Rebecca Caplan (@NotThatReba) on Aggressively Specific Comedy and Giving It Her All

Rebecca Caplan is a comedy writer and nice lady based in Brooklyn, NY. She’s currently a staff writer with CollegeHumor and frequent contributor to The New Yorker. Sometimes she wishes her name was something cool like Isabella or Gwyn but she’s mostly okay with the cards she’s been dealt. You can visit her website here where you can contact her if you think she might be the other half of a “Parent Trap” situation you got going on.

This week, Caplan talked to me about four of her favorite tweets and discussed how her personality, family, and sleepaway camp all influenced her joke-writing.

I genuinely hate it when people say “the best revenge is living well” because that’s only like one third of the statement. The best revenge is living well and making sure everybody knows about it, it’s why we invented instagram basically. This tweet is kinda an inverse of that, the best revenge is seeing others salivate over the chance to socialize with the people they loitered at Wendy’s with for four years. Ha, their lives are so empty! Meanwhile I got 24 likes on this tweet so I’m pretty much Carrie from Sex and the City. 

Who, in your mind, is your target audience in Twitter?

My target audience is anyone who has had to sit through a play they really did not want to attend (see: all plays). That’s how I think of Twitter, as a play that’s getting more meta and political as it drags on, and there’s so much stuff you don’t get or are late to get. But, your friends are in it and some of them have small speaking parts so you’re just sorta there. I’m also there and I don’t know what’s going on either; maybe we can just talk about how weird the new Eminem song is (minus the Beyoncé parts obviously) for like a second before we have to go back to our seats.

My pitch for naming their FB album “Never Forget Schwarz Summer Vacay 2015” has been rejected several times.

Unrelated, but I know you’re super into personality tests and learning what your friends’/acquaintances’/enemies’ personality types are. Do you think your personality type is somehow indicative of your sense of humor?

Haha I think so! I love personality tests for the same reason people like astrology: it’s just a lowkey, ok highkey, way of talking about yourself. That’s a lot of what comedy is, it’s just talking about yourself using an acceptable medium to do so. I think my Myers-Briggs personality (it’s ESTJ, by the way) for sure influences my sense of humor. If you look up the little avatar for my personality type it just looks like a gender swapped Hitler math teacher. The type is defined as being aggressive and detail-oriented and those are two tenants of my humor I really appreciate. I like my jokes to come off as aggressively specific, like I really had to dig in my brain for whatever insight I’m putting forth. I’m often turned off by humor that is intended to be aloof or coy; any type of comedy that intentionally makes you feel like the joke is a secret you just don’t get. I like comedy where you have to show your work, it’s just the mean Hitler math teacher in me.

I’m a little fiend full of bitterness and tar so this is just the best advice I’ve ever given. If you suspect someone has some shit opinions but doesn’t tweet them themselves go to their likes and see if they’re out here confirming other people’s shit opinions. Then bask in the glow of both your rightness and hating another human being, does wonders for the skin. 

You mentioned that you’re a staff writer for CollegeHumor. Do you ever tweet jokes that don’t make it into your articles?

Not really, actually! I think my humor in articles is different from my humor on Twitter. But I do tweet jokes that I originally workshopped on Slack. It is my greatest shame, especially because my coworkers follow me and don’t like them. If you guys are reading this, know that I KNOW.

My favorite type of comedy is truth that you didn’t even know existed. Is that all of comedy? Anyway that’s what I think this tweet is in a nutshell. 

Do you come from a funny family? How did you first get into comedy?

Both of my parents are quick to claim they are where I get my funny from. And while I hate to admit it, part of me is definitely an amalgamation of their senses of humor. But most of all they encouraged me way more than they should have. To think, if only they were just a little bit less supportive I’d be in law school right now on my way to a lucrative and prolific career!

I first got into comedy in high school but I think I actually ended up here because I sort of bounced around between really supportive and really unsupportive social pockets around that time. My family was always very encouraging but at school I was kind of a stone cold loser (classic!) I didn’t have a lot of friends and I also literally had boys who would come up to me and go “women aren’t funny” to try and rile me up. But then, during the summers, I would go to sleepaway camp where my bunkmates would jump over themselves to read little sketches or plays I had written that day. It was a good, if jarring, combination; I had a few groups who blindly supported me but I also spent a lot of time around people who wanted to watch me fail. That’s comedy baby.

How would you describe your Twitter voice to someone who doesn’t follow you?

Hmm, maybe like “clearly giving it her all.” I think my Twitter persona, and regular persona, is unabashedly try-hard. I tend to approach everything, including Twitter and comedy, with a Team Captain During Camp Color War mentality; I’m clearly here and trying and I’ve got blue paint all over my face. That’s probably my Twitter voice, a funny person who’s trying really hard; whether you admire that or not, it’s worth watching.

Karen Chee is a is a writer/performer who contributes regularly to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s.

Rebecca Caplan on Aggressively Specific Comedy