Sarah Hutto (@huttopian) on High School Prom, Pending Patents, and Autobiographical Tweets

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Sarah Hutto’s work has run in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. On Twitter she is @huttopian, where she advocates for equal representation of women who aren’t enthusiastic about salad in the stock photo industry. She is working on a humor book.

This week, Hutto talked with me about tweeting autobiographically and taking tweets to develop longer material.

This song was voted as my high school prom theme. I don’t know if anyone’s really paid attention to the lyrics, but it’s about a highly codependent alcoholic relationship. I mean, trust me, I relate. But he’s singing about getting shitfaced and having a hot wife who has to drag him home and put him to bed. Every time I hear it I think, “No, girl! Don’t take him to the party! You’ll have to watch him the whole time to make sure he’s not hitting on your friends!”

Did you do comedy in school? When and how did you get started?

I didn’t really have the hindsight to do comedy in high school. I was too busy being depressed and anxious and dating a shitty boy to laugh about it all yet. But as a genre, I’ve always appreciated comedy more than any other. I did make a lot of inappropriate comments and observations that I got in trouble for, which is sort of the gateway to comedy, I think. I had a Spanish class and was always making dumb jokes in Spanish throughout class, and the teacher was always unsuccessfully trying not to laugh. That just got me going. There’s those certain people who egg you on by laughing inappropriately when you mutter something under your breath at a funeral, or in detention, or during a deposition, and then there’s no getting it back in. Sometimes I think of those people when I’m writing, that explosive energy that just keeps going while you’re thinking, “I’m an awful person. I am sprinting to Hell for this.”

What got me really started was having a second kid and getting knocked on my ass by it. The first real piece I wrote was about just trying to leave the house with both kids and how comically insane it was. It took hours. Then I submitted to McSweeney’s, who respond to every submission, and I could not get over that. That someone was actually going to read what I wrote and respond to me. I became obsessed with that and with making my writing better for my audience, at first just an editor. It was like having a secret life outside of the insanity in my house. The second piece I submitted to McSweeney’s was accepted and I was a goner. That poor editor.

They’re always pending! What does that patent office look like?! What else is pending? Sanity? Life? Reality??! How many things are pending?????

Have you ever taken a tweet and developed it into longer material, or vice versa?

Yes. I have started something as a tweet and then deleted it because I realized it needed to be a whole piece.

I recently wrote a tweet, started writing followup drafts, and then instead turned the drafts into a full piece with a narrative. That piece just got accepted somewhere and will run sometime in February. I can see how Twitter could be bad for certain types of writing, but I think it’s great for spitballing comedy, because of how things become a quippy, collective conversation. I think we all get irritated with ourselves and each other and our “takes,” but it’s a way to work out perspectives. You just have to be mindful about what you’re bringing that’s unique and not just regurgitating hashtags and formats.

This is definitely an autobiographical tweet. I love the idea of needing to rent a public space to have a temporary personal crisis. There should be a signal for that. I guess that’s what hazard lights are on a car. They’re either “I blew a tire and had to pull over in the breakdown lane,” or “Yes – I know you saw me walk to my car and this is a full lot, but I’m going to be here awhile. Did you not see the ridiculously sized baked good in my hand? Do I look like a person who is going to be grabbing life by the horns right now? Don’t look at me! I’m going to be laying down in the back seat in about 5 minutes! I got teased a lot as a kid!”

Is your Twitter persona true to you in real life?

They actually are surprisingly autobiographical. I occasionally flub, but there are tweets I think people would be surprised weren’t just made up. Like this one. I was recently on one of those “funniest people on Twitter” lists on The Berry, which was awesome, but I told a friend that I cringed at that tweet going viral. She assured me that it read like a joke, not literal, and I told her, “BUT IT REALLY HAPPENED. THAT IS A REAL THING.”

This came about during that whole MOAB thing. I kept wondering, Why are they dragging mothers into this? Don’t we have enough problems, what with peeing when we sneeze and all? And then I realized, Oh, I know why.

Karen Chee is a is a writer/performer who contributes regularly to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s.

Sarah Hutto (@huttopian) on High School Prom, Pending […]