Catching Up with Brandon Wardell

Reading Brandon Wardell’s Twitter account is like looking at online humor and culture through a prism. He seems to reflect our every joke, meme, and pop culture reference into his surreal persona. Brandon is “online as hell.” He popularized the “Dicks Out for Harambe” meme last year, and he regularly hosts a Comedy Central Snapchat show called Hot TakesRolling Stone named him the “Hot Comedian” of 2016, deeming him the “‘alt-famous’ voice of a generation.” Brandon explained this role to Rolling Stone saying, “I’m hyperinvolved in the culture but also hate everything about it.”

Being fully immersed in social media culture seems to have refined Wardell’s sense of irony. From enthusiastically posing in front of a poster for the movie Boss Baby to his rambling bathroom-mirror-selfie videos, Wardell is “logged on as hell and not afraid to post.” I recently spoke with Wardell about what’s new in his life and career.

How was Boss Baby?

Boss Baby was good. Boss Baby is not just a meme. Boss Baby is a good movie.

What can you tell me about your upcoming standup dates? You’re opening for Pete Holmes?

I’m headlining some clubs and colleges. I’m opening for Pete Holmes on 4/20 at the Regent Theater in LA. We’re not touring or whatever. We’ve met like twice, but he’s cool.

Is there material that you’ve found works better on Twitter versus in standup? What are the differences between what lands onstage versus online?

I just treat Twitter and standup differently. There are dudes who use Twitter as an open mic, just testing out premises. And all those posts are trash. Then there are people just reading their tweets on stage. And that’s also trash. I can tell stories on stage in a way that I can’t on Twitter. I can be more niche on Twitter, making fun of shit that only people on Twitter know about. I just have to be smarter with what I talk about on stage, keeping in mind that not everyone’s on Twitter.

Yeah, not everyone knows who @Dril is in the real world.

Yeah, exactly.

What do you think of the comedy on social networking sites other than Twitter?

A lot of normie memes are on Instagram for sure. But there are creative people on every platform. It’s just a matter of curating what you see.

What’s it like when a joke gets stolen by a big meme reposting account and gets retweeted thousands of times by their followers?

I don’t really give a shit. People get very precious about, “So-and-so stole my Drake meme” or whatever. But what were you going to do with that? I’ve had tweets that blow up and get stolen by accounts like @dory or Common White Girl. But I’m not attached to individual tweets on a level where that hurts me.

Do you think your standup is more of a reflection of your real personality than your Twitter persona is?

I think Twitter is the purest form of expression for me. It’s very stream-of-consciousness. I’ll get hyperfocused on one phrase or idea, and if you’re reading through my feed, you’ll know where my brain is at in that moment. That’s a frustrating thing about standup. If I’m just doing standup at a club, instead of headlining or doing a hip alt show, I have to adjust my POV and turn it down a little bit, because there are people that aren’t there to see me. But on Twitter I can say whatever I want, and it’s pure.

Do you feel like everyone gets your style of humor?

I think at a certain point you just can’t avoid having dumb fans. There’s a lot of people that appreciate me that I think are smart, thoughtful, funny people, but there are definitely people that are fans of mine that are fucking dumb. [laughs] Everybody just has a certain percentage of fans where if they met them they would fucking hate that person.

Do you like to talk about politics in your comedy? Is your Twitter going to end up like Rob Delaney’s in a few years?

I guess I like talking about politics sometimes. It’s unavoidable if you’re existing and paying attention to shit. And it’s irresponsible not to talk about it if you have a platform. I know Rob Delaney’s in the DSA [Democratic Socialists of America], so that’s tight.

Twitter has made an effort recently to crack down on what is considers abusive behavior. What do you think about Twitter suspending accounts more frequently, like Cum Town’s Nick Mullen, but also people like Milo Yiannopoulos?

Nick Mullen is my friend, and he’s good, and I like him. Milo is a stranger, and he’s bad, and I don’t like him. Both of them should be allowed to tweet. 

What did you think of SXSW?

SXSW was good. I don’t know, I did standup and aux cord DJ’d, and I did Doug Benson’s podcast and drank free alcohol. I saw Lana Del Rey perform, which was cool. I saw The Big Sick, which was also cool. I hung out with my friends and met a lot of strangers that said nice things to me.

Can you tell me a little about your experience on The High Court? How is doing that show different from doing stuff online?

That show isn’t really representative of most TV shows. Doing that show is like an hour and a half process. Nothing on that show is written. That’s a fun show. I acted in this Viceland show, and some Paul Sheer things. It’s fun. I want to do more of it. TV’s a longer process. Everything on the internet is so pure and unfiltered. I don’t wait months or a year for something to come out. I just say something, and it exists with an immediate reaction to it. It’s like drugs, the internet.

I’ve done standup sets for TV, and by the time the set comes out I’m like, “Well, fuck. I wouldn’t have told that joke now.”

What would The Brandon Wardell Show look like, if you had a 30-minute show on TV?

I’m still trying to figure that out right now, what that is.

Jake Lauer is a New York-based writer and copywriter with bylines in Complex, Maxim, Uproxx, and Paste. You can check out more of his writing here.

Catching Up with Brandon Wardell