Elaine was the only one of what would be the show's four main cast to be missing from the pilot episode. She would make her first appearance in the second episode, "The Stake Out". Her character was added because NBC executives felt the show was too male-centric, and demanded that creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David add a woman to the cast, or the show would not be renewed.
Unlike the families of Jerry and George, Elaine's relatives never had large parts on the show. Her father, gruff author Alton Benes (a character based on the novelist Richard Yates and played by Lawrence Tierney), was featured in "The Jacket", and a cousin was featured in "The Wink". "The Jacket" revealed that she had a sister in St. Louis and an uncle who worked in the Texas School Book Depository with Lee Harvey Oswald. Elaine also mentions that she has a nephew. It's suggested that Elaine's parents are divorced. In "The Pick" it is revealed that Elaine's sister's name is Gale.
Unlike the other characters, she was not a native of New York, having grown up in Towson, Maryland. In "The Dog" (Season Three) she says she has been in New York for 6 years. In "The Letter," she revealed herself a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan to the point of wearing an Orioles cap while seated in the owners box at a New York Yankees game. She is the best-educated of the group of friends, and considers herself the most intelligent, having completed her undergraduate education at Tufts University, which she claims was her safety school. She claims her IQ to be 145 in "The Cafe", but later in the episode she takes the test two more times, scoring 85 and 151.
Elaine is mostly a victim of fate throughout the series. Storylines involving her would typically have her caught up in the machinations of the other characters, or coming into conflict either with her inadequate boyfriends or the arbitrary requirements of her eccentric employers. She grew progressively more cynical and acid-tongued as the series progressed.
Elaine was the only character who worked steady 9 to 5 jobs throughout the show's entire run, working mostly as a writer or editor. During the first five seasons, she worked at Pendant Publishing, where she served as a copy editor before losing her job at the end of the fifth season when the company went bankrupt (an occurrence for which she was partially responsible). In the sixth season, she was a personal assistant to the wealthy, eccentric Mr. Pitt, before finally meeting J. Peterman and becoming an editor at the J. Peterman Catalog, where she would remain employed for the rest of the show's run. She took charge of the catalog when Peterman took a short "retirement" (nervous breakdown) in Burma, moving back to her former position after he returned and after losing the company money. She was fired by J. Peterman for voicing her extreme hatred for the movie The English Patient. Only by agreeing to travel to (and live in) a remote cave in the Tunisian desert for a specified time did she save her job.
Elaine had a string of boyfriends, most appearing for only an episode or two. One of the few that had a recurring appearance was David Puddy, her slow-witted steady boyfriend, played by Patrick Warburton. Like Jerry, Elaine's relationships usually ended over shallow, superficial reasons. In one episode, Elaine repeatedly ends and restarts her relationship with Puddy during the course of an international airplane trip.
In an early episode Elaine expressed disdain with the world's interest in the Kennedy family, but in season four's "The Contest", Elaine crosses paths with John F. Kennedy Jr. at her gym and becomes so infatuated with him, and the prospect of becoming the next Mrs. Kennedy, that she masturbates, thereby losing the contest. Elaine is crushed to learn JFK Jr. is dating Jerry's ex, Marla the virgin (Jane Leeves).
In one episode, Elaine found herself short of her supply of favored contraceptive sponges and pondered whether certain men were "spongeworthy"—that is, worthy of the use of one of her limited number of sponges.
Like Kramer, Elaine was very physical. Her signature move was to express incredulity by shoving people while yelling: "Shut up!" or "Get out!" She was also a notoriously poor dancer, as evidenced in the episode entitled "The Little Kicks" in which she dances at a J. Peterman company party. George described her dancing as "a full-bodied dry heave set to music."
In the notes about nothing for "The Finale" on the DVD, it was revealed that during the show's run Elaine dated 50 men.
Elaine’s address is 16 West 75th Street, Apartment 2G.
Like the other main characters on Seinfeld, Elaine used a pseudonym in order to get herself out of various sticky situations. Elaine's pseudonym was Susie, after a co-worker mistakenly calls her that. Susie was then pawned off by Elaine as a different person so that complaints against Elaine appeared to be against this (nonexistent) employee Susie. Susie was "killed off" when the situation with her co-worker became too complicated. Elaine said that Susie had "taken her own life" and a funeral was held.
In the episode "The Pick", Elaine is given the nickname 'Nip' by her colleagues after she mistakenly sent out a Christmas card picture, taken by Kramer, that revealed one of her nipples.
She claimed to be Uncle Leo's nurse, "Paloma", in the episode "The Package", in order to get a cream for a rash after she had been labeled as difficult on her own doctor's chart.
She is also called "Laney" several times during the show, as a nickname (short for Elaine).
Classic Elaine moments
- Refuses to remove her Baltimore Orioles cap while sitting in George Steinbrenner's private box at Yankee Stadium. As a result, she is forced to leave. ("The Letter")
- Laughs uncontrollably during a piano recital when Jerry puts a Tweety Bird Pez dispenser on her leg. ("The Pez Dispenser")
- Does the notorious "Little Kicks" dance at a J. Peterman company party. ("The Little Kicks")
- Overdoses on muscle relaxants, and does an impersonation of Stanley Kowalski ("Stella!!!") from the play A Streetcar Named Desire. ("The Pen")
- Upon learning that her boyfriend has been in a car accident, stops to buy Jujyfruits and popcorn before visiting him in the hospital, resulting in their break-up. Later in the episode, Elaine is unable to deliver a crucial message to her boss because her mouth is full of Jujyfruits, setting off a chain reaction leading to the company's bankruptcy. ("The Opposite")
- Once befriended an opposite version of the Seinfeld gang, including mild-mannered Kevin, whose apartment was the reverse of Jerry's: directions in the apartment were reversed, there was a hanging unicycle instead of a bicycle on the ground, and there was a Bizarro Superman statue. Kevin's friends included a skinny bald man named Gene, a less kooky across-the-hall neighbor named Feldman who always knocked and a portly FedEx employee named Vargas. Unfortunately, Elaine's ways didn't gel with the bizarro world, where the gang was into reading and preferred people ask before eating olives straight from the jar. After she shoved Kevin with a trademark "get out!" she was asked to leave. The final glimpse of Bizarro World showed Kevin, Gene and Feldman expressing genuine emotion toward each other and crying. ("The Bizarro Jerry")
- When Elaine found the Soup Nazi's recipes in his old armoire, she went back to his restaurant and said, "You’re through, Soup Nazi. Pack it up. No more soup for you. NEXT!" ("The Soup Nazi")
The gallery page for Elaine Benes can be found here.