Jaboukie Young-White on the Zen of Memes

Jaboukie Young-White is an NYC-based comedian and filmmaker. He’s been featured on The Fader and Clickhole and was a finalist at 2016’s NYC Devil Cup Stand Up Festival. You can find his work at jaboukie.com when he keeps up with SquareSpace payments. In the meanwhile, you can follow him on Twitter @jaboukie. This week, Young-White spoke with me about three of his favorite tweets, plus Kanye, Brand Twitter’s co-opting of Black Twitter, and making memes.

Young-White: Imagining vs. actualizing my future self has been such a jolting process. In 2009, I was 100% confident that by now I would’ve graduated Princeton, started a business, seen Europe, owned a dog or not stolen a rotisserie chicken from a Great Gatsby costume party. Tequila is fun.

Speaking of change: How has the way you use Twitter changed over time?

My very first tweets were mostly sad indie lyrics: Youth Lagoon, The Shins, Vampire Weekend on a good day. Then I got to college, started doing improv and started tweeting a lot of ~wEiRd & iRoNiC~ non-sequitors, lotsa quirky facts about animals, that sorta thing. Once I started getting serious about standup I got a better handle on word economy and making jokes punchier, which translated well to Twitter. Now I pretty much just tweet observations, one liners or memes.

How would you like to see Twitter change (or stay the same) in the future?

I’d love to see a method that prevents brands from using content without paying or crediting the creators. If we’re being honest there’s a lot of brands/internet personalities that have gained mass followings by being a caricature of Black Twitter – basically digital blackface. Fleek, Bae, multiple dance trends, were all poorly co-opted by brands who erased the visibility and ingenuity of black content creators while making money. Gro0o0oss. Like, someone tell these advertisers how headass they look saying their chicken nuggets are “Nae-Nae-licious.” As far as staying the same, I hope Twitter never expands the character limit. I actually like the restriction of having to keep it short and concise. Keep the “I usually don’t post about politics, but…” essays on Facebook, please ‘n’ thank you.

This was my submission for the ambiguously colorist YEEZY Season 4 casting call seeking “multiracial women only.” Twitter can get super indignant whenever a public figure does something #problematic, so I try to touch on the outrage without letting it consume me. Anyway, I didn’t hear back but there’s still Season 5.

Do you typically have more fun doing topical tweets or evergreen ones?

I don’t think that topical and evergreen have to be mutually exclusive. My favorite topical tweets are the ones that put a tweet in context so it illuminates a deeper truth or societal trend. That being said, I get transcendentally lit whenever a pop icon like Drake does some miniscule goofy shit and Twitter goes wild. The internet has created so many niche audiences that when millions or even thousands of people can be on the same page it’s a truly special thing.

Outrage is obviously a common feeling on Twitter. What feelings do you think most often inspire you to tweet?

Usually amusement or annoyance or a spicy combination of the two.

I moved from Chicago to New York this summer. There’s so much weird shit constantly happening here – perfect meme fodder.

Does a tweet typically come easier to you when you’re doing a meme or a text-only one?

My text-only tweets are easier just because they’re random thoughts that I took time to write down. For memes, I have an entire iPhone folder of photos that I’ve taken or saved because I find something about them hilarious. Occasionally when I’m bored I’ll scroll through the photos and think of captions until I find a picture/caption combo that makes me laugh. It’s kinda zen, honestly.

Do you have favorite recurring series to do on Twitter?

Yeah! If there’s a tweet formula that I have a lot of fun with, I’ll exhaust it ad infinitum, like this one.

Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn.

Jaboukie Young-White on the Zen of Memes