I Saw It on the Internet is a new monthly feature that explores the fringe side of online pop culture. Today, Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman speaks with graphic artist Jesse Brooks about his popular Instagram account Sein Peaks.
Two men walk into a diner, order coffee, and discuss the world at large. What’s the show? For many, Seinfeld. For some, Twin Peaks. For Jesse Brooks, both. As the mastermind behind Sein Peaks, Brooks has spent the last few years forging an unlikely bridge between the iconic New York comedy and the groundbreaking Pacific Northwest drama.
Through myriad memes, Brooks has proven there is a strange and wonderful symmetry to the minds of creators Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, David Lynch, and Mark Frost. It’s in the iconography, the themes, and the aesthetics that Brooks finds the parallels, and his wild and oft-hilarious revelations have amassed a cult following of its own.
And for good reason: These aren’t your average fan memes. Like the meticulous creators behind the source material, Brooks pays careful consideration to each and every piece. Whether it’s Kramer as the Woodsman or Frank Costanza at the Double R, they all have a sense of purpose that’s both respectful and mindful of either series.
Fortunately for Brooks, he’s not alone. As he tells us, Sein Peaks has since attracted a legion of creators, who all have successfully married both worlds. In that respect, Brooks has created an evolving gallery of sorts for artists all across the world to share and create their work — and really, it doesn’t get more Lynchian than that.
Like Lynch, there’s also a humanitarian side to Sein Peaks. In recent weeks, Brooks has called on his following to help the world outside of Monk’s and the Black Lodge. He raised over $600 for the International Rescue Committee in response to the Yemen crisis, and this week has raised $500 for the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Back in May, Consequence of Sound caught up with Brooks over Skype for a conversation that was broadcast live on the Sein Peaks Facebook account. Below, you can read an abridged and condensed version of that discussion in which Brooks explains the conceit of Sein Peaks and how he’s kept the evolving brand alive all this time.
Damn Fine Instagram About Nothing
I’ve been a lifelong Seinfeld fan. I think the first episode I saw was “The Reverse Peephole”, which was the Season 9 episode where Kramer and Newman turn their their peep holes inside out. And I can remember as a kid seeing Kramer and Newman walking down the street talking about Newman sleeping with the landlord’s wife, and then finding Joe Mayo’s code up in the tree. So, I watched it religiously as a kid throughout high school, throughout college, got the DVDs, and everything.
And then, in 2017, I had some co-workers turn me on to Twin Peaks. I’d heard about it, but I had never gotten around to watching it, and it was when The Return had come back and was airing. So every Monday morning, they were coming in talking about how crazy the last episode was, so I watched the pilot and I was hooked instantly. I binged the first two seasons on Netflix in a few weeks, sought out Fire Walk With Me, and then I had started watching The Return. By the time I finished it, I was late — maybe December/January 2018.
what if david lynch directed seinfeld pic.twitter.com/dd3SrS9ua9
— Seinfeld Current Day (@Seinfeld2000) October 23, 2017
I’ll tell you kind of what started Sein Peaks, though. There’s a great Twitter account called Seinfeld 2000; it’s this great post-modern parody. They posted a pic of Laura Palmer and the Black Lodge holding a Fusilli Jerry, and the caption was “What if David Lynch directed Seinfeld?” or something like that. And it got my gears turning and thinking, You know, what other mashups might work between the two shows? And so I started the Instagram account and I didn’t think anyone would ever follow it. I just started throwing up dumb memes and didn’t try that hard.
Eventually, it got traction from there, and after a few months, people started sending in their own. After a while, I realized, Hey, I should turn this into a Facebook group so people can make their own, because there’s so many awesome Facebook groups for fandom and memes and stuff surrounding shows. So, yeah, it’s just kind of grown from there, and it’s been my favorite way to waste time.
