I just read The Rise of Comedy on Twitter on Mashable. The tweets they reproduce there make me jealous. I love Twitter, but I’m not funny on Twitter, or at least not on purpose. But then I’m not particularly funny off Twitter either. And then there’s also Top 7 Hilarious Fake Tweets on Huffington Post a week or so back.
But is Twitter humor different from “traditional” humor? And what happens when the television, publishing, and performance industries are set aside in favor of direct “social” comedy? We spoke with some hilarious tweeters to get their take on these trends, and on what it means to get a laugh in the digital age.
The post generates some interesting opinions from several comedians. My favorite is where they don’t like that Twitter has no gatekeepers. Winners who’ve passed gates like gatekeepers.
Is there a different style of humor for Twitter? Hey, I think the so-called one liner has been there forever. 140 characters ought to be plenty for funny. Does it take another style? Consider the following:
I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
Borrow money from pessimists-they don’t expect it back.
Half the people you know are below average.
99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
None of those are from Twitter, but all would be great as tweets. They are all from comedian Steven Wright, from long before Twitter started. They’re on a website collection called Steven Wright quotes.
And how about these, that come (without attribution, I’m afraid) from a site called Famous One Liners:
Some drink at the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle.
Some people are only alive because it is illegal to shoot them.
Success always occurs in private and failure in full view.
Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!
Support bacteria, they’re the only culture some people have.
The Bermuda Triangle got tired of warm weather. It moved to Finland. Now Santa Claus is missing.
The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required on it.
Twitter’s a great place for funny one liners. But come on, they were there long before Twitter.
I love twitter. What blogging is to email, Twitter is to instant messaging (IM) … and then some. You can follow me on Twitter as Timberry. I’m like a fish with a shiny new thing. And, with due respect to the MSNBC line (if you don’t get it, you’re too old) — I’m 61. But that’s nothing: my 89-year-old dad is on Twitter too.
Consider this picture of Twitter usage published earlier this month on TechCrunch:
Something’s happening there.
But first, some vocabulary (just to get it straight): Twitter is web publishing in 140-character snippets. A tweet is one of those snippets. To tweet means typing those snippets into Twitter. To follow is what you do (takes a click) to get access to somebody’s tweets. A follower is somebody who follows you. To retweet means to take somebody else’s tweet and tweet it again, giving them credit, to your followers. Your followers can also be called tweeps, or sometimes tweeple.
About Twitter backlash. The Daily Show take on it, Samantha Bee ignoring the interview while peering into a cellphone keyboard, was hilarious. The Twitter Facebook users accuse it of twitterizing itself. The Google search for “twitter bashing” turns up half a million hits. “I hate Twitter” is good for more than 18 million.
So here are some good reasons to hate Twitter:
Twitter clutter. The “I’m having dinner now” or “I’m going home now” inanities. I did that too when I started, as if I were telling family members “arrived in Denver airport.” I get it now: Nobody cares what you’re doing. Tweet something interesting, or nothing at all (note to self: and don’t try to make cute contractions for Twitter clutter. Doesn’t work.)
Twitter selling. Ads are ads, even at 140 characters per tweet. Infomercial I don’t mind, when there’s actual info — happens a lot — but there is selling going on. (The good news, though, is that you only get that once. Don’t like it? Stop following. A lot like changing the channel. If you don’t follow them, they don’t bother you).
Tweeting at meals, in conversations, or at meetings or movies or events is really annoying.
Tweeting while driving is at best stupid, at worst, manslaughter.
People collect followers. The more, the better. The Twitter version of counting friends in Facebook. Now we have some Web applications designed to get you more followers. Ugh. People measure themselves and compete on number of followers.
It’s really distracting. It gets in the way of getting things done (of course, that’s actually a good thing disguised as bad; the same would be true of everything fun or interesting except work).
I hate it that Steven Wright, the comedian, master of the one liner, isn’t on Twitter (that’s a good thing too, because maybe he’ll start.)
3: I Love Twitter
Consider this an enthusiastic hooray for relationships in 140-character snippets. Crazy as this sounds, ironic indeed, but some of my Twitter friends feel like real friends to me. When they tweet their latest blog posts, I go, I read, I comment. When I tweet my latest blog posts, they go, read, and comment. They recommend me to others. I recommend them. I ask for recommendations, they respond. Sometimes it’s just “I liked your last blog post” and sometimes it’s “does anybody know a restaurant in Portland that does Thanksgiving dinner?”
I blog a lot these days. I care about other people in the same general topic areas. It’s nice to follow them on Twitter.
So, then here are some good reasons to love Twitter:
Keeping up with some professional relationships. I know that seems incredible, more so if you knew me. I’m kind of a hermit. I hate cocktail parties. But I like keeping up with people in Twitter.
Fascinating real-time constantly scrolling updates on interesting new blog posts, news, issues. I follow some people whom I respect, and they point out interesting ideas, posts, etc. I work in tweetdeck, and it’s like having a scrolling world of interesting little tidbits.
Writing. Sometimes good writing. Good tweets are amazing. See number 5, below.
Publishing. Think of it as publishing short snippets to people who want to read them.
Someone’s tweets get repetitive, or become sales pitches, or just Twitter clutter? Unfollow them. It’s as satisfying as changing the channel.
Taking responsibility: people with real names and real pictures. You can’t delete a tweet.
Seems like almost everybody on Twitter is a social media marketing expert offering to show the rare non-social-media-marketing experts how to make money on Twitter. Seems that Twitter can be good for people in the expert business. But is it good for business? Or, the question of the last month or so, are you an idiot if you’re in business and not in Twitter?
Twitter is no more good or bad for business than telephones, letters, conversations, or pies in the face. The medium isn’t the message; the message is the message. I have lots of twitter friends who are straight, like it, keep in touch with it, and — lo and behold — that’s good for their business. But is being in Twitter good for business? Nope.
I can’t figure out Twitter and relationships. It’s oxymoronic, and, sometimes, just plain moronic. But it brings me closer to blogging and Web people I like and respect. Paradox, I suppose.
5. A Few Good Tweets
At its best, it really is writing, and a new kind of self publishing. For evidence, I call on David Petheric (clarocada on Twitter) and his post Top Tweets of 2008 on DigitalBiographer.com. He gets the credit for the collection, and I’m choosing just a few:
brandmilitia: Sometimes the fastest way to screw up a company’s social media strategy is by letting the marketing department run it.
chrisbrogan: Just made a VC choke somehow on my speaker’s fee. Tough times for startups in 09, kids.
copyblogger: I’ve got to go on a carriage ride through Highland Park tonight with 4 kids and 3 lawyers. This is why God gave us scotch.
boris: “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” — Jorge Luis Borges
SaraD: Accidental Death & Dismembership Insurance. I passed on that. I choose Membership.
mathie: I need a pair of headphones. Or a shotgun and at least 5 cartridges. Or an office of my own.
There: see what I mean? Good stuff. It reminds me of something that came over the teletype 38 years ago when I was on the night desk at UPI in Mexico City. Rumor had it he put this onto the service and walked out for good. His tweet, 38 years ahead of its time, was:
“Too much work, too little money. I quit.”
And, what the heck, my favorite tweet from my 900-some tweets:
Gray cold comfort. Clouds pressing the forested hills downwards, covering the tops. Ghosts of holidays past. Western Oregon in November.