Read Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters Or Less Online

Authors: Nick Douglas

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Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters Or Less

BOOK: Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters Or Less
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Twitter Wit

Brilliance in 140 Characters or Less

Edited by Nick Douglas
With a Foreword by Biz Stone

It’s easy to assign less weight to a pun than a poem—after all, laughter lightens the load. However, the significance of humor as a delivery mechanism for important information should not be underestimated. Satirist Stephen Colbert called Twitter “the answer to the question you didn’t know you had until you had the answer.” In poking fun at this new form of communication, Mr. Colbert highlighted the very essence of innovation; breakthroughs like Twitter often occur by happy accident.

In the past decade, something interesting has been happening. People have been moving their electronic communication from closed systems like e-mail to open systems like social networks. There’s more value in messages shared publicly because more opportunities arise. A kind of social alchemy takes place when a seemingly valueless message finds its way to someone for whom it strikes a chord. Lead can be turned into gold on an open communication network.

Simple, rudimentary exchanges of information between individuals in real time enables a flock of birds to move around an object in flight as if they were one organism. Speed and simplicity work together to create something of beauty. There are over a billion Internet users on this planet but there are four billion people with access to mobile texting. Twitter blends these networks with speed and simplicity and opens the combination to
development. That means more opportunities for beauty—and well-timed zingers.

The first weekend we began experimenting with the concept of Twitter, I was tearing carpeting from the floor of my home in Berkeley, California. It was a hot day and my back was aching. My phone buzzed in my pocket. It was a tweet by my friend and long-time collaborator Evan Williams: “Sipping pinot noir in Sonoma after a massage.” The striking difference between our two activities in that moment made me laugh out loud. When I realized our experiment was making me laugh, I knew it had potential.

We’ve seen people use Twitter to help each other during disasters, to break incredible news, to raise money for charities halfway around the world, to organize protests, to fight injustice, and simply to have fun. Through it all, there has been quickness, grace, simplicity, and humor—there has been wit. No matter how sophisticated the system becomes, it will never be about algorithms and machines. Wit is a powerful reminder that Twitter is not about the triumph of technology; it’s about the triumph of humanity.

However, Oscar Wilde famously wrote, “It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.” As powerful as this system has the potential to be, we’d be nowhere without a good dose of funny. Humor makes life worth the effort. If everyone were serious all the time, I’m pretty sure we’d never get any work done. We’re hiring pretty aggressively at our company these days, and key factors we look for are a good sense of humor and an active Twitter account.

Some of my favorite tweets are those that make me laugh all over again each time I revisit them. My friend Philip is an incredibly brilliant person. He’s a musically and mathematically gifted serial entrepreneur with a goofy laugh and an impressive array of idiosyncrasies. He’s also very tall and quintessentially geeky. In the middle of the night he Twittered, “Taking a bath. Come over if you want to learn about water displacement.” It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he was prepared to discuss fluid mechanics with anyone who responded.

Wit is a wonderful word to associate with something that may turn out to be a favorable mutation in the evolution of human communication. Sharp, quick, inventive, and intelligent, with a natural aptitude for words, ideas, and humor: The very definition of wit brings to mind the people with whom I share my days. The heart of Twitter is the small team of folks working out of a loft in San Francisco, but our soul is made up of everyone around the world sharing, discovering, and building on this service.

A spark of genius from my friend and cofounder Jack Dorsey has transmuted from a simple idea to something mysteriously powerful. Given a limit of 140 characters, people consistently reaffirm that creativity is a renewable resource. It’s easy to dismiss this simple new format upon first introduction, but tune in to the right frequency and you’ll enter a world this book’s curator wanders as a curious explorer. Keep your wits about you and enjoy this collection of Twitticisms. Nick worked hard to harvest the best.

Biz Stone (biz), Cofounder
Twitter, Inc.

“Twitter,” said user Henry Birdseye—or, on Twitter, tehawesome—“is that friend you can turn to and say, ‘This is bullshit,’ when there’s no one else around.”

