Charlie Bardey (@chunkbardey) is a comedian who was born and raised in New York City. He can be heard hosting ExtraBLURT!, a children’s game show podcast from Pinna. This week, Bardey talked to me about how his tweets have changed over time and his favorite Twitter interaction ever.
Being on Twitter in the present moment can make you feel so useless, because you’re constantly being made aware of all this suffering, and the available recourse seems so paltry. A staggering amount of mobilization goes into funding one person’s chemotherapy/monthly rent/top surgery, and Twitter is 800,000 fundraising requests mixed in with reports of unspeakable violence and jokes about the Golden Globes. Cancer is obviously not funny, and death is only funny if it’s like, Paul Ryan getting hit by a train, but it is funny when the stocks are down because simply who owns stocks? What are you, 45??? I get push notifications from The New York Times being like “Ugh sorry babe the stocks are down :(” and it’s like, I’m sorry can I HELP you?
How often do you tweet about pop culture?
Not too often, honestly. I just feel like it’s so hard to have an original take on whatever is happening in the present moment. Some people do it so well, and I really admire it, but for me it’s much easier to be surprising and clever about something when I’m the only one thinking about it.
There is nothing more fun on Twitter than getting into the syntax of a really basic phrase or lyric and just iterating it into oblivion. A really long-running fixation of mine has been the opening lines of “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow, which goes “Her name was Lola / She was a showgirl.” I’m sure I’ve tweeted “her name????????????????????? lola” and deleted it approximately 10,000 times. I like this one because how could I not understand what Barry Manilow is saying? It’s so simple. Her name???? Lola. What she was???????? A showgirl.
How have your tweets changed over time, if at all?
Because so many of my tweets are just iterations of phrases I can’t get out of my head, I can look through my past tweets and see obsessive phases I’ve gone through. For a long time I was only tweeting versions of the aphorism “A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.” I saw it on a tote bag once and something in me decided that that was the only thing I could think about for a month. I’m currently in a period where I’ll reflexively rearrange my thoughts to fit the structure of Mariah Carey’s 2014 album Me. I Am Mariah … The Elusive Chanteuse. Sometimes those will be obsessive self-loathing thoughts, like “Me. I Am Dumb … The Elusive Idiot,” but it’s often quotidian stuff like “Me. I Am Missing My Train … The Elusive On Time.” So excited to see what’s next!!!!!!!
I sometimes feel that there is a tension when people make stuff for the internet between understanding creation as an individual act or a collective act. Like, meme culture is all about collective creativity — someone posts an image or makes a phrase, someone else edits it or riffs on it, it gets tweaked further into absurdity, and everyone has a blast. At the same time, though, there’s a movement to properly credit people for their work, both on the cultural level of appropriation and theft, and on the individual level of like, copying and pasting tweets. The irony here is that I like this tweet because it actually feels to me like an original insight — or at least an insight I came up with independently — but the tweet is about the importance of de-centering the individual in the way we conceive of power and action and creativity. I think this is the smartest thing I’ve ever thought.
What’s the best interaction you’ve had on Twitter?
John Early, one of my all-time comedy heroes, followed me after I had a semi-viral tweet back in 2016. It was the coolest thing that ever happened to me, and I bragged about it constantly, and still do. The amazing thing about having your greatest heroes follow you on Twitter is that you inevitably will disappoint them, which I love.
I delete ten tweets for every one tweet I leave up. I’ll especially delete anything that’s too sad or too political, because I’m scared of looking pathetic, wrong, and dumb. I never really know how to express my genuine sadness on Twitter, even though it seems like everyone on Twitter is sad all the time. I don’t know if it’s a selection bias thing, where everyone on Twitter is there because they’re sad, or if sadness is more socially acceptable to talk about now, or if there’s a cultural cache in tweeting about craving death. They’re probably all a little true. I am pretty much on Twitter 100 percent of the time (which, as you can imagine, has only ever been enriching and amazing) so it’s inevitably where I am when I’m sad. There’s a dynamic where sad tweets don’t do well unless they’re clever and fit into accepted molds. This tweet is relatable almost to the point of universality, so it did really well, though I think the picture does most of the work here.
What accounts do you enjoy following?
@pangmeli and @proseb4bros and @ayeshaAsiddiqi are some of the smartest people I follow, and I constantly feel genuinely blessed that I get to read their insights and thoughts. @yung_nihilist is so smart and funny, is an NYC Twitter icon, and has an insanely good Instagram. Twitter could be just @fillegrossier and @ehjovan and I would still log on as much as I do because of how charismatic they are. @NoTeeOrShadow and @missunitedface are underappreciated gay Twitter icons and are unrivaled at a particular type of meme-making. My friend @rachel_kaly is so funny and crazy.
Karen Chee is a Brooklyn-based comedian who writes for The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and Shondaland, among other cool websites.