Life imitates art at Soup Man

Soup Man

Soup Man says, “no soup for you!” to shoppers in Market 32, Wilton NY

Does this strike anybody else as weird? A character modeled after Ali “Al” Yeganeh, the crotchety proprietor of the International Soup Kitchen in midtown Manhattan, was featured in the famous “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld. In order to be served his delicious broth, customers must follow a strict set of rules about how to stand in line and order. Of course, George Costanza screws up and is told “no soup for you!”

Al Yeganeh subsequently put his name behind a franchise operation called “Soup Man” which dispenses gourmet soups from beneath a sign with his glowering countenance. I have stood outside the door of one of these establishments (near Wall Street, as I recall) and contemplated the menu but not entered because the prices were quite high, close to $10 for a bowl of soup.

Soup Man Box

My Soup Man soup, which I am not allowed to eat.

Soup Man is also available in shelf-stable tetra packs at a growing number of retail stores… which brings me to the weird part. About a year ago Soup Man contracted with Larry Thomas, the actor who played the Soup Nazi on the Seinfeld episode, to go on tour for them. He appeared at my local supermarket the other day, in his soup server’s costume, and was available to his picture taken with customers or simply with a box of soup, which he was happy to autograph.

So here we have an actor playing the part of the guy who is pictured on the Soup Man box, and he is selling soup by telling retail customers they can’t have any. Life imitates art.

The soup’s pretty good, by the way. I tasted the lobster bisque and brought home a 16 oz box. (I paid $3, much more reasonable than at the restaurant.) But I can’t eat it because it says “no soup for you” right across the front with Larry Thomas’ signature underneath.

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2 Responses to Life imitates art at Soup Man

  1. The Alex Prud’homme essay from the New Yorker, “Slave,” profiling Yeganah–which I believe was part of the inspiration for the Soup Nazi character–is pretty great, and makes it clear that Larry Thomas is probably a much better salesman for the soup at events like this:

    • Burnt My Fingers says:

      Hah! The article is terrific. It would be fun to send the real Soup Man on a retail tour. Customers would run screaming into the parking lot.

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