The trendy micro-blogging service finds its funny in the world of stand-up.
dantelfer I’m in a wall punching mood! But do not worry, walls, I’m a sissy. I’ll only be punching the walls of my skull with my brain fists.
about 30 minutes ago
paulapoundstone I might donate an organ so I don’t have as much to carry when we go backpacking.
about 3 hours ago
nickvatterott Just found out that my phone isn’t a camera phone which sucks cause that means all those pictures I took in europe are now completely ruined.
about 16 hours ago
Comic Eugene Mirman “is watching Leonard Cohen from the side of the stage. In profile, [Cohen] looks like a very, very cool detective from the ’30s.” Paula Poundstone “is sad that [her cat] Deacon died. The worst of it is that [Deacon] always swore she would outlive Jack Kemp.” And stand-up Paul F. Tompkins “is headlining Comix in New York City.” How do we know Mirman has noir visions of Cohen, Poundstone is a crazy cat lady and Tompkins is playing one of the best rooms in Manhattan? Because all three comics are among the many jokesters who’ve entered the Twitter universe.
Twitter, the free social-networking service offering instant status updates, has become a trendy pathway for artists, entertainers and companies to connect with fans and consumers. Rabid Twitterer Ashton Kutcher, for example, has more than 1.6 million followers (and replies to a few lucky ones), and even President Obama recently jumped on the Twitter wagon.
With its 140-word character limit, it seems particularly suited to witty one-liners and gig updates. We wonder, is Twitter the ideal medium for comedy?
Local stand-up Nick Vatterott, who recently signed up for the service at the suggestion of fellow comic and ex-Chicagoan TJ Miller, Twitters specifically to showcase new material. “Having people spend time on the Internet looking at stuff involving your comedy is almost becoming essential to having a successful career,” he says. “It proves to bookers and producers that those people will follow that same comedy in other outlets.”
Chicago comic and Blewt! Productions coproducer Dan Telfer signed on to Twitter a couple of years ago but let the account sit until he spotted the emerging trend. “Soon after the craze picked up, I noticed a lot of my favorite comedians were having fun with the format,” Telfer says. “I figured, What the hell? It’s a way to remind people you’re still out there trying to be funny, and it’s so disposable that if a joke fails, it isn’t going to hang in the air for very long. It tumbles down your followers’ feed and fades from memory.”
Despite frequent updates, Telfer’s cerebral sense of humor doesn’t necessarily fit the character count. “I despise writing short jokes,” he says. “I am participating in Twitter-joke-writing purely as a writing challenge to myself. It kind of hurts my brain, but it is good exercise.” One example of a Telfer tweet: “It looks like Apple is staying monogamous with AT&T. I shall not be attending the renewing of vows ceremony.”
For her part, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! regular Poundstone finds liberation in the character limit. “I have OCD,” she says, “and one of the ways it manifests itself is that I can’t stop talking. The 140-character requirement isn’t limiting; it’s merciful. I like the challenge of fitting a thought into that space.” Poundstone recently used Twitter to ask, “Why isn’t a crowbar where big black birds drink?”
An added benefit for comics is Twitter’s immediacy. In between gigs, stand-ups can respond to late-breaking stories such as the bailouts or swine flu. “I love it when really funny people use it as a way to comment on a big event,” Telfer says. “My feed was on fire during the Oscars.” Poundstone agrees: “It’s great when something happens that’s not really worth remembering days later, and I can just put up a couple of jokes about it in the moment,” she says. “I suppose one could conclude that, if it’s not worth remembering, then it is not worth commenting on, but I don’t think my five followers mind indulging me.” For the record, Poundstone has more than 10,000 followers.
“For a comedian, it’s a great way to promote your shows,” Vatterott says, “and perhaps, by word of mouth, be known as someone funny to follow and not someone who just updates the world on menial tasks like people do on Facebook. If I read one more person who tells me, ‘Nap time for Meg!’ or ‘John’s having soup!’ it might be enough for me to go outside and interact with real people.”