Zach Dunn (@ZachBDunn) is a comedy writer in Los Angeles. He was a writer and co-producer for seasons two, three, and four of Mr. Student Body President on go90. He currently writes for the UCB Maude team Somebody’s Baby and is on the editorial team at Botnik Studios.
This week, Dunn talked with me about editing tweets, following other comedians, and avoiding certain topics.
My friend Jake was telling me about a podcast he listened to that went into great detail on these Burger King ALF novelty record giveaways and we ended up going down a rabbit hole and listening to all the songs (we are grown men). All credit should go to whatever ’80s copywriter came up with “Take Me ALF to the Ballgame,” which one could argue was, in many ways, the first-ever tweet.
How much do you edit your tweets?
This may destroy my well-established bad boy persona, but I definitely think about phrasing and word choice a lot when I’m writing tweets. That being said, I think most of my good tweets come more organically while the ones I spend more time on can sometimes turn out … not as good.
A lot of my tweets come out of frustration I feel with certain joke formats and premises that I see over and over again. It was around the holidays and as everyone was posting their jokes about the crazy stuff their parents said I found myself imagining a very sad scene of these poor parents sitting patiently while their child crafted a tweet roasting the very idea of their existence.
What does your newsfeed look like?
I seem to almost exclusively follow comedians and writers that feel the exact same way that I feel about everything. There are a lot of super funny people from New York and Chicago on my newsfeed that I’d be afraid to talk to if I ever met them in person. Also, largely because of Hayes Davenport and his podcast LA Podcast, I’ve recently started following a bunch of local journalists’ accounts that tweet exclusively about urban walkability and road diets and metro ridership, so hopefully that will make me a smart person at some point. But my favorite account will always belong to MLB slugger Jose Canseco. He doesn’t tweet as often these days … but when he does? That’s a damn home run.
With this one I specifically like that the guy in the tweet has decided, for whatever reason, that he does NOT want to reveal what movie he’s watching. I’m calling it right now: punchlines are yesterday’s news — it’s all about setups from here on out, folks!
What, in your mind, is the perfect tweet?
I love this Joe Rumrill tweet.
I’ve always liked writing song parodies and this is a personal favorite. For whatever reason they’re usually about very specific actors (David Oyelowo, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Paul Dano, The SMILF). I wrote a full-length version of this Oyelowo song that I’ve performed live one time, to rapturous polite laughter.
What topics, if any, feel off-limits?
It’s less that I feel like certain topics are totally off-limits, and more that I know I’m almost always the wrong person to tackle them. There are so many hilarious people who are so much better equipped than I am to write jokes about race/sexuality/identity/etc. And in turn I have the equally important responsibility of writing jokes about funny signs I saw.
How has the way you’ve tweeted changed over time?
Well for the first few years that I had Twitter I basically only tweeted to participate in podcast T-shirt giveaways. I wanted to post jokes and stuff, but I was in high school and was afraid people would see them and think I was weird (apparently I didn’t have this fear about the podcast T-shirt giveaway tweets).
I eventually got over that and starting posting actual jokes in college. In recent years I’ve started tweeting more often, and more for my own enjoyment. It’s all so pointless and dumb so I figure I might as well just use it as a place to practice joke-writing and have fun. Also I want to add that if any of my high school classmates are reading this, I still hope you don’t think I’m weird.
Karen Chee is a Brooklyn-based comedian who writes for The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and Shondaland, among other cool websites.