Naomi Rohatyn is a comedy writer and performer in Los Angeles. She hopes to someday become successful enough to say she’s “based” in Los Angeles, and in-demand enough to “divide her time transatlantically” between Los Angeles and London, because where better to be chronically unemployed than in not one but TWO of the world’s most expensive cities? For this week’s Follow Friday, I asked Rohatyn to tell me a little bit about three of her favorite tweets, and we talked puns, parody accounts, and more.
Rohatyn: Even though everybody claims to hate puns, it seems to me that jokes based on that unfairly denigrated “lowest form of wit” are consistently among the most popular and highly praised online. (Not to mention utterly ubiquitous—hello, @midnight hashtag wars!) If you just don’t say the word pun and instead reframe it as clever wordplay, people tend to accept that there’s a lot of fun to be had in the sly manipulation of language.
How do you feel about games like @midnight and similar opportunities to join in on jokes/ conversations on Twitter?
I’ve never participated in any @midnight games myself (because I am a churlish shell of a woman who loathes joy), but I think it’s great that all that stuff exists. Why the hell not? Inasmuch as the Internet is basically just a big loud cacophony of fun/noise/conversation/self-expression/unfiltered cruelty, and every single thing we do in this life, whether online or off, is basically just a way of passing time until the grave — might as well go for it, gang!
How well you think your Twitter communicates your voice? What from your non-Twitter voice do you think is missing?
My Twitter is actually a pretty accurate reflection of my comedic voice, such as it is. This is probably because I take the whole enterprise ENTIRELY too seriously, and spend ENTIRELY too much time and energy on crafting/polishing/editing/fine-tuning my tweets. I rarely, if ever, just tweet off the top of my head about random stuff. On the contrary; I use Twitter almost exclusively as my ‘joke resume,’ and as such, I only want to put at least, like, my B+ material out there. What I’m getting at is, I REALLY NEED A JOB.
Here we have a scintillating example of my unassailable Photoshop skills. I really enjoy mixing what might be considered “higher brow” and “lower brow” references into one big fuzzy “unibrow” of hilarity/perpetual underemployment. Plus, what else could possibly match the sociocultural significance of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip but the haunted visage of a suicidal Russian dissident?
Do you ever use tweets to develop longer pieces?
I definitely use tweets to develop longer pieces, or to test out material. It may sound silly, but I actually think Twitter has helped me become a better writer. As you may have noticed, I tend towards verbosity - ahem! - and the 140-character limit, which will never ever ever ever change, forces me to be more economical with my words/sentences/phrases/utterances/endless lists of superfluous synonyms.
Are there any people who especially inspired you to be funny on Twitter?
There are countless comedians and writers whose work I adore, and who also happen to be (funny) on Twitter…but in terms of purely Twitter-based inspiration, what comes to mind first are the parody accounts who really wring the maximum silliness out of the format itself, such as:
This is simply my attempt at an inspirational tweet. (I failed.)
What, if any, are your favorite formats to tweet in?
I kind of like coming up with my own “formats,” which is basically just another way of saying, a joke premise that you can endlessly riff off of. And/or taking a well-known or overused expression and playing with it. I did a string of jokes a while back that all departed from the Pastor Niemöller “First They Came…” conceit. [“Then they came for the Disaffected Youth, and I did not speak out, because like whatever.”] And I had a lot of fun doing a series of fake “Beauty Tips” that got successively more grotesque. [“BEAUTY TIP: Flat-chested? Try this classic bust-enhancing trick: simply stuff your bra with the organ meats of your slain enemies!”]
Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny Or Die.