“What did the fish say when it hit the wall?” the pixilated and jerking form of Jerr—sorry, I mean “Larry,” asks the invisible audience. Then there’s a pregnant pause that lasts too long, even for an amateur stand up comedy act. Finally, the punchline: “…dam”
There’s a lot of strange, awkward pauses in Nothing, Forever, an AI-generated show based on the Seinfeld TV sitcom. As the name suggests, the Twitch stream running the channel never actually ends, and all the dialogue was created using a base of GPT-3, which most laypeople would recognize as the system that laid the groundwork for ChatGPT.
Each “episode” lasts just a minute, and revolves around inane conversations between characters Larry Feinberg, Fred Kastpolous, Yvonne Torres, and Zoltan Kakler. They’re all stand-ins for the main cast of the award-winning ‘90s television show, though all of them lack any noticeable personality. Their conversations often flow together, and the show occasionally seems confused who is leading the scene, or who was just speaking.
The endless show repeatedly flips back to Larry doing standup, where he might tell a bad pun or a joke that makes no sense. Try “What did the computer do when it was mad?… Throw a tantrum.” It then cuts to an establishing shot of a row of New York brownstones before moving into an apartment setting.
It really is a show about nothing, forever. These characters talk endlessly about unseasonable weather, about the latest date they had (how did it go? Always “great”), what they had for lunch, and on and on. To put it mildly, the show is bizarre, but in such a way that’s its captivating. Seinfeld promised a show about nothing, but this AI-generated endless repeat of brainless conversations held by some of the most boring people on the planet truly is “nothing.” For those who were never fans of Elaine, Jerry, George, and Kramer’s antics, the AI stand-ins are much more entertaining overall.
Nothing, Forever was created by Skyler Hartle and Brian Habersberger under the banner of “Mismatch Media.” In a Reddit thread where the pair announced their creation last December, Hartle said the show was supposed to not only mirror Seinfeld, but also the point-and-click games of the early 1990s. The artwork and laugh track are pre-generated, but Hartle wrote that everything else is generated using machine learning models, from the camera cuts, to dialogue, to music, and character movement.
Over email, Hartle told Gizmodo that he, Habersberger and a few other off-and-on again collaborators worked for four years on the project part time, in between their other full time jobs. It started as an art project, but quickly the team started looking at generative AI and how it could disrupt the current media ecosystem, long before ChatGPT and DALL-E took the internet by storm.
“Our hope was to prove that it was possible to create a real, generative show that people would watch,” Hartle said. “We were also building the show in such a way that we could use the underlying technology to spin off more shows, and in the future, offer a platform for creators to do the same.”
Since Nothing, Forever launched in December, Hartle said they’ve been watching the Twitch chat scroll by, and noticed how people are creating their own memes and subcultures based on the AI-generated characters in the show. Hartle and his co-developers want to update the system in the future to help viewers “feel involved and have the opportunity to massage the narrative and steer the direction of the show over time.”
After watching far too much Nothing, Forever, I decided to include some of my favorite clips emblematic of the world’s first real “show about nothing.”