This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life

This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life

The Dall-E Mini is supposed to be a tool for realizing artistic visions. What happens when it gets its hands on a beloved 90's sitcom?

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Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

Artificial intelligence is (rightfully) lampooned for all sorts of reasons, but credit where credit is due: neural networks really know how to make some freakishly beautiful art.

Or at least, that’s my opinion after seeing the recent surge of platforms like Midjourney and Google’s Imagen that are designed to swallow basic strings of text—“a painting of a flower,” say—and spit out such a painting right back at you. And if you haven’t any of tried those, maybe you’ve heard of what has become the most prominent player in this space, DALL-E, which can summon pictures of anything from a hyperrealistic avocado-themed teapot to a hyperrealistic avocado-themed chair, to a painting of a dapper bunny sitting on a park bench. But access to DALL-E (and the new-and-improved DALL-E 2) is currently waitlisted, which leaves wannabe artists like myself sitting on the sidelines.

Thankfully, the art-gods (or more specifically, a Houston-based programmer named Boris Dayma) has taken pity on the unwashed masses without DALL-E access and given us the next best thing: DALL-E Mini, which you can try for yourself. As Dayma puts it, the tool is a bare-bones, open source version of its namesake, that anyone can access and run freely in their browser.

Dayma has noted in interviews that the model underlying the tool is still training, which means the results Mini gives aren’t necessarily as polished as the OG DALL-E’s. It also might take a minute or two for the AI to work its magic (and you might need to resubmit that request a few times), but in the end, if you tell DALL-E Mini to imagine up “a buff picture of the Duolingo owl,” then yeah, the tool’s going to spit that out. And if you tell it to imagine up “the night terrors someone only experiences by passing out during a multi-hour Seinfeld marathon,” you get the images that follow here.

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“Newman from Seinfeld with a face drawn by Rothko”

“Newman from Seinfeld with a face drawn by Rothko”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

To get the hang of using the DALL-E Mini, I wanted to try merging iconic stars from the 90's sitcom with iconic works of American art. Seinfeld might seem like a weird choice, but think about it: like any red-blooded, nostalgia-hungry millennial, I’m intimately familiar with the overall aesthetic of Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and Pals. You probably are, too. That means whenever this tool coughs up its rendition of these iconic characters, you’ll know, right off the bat, how accurate or deeply deeply wrong those renditions are.

Case in point: if you’re familiar with the show, the name “Newman” instantly conjures up images of an antagonistic fleshy weirdo in aviator-style glasses. The early drawings of famed Latvian-American painter Mark Rothko were dominated by similarly lumpy, fleshy figures before the artist moved onto Big Ol Blocks O Color, so I figured I’d throw these two names into the DALL-E and see what came out. All things considered, I’d say it did a pretty good job!

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“Jerry Seinfeld drinking coffee in the style of Francis Bacon”

“Jerry Seinfeld drinking coffee in the style of Francis Bacon”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

Writing about the polarizing work of Francis Bacon in for the New Yorker in 2009, art critic Peter Schjeldahl noted that the artists’ entire career was based on work that “mobilized an emotion of energetic, strangely energizing despair.” Given that the guy was most known for vividly disturbing paintings of screaming priests and mutilated nudes, I was curious what it might look like if Bacon turned his attention to noted standup comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

And I wish I could tell you, but the results just... don’t look like the guy. They certainly look like something Bacon himself would conjure up—they all have the warped facial features faces and mostly-muted palette that are a hallmark of his work. They definitely look unsettling enough, but they just aren’t Jerry, at least to this particular Seinfeld-fan.

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“George Costanza with tentacles in the style of ceramic sculpture”

“George Costanza with tentacles in the style of ceramic sculpture”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

Satisfied that DALL-E could spit out works that both kinda did and totally did not portray the lovable stars of the hit 90's sitcom, I wanted to get a bit weird with it. How far could I tell this machine to stretch a picture of Elaine, or Kramer, or Jerry, before it started looking like someone else?

If Tentacle George is any indication, the answer is pretty damn far. Somehow, in the ceramic figurines that DALL-E produced here, it managed to catch the shapes that make George look like George (at least from the waist up). Tentacle George has tentacles, yeah, but it also has the character’s rapidly receding hairline and famed drip. Even though it doesn’t have much of a face, there’s still the suggestion that Tentacle George wears glasses. All he needs is an iconic answering machine message and some awkward romantic flings and he’d be a dead ringer for the OG Costanza.

