Back in 1997, the New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier described Seinfeld as “the worst, last gasp of Reaganite, grasping, materialistic, narcissistic, banal self-absorption.” What Wieseltier missed, of course, is that that is what the show was about. Granted, many people confused “banal self-absorption” with “nothing.” And people still get confused about this. Just look at the Twitter account @SeinfeldToday.
SeinfeldToday has attracted more than 640,000 followers and was named one of Time’s top 140 Twitter accounts of 2013. Its popularity even landed a sitcom-writing job for one of its authors, the former BuzzFeed writer Jack Moore. But, in contrast to the sitcom that gave it life, SeinfeldToday is not about tedium and banality: It is merely tedious and banal. SeinfeldToday supposedly imagines what the show would be like if it were still on the air—but all it does is appropriate the show’s characters and hand them iPhones plus a knowledge of the last 15 years of popular culture. A typical SeinfeldToday Tweet goes like this:
Hilarious. As Sam Biddle of Valleywag said to me over email, SeinfeldToday is a consistently “lazy take on the novelty” of these beloved sitcom characters existing in contemporary Manhattan. “Jerry Seinfeld… WITH AN IPHONE? Elaine…. TRIES ONLINE DATING? George…. LOSES HIS KINDLE? It’s just a combination of nouns.”
Fortunately, there’s a man who recognizes that updating someone else’s beloved cultural property with modern gadgetry and the online “struggles” of today’s thirtysomething New York singles is rightfully the hobby of a brand-obsessed simpleton/stark-raving lunatic. That is the fundamental idea behind @Seinfeld2000, whose work you can find in the BuzzFeed community pages, on YouTube, in his hysterical column for the Vice music site Noisey, and, first and foremost, on Twitter. “I sort of try to infiltrate every Internet publishing tool that I have and keep it a little bit surprising,” the man behind Seinfeld2000 told me earlier this year, “though I think I’ve probably exhausted all of my options at this point.”
This week he proved he may still have some arrows left in his quiver by launching his most out-there project yet, “Seinquest2000,” a faux mystical, Dadaist audiovisual tour of the Seinfeld2000 concept. It’s not S2K’s best work, but it does provide an excuse to reflect on this hard-to-grasp but surprisingly profound comedic project. Seinfeld2000 may baffle you at first, but his Twitter account and his e-book The Apple Store are hilarious works of political and social satire that skewer our constant convulsing over Breaking Bad, or Miley Cyrus, or the ground zero mosque, or golden smartphones, or whatever other piece of cultural minutia happens to be a trending topic at a given moment. The project is not only a fitting legacy and tribute to the show that inspired it, but a mirror held up to the petty narcissism of the social-media era. With Seinfeld2000, as for Marshall McLuhan, the medium is a big part of the message. Twitter, Seinfeld2000 rightly grasps, is today’s prime site for the sort of navel-gazing yuppie privilege that Seinfeld captured so well. Just look at a few SeinfeldToday tweets about kale, or the NSA, or Breaking Bad spoilers, or defective yoga pants to see what I mean. Those tweets reflect the inanity of Twitter, but they don’t comment on it. Contrast them with a typical Seinfeld2000 tweet:
In Seinfeld2000’s fictional universe, Jerry—alternatingly misspelled as Jerey, Jary, Jarrie, and Jeary—is a 65-year-old sexual sociopath who has catalogued all 94,211 of his romantic conquests and is still dating beautiful women half his age with names that correspond to parts of the female anatomy. Kramer—misspelled as Krander, Krandar, Krandal, Krandalf, and Krankran—is still bursting into Jerry’s unlocked apartment at the most awkward possible moments, but now his iconic “poof” hairstyle has been pulled back into a single dreadlock and he rides around on hover skates, proof that the show takes place “in this modern time.”
The author of Seinfeld2000 is a 30-year-old man who says he works in television at a “major media company” and contributes to the Onion as a freelance headline writer. He prefers to remain anonymous for personal and professional reasons—and that anonymity is clearly part of the allure for his dedicated following among New York’s media scene and the subculture of pranksters and funny people known as “weird Twitter.” “It just adds to the mystique of the whole thing,” Seinfeld2000 says. “I’m not anyone special. I’m not, like, Zachary Quinto.”
That you can’t connect Seinfeld2000’s bizarre, bewildering voice with any real, living human being only enhances the joke: It is fun to picture a lunatic Seinfeld obsessive from an Eastern European backwater who has decided that it is his mission in life is to spread the poorly spelled gospel of a present-day Seinfeld—and to destroy his archrival Seinfeld fanfic Twitter account, SeinfeldToday.