Two Worlds, Same Coffee
There are a number of behind-the-scenes parallels because both series are run by showrunners that are very yin and yang with each other: Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, David Lynch and Mark Frost. In both cases, one of the showrunners leaves the show at some point, and you’re either a fan of how it is past that point or you’re not. But, they’re also both very iconic and classic. Seinfeld mastered the multi-camera sitcom format, while Twin Peaks created its own genre that has been copied ever since.
What works so well about both of them is that, on the production side, they were worried not so much about what’s going to be good television and what’s going to get ratings as they were with what is just good storytelling, you know? Even zany Seinfeld plot lines — like the latter half of the series — their focus is: Is the writing good? Is it tight writing? Do the plot lines dove tail? Does it make sense? Is it not lazy and lowest common denominator? Is it really well thought out? And is just plain good writing?
Twin Peaks was the same way. Even in Season Two, when it goes off the rails after we find out who killed Laura Palmer, it goes into all of these other plot lines — some what we love to hate, some that are fun. But it’s still about writing that works, not just tugging on people’s heart strings. Like, “Will Ross and Rachel get together? And will people tune in next week?” And I think that’s what works so well about them, and that’s what makes them easy to pair up.
One thing that’s unique about both shows is that they’re both prop-centric. An object will have an extreme amount of importance. An entire Seinfeld episode could be about a figurine of Jerry Seinfeld made out of pasta, you know? Or a cashmere sweater with a red dot on it? So, it’s very easy to take that one iconic object — like the puffy shirt — and put it into a scene from the other show. Or take a Tweety Bird Pez dispenser and Photoshop it on top of Cooper’s tape recorder or something like that. It works so well because they both have an almost spiritual quality to the audience in each storyline.
One of my favorite things to do is to take a character out of one show and actually put them into the setting of another. After Jerry Stiller passed away a few weeks ago — which, I mean, my God, what a loss — I put him into the Double R diner, ordering a slice of pie from Norma. Peggy Lipton, we lost last year … I think on the same day or maybe a day after. But because the scene from the Double R was from the original run, the television lighting was pretty similar between both shows. So, it’s easy enough to make them look like they belong together. You know, it’s a little bit harder to put Dougie Jones into a scene from Seinfeld just because that shot in HD and with digital cameras. It’s a little bit different.
But both shows have a similar aesthetic — and sometimes in different ways. Seinfeld is a studio sitcom, and it’s shot and lit in a certain way, but I think they worked a little harder than other sitcoms, especially in the latter half of the show once Andy Ackerman took over from Tom Cherones. In terms of Hollywood-level lighting and camera techniques, it was definitely very high end.
Even the music from both shows is iconic and so attached to the emotional aspect of the show. Angelo Badalamenti adds a soap opera-like ethereal and mysterious take to the music of Twin Peaks, and then on Seinfeld, Jonathan Wolff brings a unique sound to every episode, throwing in different flares for every scene.
Both shows are so iconic, so that makes them work really well together.
Monk’s or the Double R?
The majority of people that follow me on a weekly basis know both shows. Some of the outliers are the ones that are religiously devoted to one of the shows, but has never gotten around to watching the other. But, you know, it’s like what George says in “The Comeback”, if it’s a smart joke, a smart audience will appreciate it, and it’s a smart audience. Whether they only like one of their shows, or both of them, it just works well. But I think it’s definitely a 50/50 split.
What’s really interesting about it, though, is that when you’re on the Internet, you assume that everyone is your age group, your part of the world, and your way of thinking, but it’s definitely all over the board. But I have so many followers that are younger than me. You know, I was a kid when Seinfeld was on. I never watched it really until it got into syndication on TBS. But I have followers that are probably 10 years younger than me that are obsessed with the show, and that have just been streaming it on Hulu and getting the DVDs from their parents.
Maybe this is off subject, but there’s a stereotype that Generation Z and younger consider Seinfeld offensive. But, you don’t really see that. Obviously, you take it for what it is. You take the parts that don’t really work so well, and the jokes that don’t work so well anymore. But the people who are following along? They get it, and no one person fits within any sort of mold.
