Branson Reese is a cartoonist and comedian living in NYC. He performs weekly at the Magnet Theater and monthly as an alcoholic goose puppet in Simon’s Street at UCB Chelsea. Fans of TBS’s Search Party might remember him as Chantal’s extremely sad friend Gabe. His webcomic Crimewave will be up soon and he’ll tweet about it a thousand times so stay tuned. Recently, I spoke with Reese about three of his favorite tweets, and we talked about cartoons, unusable t-shirt designs, and Twitter’s weasel subculture.
Reese: This is a little cartoon that I drew on a napkin once while my roommate was watching TV. I tweeted the napkin version, put my phone down, and then picked it up 30 minutes later and a bunch of libertarians were shouting at me. I don’t know what to attribute it to, but anime twitter and libertarian twitter seemed to really respond to this. If you think of those twitters as a venn diagram, they do have an enormous center circle. I was introduced to somebody at a wedding the other day as “He did that comic about the Simpsons porn.” Hopefully I do something more important before I die so this doesn’t go on my tombstone.
What’s the most surprised you’ve been at a reaction to one of your tweets?
I’m always surprised at what people respond to. I used to be on BustedTees shirt design mailing list and we’d get a monthly email asking for shirt ideas. Almost every month for three years I would send them a bunch of unusable shirt designs like “an old man with a beautiful head of hair reminding us not to vote” or “FRONT: There’s no such thing as a bad necklace. BACK: But there IS such a thing as a dangerous necklace.” I don’t know why I kept it up for so long – I couldn’t help myself. Anyway, I tweeted a bunch of the shirt designs I’d sent out so people could see them and my friend Kyle got one of them printed for my birthday. It was an incredible gift, but it’s tough to explain my shirt with a Big Dog talking about his adult son who passed away to people. You only get a few seconds to make a first impression.
How often do you revise and revisit tweets like you did with this one?
Almost never. That one was an exception because I’m trying to get all my cartoons together to build a website. I have a history of undercutting my work by drawing it on napkins or the backs of Duane Reade receipts. But self-sabotage is never as charming as you think it is, and I’ve been making a push lately to take my work more seriously. I tend to cast a wide net ideas-wise, and some of my work deserves to stay on literal pieces of trash. That one seemed worthy of the My Fair Lady treatment, though.
This happened to me when I was 17. There were a bunch of furries in their 40’s who hung out at, like, a Starbucks in my hometown and I was mystified by these people who wore dog collars and fox tails out into the world. I asked them what my fursona would be, and this tweet happened. In retrospect, I was fucking with them, which is mean. But also, when was I going to get that chance again, y’know? Once the one guy said raccoon, they all sort of conceded. It was honestly a relief to know that I wasn’t going to have to go on some sort of inner journey. I know it’s hard to tell from an article about my Twitter, but that furry in his mid 40s really nailed me.
How would you describe your online persona to someone who hasn’t seen it before?
I would tell them that there’s a beautiful castle in Germany called Castle Dilbirth and I’m the reason you have to turn SafeSearch on to google it.
Do you have any fave subcultures on Twitter or on the Internet in general?
Last winter, after tweeting about how it’s sad nobody buried the weasels from Who Framed Roger Rabbit I got tweeted at by somebody pretending to be those weasels. It was one account that they all seemed to share, and each weasel would sign the tweet (so as to avoid confusion.) He kept telling me they were still alive and telling me to “shaddup.” It got boring real quick, but it led me down a rabbit hole of people who pretend to be cartoon characters online. There’s this amazing Foghorn Leghorn account that looks like it was originally created to retweet people and respond with shit like “ah say ah say, boy’s got more loose screws than hardware store” but they seem like they’ve become radicalized and dropped the gimmick so now it’s just a smiling picture of Foghorn Leghorn shouting “WHER’ES YOUR PUPPET MASTER SOROS NOW ?” at Yahoo News articles.
Something about Henry Rollins really speaks to me. I’m Captain Ahab and he’s my Moby Dick. This is from of a series of comics I’ve done about Henry Rollins doing mundane and petty things like filling his soda cup with all the different flavors because “why should some man in a factory dictate my flavor experience?” or cutting in line and explaining that “fascism is the real enemy here” or going on Splash Mountain over and over so that he looks brave in the picture because “I’m actually very brave and the picture should reflect that.” I couldn’t tell you what it is about him specifically that I find so interesting, but I thought he and Ian MacKaye were the coolest guys in the world when I was 14 so I’m sort of just stuck with them for the rest of my life now.
Do you have any other favorite series to do?
A few! Every few months I’ll look up old Far Sides and change their captions to say “This is inappropriate.” It always works. Completely evergreen caption. Another one I did a while back was stage a conversation between two pictures of Rizzo the Rat. It started off as just a little back-and-forth between a picture of him in a suit telling a picture of him in a letterman jacket to get a job, but it spiraled pretty quickly out of control into a story of Rizzo’s downward spiral into a life of lawlessness and violence. It ended with an Irish pirate rat gutting him down by the docks. I believe it was Stephen King who said “you gotta just get out of the way and let the story take you where it wants to go.”
How has the way you tweet (and/or stuff you tweet about) changed over time?
I first got Twitter when I was 20 so it was mostly stuff like “about to drop out of college lol” or “of course chris is throwing up.” Now I tweet comics I’ve drawn and socialist rhetoric. It’s been a wild eight years.
Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn.