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:
Fake pictures on Craigslist make Elaine's apartment hunt insane. Kramer claims to be the inspiration for all three Hangover films.-- Modern Seinfeld (@SeinfeldToday) May 15, 2013
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:
JERY: Hey Banya what color is new iPhone? BANYA: ... JERY: Banya? You ok BANYE: I just found out my mother died-- Seinfeld Current Day (@Seinfeld2000) September 10, 2013
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.”