The 15 things every comedian (and you, too) should know before you join the Twitter party

Even though Twitter has been around for long enough for everyone to figure it out, I feel like there are too many people who just don't get it. I know they don't get it because they say so, publicly. Or they show their lack of understanding by making themselves look foolish on Twitter. The folks at Mashable talked about the rise of comedy on Twitter earlier this week. But here's what you really need to know, and what to watch out for, if you're a comedian who's looking to take advantage of what Twitter has to offer.

1. First, Do know what you're getting yourself into: Twitter is a continuously ongoing massive conversation — it's a nonstop party in which you decide who you listen to, while at the same, you know that potentially everyone is listening to you. Don't mock what you don't understand. I'm surprised that comedians still mock Twitter as if it's just people telling us what sandwiches they're eating. Lewis Black puts Twitter down like this in his most recent special, Stark Raving Black. If you're at a party, and all you're talking about is the food somewhere else — not even the food at the party — then why are you at the party, and how long do you think anyone is going to want to listen to you? And if you're not at the party, then you're not going to be part of the conversation. Do you want to be ignored, comedians? Even Conan O'Brien and his crew, who mocked Twitter when they had the reins of The Tonight Show, quickly changed their minds once they didn't have a nightly television program as a platform.

2. So you've decided to join the party. And you're a comedian? You better be funny. Or if not funny, then at least be interesting. Always be interesting. Do be interesting. Don't be boring. Having a bad set or a bad bit within a set is only a temporary bomb. But if you're a comedian who bombs regularly on Twitter, then you're killing not just the party, but also your own career, slowly dying a thousand deaths in 140-character bursts of boredom.

3. You know who people really enjoy talking to at a party. Someone who cannot stop telling us how much other people love them. Especially when we thought we liked them. Don't ReTweet compliments from your fans. We were your fans until we saw how insecure you were that you had to keep telling your million followers how much the other 999,999 followers love you.

4. There's one thing weirder than that for a comedian (or other celebrity), and that's the comedian or celebrity who RTs their hate messages. Don't RT people who insult and/or hate you, or get into Twitter fights publicly with haters. It only makes us question whether we were wrong to like you in the first place. Maybe you do suck, after all. Or maybe you sucked that one time they said you did, and we should go watch that and have a new opinion about you.

5. Don't link to a link that's not the link. I know you think you're being clever by sending us to your Facebook page or somewhere else that doesn't have the info you want us to read, but it's just withholding the information you promised us was in the link.

6. Don't DirectMessage someone you're not following. See: Aggressive, passive. You're at the party and you want to whisper something in our ear, then run away so we cannot also reply privately. Boo. If you want to have a private conversation, make sure you're following the person so it's a two-way conversation.

7. Don't reply publicly what should be a DM. Not everyone needs to hear everything that's being said at the party. See: Get a room. A private room. That's what DMs are for.

8. Your YouTube viewing habits may be interesting to stalkers, but just because you rated a video three stars and decided to sync all of your accounts together, that doesn't mean we want to know it. TMI, people. Don't sync everything to Twitter. That goes exponentially to infinity for Foursquare. Keep your race to become Mayor of Snoozeville to yourself and your Foursquare friends.

9. If you're a comedian who does one-liners, then, well, Twitter is for you. If you're not that kind of comedian, then: Do remember that Twitter is a different forum for your comedy. Don't waste your best material here. Since this is a real-time party, we don't mind being entertained; in fact, we love being entertained. But if there's one thing comedians don't enjoy, it's hearing other comedians try out their bits on us. Twitter is great, though, for topical humor that's going to fade once our attention turns to something else.

10. That said: Do live in the appropriate time zone for major events that happen live and will prompt massive livetweeting. Thankfully, the World Cup happens live everywhere. But the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Emmys, some of these things are broadcast live on the East Coast, and three hours later, your West Coast reactions are really not cutting it, and you even know that. It's not your fault.

11. Don't suggest famous people for Follow Friday, or RT them anytime. Yes, I saw Conan O'Brien typed something funny. We all saw it the first time. We're already following him. That goes double for people with twice as many followers as him. We don't need to see the same joke from a famous person dozens of times in a day on our screen. Do #FF and RT people who deserve to have more followers. Do your part to help spread the good work of up-and-coming comedians.

12. Don't fake surprise or sarcasm about the Trending Topics. You're not helping. You're just making it even more of a trending topic.

13. Don't think your joke is new just because Twitter is new. This was most evident to me during the Winter Olympics, when everyone thought their jokes about curling were so precious, when really they were so Precious. Even what I wrote just then was kinda stupid.

14. Don'tusepunctuationinahashtag. Or in someone's name. Because Twitter stops recognizing a hashtag or name the second that ' shows up. That's not even an opinion. Just facts.

