Brittani Nichols is a comedian and actor from Chicago who now lives in LA, specifically Los Feliz, home of the comedy proletariat. Her writing credits include things you’ve never heard of and stuff you’ve maybe heard of but she refuses to list. She was a recurring character on Season 2 of Transparent but this bio is longer than all of her combined dialogue. She does two too many podcasts which are Brand New Podcast and Hamilton the Podcast. Suicide Kale, a feature that Nichols wrote, produced, and stars in, will be playing festivals starting this spring, and you can see her perform in LA this month at Fresh Out at UCB Sunset on the 17th and Blessed at the Hollywood Improv on the 22nd. This week, Nichols and I discussed three of her favorite tweets, plus universal human behaviors, showcasing your unique voice online, and the subtle difference between formats and formulas.
Nichols: “Don’t tell anyone” is something we’ve all said and usually whatever you’re relaying isn’t about yourself so there are these false stakes attached to it. For whatever reason, we think that we’ve done our job as secret keepers as long as we say “don’t tell anyone” knowing full well someone told us the same thing and we didn’t listen. I like when tweets hit on something that seems like a universal truth that we all were previously too ashamed to admit. It’s nice to see something be relatable and realize, “Oh, right. We’re ALL doing this shitty thing!” Twitter makes me guess at which human behaviors of mine are universal and I’m wrong way more times than I’m right.
Can you think of a tweet you made that you were most surprised was a universal truth, and vice versa (were most surprised was not)?
Surprised it was: x.
Surprised it was not: x.
Do you have a favorite interaction you’ve had on Twitter?
I don’t have just one. My favorites in general are whenever I’m publicly flirting with people and whenever I’m being heckled by @aardvarsk.
Twitter has been pretty important for me in dealing with fucked up things that happen to me personally and in the world at large. It feels weird to be proud of a tweet that talks about something so sensitive but I am because I think this it’s both funny and extreeeeemely painful. I’m making fun of Buzzfeed quizzes which feed off the feeling of wanting to see yourself in TV/movie/book characters by subverting their appeal. When I tweeted this, I couldn’t help but see myself in those being brutally and illegally murdered by cops so I was also trying to make fun of people that find it harder to relate to real human beings being actively dehumanized by “news” sources than fictional characters in a frivolous internet quiz by a media company.
Is there anything specific to Twitter that you think makes it so fitting for combining jokes with real discussion about sensitive/painful news?
The lack of division. If you follow news sources and comedians, there’s going to be news right next to a joke and sometimes those are going to be the same thing. It’s the embodiment of how the world is…that all these things are happening concurrently. There’s no break from either, ever, and if you think that, you’re just not paying attention. For me, Twitter really is about healing through comedy. You get to go on this dumbass website and try to make sense of this shitty nonsense world together. This sounds very sentimental so I’d like to also mention most people are unremarkable and should delete their accounts.
My first couple years on Twitter, I was trying to find my voice. I think I saw what everyone else was doing and realized I wasn’t that interested in previously established twitter formulas even though they pretty reliably result in more followers. Every now and then I crank out a basic ass Twitter joke and if there isn’t something uniquely me about it, I feel corny. My most popular tweets really aren’t ones I necessarily even fuck with like that. Those popular ones aren’t the reason people follow me I don’t think. It’s like I could be average at A+B shit or I could be great at the weird shit I do and I’ve opted for the latter.
Has Twitter helped at all with finding your comedy voice outside of the Internet?
I think I’m blissfully unaware of how and if Twitter informs my writing and it’s probably for the best because that way it’s still organic. I know because of Twitter I feel prepared to find comedy in weird shit that happens to me outside the Internet. I think tied up in most harassment or ignorance is some belief that’s hilarious. Like I tweeted about this woman that called the cops on me because I parked on her block which means she thought I was operating some sort of illegal activity out of a gray Civic Hybrid which I think is hysterical. At the time, it was traumatic but I’ve come around to being able to laugh at it because luckily the cops didn’t come and kill me for no reason.
If you had to distill your voice into a short description, what do you think makes your more personal tweets uniquely you?
I think I’m too close to it to know exactly. In general, I’m overly self-aware and neurotic so that probably comes across. Also, if I tell people what my voice is, then they get to decide whether or not I’m successful at achieving it. Not that I give a shit what those people think, I just don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction. I guess I might have inadvertently answered the question with that last statement. My tweets are extremely petty (black people’s definition) which is a symptom of aimless vulnerability.
Are there any previously established twitter formulas that still interest you?
No. Formulaic stuff bothers me because you read it and you’re like anyone could have written this. I do like formats though which is barely different but the way they’re different is important. A format is a joke shorthand but the outcome can lead to jokes that are still uniquely you. For example: the “SEXT:” format. I think the comedic take people were running with was saying something you think makes yourself desirable that no one else cares about. But to me what’s fascinating about sexts is people earnestly stating their desires so my take ended up being sexualizing my own earnestness. I think sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what my point is but that’s the beauty of Twitter. I don’t have to figure it out in one day. I can tweet about how one experience made me feel for months and then one day I tweet something and I’m like, “there it is” and it gives it closure. When I finally figure out what I was trying to say, it’s magic. And when I see someone say something I’ve been trying to get at for months it’s infuriating and awe-inspiring and that one tweet makes the hundreds of garbage ones I read to get to it worth it.
Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny Or Die.