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“Elaine Benes drinking from a lava lamp in the style of Rembrandt”

“Elaine Benes drinking from a lava lamp in the style of Rembrandt”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

Quick disclaimer—though it depends on the contents, it’s safe to say that drinking the contents of a lava lamp probably won’t kill you. You will definitely have a bad time though, which is what I’m assuming Elaine is experiencing here. I’m certainly having a bad time looking at her. She might also be having a bad time because DALL-E took my request for a Rembrandt-style painting as an invitation to turn her into one of the pilgrims that the artist was so fond of painting. It’s one thing to be subjected to an AI-generated reality where you’re forced to reckon with the gastrointestinal consequences of your beverage choices; it’s another to wear starchy, heavy, hella unflattering pilgrim garb at the same time.

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“Cosmo Kramer drowning in slime in the style of de Kooning”

“Cosmo Kramer drowning in slime in the style of de Kooning”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

Right off the bat, DALL-E Mini’s results aren’t giving me vibes from the abstract artist Willem de Kooning—save for the one result that popped him in what looks like a literal gallery of de Kooning’s work. What they are giving me is slime, and Kramer, and one picture of Kramer sinking in slime, so I’m going to consider this a win.

I mean, it’s also giving me one picture of him seemingly without a head. And a bunch of him without eyes. Let’s call this a win. A soft win. Maybe not a win.

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“Balloon animal jerry Seinfeld”

“Balloon animal jerry Seinfeld”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

This request, unlike its fellows, is an utter disappointment. I wanted Jerry Seinfeld immortalized in a squishy balloon form, and got... well, I’m not sure what I got. They’re ostensibly balloons, but I’m not sure if we could call them “animals.” They vaguely resemble the shiny dogs of Jeff Koons. There are limbs going nowhere, growths without beginning or end, and heads that just aren’t heads.

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“Cosmo Kramer lost in a Walmart in the style of Dali”

“Cosmo Kramer lost in a Walmart in the style of Dali”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

This one gets most of it right: there’s a Kramer-esque figure in the foreground, a Walmart-esque setting in the background, and somewhat(?) Dali-ish technicolor hues decorating some of the results. Perhaps an AI’s art style is already Dali-esque without the qualifier in my request. But why is Kramer in a trench coat in most of these? Why does his entire face look like it’s melting now? What’s up with his meaty hands? Are those hands? How is his hair still immaculate in spite of all this? Questions aside, I hope he finds whatever groceries his little Kramer heart desires.

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“Seinfeld’s rotting apartment in the style of Jackson Pollock”

“Seinfeld’s rotting apartment in the style of Jackson Pollock”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

I’m gonna give DALL-E the benefit of the doubt here. These images might look nothing like the chaotic, splattered paintings from Jackson Pollock, but it would have been tough for anyone to recreate Jerry’s upper west side pad in that style. Instead, it looks like the AI chose to forego that request and spit out a pretty basic reimagining of the Seinfeld HQ. There’s a bit of the diffuse light and color of Georges Seurat’s Pointillism there. Then again, “pretty basic” by artificial intelligence standards means that each result kind of looks like a living room hang sesh that’s been dredged up from some infernal depths that nobody was ever meant to witness.

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“George Costanza at the dentist in the style of Michelangelo”

“George Costanza at the dentist in the style of Michelangelo”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

I may never stop being impressed by the DALL-E Mini’s ability to somehow conjure “Costanza” via some image that’s barely recognizable as human. I’m also glad that in a few results, DALL-E took pity on the guy and seemingly gave him his own dental practice instead of putting him in the dreaded dentists’ chair.

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“Elaine Benes encounters Satan in the style of Hieronymus Bosch”

“Elaine Benes encounters Satan in the style of Hieronymus Bosch”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

This one’s just another disappointment. I’m getting hella Bosch vibes from these results—each work has the same kind of lush, manic energy you’d get from works like The Garden of Earthly Delights. But without Elaine or Satan (or anything Elaine or Satan-adjacent), it looks like DALL-E decided to lean hard on the art-inspo while foregoing everything else I’d asked for. Sad face.

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“Jerry Seinfeld’s final standup”

“Jerry Seinfeld’s final standup”

Image for article titled This AI Brought 11 of My Worst 'Seinfeld' Nightmares to Life
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo)

For this one, I nixed the art-inspo because I really just wanted to see how DALL-E would interpret something finite. Telling the algo to dream up something like a fake Seinfeld stand-up set is one thing—hell, there’s plenty for the machine to get trained on—but a “final” set implies something else.

DALL-E seems to understand that, and outfitted Jerry accordingly. His hair is thinning and gray now, and he’s wearing a suit that’s magnitudes more formal than the cheese that he’d sport during his standup sets on the show. The same way that DALL-E did its best to cobble together something couch-like in response to my request for a living room, it’s doing its best to cobble something together resembling a comedy legends’ last moments onstage—and at the very least, he’s smiling.

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