If you didn’t find that funny, it’s because you haven’t spent long enough in Nothing, Foreveran automated sitcom parody stream where everything — minus some musical cues and audience response — is purported to be generated entirely via machine learning and AI algorithms thanks to OpenAI, Stable Diffusion, and DALL-E.
I’ve lost hours to this thing over the short time that it’s been live, beginning in the middle of December but scarcely promoted until it suddenly caught a lot of attention this week. It has the makings of a salty bet or Twitch Plays Pokémonhaving grown its audience by 6,000 followers in a single evening and now averaging 2,500 concurrent viewers at the time of publishing.
One of last night’s best gags, genuinely one of the funniest moments I’ve experienced in my long history of wasting my life on the internet, saw the cast of Larry, Yvonne, Fred and Kakler playing a game of charades.
The animations are hilariously limited, and often Larry and others will sink slowly into a seat, or twist themselves rapidly and unrestrained by collision while they find their fixed point.
During the game, rather than act out what animal he chose, Fred simply said it. Then Larry repeated it back. The chat erupted with a flurry of messages: “Damn this guy’s really good at charades.”
Locations change often, with scenes taking place in various apartments and, like Seinfeld (which I must stress this bears little resemblance to), are sometimes introduced by a stand-up performance by Larry. Conversations will regularly start with the same kinds of prompts, like Fred constantly getting new jobs and hearing about new types of restaurants or foods, but the conversations can start and go anywhere.
When dialogue ends, the characters will sometimes even lag for minutes of abject silence, only changing standing positions or beeping on the microwave, which can be as funny as anything said.
Last night, while some bits of key maintenance were taking place, the feed cut to a TV guide displaying randomized programming options. Among them, the “Late Night News” taking place at 9am, a 90 minute block of Popeye, and a show just called “Simpsons”. Nothing, Forever claims that it’s “always on, always weird”, and it always delivers.
“[David Lynch’s] Rabbits was a big source of initial creative inspiration for the show.” said creator Skyler Hartle, who by day works at Microsoft Azure as a product manager building tools for software developers. Referencing the series of “horror” shorts from 2002, described by the director as a sitcom, the comparison is immediately apparent in the way characters will often stand facing opposite directions.
Hartle tells me that Nothing, Forever has been in the works for four years as a collaboration with co-creator Brian Habersberger, as the pair share an interest in generative media. “The show started as more of an art project that morphed into both an art plus technology project over the years.” Hartle said.
I wondered how much of the content we see is being generated by AI, as the animations can sometimes seem to take on a life of their own. Yvonne sort of walks around as if she’s scratching herself, no one can properly work the office computer and so lie down on the desk above it, and occasionally characters will try to occupy the same position and clip through each other’s bodies, doing the same idle animation like they’ve fused together.
“The 3D assets you see are prefabricated and the motions, like hand gestures etc, are hardcoded for the moment,” Hartle said.
“The movements around the room and the interaction points on the set happen at random, so we’re never sure where the characters are going to end up”, they added, which explains why the camera will pick an angle completely blocked by a fridge door being opened up in front of it.
slug world pic.twitter.com/Gp0SDNEn5Q
— sporks illustrated (@pillowfort) February 1, 2023
Hartle’s most memorable scene so far is when Larry performs a stand-up set about being transported to “Slug World”, which can be viewed in all its hilarity in the tweet above.
It’s an early and charming idea of what entirely AI generated content might provide us, and Hartle hopes as much: “Early on, we realized that this was a lot bigger than a single show, so we started developing it as more of a platform, with the intention of spinning off more shows.
“We believe that this sort of media is the future and we’d like to try to put the underlying platform into more people’s hands to empower solo creators and small teams, but that’s definitely looking ahead.”
This feels, without hyperbole, like a watershed moment. And if the stream goes on long enough, we may even find out what the deal with airplane food is.
Mat Jones is IGN’s UK Social Coordinator, and will turn back into a pumpkin at midnight.