James Altucher. co-owner of comedy theater Stand Up N.Y. and author of the personal finance book Choose Yourself, declared New York City “Dead Forever” in a viral LinkedIn post, and comedian Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee) did not take it too fondly. On August 24, Seinfeld penned an op-ed in the New York Times responding to Altucher’s essay and calling the author “some putz on LinkedIn” (New York Times).
Altucher’s original essay received thousands of responses on LinkedIn, catching audiences with its declarative title “NYC is Dead Forever. Here’s Why” (LinkedIn). According to Altucher, the three main reasons people move to New York are: business opportunities, food, and culture, via LinkedIn. The entrepreneur then outlines how all three of these areas have suffered irreparably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Altucher’s essay includes facts and infographic, it relies heavily on personal experience and conversations with fellow New Yorkers. Altucher recounts stories of friends in the business world packing up their offices, his favorite restaurants closing permanently and the frequent posts he sees on an NYC Facebook group, where people share that they have to leave the city for good. Altucher reports “every single day I see those posts. I’ve been screenshotting them for my scrapbook” (LinkedIn). Altucher himself recently relocated to Florida and is unsure when he will be able to return to the city he has proudly called home his entire life, via LinkedIn.
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As an author, self-help guru, podcast host, father, comedian, chess master and entrepreneur, Altucher is use to wearing different hats and has always loved New York City for allowing him to do just that. “Every subculture I loved was in NYC,” Altucher states at the beginning of his August 13 LinkedIn essay “I could play chess all day and night. I could go to comedy clubs. I could start any type of business. I could meet people. I had family, friends, opportunities.” In fact, a 2016 The New York Times ran a profile on Altucher, outlining the unique ways the self help author took advantage of all the city had to offer. In his essay, Altucher fatalistically proclaims that those opportunities he once cherished may have left the city for good, thanks to the Coronavirus. Altucher solemnly concludes: “I don’t benefit from saying any of this. I love NYC. I was born there. I’ve lived there forever.” (LinkedIn)
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repost via @instarepost20 from @nytimesfashion A few months ago, @altucher let the lease expire on his apartment and purged nearly all of his worldly possessions. Since then, he’s been crashing with friends and staying in Airbnb rentals. Read more about the entrepreneur turned self-help guru at nytimes.com/fashion. 📸: @dina_litovsky #instarepost20
On August 18, after his op-ed gained traction on LinkedIn, Altucher posted a follow-up piece entitled “The Autobiography of My Past Two Days: A Saga of Sorrow and Hope” (LinkedIn). Here Altucher outlines how his earlier essay received a tidal-wave of online hate from fellow New Yorkers. “I lost friends over this article,” Altucher dejectedly reported, via LinkedIn. He further contextualized his original post by adding: “NYC will be here ten years from now. But it will be different. That’s why I don’t call this period we are entering ‘a new normal’. I call it ‘The Great Reset'” (LinkedIn). Altucher continues on to apologize for making people feel upset or angry, as that was not his intention with the article. Though it was not his intention, Altucher’s piece infuriated one of New York’s most famous residents.
That’s gold, Jerry! Gold! pic.twitter.com/7NRGtbcmU3
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 5, 2019
Jerry Seinfeld, who has performed several times at Stand Up N.Y., the club co-owned by Altucher, published an op-ed in The New York Times yesterday slamming Altucher’s original piece. Seinfeld’s essay bears resemblance to Altucher’s in that it’s mostly routed in personal anecdotes and an abiding love for the Big Apple. Seinfeld recounts experiences from moving to Manhattan in the summer of 1976 to performing at Altucher’s club, which Seinfeld claims “could use a little sprucing up” (New York Times). Deadline used the expression “harsh words” when reporting on the comedian’s New York defense, as he sentences Altucher to a life in Florida by saying: “you will not bounce back. In your enervated, pastel-filled new life in Florida. I hope you have a long, healthy run down there. I can’t think of a more fitting retribution for your fine article” (New York Times).
Seinfeld’s love for New York is evidenced in his work, it served as his fictional home for 9 years on Seinfeld and is a frequent backdrop of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. However, in expressing love for New York, Seinfeld’s article refocused hatred onto Altucher. Two days before Seinfeld’s article, The Stand Up N.Y. co-owner posted a chalk message found outside his club which read “Owner thinks NY is dead – I think he killed his club”, via Instagram. This added attention from Seinfeld has exacerbated the situation.
Take it from a true New Yorker — New York City will sure as hell be back. And it will be back stronger than ever. https://t.co/ASgyaUoDgo
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 25, 2020
Altucher’s follow-up article claimed that “there was no politics in my post so I hope people don’t take it that way” (LinkedIn). However, Seinfeld’s platform has certainly elevated the piece into something political as figures, from New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio to conservative news pundit Laura Ingraham, have used Seinfeld’s article to promote their own agendas on Twitter.
No one’s having to write articles saying that Texas isn’t dead.
Of course, @GovAbbott doesn’t need to beg rich people to come back. Maybe it’s time to admit that certain policies lead to freedom and prosperity, while others lead to decline and poverty. https://t.co/SV8lZcJgbD
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) August 24, 2020
In the wake of Seinfeld’s New York Times op-ed, Altucher fired back on Twitter with comments like: “I’m glad I finally inspired @JerrySeinfeld to write new jokes.” An elaborated response came when Altucher drafted his own op-ed in the New York Post, where he went tit-for-tat with Seinfeld. Altucher alluded that the Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee host – “sitting in the comfort and safety of his Hamptons mansion, with probably five dozen rare Italian sports cars in the garage” (New York Post) – is out-of-touch with the struggles on the ground-floor of his beloved city. The New York Post article concluded: “by the way, my local business, StandupNY, is doing 50 free shows in Central Park this week. You’re welcome to perform, Jerry, but I don’t think you’re in town.”
— James Altucher (@jaltucher) August 24, 2020
Both Altucher and Seinfeld share a love of comedy and New York and that they want to see a return to the city’s glory, their disagreement boils down to what it will take to make that possible. Altucher’s initial LinkedIn article was an attempt to raise questions about the impacts of Coronavirus in major cities like New York. When reminiscing on New York’s triumphant return from 9/11 and the Great Recession, Altucher said he felt that, this time, things are decidedly different, while offering “if you believe this time is no different, that NYC is resilient, etc I hope you’re right” (LinkedIn). Seinfeld himself admits, to The New York Times, “this is one of the toughest times we’ve had in quite a while.” Perhaps these two comedians have more in common than their current feud over the state of New York City seems to let on.