"The Phone Message" is the 4th episode of Season Two of Seinfeld, and first aired February 13, 1991. It was written by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, and was directed by Tom Cherones.


George is excited when he finds that he and Jerry are having dates on the same night. Both of their dates go well up to the point that they have to say good night. George's date Carol asks George to come up to her place for some coffee, but George tells her that he can't drink coffee at night because it "keeps [him] up". Once she leaves his car he realizes he made a mistake, as "coffee" is a euphemism for sex. Jerry's date Donna remarks that she likes a cotton Dockers commercial that Jerry absolutely hates, and with that ends his interest in her.

George decides to call Carol, but gets her answering machine. He leaves her an extremely long, obnoxious message, and is concerned that she will think he is an idiot. Jerry's friend, Elaine, tells George how something similar happened to her brother-in-law, who took care of the problem by secretly switching the tape. Jerry advises George to wait a few days for Carol to call back; George agrees, but continues to leave increasingly angry—and eventually almost hostile—messages on her machine. When he discovers she was out of town, he decides to go through with the plan of changing the tape. Frustrated by his inability to use an answering machine, George convinces Jerry to go with him. They decide to wait for Carol outside her apartment, and George will distract her while Jerry changes the tape. They succeed, but just as they are about to leave Carol's apartment, she tells George that she had already heard the messages and found them funny, adding that she "loves jokes like that."

Notes About Nothing

  • Of course, Jerry is not actually lactose intolerant as he jokes in this episode. Unless he's eating all his cereal without milk.
    • In The Heart Attack, the New Age healer tells Jerry he consumes too much dairy, which perturbs him.
  • Larry David once apparently tried replacing an answer-phone tape with a blank to remove an embarrassing message he left, inspiring the incident in this episode.
  • George's preferred signal song "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" is a Rodgers and Hammerstein song sung by a bunch of nuns in The Sound of Music. Jerry's suggestion "Lemon Tree" is a Peter Paul and Mary song, although he seems to prefer the Trini Lopez cover.
  • George pretends Jerry has a phobia of public toilets as a ruse to get invited into Carol's apartment. In later episodes we learn that both Jerry and George are very fastidious about their toilet habits.
  • Though the episode met with positive critical responses, its initial broadcast on February 13, 1991, was watched by an underwhelming audience of 13 million viewers, causing NBC to put the show on a two-month hiatus.
  • The fact that George's father wears his sneakers in the pool is referenced again in The Puffy Shirt.


  • When the door to Jerry's apartment is opened, the apartment number is clearly 3A, as opposed to 5A in other episodes.
  • Jerry tells Donna that he has never watched one I Love Lucy episode, but in "The Apartment" he mentions Fred Mertz to his show audience. (He may be familiar with the character of Fred Mertz without actually having watched an episode, though.)
  • The wine glasses that Jerry and Donna have on the kitchen island were full on some shots and empty on others.


  • "She invites me up at twelve o'clock at night for coffee and I don't go up. No, thank you, I don't want coffee. It keeps me up. Too late for me to drink coffee. I said this to her. People this stupid shouldn't be allowed to live." - George
  • "Coffee’s not coffee; coffee is sex!" - George
  • (About himself) "Come and listen to the idiot! Hey, everybody! The idiot's on!!" -George
  • "Yesterday I'm a volcano. I try one more call, the machine comes on and I let fly like Mussolini from the balcony. 'Where the hell do you get the nerve? You invite me up for coffee and then you don't call me back for four days? I don't like coffee, I don't have to come up! I'd like to get one more shot at the coffee just so I could spit it in your face!'" - George
Season Two Episodes
The Ex-Girlfriend | The Pony Remark | The Jacket | The Phone Message | The Apartment | The Statue | The Revenge | The Heart Attack | The Deal | The Baby Shower | The Chinese Restaurant | The Busboy

The Bet