Of course, Twitter is plenty more. Technically, it’s simply a social network where millions of users send text-message-length status updates to a list of “followers.” As a simple platform for sharing messages of up to 140 characters, Twitter makes no demands of genre or intent. Since it began in 2006, the only guideline on the site is the prompt, “What are you doing?”

The most interesting users ignore that. The Twitter format serves a few forms of information particularly well: on-the-spot news updates, or questions like, “Anyone know a lawyer?” It’s particularly great for whining or bragging. But the perfect use of Twitter, what the platform is practically destined for, is the witty one-liner.

Comedy
always
takes too long. The easiest way to improve any joke is to shorten it. And Twitter makes you do that. Even the British comedian Russell Brand (rustyrockets) has snipped out the spaces between words, struggling to fit a three-sentence joke into 140 characters. One of my favorite Twitter gags is just seven words long: “You know what this guitar needs? Lessons” (Tony_D). Twitter is the modern haiku, albeit with fewer cherry blossoms and more wisecracks. Brevity is, here, the soul of wit.

The tweets in this book came from hundreds of users. Anyone can write one particularly funny tweet. That’s the democratic beauty of the one-liner. But some people turn Twitter wit into an obsession. They hit the star next to other people’s funny tweets, so the tweets show up on third-party sites like Favrd and Favotter. Every day Favrd shows the most-starred tweets, drawn from a growing pool of hundreds of star-conscious Twitter users, not just as a popularity contest but as a way to find more wits to follow. The Twitter wits chasing these stars often meet in person. Avery Edison and Abby Finkelman (aedison and clapifyoulikeme) met on Twitter, then got engaged over it. Scott Simpson, Merlin Mann, and Adam Lisagor (scottsimpson, hotdogs-ladies, and lonelysandwich) started a comedy show online called “You Look Nice Today.” And, of course, this book wouldn’t be here without the contributions of hundreds of witty Twitterers.

The Twitter wits don’t consider themselves an Algonquin Round Table, no matter how many times I try to label them as such. But Round Table member Dorothy Parker’s assessment of New York’s casual club of comedians applies to funny Twitter users as well: “Just a bunch of loudmouths showing off, saving their gags for days, waiting for a chance to spring them.” Of course, then Ms. Parker says, “It was the terrible day of the wisecrack, so there didn’t have to be any truth.” That’s not true of the Twitter wits. During the 2008 presidential election, they spread a populist kind of political commentary. When Sarah Palin announced her daughter’s pregnancy, John Gruber (gruber) Twittered, “The press should only pay as much attention to this story as they would have if, say, Chelsea Clinton had gotten pregnant
at 17.” These back-row-of-the-country remarks, which feel like Jon Stewart’s
Daily Show
commentary in real time, climaxed in Scott Simpson’s verdict on the second presidential debate: “That won.”

Of course, in daily life, the one-liners aren’t anything more than a joke and a stress reliever.
The Office’
s Jim Halpert has a camera to grimace at. The rest of us have Twitter. We commiserate about our families, our jobs, our personal foibles. Even celebrities find a release. Comedian Stephen Fry (stephenfry) is a particularly masterful whiner. Plenty of British comedians found a new and loving audience on Twitter. But Mr. Fry is the only one so far to entertain tens of thousands with live updates about being stuck in an elevator, while his cross-dressing colleague Eddie Izzard (eddieizzard) has explained to his followers the balance between Girl Mode and Boy Mode.

Some users take on an alternate persona, like the whimsical TheLordYourGod, the sarcastic HotAmishChick, and the self-assured FakeSarahPalin. Some craft elaborate fictions, like Fireland’s tweet (my personal favorite): “Why should I be the one to take the kids to see their psychologist? I don’t even love them!” Most wits simply draw from daily life, using a hiccup or a bad fortune cookie as an excuse for a joke.

I now follow more than eight hundred people on Twitter. I don’t recommend that—there’s no way to keep up—but it’s satisfying to bathe in the site’s rich variety of comedy, and whom could I un-follow when everyone’s so entertaining? I can’t read everything that pours into my Twitter feed, so I’m dumping it on you. This book, three years in the making, covers the whole
history of Twitter from its early days as a geek hangout to its current golden age as the world’s hottest social network. It shows how clever a simple sentence can be, whether written by a renowned comedian, a college student, or a stay-at-home mom. And it’s a chance to sit back from the torrent of tweets online and read a few that deserve some extra attention.

