Danny Lempert (@danlempert) is an improviser, stand-up, and actor who can be seen performing in New York City on UCB’s Lloyd and Maude nights at the monthly show he hosts with Sarah Lazarus (Tight Ship) and all around town. If you’re in New York, check him out February 28 at Carolines on Broadway and find more shows on his website.
This week, Lempert talked with me about using Twitter to hone his comedic voice and help develop longer material.
I despise the fact that straight actors are still being celebrated for playing gay roles and it’s frankly something I think we should outlaw (Robin Williams in The Birdcage being the one exception). And the most insidious part is that now my subconscious has been infiltrated by straight favoritism, so this tweet was born from a real frustration. Side note: My sex dreams are all like ’90s rom-coms in that there’s never any sex, we just kiss in a bed and then it cuts to the next morning where — despite my not having breasts — I’m covered by a sheet up to my chest. That’s normal, right?
How would you describe your online voice to someone who’s never read it before?
I’d describe my voice as an old gay man in a young man’s body who’s trying to make the most out of life (but keeps getting trapped in his chunky knit cardigan).
What does your newsfeed look like?
The majority of my feed is comedians, lots of friends, or people I’ve embarrassed myself in front of at shows or social gatherings. Mainly women/LGBTQ/people of color. That’s probably 75 percent. Then maybe 10 percent friends from life/10 percent news outlets. The rest is a mix of food writers and those accounts that tell you fun facts about history (Abraham Lincoln is the only U.S. president with a bartending license!).
My friend and I went to a Sum 41 concert last summer and were ultimately turned away from the door because our tickets had already been used (thanks StubHub), and as we watched all these lame straight couples stream into Terminal 5 (I know) I realized there’s a real hole in the gay community for gay punks. This is mostly a joke but if a gay Blink 182 cover band existed I’d be at every show.
How have your tweets changed over time, if at all?
When I was a teen and in my early 20s, social media was more amorphous, and I treated it like a fun depository for inanities. Now I’m more focused on sharing jokes or things I genuinely care about. I also enjoy seeing how jokes benefit from the medium of Twitter and what really hits for people who are reading on their phones (or on their computer — hi Mom!). I’m also inspired by comics who stretch the conventions of Twitter and create jokes in novel ways (mixing text/video/memes, etc.) so I’m trying to experiment more, which is scary!
I spend a lot of the day in my head worrying about things, so when I do surface to check in I’ll realize that I’m standing in Walgreens on my lunch break nibbling a panini and asking if L’Oréal is good for sensitive skin (it is!). I often relish being insane in public, but I’m also glad no one’s following me around with a camera. And my nudes are honestly pretty tasteful.
Are you on other social-media platforms as well? How do you use Twitter differently from them?
I mostly use Facebook to share shows I’m in. That audience for me is pretty fragmented (teachers from high school, family, Girl Scouts I met as a teen on a cruise to the Bahamas) so it doesn’t feel like the best place to share my takes on being a bad slut. I’ll post maybe once a month on Instagram, which I like. But in general, social media actually puts me in my head and feels like candy in its instant gratification, so I try to temper myself. If I’m not in the right headspace, something not being well-received on social can put me in an existential spiral. Twitter has a clearer intent of purpose for me: Make jokes. So I try to stick to that and keep honing my comedic voice and see what people respond to.
This is less of a joke and more of an observation at my expense, which is a genre I deeply love. I was never much of a slut in high school or college, so for the sake of playing catch-up I’ve attempted to fill that gap in my mid-20s. I’ve been okay at it (I enjoy a challenge) but I often undermine myself by feeling the need to wake up a stranger and thank them for their hospitality like we just did book club.
Do you ever take your tweets and develop them into something longer?
Totally! I enjoy seeing how something transitions from online to the stage as a joke or character. Like the original Hello, Dolly! moving from D.C. to Broadway, with a few tweaks some jokes make the jump beautifully and others are First Wives Club and never make it out of Chicago (this joke is for my theater queens! — hi again Mom). Twitter gives me confidence knowing that something has legs at least in some regard, which helps me try something for the first time live onstage.