George Wallace opens his 2004 comedy album Large and in Charge with a bit called “New Kids Today.” In traditional boomer fashion — except it’s George Wallace, so of course it’s funnier and sharper than any boomer diatribe you’re used to hearing — Wallace mocks the luxury and ease that “kids these days” have thanks to omnipresent technology that Wallace had to do without while growing up: devices such as the Clapper (“30 years ago my daddy had a Clapper … me”), ATM machines (“We didn’t have an A-T-M. We had to go to the M-O-M. And the M-O-M would send you to the D-A-D. And that’s when you knew you were S-O-L”), and cell phones and pagers.
But a cursory glance at Wallace’s Twitter timeline shows that he’s adopted a slightly different tune. Instead of shaking his fist at the knucklehead youths of today with all their gidgets and gadgets, he’s decided to join their most preferred platform and do it better than they can. Not only is Wallace an iconic figure of stand-up comedy with a career that spans over 40 years of sold-out tours, Vegas residencies, books, films, and television, he’s now officially one of the funniest goddamn people on Twitter.
Wallace’s Twitter feed is a compendium of his classically playful observational comedy and witty one-liners, but the medium also provides the famously boisterous, breezy comedian a space for uncharacteristically apoplectic political commentary. He doesn’t mince words when tweeting about President Trump, the racist rhetoric directed towards Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James, or corrupt politicians, but it’s impossible to read each tweet and not hear Wallace’s big, animated voice in your head. The funny is always present even when he gets real.
The 70-year-old comedian — who is currently hosting the sixth season of Pluto TV’s stand-up showcase series Coming to the Stage as well as headlining at the Westgate Las Vegas, his first residency since his decade-long run at the Flamingo — hopped on the phone with me to talk about his philosophy for writing jokes on Twitter, comedy’s relationship with Trump, and why he’s going to kick Jerry Seinfeld’s ass.
How are you so damn good at Twitter?
I’m not good. I’m just crazy. And Twitter is challenging because you gotta do it in so many short words. What I’m good at is delivering these jokes onstage at night. But I have fun on Twitter talking about how poor I am and different things like that and making up jokes. I’m a rebel. I don’t play by the rules and I don’t give a shit. I’ll pick my teeth with an ice pick and pick ice with a toothpick. I’ll eat a pancake from a cup and a cupcake on a pan. That’s what it takes to be good on Twitter.
Was there ever a time where you rejected the format or thought it was an inauthentic way to tell jokes?
It always worked for me from day one because I didn’t know I was doing jokes at the time. I’m just saying stupid shit, and all of a sudden it caught on. But it’s fun tweeting. I’d tweet out a throwaway line with a little twist and then people started responding. Like, “We were so poor we could only watch Sanford. We never knew about a son.” “We were so poor, my dog only had one rabie.” I just like tweeting stupid stuff like that.
If one of your throwaway one-liners goes viral, will you try to build upon its DNA for the stage?
I do sometimes if I’m really into it. Sometimes I do that. But there are just so many new jokes to be told because so much is going on in the world. I don’t get to workshop much of my Twitter feed.
Whenever Trump tweets, Twitter becomes a never-ending abyss of people racing to roast him, with many of them making the same unfunny joke. Do you think Trump has been bad for comedy?
There are just too many jokes out there about Donald Trump. I might call him an orange shit stain on Twitter, but I never talk about him to my audience. I tell all the Republican fans of mine I will never talk about Trump being the only one that graduated from Trump University. I would never bring up the fact that Trump said all African-Americans are living in poverty, and I did call him about that, but I couldn’t decide which one of my houses I wanted to meet him at. I give you my jokes but I never directly insult these people. They paid as much money. I just like to have fun with them and with what’s going on.
Are there any comedians you’ve become a fan of because of their Twitter presence?
Yeah, this guy named Rob. Rob Delaney. Oh my gosh, he is so funny. Then friends like Kathleen Madigan. She’s one of the best. Who else is out there? There are so many people that are so good but I can’t even recall the names at the moment. But all of my Twitter feed is good.
Just this month, an alt-right asshole who I refuse to mention by name launched a crusade to damage the reputation of many comedians by taking their tweets out of context. Do you worry about how easily jokes can be weaponized by Twitter trolls?
Comedians should get together and beat his ass up. Comedians, we are the social workers. We know everything that’s happening in the country. We really should choose the president because we really know what’s going on. We meet everybody. We attack every subject. They should put us all in office — all the comedians. Everybody would be laughing and having fun and we’ll make sure everyone’s feeling all right.
Your comedy career has spanned over 40 years, so you’ve witnessed many trends and tropes come and go. Has the internet changed how you’ve approached joke writing in any way?
I guess I changed. Back in the day, I started out with “It’s a crazy world!” — that was the theme I’d base my material around. Then that changed to “The whole world is sick!” Then I went to “Everything is a lie!” It does not matter. Everything is a lie — even my parents, and I’m not talking about Santa Claus. I’m talking about everything is a lie. And the internet has only made it worse. Online is crazy. They got an app that sends you a mattress that comes in a little box. You open the box, it explodes into a queen-size mattress, and they say if you don’t like it, you can send it back. Well, you try to put that shit back in that little box. Everything is a lie. MyPillow.com? Mike Lindell was on drugs so badly that he missed eight days of sleeping. He doesn’t qualify to know what a decent pillow is. Everything is a lie. Donald Trump is a lie. Life is a lie. It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s all a lie! I sound like I’m old now, I know. But don’t tell me about Michael Jackson’s kids, okay? Look at those kids and look at Michael. Those are not Michael Jackson’s kids, okay? Paris Jackson, the one with the blonde hair. Look at her. Nah. Ellen DeGeneres might be her daddy, but I can damn sure tell you Michael Jackson is not her daddy.
You’re known for your big and cheerful personality. Twitter can be a dark and depressing place. What’s the best advice you can give for someone trying to remain funny and positive online?
My philosophy is just having fun. Always have a few words about any and every subject. But at the end, make sure there’s a laugh. My formula is A-B-3 or 1-2-C. Get your subject, make a statement about it, then add a nice little twist it at the end. How about that?
What’s been your secret to longevity in the ever-evolving world of comedy?
Reading the newspaper. I’ve had this thing going for 42 years now. Jerry Seinfeld — not sure if you’ve heard of him — I was his roommate for 13 years. I was the best man at his wedding. I’m also the father of his kids. But we have a certain work ethic. We just love to work. We love writing new jokes. We just love going out performing. Personal appearances are what we love to do. I made this statement once before: Going onstage and telling jokes for a huge crowd is better than sex and it’s better than doing drugs. Now this idiot Seinfeld is taking my words and using them. I’m gonna kick his ass.
What’s next for George Wallace offline?
I’m a headliner at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas. Come see me. People can still watch me on good ol’ TV where I host the new seasons of Coming to the Stage. Oh yeah, and I paid for everybody’s parking at the Westgate Hotel. All the hotels in Las Vegas all charge you all crazy for parking. But I will pay for your parking when you come to see the George Wallace I Be Thinkin’ show.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Mr. Wallace.
By the way, it’s Dr. Wallace. Let’s get that straight.
My apologies, Dr. Wallace. You’re absolutely right.
Don’t you feel better since you talked to me?
This made my day. I can’t thank you enough.
Do me a favor. Look up my book, Laff It Off! Read my book. It teaches you how to live and enjoy life, and maybe even Twitter, more abundantly.
I’ll do that. I promise.
If you don’t … I’ll kick your ass.
This interview has been edited and condensed.