15. Which leads to biggest blunder that's not even a pet peeve, really. Don't misspell another comedian's name. Ever. If you like that comedian so much, the least you could do is know how to spell his or her name, and take another second to see if they're on Twitter, and if so, what their correct Twitter handle is. Learn your Tracys from your Traceys and your Macfarlanes from your McFarlanes and your McFarlands. You should know by now that it's Kevin Pollak, not Pollack. It's Marc Maron, not Mark. See also: Paul F. Tompkins, Patton Oswalt, Dave Chappelle, Dave Attell, Patrice Oneal, Hannibal Buress, Iliza Shlesinger, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Janeane Garofalo.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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9 thoughts on “The 15 things every comedian (and you, too) should know before you join the Twitter party

  1. Yes, this is my list.
    I also considered a 16th item (or I could have blended a couple of similar items together to keep it at 15), which is don’t ask your Twitter followers a question if the answer is the first result that comes up if you had typed your question into Google instead.

  2. These are perfect, but I love #4 the most. I never understood comedians who get into fights with haters. For every idiot there are at least 1000 followers who profess their love to them everyday that get ignored, but it’s the snarky a-hole who gets the attention. Even saying “You’re blocked!” is paying them too much mind. Just ignore them. Block them and don’t tell us about it. Don’t get into a fight publicly with them or argue. Thank your fans who throw the positive vibes out more often rather than give your haters the time of day. Just my two cents.

  3. I disagree with most of these, Sean.
    1 and 15 are fine, I guess.
    But the rest seem to be a list of your pet peeves.
    Don’t respond to compliments? Come on. If someone says they loved something you did, or they made something nice for you, or they said something funny in response to you, you’re going to just ignore them?
    Don’t reply what should be a DM? Sometimes it’s fun to see people like Louis C.K. and Todd Barry fuck with each other and shoot back inside jokes. What you mean is, “If you’re not famous, I don’t want to see you say things.”
    “Don’t be boring.” Isn’t that a judgment call? Are you saying that comedians MUST be 100% on all the time? That they can’t recommend a good movie? I know that Twitter is a great way to tell jokes, but these people can be human beings, Sean.
    Your list of rules would make Twitter comedians terrible and incredibly annoying. They’re just allowed to tell jokes. They should not respond to other people.

  4. Mark,
    You clearly misunderstood the post.
    Twitter is a public party. Which also means it’s a stage, and as such, if you earn your living as a comedian and hope to continue doing so, you might want to remember that everything you type that is not a DM is in public view.
    I didn’t say don’t respond to compliments. I said don’t make it a habit to RT people fawning over you. If you were at a party, and you kept telling people how much other people loved you, you’d be terribly annoying. That’s not a pet peeve. That’s just common courtesy.
    Don’t be boring isn’t a judgment call. Nor did I say that you have to be 100% on all the time. If you were at a public party and were on all the time and tried to be the center of attention, then you would be terribly annoying and nobody would want you at their party. Again. Not a pet peeve. Common courtesy.
    What I said was Always Be Interesting. That doesn’t mean every 140 characters has to be a joke. You just have to be interesting. You should be adding value to the running dialogue of Twitter, not prompting people to turn their collective back on you.
    When Todd Barry mocks Louis CK, that is interesting.
    When Jay Mohr RTs people saying that he sucked on “The View,” that is, in fact, not interesting.
    When Jon Favreau RTs every single person who loved the new trailer for “Iron Man 2,” that is, in fact, not interesting.
    Those are examples of people being terrible and incredibly annoying, and if people heeded the guidelines I posted, they would, in fact, be a lot less terrible and a lot less annoying.

  5. Do you think it’s vital that all comedians use Twitter? I’m a comic that’s not on Twitter and I feel I’m missing out by not joining.

  6. I will admit that sometimes I RT compliments I get, but it doesn’t happen very often. The time it happened the most was when a friend of mine released a video I was involved in.. I did it probably 5 times and then stopped responding and such once I saw that it was becoming a flood of compliments.
    Usually I just RT a new link someone posted about me or an announcement for an upcoming show I’m involved in.

  7. Looks like you’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest on this one Sean. I think I agree with most of them. Particularly about being at least interesting if not funny. As in recommending a good movie is ok. Announcing what I had for lunch, not ok.

  8. The thing is, if I wanted to dismiss comments, I could easily do so by deleting comments I didn’t like. Or if I had a really thin skin, I could not allow any comments at all. But how can someone who offers criticism not also open himself or herself up to criticism? If I get a fact wrong, and you call me on it, I’ll quickly fix it. If I offer my opinions, then, just as you do with a movie critic, you can feel free to agree with my opinions or think I’m full of hooey. A commenter may have called these Commandments, but I didn’t. I just said these are things you need to know if you’re a comedian who uses Twitter. It’s my advice. You can take it or leave it. If you want to be boring or annoying, or even both on Twitter, and think that that’s going to help your career as a comedian, well, then, let me know how that works out for you.

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