On Thursday, Democratic super PAC, PACRONYM, released a public service announcement entitled “A Message from Your Friendly Local Mail Carrier” which had Seinfeld fans saying “Hello, Newman” for the first time in two decades. Wayne Knight (Jurassic Park, Seinfeld), who played Jerry Seinfeld’s (Seinfeld, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee) neighbor and nemesis on the classic NBC sitcom, remains nameless in the PSA but, according to Entertainment Weekly, “is unquestionably Newman.”
— PACRONYM (@PACRONYM) October 8, 2020
Newman remains Knight’s most iconic and recognizable role to-date, which is why the actor has made a concerted effort never to reprise the character. “It’s been my studious attempt to let Newman die,” Knight told EW “I’ve been so associated with the character that it became somewhat of a lodestone in my mind.” Letting Newman die has become a more difficult endeavor in 2020, when attempts to dismantle the United States Postal Service (USPS) have made headline news. Cheers actor John Ratzenberger (Cheers, Toy Story), known for playing postal worker Cliff Calvin, chimed in on the matter back in August, leaving many to wonder what the less-congenial Newman would have to say.
An important message from none other than Cliff Clavin (@dratzenberger) himself, asking us all to help keep @usps in business!! (thank you for your service, Mr. Ratzenberger) #SaveUSPS #USPS pic.twitter.com/bbS43gNcIP
— Tim Kasher (@timkasher) August 16, 2020
Bids for Knight’s attention came from every direction, including the 72nd Emmy Awards and a former speechwriter to President Obama, via EW. Knight expected the inquiries as the USPS became a front-and-center political issue during an election year “with unprecedented numbers of people set to vote by mail” (EW). “Having played one of the most iconic postmen, [I] knew that something would happen,” Knight reported to EW “and I began getting contacted by various different people about reawakening Newman for this purpose.” However, PACRONYM brought something to the table that none of the other offers did – former Seinfeld writer and later-years Veep showrunner David Mandel (Seinfeld, Veep).
With Mandel set to pen the script for the PACRONYM video, Knight changed his tune about reprising his iconic mail carrier role. “”If we could capture the voice, if we get it funny, and we could get the message out, I felt like it would be disseminated in a way that would reach people, and that was what was important,” Knight told EW.
The result of this Seinfeld reunion is a PSA on mail-in voting littered with Mandel’s signature political-zingers, a staple of his time on Veep and his outspoken political voice on social media, and Knight’s signature Newman mannerisms. Physical comedy abounds with Knight snooping through people’s mail and sampling food as masked government agents attempt to swoop a mailbox from underneath his watchful eye. Knight brings back Newman’s surly attitude but this time directs his vitriol toward Donald Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy rather than Jerry. The postal worker closes with a veiled threat about leaking Trump’s tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service because, as Newman once said, “when you control the mail, you control information” (Seinfeld).
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There’s undoubtedly a layer of irony to Newman, a notoriously corrupt and disruptive mail carrier, jumping to the defense of the USPS. “[Trump’s administration] had the unmitigated gall to try to slow down the mail, when everybody knows that the only person who can slow down the mail is a mailman” Knight proclaims in the PACRONYM PSA, alluding to Newman’s various intentional and unintentional means of disrupting mail himself. “Newman has been trying to subvert the Postal Service for his entire career. He has not been able to do it,” The Seinfeld actor marveled about the perseverance of the long-standing American institution to EW “it is a well-oiled machine with a couple of bad cogs in it that every now and then get caught. But in general, the thought that you can deliver something to a one-room post office in Alaska for 55 cents is pretty incredible.”
Thursday’s PACRONYM video came just in-time for World Postal Day on Friday October 9, a day intended to “create awareness of the role of the postal sector in people’s and businesses’ everyday lives and its contribution to the social and economic development of countries” (United Nations).