“Like everybody else I initially followed SeinfeldToday,” Seinfeld2000’s author told me. “At first I thought, this is a funny, interesting concept. I just felt myself starting to get a little bit irritated by it. … I started to feel like it was a little bit not true to the voice of the show.” To Seinfeld2000, part of the great success of the original show is that it flaunted the narcissistic superficiality of its characters to a degree never before seen on a top-rated American sitcom, and did so in a way that was often surreal—even, in S2K’s words, “twisted.”
Seinfeld2000 captures “the mocking, ‘no hugging, no learning’ ethos that formed the core of the original show,” as Politico’s Ben White put it in an email. White is another of the number of journalists who have taken sides in the faux feud between the two Seinfeld-inspired accounts. Why do so many journalists side with S2K? There’s the desire to be part of an “in” crowd that recognizes unappreciated genius, of course. But part of it is that journalists are constantly, professionally immersed in Twitter and in the daily inanities of our culture that Seinfeld2000 lampoons so well. They get what Seinfeld2000 is up to.
When it comes to political writers like White, it may help that the fifth character of Seinfeld2000’s cast is an evil, Tea Party-style version of Barack Obama. “U.S. Presedent Barack Sadam Husene Obame sit in the darkened Oval Ofice at 2 a.m. wearing hes traditienel Kenyan roabe,” we read in The Apple Store. “He take one last bite of the Chicago style deep dish pizza that he has flown to him every day on the Amerecan tax payer’s dime and wipe the grease off his mouth with the U.S. consititutien. He get up and walk to desk, where he keeps the Kenyan black magic crystle ball. Its black glow iluminate his face. ‘Eeny, meeny, miney, mo—which basic U.S. freedoms are next to go?’ he say aloud to no one and every one at the same time.”
“Yes, it is out of nowhere,” Seinfeld2000 told me of Obama’s emergence in this fictional universe. “This guy”—that is, the imaginary man with terrible spelling who is the very unreliable narrator of the whole Seinfeld2000 project—“is just a little bit ignorant and hates the president and is so anti-Obama that even in something completely unrelated this sentiment will make it through to the extent that Obama, for some reason, is now a Seinfeld character.”
And Seinfeld2000 also gets at the original show’s occasionally fraught racial dynamics. One of the funniest—and most cringe-inducing—scenes in the book is a gang war between the hopelessly racist Kramer character (a callback to Michael Richards’ real-life racist outburst in 2006) and a gang of black street thugs who are led by a fat kid “whose name is probably Jamal, 90% chance.” In The Apple Store, minorities are reduced to generic stereotypes, another big complaint about the original series that Seinfeld2000 cleverly sends up.
So what’s next for Seinfeld2000? Will the whole thing be coming to an end soon? Given that Seinfeld2000 has already faced a copyright attack over his e-book, the thought of transforming the idea into, say, a network TV show may sound ill-advised. But Seinfeld2000 doesn’t actually need the Seinfeld characters in order to be funny. When I asked him to respond to some questions in the voice of Seinfeld2000, he veered off wildly into an unrelated imaginary world that only confirmed his unique comic voice:
A: If i can be honast with you for a minute, OK, its like basicly? They stoale my idea for a twiter acount that twetes imegenary plot’s for Seinfeld show if senfeld was still on televesion in modarn day. So its like their stealing my baby. And if theres one thing ive learned from life expereince, its dont steal babys, ESPECIALY not from Walt Disney World Rasort in 2006, even if the baby is unatended and you were planing on takeing it to the authorety’s eventual.
Q: You’ve said this before, that SeinfeldToday “stole” your Twitter concept, but how can that be true if Seinfeld Today started publishing first?
A: WTF JERAMY WHO’S SIDE ARE YOU ON, I THOUGHT SLAITE WAS SUPOSED TO BE A QUALETY SITE FOR ONLINE JOURNELISM THAT MAKE YOU THINK BUT ALSO FACTUEL
Q: SeinfeldToday doesn’t seem to care as much about you as you care about them. Why do you think your feud with SeinfeldToday isn’t reciprocal?
A: First off all, the word is speled “reciprecal” which is prety much anather red-flag about this online site your working for. So thats strike two Sammey Sosa. And as far as im concern,theyre not intaracting with me for the same reasen that a burgalar who home invasien’s your house and murder’s your whoale family and get’s away w it dosent call you up to chat afterward’s.
A risk-taking and comedy-savvy cable network like FX, or its new comedy-focused sister network FXX, would be a great home for a show that captures the voice of a Seinfeld2000-like character, maybe replacing the stalker-like obsession with Seinfeld for a 20th Century Fox property, or maybe another subject entirely. A series by Seinfeld2000 would have the potential to become the most surreal thing ever to appear on American television.
Imagen the possibilitiy?