On Aug. 27 a small team of writers, computer programmers and designers launched the World Wide Web’s first-ever interactive sitcom. Titled GrapeJam (www.grapejam.com), the tongue-in-cheek production follows the daily adventures of an imaginary, seven-member improv comedy troupe and invites its Internet audience to e-mail back comments, criticism and even plot advice. Already viewed by 50,000 people each day, the episodic comedy—sort of a Friends meets Saturday Night Live—is the brainchild of Scott Zakarin (rhymes with saccharine), a 33-year-old former advertising producer who first learned about the Internet two years ago while dining with a friend at a Los Angeles burger joint.
Kudos: In April 1996 he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People on the Net by Websight magazine.
First person: “I want to break barriers, make waves, blaze new trails. This is like early television in the ’50s, and we will be on the front line.”
Second opinion: “He’s a little insane,” says Troy Bolotnick, GrapeJam’s producer.
Odyssey: At 23, with mostly borrowed money, he began working on a $400,000 coming-of-age film that, he admits, immediately “fell into the abyss.” Worked as a telemarketer, sold children’s clothes, wrote copy promoting a Playboy phone-sex number (“Hi…it’s time to get interactive…”). While employed at an L.A. ad agency two years ago, he and three coworkers created The Spot, an online daily drama that won the industry’s Cool Site of the Year award in 1995.” Last spring, Zakarin sold his interest in the project and began working 12 hours a day on GrapeJam.
Vitals: Born in Bellmore, N.Y.; three years of college; shares a Santa Monica townhouse with his wife of 17 months, children’s book author Debra Mostow Zakarin, 31.
Favorite Movie: The Graduate.
Sign of insanity: “He gets this vacant look in his eyes, and I can see his mind going and going,” says Debra. “He never sleeps through the night. He’s always thinking.”