I remember it like it was yesterday — I was sitting in the computer lab, in my Grade 11 English class, typing out an essay about Macbeth. One of my peers, a budding rapper who had garnered the affectionate nickname “Chubb,” crept up behind me and asked to follow me on Twitter.
I turned around, looking up at him with my doughy, prepubescent eyes (I was a late bloomer). “I don’t have Twitter,” I confessed.
Later that work period, I shot out my first tweet: “Who are you, a hula hoop? @itsCHUBB.” It makes absolutely no sense now, and I can’t even fathom its original context, but hey, we all start at the bottom, right?
Fast-forward four years and the micro-blogging app has since become an extension of both my brain and my funny bone. Although it took awhile to get there, Twitter is currently the storehouse for the vast majority of my witticisms. I found some pretty horrendous tweets during a recent scan of my Twitter archives (September 2011: “Arctic Monkeys. Damn, those are some cold primates”), but in looking more at my current output (October 2014: “This shampoo says ‘No Tears,’ so why am I always crying in the shower?”), it’s safe to conclude that those days are well behind me.
Twitter humour is its own beast; just like a George R.R. Martin novel, tweets have 140 characters, and that’s only when they’re at maximum capacity. Thus, tweeters are shackled to brevity, forced to get down to the funny business in the quickest way imaginable. Some users resort to tried-and-true joke formats (“Bae: come over”), while others just stick with wordplay. Oftentimes, the funniest tweets emerge from the peculiar depths of “Weird Twitter,” a subculture so twistedly surreal that it could curl Salvador Dali’s moustache.
Conjuring tweets has single-handedly altered my perceptions of reality. Instead of simply living life — you know, as some folks have been known to do — I look for the possible humorous tweet in everything. My drafts folder is bursting at the seams, overflowing with half-baked puns, jokes that are all setup and no punch line, wayward observations that have yet to transmogrify into A+ material, or zingers I worry won’t be as funny in a Twitter feed as they are in my imagination. This proves Foucault’s predictions of modernity frighteningly correct; I indulge in frequent self-censorship, and I am my own worst critic. Before it enters the sweeping ether of the World Wide Web, I ask myself, “Is this 140-character quip Twitter-worthy?” If new episodes of Seinfeld had continued to air well into the twenty-first century, I imagine that Elaine Benes would be asking herself the exact same question.
Those in search of comedic Twitter glory, be forewarned: Internet super stardom does not happen overnight. Unless you embarrass yourself on the news and find yourself the subject of an auto-tuned YouTube video, it is highly unlikely that you’ll become a viral sensation. Thus, don’t be discouraged when your funny tweets at first go unrecognized. Shirk a desire for external validation and hone your technique: don’t be afraid to bounce your jokes off of someone first, and definitely don’t be wary of posting puns that elicit more groan than a creaky door hinge. And remember, just because you have 140 characters doesn’t mean you have to use all of them; the joy of Twitter is that you don’t have to abide by the traditional conventions of humour, so you are as free as you please to experiment with joke format.
The key to a funny tweet, though, is an element of surprise. Take this tweet by Megan Amram, for example: “It’s so awkward to accidentally see your parents having sex. I’m never going to that website again.” Reversals like these make the world of humour go ‘round, and I often try to infuse my own tweets with memorable yet whacky, unexpected twists.
There is no way, though, that I am the sole proprietor of this paradigm shift. So much of existence is now mediated through cellular devices; individuals are so hung up on documenting every aspect of their day that every waking moment has now become mineable for content. But if one constantly spends life trying to condense it to fit within a pithy character limit, is one truly even living?
You’ll have to check my Twitter page to find out. Don’t worry — I no longer tweet about hula-hoops.
Five Funny Accounts to Follow
Larry King @kingsthings
The man is 81 years old, yet he’s still got tremendous game. His #Itsmy2cents series, in which he bulk-tweets his stream of consciousness (“I’ve never been in a canoe #Itsmy2cents”) may be some of the most unintentionally hilarious tweets around.
Rob Delaney @robdelaney
Because following him and his absurdly hilarious account is a Twitter rite of passage.
Megan Amram @meganamram
Her Twitter account ultimately landed her a job in the Parks and Recreation writers’ room. If that isn’t upward mobility, I don’t know what is.
jomny sun @jonnysun
One of the most hilarious exports from Weird Twitter. Punctuation and letter capitalization optional.
Modern Seinfeld @SeinfeldToday
“What if Seinfeld were still on the air?” This account proves that you don’t need 22 minutes to tell a hilarious Seinfeld narrative; all you need is 140 characters.