Dan Lee is an actor, writer, and comedian based in New York City. At the UCB Theatre he improvises on Harold Night and co-hosts the hit variety show Asian AF, which has been featured on NBC News, ABC News, The New York Times, LA Times, LA Weekly and many more. He also creates videos on his own and with his comedy team Varejao. You can visit his website danleeok.com for content and contact info.
This week, Lee talked with me about how he comes up with his jokes, and the perspectives of the characters he tweets as.
ok enough about me, tell me about yourself, what is your favorite war— Dan Lee (@danleeok) March 8, 2017
I love genre because they get your audience on the same page right away and I love playing with those tropes. I also love tweets that have a bunch of unanswered questions. How long has this person been talking? What did they say before this?
What kinds of characters do you tweet as? Are there any recurring ones?
I love tweeting as characters that have super specific demands, are oblivious to their weirdness, and have strong reactions. Characters that do not get it, probably never will and are not afraid to say what they’re thinking. I’m realizing now that most of the characters I’m into are the opposite of who I am in real life. One of my favorite characters is just a simple dad type who simply cannot believe the situation he’s in. He has a constant internal monologue that is “What in the HECK is going on here?!” Also, all my characters are speaking just a little too loud.
[dreamworks meeting] what if shrek blue — Dan Lee (@danleeok) June 14, 2017
Most tweets I think of as characters. I have an improv and sketch background, so I usually imagine characters saying these tweets with various voices, physicalities, etc. The characterization doesn’t always come across, which is a bummer!
Is it easier for you to tweet as a character than as yourself?
My process is a combination of both. Generally my tweets start from a place of truth. I’ll have a genuine thought as myself, recognize the absurdity of it, then work to heighten it. My thoughts tend to snowball and I end up with a character or situation. To answer your question though, I think it’s easier to start as myself, but it’s ultimately funnier through a character or some heightened version of myself.
i’ve bought 17 cars in my life and they’ve all been Transformers i am sick of it— Dan Lee (@danleeok) May 1, 2017
One of the worst skills I’ve learned on this platform is choosing numbers that are funny but not too insane. 17 is what I settled on here. Also this character is 100% a dad.
What are some accounts you enjoy following?
One of my favorite accounts is Dan Chamberlain’s. I’m a big fan of his voice. For me it’s the perfect level of dumb and I mean that in the best way. It reminds me a lot of the comedy I was into before I even knew I wanted to pursue it. Also my pal Bob Vulfov, he’s a joke machine. I’ve been on a couple UCB teams with him and on stage too, he is insanely good at creating funny premises on the spot. To Bob, who will see this: You remind me nothing of the comedy I was into before I knew I wanted to pursue it.
[walks up to pickup basketball game] webster’s dictionary defines basketball as — Dan Lee (@danleeok) March 23, 2016
The imagery of this one really makes this tweet for me. I’m imagining someone walking 50 paces straight towards a basketball game, standing completely still and delivering that line.
Are you active on other social media platforms, and if so, which do you find is most conducive to your comedy?
I don’t post comedy on Instagram, but I’m really into it right now. I like that it’s kind of an opposite medium to Twitter. It’s a nice change of pace to use a primarily visual platform. I’ve also been making more videos lately, whether it’s by myself or with my comedy team Varejao, and I’ve found Instagram to be a nice complement. It’s encouraged me to think more about composition, lighting, and the technical aspects of cameras, among other things. So maybe the benefit is more indirect, but it’s helped for sure. I will say though, I have seen memes on Instagram that are funnier than anything I have or will ever create.
Karen Chee is a is a writer/performer who contributes regularly to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s.