This is no exclusive club. Anyone can follow the hundreds of contributors in this book, read their tweets, and star them to show their appreciation. And anyone can use Twitter a little more sharply, turning a mundane status report into a witty aside. When you do, be sure to let me know.

Nick Douglas

(nick)

What’s the deal with deaf people? Like, HELLO?

aedison

My half-brother has spent twenty-five years saying “Marijuana’s not addictive!” Now he’s shortened it to “Where’s my phone?”

johnroderick

It’s the postproduction phase of eating fast food that takes the experience all downhill.

feliciaday

I attribute most of my good days to a couple of people with voodoo dolls canceling each other out.

TBMimsTheThird

Bummer: Found out today the faithful dog I had as a boy was only CGI’ed in.

bonisteel

London city airport. Where form meets function. AND THEY HAVE A FIGHT.

stephenfry

 

 

I haven’t had anything left for Lent since 1993 when, at Arsenio’s urging, I gave it up for Marlon Wayans.

weselec

That’s ok. I’ve been meaning to clean that table with a full glass of water for a while.

fedge

I wish LA was really as pretty as they made it look in “Blade Runner.”

Tony_D

It’s happened: I have developed real emotions for my iPhone. Actually, it’s no surprise, because I was raised by a TV and a microwave.

stuartpaap

I get really uncomfortable when people ask embarrassing questions about sex. Like: “Is that it?”

nostrich

They should really start teaching young girls in school just how valuable their virginity is and the websites where you can legally sell it.

Yayaa

My 9yo hopes Santa brings a PS3. He’ll be comforted to know the box of disappointment under the tree has another year of free rent inside.

joeschmidt

Haven’t shaved in so long that I scratched my cheek and an ex-girlfriend tumbled out. No, that’s a tapeworm.

pagecrusher

Whenever I see the word “Chicagoland” I envision a cold theme park where everyone is eating sausages and looks like Mike Ditka.

riebschlager

Doc says I’m as healthy as a horse. Well, a horse that smokes. But still.

sflovestory

 

 

I
GET THE IMPRESSION THAT THE
F
AT
A
CCEPTANCE MOVEMENT IS MORE ABOUT ACCEPTANCE THAN IT IS ABOUT MOVEMENT.

strutting

 

 

Fauxboes: The annoying kids on Haight Street that endlessly harass you for money.

RSAndersen

I’m sure the gin we drank last night was off. Feeling a bit ill this morning. The tequila might have been off too. And the cocktails.

kerry_anne

I’ve got my health! Woo-hoo. (My grandmother was totally right.)

mulegirl

I am talking about music, which is a series of sounds they put behind television advertisements in your country.

warrenellis

I fell victim to a Fonzie scheme. My financial advisor kept flashing me the thumbs-up and saying “Aaaaay!” And calling me “Richie.”

rsmallbone

Every morning I wake up and think, “Don’t let it slip about Darth Vader being Luke’s dad.” It’s hard having a 5 yr old who doesn’t KNOW.

anitan

“Did you just fart?” “Well, I didn’t *just* fart; there was pageantry and tradition.”

Notactuallyme

So many input boxes. Ever go to search for a girl on Facebook and set her name as your status instead? Yeah, I just did that.

robinsloan

We are men of coffee, sleep does not become us.
aragszxki

 

Oh so we have to be all cryptic and call them “magic” brownies but we can come right out and say pot pie?

delfie

Dear McDonald’s: I don’t care *who* sings it, there is no such thing as “that McNuggets lovin’.” Ew ew ew ew ew.

dbecher

This is embarrassing, but I didn’t even know there was a country called Madagascar 2.

sloganeerist

The word “goodnight” makes my 1-yr-old cry, so I’ve had to rewrite some bedtime stories. “Howdy, Moon!”

irreverend

I always cheer myself up by crushing poor people’s dreams at the last second on eBay. I can’t think of a better reason to steal an identity.