Time to Make the Donuts, Biff
What I’m doing now is sourcing from followers and from people in our online Facebook group, which has about 5,000 members now. The creativity of other people, I figured out that they hook on to what I’m doing on the page, and then they start doing their own stuff. They blow me away nine times out of 10. It’s more creative than something I could have come up with myself. So, I’m able to share that content over on Instagram, where it might have a bigger audience. And then that gives me space. Maybe once or twice a week, I’m coming up with one of my own that I haven’t done in the past two and a half years.
But there’s a lot of stuff that’s way down at the bottom that no one’s ever seen because for the first eight months, I had maybe just a couple of hundred people following me. So, I’ll pull that up, and I’ll repost it once in a while, especially videos that I put a lot of effort into, or something that I think is worth seeing. Sometimes I have to think a little harder. I’ll hear a line or I’ll see a picture that someone posts and I’m like, “Okay, what parallels are there that would be really interesting and either funny or just so absurd and almost creepy?”
One of my favorites was one that maybe 10 people liked in the very beginning, and it was the episode where Jerry and Elaine have dinner with his Manya and it’s the pony remark where he hates anyone who ever had a pony and she says, “I had a pony.” Well, I put in the Woodsman’s line from Part Eight (“The horse is the white of the eyes, dark within…”), and the way that she says it, and then his reaction to it, is very creepy when you take it out of context. So, I like to find stuff like that every once in a while. Stuff that’s maybe not funny, but throws you off and makes you laugh nervously.
A Beautiful Memory
I’ve only seen the entire Twin Peaks canon once. I’ve seen the pilot about two and a half times. To be honest, I’ve got a toddler. I’ve got a two and a half year old running around the house, and most of my time is spent chasing him around and watching Sesame Street. I’ve seen more episodes of Sesame Street at this point than I have of Twin Peaks.
But I’ve seen all 180 episodes of Seinfeld at least once, and most of them probably a dozen times. I’ve heard some of the behind-the-scenes commentaries, read the script for the episode they wrote, but never shot. So, a lot of stuff I’ve only seen once, but I’ve watched clips and rewatched them a dozen times on YouTube, and have internalized them and committed them to heart. Sometimes it’s really just digging into my own memory and figuring what stands out to me because it was especially funny or poignant or important.
I’ll wake up in the morning and I’ll think of two or three good ideas, or I’ll think of them as I’m going to bed at night, and I won’t write them down, so by the next day it’s just gone. But usually, I’ll be scrolling through Facebook and someone will post a great scene from Season 5, “The Mango”, or something like that, and I’ll think, Okay, that kind of reminds me of this... And then, you know, if I’ve got 30 seconds, I’ll open up one of my apps on my phone and throw a quote on there and post it.
I don’t worry so much about it these days because there is so much great content being created by other people that I can share. But yeah, that that’s kind of how the process works.
What Year Is This?
I think of Seinfeld the way that people think of Star Wars with the different trilogies. You’ve got the prequels, the sequels, and then the original trilogy. With Seinfeld, you’ve got Seasons 1 through 3, and it’s finding its footing, figuring out what kind of show it wants to be, and then Seasons 4 through 6 is when it really hits a stride, and then 7, 8, and 9 starts to get more zany and out there, especially once Larry David leaves after Season 7.
But those zany storylines in the latter third? A lot of times those are the most memorable because they’re centered around something that ends up being iconic like “The Little Kicks” or “The Comeback” or “The Bizarro Jerry”. With Twin Peaks, I’ve made so many great mashups with The Return and Dougie and Mr. C, but for Seinfeld, it’s probably those last three seasons that give me the most material — especially Season 8.
Diane, Larry’s In the Car
About a year ago, I started working in Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’m not as familiar with Curb because for the first like five or six seasons of that show I didn’t have HBO. But I’m very familiar with the past couple of seasons, and there are a lot of crossovers that I’ve done there, especially with Season 10. Every once in a while someone will message me and be like, “Hey, you should do something between Phillip Gerard, the one-armed man in Twin Peaks, and the one-armed man in Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and I’ve never seen that episode. I just haven’t taken the time to go back and rewatch those early seasons of Curb yet, so there’s a lot of uncharted territory and that’s probably where I’m gonna have to go since I’ve pretty much done every Seinfeld episode at this point.
