No Soup For You! Seinfeld’s ‘Soup Nazi’ Based on Real New Yorker
There may not be a show that has defined the sitcom genre more than Seinfeld, the hit 90's show featuring the titular comedian, Jerry Seinfeld.
It can be argued that no episode of Seinfeld is more famous, or more quotable, than The Soup Nazi. It can also be argued, however, that few episodes are more controversial, because of the effect that it had on a real-life New York soup chef.
The "Soup Nazi" is an All-Time Seinfeld Supporting Character
That's right, the "soup nazi" was actually based on a real person, as many of Seinfeld's supporting characters were.
This particularly memorable one-hit wonder was Yev Kassam, aka "The Soup Nazi", played by Larry Thomas. In the show, the character owns a small restaurant near where Seinfeld and Co. live, and serves soup to the masses everyday.
The character is a cult hero in the Seinfeld realm, mainly thanks to the catchphrase "no soup for you!", which is said to patrons who upset the aforementioned Gestapo of Gumbo.
The episode lives on in the lore of the show, but in reality, it caused quite a deal of hardship for the real-life soup vendor who inspired the character.
Meet The Real "Soup Nazi", Ali Yeganeh
Ali "Al" Yeganeh is an Iranian soup vendor, who founded Soup Kitchen International on West 55th Street in Manhattan back in 1984. He served soup to the masses in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and his single-location operation garnered quite the following. So much so, in fact, that it inspired the show to create a character loosely based on him.
Yeganeh has gone on record to say that the show ruined his life, as well as his business. Stories from the Season 7 DVD extras surfaced that when Seinfeld and the crew went to visit the real life soup kitchen, Yeganeh recognized him, and cursed him out for what he had done to him.
Here's a good look at the saga, from Mashed:
Seinfeld offered a half-hearted apology, and from what I could tell, the two went on their way.
There is "Still Soup for You" from the Real Soup Nazi
Ali Yeganeh closed down the original location in 2004, but chose to re-open the business in multiple locations, rebranding the chain as "The Original Soupman".
In 2017, however, the company was forced to declare bankruptcy, after its Chief Financial Officer was charged with income tax evasion and other financial crimes.
After getting out from under the pandemic, The Original Soupman opened a new location in Times Square, and the legend of the "real Soup Nazi" lives on.
Just don't make any references around him. You'll probably get fired that way.