I imagine that about six or seven times a day somebody comes up to Wayne Knight and says, “Hello, Newman” in an annoyed voice. So perhaps he’s lucky that in his latest role that face of his that became famous on Seinfeld is hidden behind a long white beard. That’s because Knight is playing Santa Claus in Elf, the holiday musical based on the Will Ferrell movie which is returning to New York after a one-year hiatus.
Knight might seem like an odd fit for musical theater, and he talks about that to the New York Post along with how he feels about being so associated with Jerry Seinfeld‘s nemesis.
Being that Elf is a musical, Knight jokes about his singing ability, saying, “It’s kind of like natural childbirth — something comes out; we can’t guarantee what it looks like. But Santa is not a dulcet-toned character, so it should be OK.” But how about the dancing? Knight says that part isn’t too tough either, saying, “The requirements on me are minimal, and I’m just barely adequate. I just kind of naturally, uh, suck. No. Everybody’s going through a tap number that Santa’s not part of. I told my wife, ‘Geez, I feel bad. I’m not doing enough in this number.’ She said, ‘You should tell them. They’ll let you into that tap number.’ I said, ‘Honey, we’re doing nine shows a week. Shut up.’”
As for his most famous role, Knight admits that while playing Newman for so many years has made it difficult for audiences to accept him in other roles, he can’t complain about how lucrative it has been. He says, “It makes it much more difficult when someone sees you as a particular character to disappear in a film. They see you as Newman. It is a mixed blessing in that sense. But in the sense that it’s brought me income and notoriety, no, it’s fine.”