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Seinfeldians had boned up on nothing

Puffy shirts, Soup Nazis, jerk stores, low-talkers, high-talkers, close-talkers, and even a Festivus for the rest of us - not bad for a contest about nothing.

Puffy shirts, Soup Nazis, jerk stores, low-talkers, high-talkers, close-talkers, and even a Festivus for the rest of us - not bad for a contest about nothing.

In truth, with Jerry Seinfeld fans of all ages descending on the Kimmel Center's Commonwealth Plaza, there was something on the line Tuesday night - the chance to see the man himself perform at the Academy of Music tomorrow night.

Four tickets and a $200 gift certificate to Ruth's Chris Steak House went to the participant (or group) who put on the best one-minute set from either Seinfeld's television series or his stand-up act. A trivia contest was also held between acts.

Despite the stakes, frivolity was, in the Seinfeldian tradition, the order of the day. Skits chronicled Jerry's misadventures in car rentals, Elaine's frenetic internal monologue on a stalled subway, Kramer's plan to belt 600 golf balls into the Atlantic Ocean.

Two competitors even consulted the George Costanza playbook to keep their boss from knowing they were playing hooky.

"He probably wouldn't be that entertained about [us leaving work for this]," said a man who identified himself as Art Vandelay, Costanza's alias of choice on Seinfeld, which aired from 1990-98. "I don't know how good his sense of humor is."

The duo's scene - between Kramer and the Johnnie Cochran-inspired attorney Jackie Chiles - scored respectably with the three-judge panel of Kimmel Center employees. But it was a pair of Elaine Benes monologues that brought the "shiksappeal" early on.

Actresses Sharon Geller, from Philadelphia, and Antoinette Elias, from Easton, each earned a 14 out of 15 for their bits - Geller for her rendition of Elaine's stuck-on-the-subway lunacy and Elias for the token female character's tear-filled recap of a manic drive to the airport.

Geller, donning a frizzy black wig, even channeled the Benes rage after her set had ended.

"I have to stalk that woman who gave me a 4 [out of 5]," she said, "and find out where I can flatten her tires."

Aaron Unice, 30, gave the 50-member audience the most convincing Kramer of the night. With his hair gelled in a swoop atop his head, a blue Hawaiian shirt slung over his slender frame, and a mismatched ensemble of white socks and black dress shoes, Unice stumbled and convulsed through a three-man scene set in Jerry's apartment.

"Giddy up," he said of his performance.

Ultimately, though, 28-year-old Ben Carter proved Master of His Domain, tallying a perfect 15 from the judges for his re-imagination of Seinfeld's stand-up routine about McDonald's.

"Why are they still counting?" asked Carter, dressed in the comedian's signature button-down shirt and white sneakers. "How insecure is this company? Forty million, eighty jillion, killion, tillion. . . . Is their ultimate goal to have cows just surrendering voluntarily or something?"

Though the judges lauded his delivery and timing, Carter's indelible resemblance to the man he was imitating cast him as the "Bizarro Jerry" of the evening.

According to his wife, Katherine, Carter's Seinfeldian "nose and upper lip" deserve credit for landing the top prize in his (man) hands.

Carter has another theory.

"If you watch something or think about something so much, you kind of become that," he said. "Like how a dog owner looks like his dog."

Still, while proud to have emerged from a field of 14 competitors, Carter seemed more excited about the Ruth's Chris steaks than the Seinfeld tickets.

"We didn't know about this contest until after we had bought tickets [for the Saturday night show]," Carter said. "I wouldn't want to risk missing Jerry Seinfeld."

Now, he and Katherine plan to take in two nights of transcendent trivialities.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.