Many people don’t realize that before “The Contest” there was “The Bet,” an early second season episode of Seinfeld that was written and cast, and sets were even built, but the episode was never filmed. Also known as “The Gun,” the episode was written by Larry Charles and was meant to be a funny “dark-themed” episode. Unfortunately, it ended up being so dark that Julia Louis Dreyfus — and the director — refused to do it.
In the episode, Elaine (Julia Louis Dreyfus) bought a handgun for her own protection, and according to Jason Alexander, the scene in the script that initially made her balk was when Elaine held the gun to her head and asked “where do you want it Jerry? The Kennedy? Or [holds the gun to her stomach] The McKinley?”
Over on Screencrush, Mike Ryan had an opportunity to talk with the writer of that episode, Larry Charles, and the would-be director of that episode, Tom Cherones. He asked them both if the episode had come later in the series, after Seinfeld had established itself, if “The Gun” would’ve made it to air. Charles thought so, but Cherones remained doubtful.
Larry Charles: “There were no ideas that were off limits.”
Tom Cherones: “You can’t make a funny show about guns, in my opinion.”
Larry Charles: “I don’t agree with that, though. I respect his opinion, but I don’t think there’s anything that’s not funny, necessarily.”
Could the episode have made a statement about gun use or gun control?
Tom Cherones: “Well, I don’t know about that. It was a comedy show. We weren’t trying to make statements.”
Larry Charles: “It’s all a question of how you handle it. From ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Blazing Saddles,’ you can draw from all kinds of sources where guns are used for comedic effect.”
Charles also added that a show like Louie or Curb Your Enthusiasm would have absolutely no problem making that episode today, and I’d also add that Julia Louis Dreyfus would have zero problem with those exact same lines in an episode of Veep (in fact, I’m surprised she hasn’t made a subtle reference to them yet).
But the other revealing fact that Mike Ryan uncovered in talking with Larry Charles is that they’d originally given Kramer a completely different first name in “The Bet.” As most people know, Kramer’s first name is Cosmo, which we didn’t discover until the 97th episode of the series. However, in “The Bet,” Larry Charles had written him another name:
“It was Conrad. Because I was kind of thinking of Conrad Birdie from ‘Bye Bye Birdie.’ So, it was Conrad, actually. And then eventually it became Cosmo. I remember feeling mixed feelings because I had named him Conrad. Although, Cosmo is a great name. But Conrad was good, too.”
Conrad? So, maybe it’s good “The Bet” never aired. Had it, the episode might have turned a lot of viewers away, and Seinfeld might not have become the biggest sitcom of all time. More importantly, we would’ve had Conrad Kramer instead of Cosmo. And no offense to Charles, but Conrad is a terrible name for that character.