DieLaughing

Doctor this afternoon: “Ever have thoughts of hurting yourself?” Me: “Nope.” Doc: “Any idea why not?”

krabigail

The face-painting at the birthday party this morning was subpar. One girl asked for Tiger and got Surprised Basketball instead.

bcompton

Trust me. You do not want to see how a sausage fest is made.

biorhythmist

You can pretty much sell anything to me if your commercial uses the words “soothes” and “penetrates.”

Jessabelle2o7

Congratulations. You fulfilled your biological imperative. Now make it stop touching me.

moonlet

Stop coming by unannounced. “Drop by anytime!” is just one of those things you say but don’t mean, like, “You look great!” or “I love you.”

shoesonwrong

 

 

OUR LAST WEEK OF SHOWS BEFORE A BREAK. DAVID BLAINE WILL BE IN THE AUDIENCE TONIGHT-I GUESS HE’LL BE BURIED UNDER THE HOUSE SEATS.

PENNJILLETTE

 

 

A modest proposal: Will you kind of marry me?
zdarsky

 

If you step in a pile of warm cat puke with bare feet, be prepared to clean up two piles of warm puke, only one of which is from a cat.

eclaggs

Until they produce a sweeping epic called “Canderel,” “Sweet and Lowdown” has to be the film that sounds most like a sugar replacement.

biche

During sex ed in Catholic school, I was told an orgasm feels like how you feel just after a sneeze. This cold is great!

thepartycow

Uggs: the onomatopoeia of footwear.

poeks

I fought the bra and the bra won.

bliccy

The conference room I booked for a meeting just accepted. Is it wrong to reply, “I look forward to being inside you soon”?

idontlivehere

Today’s efficiency level is stuck on “trying to scrub off a freckle.”

eoporto

I have a theory. Close your eyes, walk into Whole Foods, and put random items into your cart. It always comes out to $45 a bag.

Kevinrose

I prefer to be called a “person of thyroid.”

urbanhipster

All 7-year-olds have good hustle.

apelad

Overheard walking out of a diner in Chelsea as snow started: “Ooooh! Fluffy white flakes!” Second guy to first: “Us? Or the snow?”

skydiver

He regrets teaching me how to cook, because now when he cooks, he does everything wrong.

CcSteff

Apparently “You don’t have an interview somewhere else, do you?” is the new “You look nice today.”

EntropyAS

At my funeral I want people to still be laughing at how it all happened.

SeoulBrother

 

 

Save your breath.

You’re gonna need it to inflate your girlfriend.

smartasshat

 

 

I put the PEN in “Penis.” On a related note, it is amazing how well my underpants absorb blood.

bortflancrest

One night Kid Gleason says to me, “Merks, it’s either the glove or the bottle.” Course I picked the glove. Figured it held more whiskey.

loumerkin

Anyone who says “Frisco” gets their sourdough rations revoked and is forced to wear an Alcatraz Swim Team pullover all week.

rickabruzzo

The thing I don’t like about masturbation is that you can’t tell if you won.

scottsimpson

I told a lady once that she was prettier than the Venus de Milo. “How so?” she asked. “For one thing,” I said, “you have arms.”

thewesterly

I met a twelve-year-old Chinese sweatshop laborer and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.

cabel

Potty training is totally the Big Boss level at the end of age-two parenting.

mathowie

Gentlemen, I have some troubling news. Contrary to our longstanding assumption, it now appears that there is *nothing* beyond bed & bath.

nevenmrgan

The three worst mistakes you can make are overpromising and underdelivering.

dwineman

If he’s a Smooth Operator, and I’m a Maneater, what hope is there for us?

pwilson720

 

 

The Election

While Twitter users can be found all along the political spectrum, the wittiest skewed toward Obama in 2008, registering their support in the form of one-liners. Word is, that worked out for them.

Obama’s fighting dirty now. He’ll use his “everybody who loves America, raise your hand high over your head!” tactic in the first debate.

FarkerPeaceboy

I was watching PBS, but turned to CNN, because they’ve got the “tardometer” that tracks the responses of uncommitted voters.

jason_pontin

I agree w/ John, it’s time to fire the head of the SEC. COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS UNCOMPETITIVE & other regions deserve a chance!!