Is It Future Or Is It Past?
I would love to see the cast and Lynch and Frost come back for a fourth season on Showtime. I would love to see where they go with it because I was so shocked and heartbroken at the end of Season 3. So, speaking personally, for the characters, I want to see Coop and Laura overcome this cycle that they’re going through and do what they’re supposed to do to break free of that. I think that Cooper made a huge mistake in Part 17 when he tried to save Laura. I don’t think he was meant to do that. I think that Laura did her job when she died — as harsh as that sounds.
So, I want to see that come to fruition, but if it doesn’t, I think it’s an excellent statement on its own. You don’t always save the world at the end of the day, you know? I think that Lynch is really good at showing how reality can be harsh. There’s beauty in the world, there’s horror in the world, and all of that can exist at the same time. I think that’s why Twin Peaks can be melodramatic sometimes, but it works so well. Like you’ve got the highs and the lows and everything. So, I would love to see it come back, but if it doesn’t, I mean it works on its own as an ending.
For Seinfeld, I would have loved to see a Season 10 back in 1999. I would have loved to see Larry David come back and write one more season and an ending. And I liked the ending. I like the finale a lot more than some people do. I think it doesn’t get enough credit, and it gets derided because people had such high expectations. But I also would have liked to see something different, but you know, everyone’s gonna want their own interpretation.
But now I’m happy with Seinfeld ending where it is. I think that they did a great job with the reunion on Curb, and they showed just how bad it would be. Like it’s the kind of show that’s so timeless, but it doesn’t it doesn’t work past a certain point. The four of them in their late 30s, being single, and going through all of these things is one thing, but when they’re in their late ’50s, it’s a different story. And I don’t know I think that it is what it is.
The thing that scares you the most is if they did a reunion and it totally absolved the legacy of it. Like Will and Grace did a reunion season. I only watched the first episode. I like the original show, but from what I saw of the the reboot season, it was all just modern references. “Oh, hey, I can do this on an iPad” or “Oh, I can do that on Skype.” It was just trying to cash in on being the same show but with modern references, and that always is just horrible.
So, I would hate for Seinfeld to come back and to try and do that and to bomb. I think that it works well enough on its own like, “Let’s close the book, let’s put down the pen, and just enjoy it for what it is.”
Right now, it takes up a minimal amount of free time. It’s a very fun hobby for me to do. I don’t have to think too hard about it or devote too much time to it. But I’ve got a pretty busy life honestly. I’ve got a family, I’ve got a kid, and when I have another, the little free time that I have now is going to be cut in half again.
So, eventually it’s going to get to a point where it’s unmanageable. But the cool thing is it’s been carried on by other people, so, at some point, I’ll probably just hand over my Instagram password to one of my friends on there and be like, “Okay, I trust you, carry the torch, run on with it, I’m gonna go off and retire.”
And then the other thing is that I keep trying new little side projects. Every once in a while I’ll get a funny idea like, “Oh, hey, here’s a line from Sesame Street again that is really strange and funny and creepy if you paired up with a picture from Twin Peaks,” so I started a Sesame Peaks Instagram account and I’ve been throwing memes on there. And then some of my friends did the same thing. So, I might try something new, eventually, but I’ll probably just keep kicking this around until it’s not fun anymore.
One of my favorite things about doing this is meeting other fans of the shows and having conversations. I’ve met some really cool online friends that I talk to almost every day now, and we keep sharing memes and talking about dumb stuff that we love — and that’s really cool. So, I’m gonna keep doing this for as long as I get that fun little kick out of it.
Follow Sein Peaks on Instagram and Facebook for daily updates. To quote Dale Cooper, “I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen.”