Jason Richards: The Man Behind Seinfeld2000
Seinfeld is the greatest TV show of all time, according to a TV Guide list last year. It was the show about nothing that became everything. It meant a lot to a lot of people and when it ended in 1998 people were kind of sad.
Later came @SeinfeldToday – a Twitter feed posing hypothetical story lines that would play out in a modern day episode of Seinfeld. The account was co-run by a BuzzFeed employee who mustered up a huge fanbase in 24 hours and got people all excited through micro-plotlines about everyone’s favourite Manhattan foursome.
Kramer was torrenting, Elaine reviewed a restaurant on Yelp, Newman ruined Game of Thrones for Jerry. Off the bat, it’s quite good fun. The scenarios aren’t worlds away from the narratives that would’ve existed in the ‘90s, but after a while it becomes clear this is just a guy sat at a laptop who has taken it upon himself to continue the story of Seinfeld. This realisation came quick for Jason Richards, the man responsible for @Seinfeld2000, and this where the comedy gets complicated. The version Richards created last year is a parody of a parody; in the postmodern tradition of @dril and @Horse_ebooks, Dolan and Doge, Richards plays a crazed Seinfeld fan maniacally churning out slightly misjudged and gravely misspelt ideas for episodes under the mission statement: “What if Sienfeld still on TV?”
We phoned up Toronto-based writer Richards to get some insight into the account, which has recently been extended into a chaotic video game based on the famous Seinfeld episode The Junior Mint – Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig provided a soundtrack. When launching the game, @Seinfeld2000 added, “this game is hand’s down the gretest video game ever creted becase it alow you to pretend your in one of the most clasic epsodes of Senfeld… Can the ppl who made Call Of Duty 4 promise you that? No. They simply canot.”
Who are you?
I’m a creative professional working in Canada. Fairly regular lifestyle but I have this Twitter – this strange Twitter project that I’m doing.
This sounds pathetic, but how long does it take you put a tweet together?
It depends: with photoshop, it depends on how elaborate. There was one with the cast having moved to Brooklyn and everybody was accessorised with these quote-un-quote ‘hipster’ details. Larry David was wearing a Yeezus tour shirt.
What was it about @SeinfeldToday that made you want to parody it?
A few things; I got really sick of it really quickly. I thought it was funny at first then got really tired of it and it became something I couldn’t avoid. I just unfollowed it but then I would see it retweeted multiple times a day. As for why I didn’t find it funny anymore, it wasn’t really in the voice of the show. So this idea came about to mock the fact that if someone can presume to pick up where the show left off in a parody form, then anyone can do that. Even a crazy person, someone with not very good judgement, could also take it upon themselves.
Is that why everything is misspelt?
That’s a bit of it for sure. It’s also the idea of it being a mocking voice, like when children on a playground are making fun of each other. And also just to really distinguish it from what it’s making fun of – the absurdity of some of the ideas and how stupid it all is. I try not to give that much biographical detail because I feel like everyone has their version of what this voice is.
JERY: Whats the deal with Twiter? 140 characters? Thats almost as many as Game Of Thrones! Camra zoom out Jery is saying this during sex
— Seinfeld Current Day (@Seinfeld2000) June 15, 2014
Was it intentionally a fairly obscure, ‘hipster’ joke?
There are a lot of references that aren’t mainstream references. There are jokes about things that would appeal to a “hipster” demographic. I’m actually using air quotes while saying the word hipster! The spelling makes it very inaccessible. I just think it’s a very acquired taste.
Has the account ever reached anyone from the original Seinfeld team?
There have been some very minor brushes but I’ve never met any of them directly. A few months ago I did this reedit of the Susan plot line from season 7 in to Arcade Fire’s Here Comes The Night Time music video. Somebody tweeted it at Jason Alexander and he retweeted it. The only other thing was a couple of weeks ago we did this Seinfeld Emoji thing and Jessica Seinfeld, Jerry’s wife, was really into it. That was kind of cool. Jerry Seinfeld has been asked about it in like a Reddit AMA and acknowledged it, but I don’t think anybody from their team is in a big rush to acknowledge this strange remix Twitter thing.
How did the work with Ezra Koenig come about?
Pippin Barr is this really creative guy and a video game designer. Very talented and very, very smart. We were working together on the video game and the question came up of soundtracking it. Ezra had already followed the account and there’d been some interaction. I was able to send him a direct message asking if he’d be interested in contributing something, thinking there was a 1% chance that he would even reply. To my great surprise he really came through and really raised the creative value. That’s another great thing about this account, it allows me to collaborate with all these super talented people.
Do you see yourself as part of a wider scene of comics?
Not particularly. That wasn’t the intention going in. I didn’t think this thing would sustain past a few days, I just wanted to vent about something that was a minor interference for a day or two. I have noticed since then and since getting more immersed in Twitter’s creative side that there is a shared sensibility. It’s a tone that I enjoy, it corresponds with my sense of humour.
Would you describe it as ‘meta’?
What I’m doing? Definitely. One of my favourite threads of Seinfeld2000 is telling people about the purpose of the account without actually fulfilling that purpose, i.e. just informing people that this account imagines what Seinfeld would be like if it was still on television. A tweet that adds zero value, a giant empty calorie of a tweet. It serves no purpose. If you talk about ‘meta’ then that’s the most meta part of it. Also just the constant repetition and the hammering this thing over and over. It’s amazing to me that a lot of people haven’t unfollowed.
Seinfeld was famously the show about nothing. Is that why Seinfeld2000 works?
Seinfeld was pretty unique. It was a strange show in itself; so many dark moments, the occasional surreal twist, things that would never happen in real life. Something about my format works really well with the sensibility of that show which I’m not sure would work with more traditional shows. Within the venn diagram of shows that are classic and universally loved but also a little bit twisted and weird, Seinfeld fits right in there.
Do you think that writers try too hard to shoehorn in current references?
Well Twitter is all about talking about what’s happening right now and SeinfeldToday was capitalising on that by weaving these things into plot lines, so I was doing hyperbole on that. Completely sending up the idea that if Seinfeld was on today, the writers would be on the pulse of the 24 hour news cycle. There’s something funny to me about overthinking that idea. It’s a little bit perverse and its now come full circle and reached a level of hypocrisy where I’m just doing that.
There’s that season of Curb Your Enthusiasm where there is a Seinfeld reunion and there’s a storyline about George Costanza and the “iToilet”
Yes! I’d love to reference that, but I feel like the Seinfeld reunion wasn’t enough of a universal thing, it kind of came and went a little bit and not everyone loved it.
Where else do you want to take @Seinfeld2000 and this tone of comedy?
I have a couple of things on the go that are very different and totally unrelated – they are in a human being’s voice. I try not to talk about stuff in case things don’t come to light. It’s a good question and it’s something I think about too. One thing I always thought before doing the parody account was just Twitter in general. You have a Twitter account and it’s like having a pet – something you have to feed on a continuous basis. Where does it end? I’ve thought about slowly trying to evolve the account and making it more of an overt characterisation where you really get a sense for who this person is.
So in your head you’ve got this unhinged character who sits at their phone fantastising about Seinfeld?
[Laughs] It’s unformed. It’s fluid, like water. As soon as I start to put boundaries like nationality or age, appearance, gender; somehow it starts to bring it down for me. I’m really in to specificity and I’m very detailed in a creative sense but I want to keep it a mystery to me. I like it to be opened-ended and amorphous and mysterious.
Thanks for talking to us. We can’t tell you why we’re so entertained but we are.
You and me both. Thanks for being interested.