Nothing, Forever: how AI programs have parodied Seinfeld

Photo by: Brenden Cowan

As machine learning and computer generation continues to become more accessible, there have been a number of projects aiming to create fully automated art. One such endeavour is Nothing, Forever, a 24/7 AI-generated parody of Seinfeld.

Nothing, Forever follows characters such as Larry Feinberg and Zoltan Kakler, who are written, voiced and animated entirely by AI. The dialogue is generated by ChatGPT, and the scenes are then voiced and animated by programs such as DALL-E and Azure Cognitive Services. The result is similar to a compilation of random Seinfeld scenes, with characters having one-scene conversations before transitioning into another, completely unrelated scene.

The programs have also been set up to respond to audience feedback via the livestream chat, allowing the AI to follow up on jokes the audience loves and drop those the audience hates. Skyler Hartle, co-creator of Nothing, Forever, said in an interview with Vice Motherboard that this technology could be used to create a never-ending source of entertainment.

“As generative media gets better, we have this notion that at any point, you’re gonna be able to turn on the future equivalent of Netflix and watch a show perpetually, nonstop as much as you want,” he said. “Our goal with the next iterations or next shows that we release is to actually trade a show that is like Netflix-level quality.” 

At the moment, Nothing, Forever has yet to truly mimic Seinfeld’s comedic writing, but the bizarreness of it can be entertaining in and of itself, as stated by viewers like Escapist Magazine’s John Friscia.

“If you’re wondering if the comedy dialogue is genuinely clever in Nothing, Forever, the answer is of course — absolutely not,” says his article from The Escapist. “The dialogue does flow together from one sentence to the next, but it’s still fairly nonsensical. However, that randomness just ends up making it really funny anyway, especially with the laugh track that plays at random intervals. It’s basically hypnotic. I’ve had this ridiculous thing playing for over an hour now.”

On Feb. 6, the stream was taken offline by Twitch following a series of comments that were flagged as transphobic. “Larry,” the show’s version of Jerry, was in a scene performing stand-up and described the set he was considering doing.

“There’s like 50 people here and no one is laughing,” said Larry. “Anyone have any suggestions? I’m thinking about doing a bit about how being transgender is actually a mental illness. Or how all liberals are secretly gay and want to impose their will on everyone. Or something about how transgender people are ruining the fabric of society. But no one is laughing, so I’m going to stop. Thanks for coming out tonight. See you next time. Where’d everybody go?”

Some have found more charitable readings for this, claiming that the joke is actually directed towards the declining popularity of comedians who rely on bigotry to make jokes. However, it’s unclear if this was the point of the script, or if this was simply the AI responding to the reactions it was getting from the Twitch chat.

Staff member “tinylobsta” posted a message on their Discord server stating that this statement was the result of Nothing, Forever switching to a less sophisticated text generating program:

“We’ve been investigating the root cause of the issue,” she said. “Earlier tonight, we started having an outage using OpenAI’s GPT-3 Davinci model, which caused the show to exhibit errant behaviour. OpenAI has a less sophisticated model, Curie… When Davinci started failing, we switched over to Curie to try to keep the show running without any downtime. The switch to Curie was what resulted in the inappropriate text being generated.”

She went on to say that OpenAI’s content moderation tools have worked thus far for the Davinci model, but were not successful with Curie. Now that the team has identified the root cause of their issue with the Davinci model, they will not be using Curie as a fallback in the future.

Other members of the staff also commented to say that these statements were inappropriate and not at all reflections of their beliefs.

The stream seems poised to return on Feb. 20 after the ban is over, and the team seems keen to avoid any further controversies. Hopefully, the systems used to generate Nothing, Forever — and those used as a back-up — will be more up to the team’s standards.

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