How to Break Into Sitcom Writing: Start a Twitter
Jack Moore went from the viral @SeinfeldToday, which imagines Jerry and the gang in the 21st century, to scoring his first TV writing gig. He tells Melissa Leon how he did it.
Breaking into the world of TV writing isn’t what most people would call easy. You’ve got to have contacts, scripts, agents; you’ve got to know how to pitch and how to write a spec—and that’s just the beginning.
But if, for example, you spent six months pitching 140-character storylines to an audience of more than 620,000—well, the process becomes a bit easier.
Former BuzzFeed sports editor Jack Moore had only six months pass between the creation of one of today’s funniest Twitter feeds, Modern Seinfeld, and his first job as a staff writer on a new sitcom, the U.S. version of British romcom hit Gavin & Stacey. If you’ve ever wondered how Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, and George would deal with the 21st century—50 Shades of Grey, text-message etiquette, SoulCycle classes and all—Moore’s your guy. In the description of the Twitter page, he posits the question, “What if Seinfeld were still on the air?” The results are pretty much gold.
Moore says the feed started last December as a joke between himself and his friend Josh Gondelman, both of whom did standup around New York. They tweeted modern-day scenarios for the characters of Seinfeld back and forth to each other before Moore deemed the tweets worthy of their own feed: @SeinfeldToday. “Within the first 24 hours, we gained, like, a hundred thousand followers,” he says. “It’s pretty crazy.”
Besides crazy, the feed proved useful. Within a month, Modern Seinfeld attracted the attention of a manager, who read Moore’s scripts and offered to sign him. One agent, one staffing season in L.A., and several meetings with BBC later, Moore found himself in the position of a staff writer for showrunner David Rosen’s new Fox comedy Us & Them—almost six months to the day after he started @SeinfeldToday. Now, as he puts it, he gets to “sit around all day and make jokes all day and make up stories—it’s pretty great.”
Is Moore basically the luckiest guy ever? Not exactly, he says.
“[Modern Seinfeld] definitely helped enhance my portfolio as I went out there, but it was still pretty strong reactions to scripts, just like anybody else,” he says.
Production on Us & Them doesn’t begin for a few weeks and Moore isn’t allowed to say much about the show yet. But so far we know that, whereas the U.K. version focused on the long-distance relationship between Gavin, who lived in Essex, England, and Stacey, who lived in Wales, the U.S. will get a Gavin from New York, played by Jason Ritter, and Alexis Bledel as a rural Pennsylvanian Stacey. “I think fans of the original will see things that they love and there’s gonna be things that are unique to our version,” Moore says. “Like the American The Office made things right for U.S. audiences, hopefully people will like this version.”
And in case you were wondering, doing Modern Seinfeld for six months has helped out with making the transition to full-time TV writing. (Well, sort of.)
“[Us & Them] is different because you actually have to write the episode, so a one-off joke premise may not really hold,” he says. “But a lot of Modern Seinfeld came from things that happened in my life and me being like, ‘That’s a funny kind of thing to build something around.’ That’s a big part of this, bringing your life experience and being like, that funny little thing that happened could make for some good TV.”
One tweet scenario you can attribute to Moore’s real life is Jerry’s imagined frustration with a certain kind of tiny, puzzling picture used in text messages.
“There was a tweet a while back about Jerry not understanding what his girlfriend means when she’s texting in emojis and how it’s like a foreign language,” Moore explains. “That was something that I experienced, like, ‘I don’t understand what she’s trying to say!’ A lot of that stuff, like trying to figure out how long to wait before texting someone back definitely got [into the feed].”
Moore promises to continue tweeting for @SeinfeldToday when the inspiration strikes, but in the meantime, he’s enjoying his new digs at the same Brooklyn studio where NBC’s now-deceased Smash was filmed—he’s even got Katharine McPhee’s old dressing-room tag on his door.
“I put up a valiant effort for Megan Hilty, but I was very happy to get Kath McPhee,” he laughs.