Seinfeld became one of the most iconic comedies of all time thanks to their willingness to push boundaries. Overall, the series broke the mold for what a sitcom could look like. And while doing so they explored controversial issues and never-before-seen topics that audiences were shocked to see.
Not every storyline on Seinfeld aged well, though they were surprisingly progressive for their time. And there’s one topic the writers thought they’d never get past television censors. “The Contest” is an episode wholly focused on the topic of masturbation, and yet amazingly, they never utter the word.
Larry David based ‘The Contest’ on a real-life experience
Most of Seinfeld’s content was inspired by real-life situations. The show explored the minutiae of everyday life but made it funny and over-the-top, which kept fans entertained and enthralled since they could relate to what was going on.
Series co-creator Larry David came up with “The Contest” based on a real contest he and his friends had involving who could go the longest without masturbating. Amazingly, the network allowed the content if no characters used the word “masturbate.” According to DVD extras, Julia Louis-Dreyfus never thought the episode would air because of the subject matter.
Later, David said the strength of the episode was that it used euphemisms for the act rather than explicit language. It even spurred one of the most notorious quotable lines in Seinfeld history, according to WikiSein.
‘The Contest’ is about refraining from masturbation
It’s an unlikely topic for television. Still, season 4 episode 10 became popular because it was shockingly personal and therefore taboo. Somehow, David managed to make it clear what was going on without being explicit.
It all starts when George tells everyone his mother caught him masturbating, which caused her to fall over and injure herself. Everyone makes fun of George. Then, they come up with the idea to put up money to see who can go the longest without pleasuring themselves. The men put $100 on the contest but make Elaine put in $150, claiming it’s easier for women to refrain than for men.
The rest of the episode shows the group getting tempted in all kinds of different ways, like when Kramer sees a naked woman walking around her apartment or when Elaine runs into John F. Kennedy Jr. Jerry is dating a virgin who is finally ready to have sex. One by one, everyone drops out of the contest.
It’s later implied that George won the contest though audiences never see him collect his earnings.
We learned why Jerry Seinfeld calls himself ‘master of my domain’
The episode avoids using explicit language to describe masturbation, which is how it got past censors in the first place. Ultimately, the euphemisms become more memorable anyway. Jerry refers to his self-control as being “master of my domain,” a phrase that’s still employed today.
David considers “The Contest” one of the best episodes of the series not just because he wrote it, but because it highlighted exactly what Seinfeld aimed to do every time. Audiences laughed, cringed, and secretly related to the plights of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer.
As usual, it was funny because it was true.