saddam lookalikes, they figured they should cast me as a good throwback joke. I loved Arrested Development as well. One of my favorite television shows. Jeffery Tambor was actually instrumental in getting me cast on Seinfeld. We were in an acting class together and he was on the Larry Sanders show at the time. One night I did a piece in class and he was very complimentary. I said, “Maybe you could introduce me to the guy who casts The Larry Sanders Show” and he did. He got me an interview with the casting director. As I was leaving the interview he said Jeffery had told him I was good with dialects. I told him that I had a good ear for them. He said “Good, because I also cast Seinfeld and we’re always looking for actors to play characters with different dialects.” A month later the Soup Nazi script came in and he asked me to do the part. I owe him a debt of gratitude. A funny side note, Jeffery and I were both nominated for an Emmy at the same time. Him for best supporting actor for Larry Thomas Sanders and me for best guest actor as the Soup Nazi. The night they were announced, we both went into our acting class together and we were the bigshots.
Joshua Massre: That must have been a good acting class. Which one did you like working on more, Seinfeld or Arrested Development?
Larry Thomas: It has to be Seinfeld. That’s no slight on Arrested Development. It was fun and Mitch Hurwitz was great. I had met the director through a friend of a friend and I knew Jeffery, so it was a good time. But Seinfeld was amazing because they were in their 7th season. They knew they weren’t going to be cancelled and so they had such a relaxed atmosphere on the set. The cast were so friendly. Jason Alexander was calling me Lar within 30 minutes of me being on the set. Every time I did something that made Julia Louise Dryfus laugh, she would compliment me. It was just such a pleasure to work around them. In my episode there was an actor named Tom Barry. He played Elaine’s building superintendent who wouldn’t let her move the armoire in. He and I just sat in the bleachers and watched them rehearse the scenes that took place in Jerry’s living room. Those were always the longest dialogue scenes. We just sat there watching them. I remember turning to him at one point and saying, “This is paradise. If I could be on a show like this 5 days a week I would be the happiest guy in the world.”
Joshua Massre: By the time you did your episode, they had their own rhythm. They were probably pretty efficient.
Larry Thomas: Oh yeah. But they were also pretty loose too. If you watch the DVD of my episode in the special features they have me telling a little story about me watching Julia create a moment that was not in the script. It’s the moment where George is going to challenge Jerry on how obnoxious he is about the whole baby talk thing. He’s about to depend on Elaine to help him tell Jerry how annoying it is. He looks at her and says “Right, Elaine?” As soon as he looks at her, she just turned and walked out the door. And that was her idea. It was so casual, she just asked Andy Ackerman, the director, “Do you want to try this?” He goes, “Give it a shot.” She did it and they kept it. It’s now in the episode. I just watched that get created before my eyes and I thought “Boy, that’s so nice that they can just ad lib and create and have fun like that.” I’d like to tell the fans to keep watching the show. It’s just as funny as it was when it originally aired. I appreciate that that everybody likes it and I’m flattered to be a part of it.