Monica Heisey (@monicaheisey) is a writer and comedian from Toronto who has written for publications including The Hairpin, VICE, Gawker, The Toast, Rookie, Playboy, and more. Her upcoming collection of humor essays, short stories, drawings, and poems, entitled I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better, comes out in Spring 2015. Recently Heisey told me about three of her favorite tweets, and we talked about what you get from reading jokes, the British MP named Ed Balls, and how much she dreads talking about the Internet in person.
Heisey: I thought I was going to be uncomfortable talking about my own Twitter account, and for the most part I really am, but I truly love Sharkira. This is hands down my favorite thing I have ever tweeted, probably all the more so because the response was tepid at best. I’m very scared of sharks but very emotionally invested in the music of Shakira, so this is a nice marriage of anxiety and joy, wrought from my favorite composition strategy, “Tell a joke in person a few times and have it fail terribly, then throw it up on Twitter and bask in the people’s moderate enthusiasm.”
Do you talk about Twitter very much in real life?
I really, really try not to. My preferred method of dealing with the internet in a social setting is pretending it doesn’t exist. Something about it makes me incredibly squeamish. I’d rather have my grandmother ask me my favorite sexual position than try to cobble together an appropriate, mutually comfortable response to the phrase “I saw your Tweet.” What do you say to that? It’s a conversational dead end. For future reference, Grandma: I have a rich and varied sexual repertoire and play no favorites.
Can you think of other specific jokes you remember performing better on Twitter than in person? Do you have guesses as to why that happens?
I mean, with Twitter you’re telling your stupid Sharkira joke to a few thousand people, but in person it’s just like two friends hating hearing it for the third time that day and wondering if I’m stoned. But I also think my jokes are better read than heard aloud in general; writing feels like the medium that most fully allows me to express my sense of humour. I like playing with how someone reads something. I’m sure I’m copping this language from someone’s “cool” grade six teacher, but punctuation and grammar can be really funny.
How often do you think you tweet hyperbolic or fictional things like this versus, say, a real fact? And then, is that something you notice as you are composing tweets? Do you notice people reacting to them differently?
Hyperbole is very tempting, but to be honest people really respond the most ardently to things that are true. I think a funny truth is more rewarding than a funny fiction; I guess it feels more authentically humourous. This particular tweet was accurate until the part where we ate the friend’s boyfriend, but the feeling of “honestly if you don’t want to look at and talk about all the cool dogs in the world, just die” was true to life. They’re still dating so I’m gonna caveat that with a hard “no offence” in case he ever reads this.
Do you have a favorite thing you’ve ever seen on Twitter?
Twitter is kind of my front door to the rest of the internet, so that’s a pretty big question. “See anything on the web you were into?” Something I really liked was when British MP Ed Balls tweeted his own name. I mean, the fact that this elected official’s real name is Ed Balls is already a dream come true, but that he was clearly searching for mentions of himself and managed to tweet only his name instead is just beautiful. For the past three years the British Internet has celebrated April 28th as “Ed Balls Day” and all the news coverage of it is like “Mr. Balls declined to comment.” Mr. Balls! It kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier about things that are true being the best, because what joke are you going to invent that is better than Ed Balls?
This one, or anything I’ve ever tweeted about Pope Francis aka “Cool Pope.” Maybe it’s the lapsed Catholic in me but I just can’t get enough of him. And in terms of Twitter he really is the gift that keeps on giving, because he just won’t stop dropping hot, heavy, pope truth bombs, like the one in the above tweet. I love to tweet about popes!
I totally relate to the lapsed Catholic thing! Are there other topics you have ingrained from childhood that you find yourself coming back to a lot in tweets or jokes?
I grew up as a Hard Nerd, so lots of my tweets are jokes about being uncomfortable or dorky literary references. Tweeting “happy birthday shakespeare you pot smoking old queen” is the most use I’ve ever gotten out of my MA in Shakespearean literature, so that’s a lot of money very well spent, clearly. King’s College London should feel free to use that in their promotional materials for the course. “44 favs and counting, a true Master of Arts.”
Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny or Die.