NEWARK, N.J. — In the list of iconic moments in New Jersey Devils history, a screaming David Puddy has to come just after some of the Stanley Cup wins. The “Seinfeld” clip is on the Prudential Center board at every home and other teams have been known to use it when the Devils are in town as well.
Patrick Warburton, the actor who played Elaine Benes’ sometimes boyfriend in two seasons of the sitcom, has reprised that role a handful of times and will once again don the face paint that scared the priest and embarrassed Elaine on Tuesday night when the Devils host the Pittsburgh Penguins on ’90s night and give out bobbleheads bearing his likeness.
“When does a guy in his early 50s not want to don the face paint and just be as big of a ridiculous goof as he can?” Warburton said Tuesday afternoon at Prudential Center.
However, this time around it’s for a cause other than just, you know, supporting the team. Warburton asked the Devils to support a team – I mean a cause – close to him, St. Jude’s Research Hospital. Warburton refused an appearance fee, instead asking the Devils to donate to St. Jude’s instead. They happily obliged, donating $25,000.
Warburton can’t quite remember how the part came to be, but he thinks it was a combination of Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David in season six of the NBC sitcom. The character was a hit and Seinfeld himself wanted him to return to the show, but Warburton was on another one. When that was canceled, he returned for season nine.
The hype around Puddy’s Devils fandom reached a fever pitch in 1995 when he dropped the puck and fell on on the carpet, saving the performance by ripping off his shirt to reveal the letter D painted on his chest.
DOWN GOES ‘PUDDY’: Warburton wipes out after dropping puck
Warburton figured it might die down, but because “Seinfeld” is such a pop culture phenomenon, it never really did. Despite the fact that he’s done so much other work, fans still approach him occasionally screaming “We’re the Devils!” or asking for a high-five.
“I did not invent that one,” he joked.
Warburton was born in Paterson but was not raised in New Jersey. His family moved to Birmingham, Alabama, when he was 3 years old before eventually settling in Huntington Beach, California. The Orange County kid grew up watching the Los Angeles Kings but because of the show, he still has an affinity for the Devils as well.
“Needless to say, it was very tricky for me during the Stanley Cup in 2012,” he said. “I kind of had to hide out at those games.”
No one could have ever guessed that one bit part from the 1990s could have turned into this, but he’s happy to use the opportunity to benefit St. Jude’s. His artist wife, Cathy Jennings, even created a custom jacket for the occasion that will be signed by Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur and auctioned off with the proceeds being donated to the network of children’s cancer research hospitals as well.
“ ‘Seinfeld’ is such a pop culture thing and it’s perpetual syndication,” he said. “It’s just unavoidable. As an actor, you go out and do other things and have fun, but I would say I may never do anything as high-profile as ‘Seinfeld’ again. You never know. But it’s mostly good.”