FakeSarahPalin

My brother: “I don’t need an Obama bumper sticker. I drive a Prius.”

joeschmitt

That won.

scottsimpson

 

 

Pro tip: Naming your auto repair establishment “Rim Job” isn’t nearly as witty as you think and might end up, er, biting you in the ass.

wryredhead

Don’t hurt him, Hammer. Just distract him. That’s the plan.

bridgman

I’m off to LA to shoot a commercial and snort cocaine off the back of other, hotter commercials!

yuribaranovsky

The good thing about jury duty in DC? There’s always a chance you’ll be trying a member of the Bush administration.

anamariecox

Ragtime is the worst genre of music to get a hand job to.

ed_x

Productivity tip: Do everything faster.

carlmorris

I’m pretty sure every third bark translates to human as dumbass.

ChiNurse

I just passed a billboard in Wyoming that read “Earth’s Final Days Are Happening!” As an early warning system that seems a bit ineffective.

elizabethlittle

My inner critic is voiced by Jon Lovitz. He’s surprisingly affordable.

toldorknown

Circumstance dictates that I will have to go to a Guitar Center to replace my bass drum pedal. For my video game. This is gonna be ugly.

Michael

Ironically, the one Bond movie I really want to hear Sean Connery pronounce was a Roger Moore one. Say it like Sean: Octopushy. Octopushy.

stevewhitaker

What’s the difference between Gary Busey and fruitcake? Fruitcake doesn’t always have rum in it.

thedayhascome

After picking up and bringing home literally hundreds of women at bars over the years, I can tell you this: I’ll never drive a cab again.

biorhythmist

Google and me, it’s like we finish each other’s sentences.

rollsjoyce

Daughter asked me who was the first person ever. Evolution seemed too complicated so I went with creationism (it’s the baby Jesus, right?).

jonathancoulton

I think the bird of love is the dove. My husband thinks it’s the swallow.

hoosiergirl

Wow, those new iPod nanos are so environmentally friendly I think I’ll buy a few extras just to bury in my vegetable garden.

mat

Does anyone else see the irony in UPS using a song from The Postal Service in their commercials?

jschoenwald

What if we find out that Cheney is actually Obama’s father?

heathr

Chinese New Year is like Thanksgiving, except it’s not a work holiday, it’s pork instead of turkey, and there’s nothing to be thankful for.

ErnieAtLYD

Wife, playing Scrabble with Mom, looking over her letters, realizing: “Jujitsu. I can spell Jujitsu.” She’s the Neo of Word Nerds.

tj

 

 

HEADING ON AMTRAK FROM SEATTLE TO PORTLAND. I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO REVEALING TO EVERYONE SOON THAT THEY ARE ON A SING-ALONG TRAIN.

EugeneMirman

 

 

6-yr-old nephew: “I said a bad word in my head, so I put soap in my mouth.” Can’t decide if this is a win or fail on my sister’s part.

abigvictory

Pro tip: If your drummer isn’t sweating, you need to rock harder.

MsHiss

Are you gonna kiss your mother with that mouth? Just gimme about 5 minutes here and it’s all yours.

Mike_FTW

Great. There’s a hole in my unicorn.

MissRFTC

The DVD of my life will include a four-hour montage of me trying to open packs of gum.

Rayke

That rehab song is gonna be a lot sadder when that poor girl fucking DIES.

alinasmith

While most people name their fists Fury or FaceSmashDeluxe, I name mine Gladys and Edna to increase the embarrassment of my victims.

emmets

Whenever you are feeling down, you can count on me to be there to help feel you up.

crispycracka

Spanish wine, English-Swedish cheese. Almost sounds like a postretirement album with Morrissey.

Kalli

Man, it’s getting rough out there. Now I’m starting to despise couples in stock photography, even.

fedge

Cosmo features an article titled “How to Outsmart a Date Rapist,” which is handy in light of prevailing “How to Be Date-Rape Bait” content.

kimproper

I am up, but I’ll be damned if I am at ’em.

ladawn

I was inspired by today’s snack, so I built a Trushiplane. It’s a truck inside of a ship inside of a plane. And I just BLEW it UP.

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