Anna Fitzpatrick is a Toronto-based writer. She has written for The New Yorker, The Hairpin, Hazlitt, Rookie Mag, Rolling Stone, and more. You can find her work on her website and Instagram. Recently, Fitzpatrick spoke to me about three of her favorite tweets, plus notebooks, pinball, and her paranoia over subconsciously ripping off jokes.
Fitzpatrick: I used to have this system, whenever I was restless and antsy and had writer’s block, I would go to the bar, leave my phone at home, order a beer and a shot, play some pinball, and try to fill up ten pages of a notebook. Most of my humour pieces when I contributed to The Hairpin and the New Yorker’s Shouts section started this way. I haven’t published a humor piece in over a year. I blame moving to a part of town that doesn’t have a lot of pinball. I also stopped drinking a couple of months ago. But last week, for old times sake, I went to a bar and ordered a club soda and filled up a dozen pages with jokes about Freddy Kreuger. I don’t know why I was feeling him that night; I haven’t watched Nightmare on Elm Street in forever. I think I like the idea of imagining horror villains off hours, and Freddy is so ridiculous. Anyway, nothing came from all the jokes I wrote that night, except for this one tweet.
On average, how much work do you put into a tweet? What’s the most and least work you’ve done for a tweet?
I never put too much effort into actual tweeting, because my tweets tend to be jokes that just didn’t work anywhere else. Like, I might put a lot of work into an idea that I’m trying to develop into a longer humor piece, only to have it not work, and then I’ll just throw away the longer piece and tweet the concept. This Harry Potter joke was intended to be longer, then I realized it didn’t need to be so I just turned it into a tweet. But I never start writing jokes with the intention of them ending up as tweets.
Did Twitter replace writing in notebooks or change the way you write in notebooks at all?
Not really. I think I’m bad at twitter. I like to ramble. It’s hard to fit into the character limit. I like Facebook status updates more than Twitter because I can go on and on with a joke, which is what I like to do, and sometimes I’ll cheat and post a screencap of my Facebook to Twitter. Like this. I write in my notebooks every day, but again, I cheat by taking pictures of longer jokes and posting them on Instagram. My Insta is filled with pages from my notebook, and I tend to like those way more than anything I’ve tweeted. Here’s one on Freddy Kreuger.
Do you draft tweets?
My personal favourite tweets of mine never do that well. I think it’s because as soon as a tweet gets a lot of attention, I become paranoid that I subconsciously ripped it off from somewhere. I mean, a lot of jokes have been made about I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. The Simpsons did it best, followed by my buddy Monica Heisey. But it’s nice to add to the conversation, you know?
Have you ever confirmed that a joke you made was ripped from somewhere? What did (or would) you do in that situation?
Not exactly, but I have one popular joke (“Feminism’s work won’t be done until people stop assuming Dr. Pepper was a man.”) and later, I saw a joke that was tweeted months before mine but was very similar. I’m trying to find it now. It was just a coincidence – I hadn’t seen this other joke before I made mine – but I remember thinking “Aw crap, if I was that person, I would be so pissed at me.” The other one did way better than mine, so I don’t feel too bad, but it did put that paranoia into my head. I find myself ripping off my own jokes a lot, though. If I read through a bunch of my old notebooks, I’ll find jokes I’ve written years apart where I recycle the same punchline.
I watched my best friend do this with her pug, Nigel. So I put it on the internet. She’s my muse.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about Twitter?
I follow a mix of friends, news and media, and humor accounts, and I’ve pretty much muted all my friends, news, and media so that my feed is a never ending stream of jokes. My least favorite thing is tweeting a joke and having a hundred strangers in your mentions riffing on your punchline. Those answers are superficial. I should probably say something like “The chance to connect with the world.”
Hold up, I was looking for the other Dr. Pepper tweet, and I found this one. This wasn’t even the one I was thinking of. This predates us both. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse about it.
What is a subject (or subjects) you can always tweet about?
Tinder, my friend’s dog Nigel, or being sad for no reason. The internet loves jokes about being sad for no reason.
Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny Or Die.