Since Facebook is too boring and Reddit is too douchey and just all-around awful for anything other than funny pictures, I created a Twitter account earlier this year to follow some of the news and commentary of some people I was interested in. The main specific interest that drove me to finally join Twitter was English language, grammar, and usage experts, such as Bryan Garner, Stan Carey, and Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl). Second to them were sports journalists and broadcasters, many of whom work for ESPN and cover baseball specifically, though this soon expanded to include college football commentators and other great all-around sports journalists, specifically Pat Forde and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo!.
By and by I came to follow, and soon unfollow, several famous sports journalists, comedians, and language experts whose Twitter accounts were just…unexpectedly dull, different from what I expected, or unenjoyable in other ways.
For example, Jason Whitlock, the Kansas City Star sports writer who has become well known for politically incorrect, blunt, and even iconoclastic writing on not just sports but the intersection of sports, entertainment, morals, and society as a whole. He is truly an excellent sports writer, there’s no two ways about it. But his Twitter feed was full of posts about NFL odds and spreads and betting-related things, and his responses to douchebags who probably deserve no response to anything they write online, and not really what you’d expect based on his regular writing topics. I guess I thought he’d offer some brief comments about sports happenings that would resemble the content of his full columns, or maybe one or two sentences summarizing the main points of his most recent column along with a link, or something more commentary- and journalism-related. But he didn’t. Whitlock’s Twitter feed sounded more like an angry black man than an iconoclastic, fearless journalist.
Not as bad but far more annoying was the Twitter account of Ben Zimmer, the American linguist best known as the director of the Visual Thesaurus and occasional contributor to Language Log. Maybe my problem was that I started following him at the wrong time of year, but if that’s the case, then the wrong time of year is a quarter of the damn year. It seemed like he tweeted or re-tweeted a dozen posts a day for weeks about the goddamn word of the year. (There are, like, eight words of the year, published by different dictionaries or societies. I don’t know and definitely don’t care which one he is associated with.) I never dreamed any person or group of people could care that much about a stupid word of the year choice. It was so incredibly boring and frustrating because he seemed to re-tweet every single tweet about a word of the year or about his amazing, life-changing, Earth-shattering, society-defining, internet-captivating discovery that the term “Black Friday” was first used by Philadelphia police officers to describe the traffic conditions the day after Thanksgiving, not by stores or advertisers. That’s an interesting finding and an article worth reading, but not tweeting and re-tweeting and re-re-tweeting a dozen times in one fucking weekend. But seriously, that was nothing compared to the multitude of tweets and re-tweets that came from him about the fucking word of the year. I could not imagine caring less about an English language topic than that. So I finally realized he was never going to tweet anything interesting, so I unfollowed and never looked back.
A similarly disappointing one-topic pony is Ricky Gervais. It seemed that 99% of his tweets were about atheism and religion. I care even less about other people’s religions (including atheism) than I do about words of the year, and even lesser about other people’s commentary on other people’s religions, and even lessest about a comedian’s commentary on other people’s religion and circle-jerking about atheism. One or two of Gervais’s followers chided him for tweeting about atheism all the damn time and not about, you know, comedy or TV or movies. (He did occasionally, but those topics were a small minority of his tweets, in my experience.) Gervais responded that the topic of religion and/or atheism is important to him and to most of the world, so he was going to tweet what he found important. That’s a bad policy; he should tweet things that are interesting, and atheism ain’t that.
Another comedian whose Twitter account was just intolerable was Colin Quinn. I happen to like Colin Quinn a lot, especially his old Comedy Central show Tough Crowd, and I even came to like him on SNL’s Weekend Update despite the difficulty of ever liking the person who replaced Norm. But his Twitter feed wasn’t about comedy, either. I mean, he made the occasional lame pun or other groaner, but I think the corniness of some of those jokes was part of the joke. Most of his tweets are actually re-tweets of his followers telling him he’s an unfunny, pathetic, sorry excuse for a comedian who has an awful Twitter account. He must re-tweet every single tweet that’s directed at him or mentions him. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t get why he would re-tweet things that were slamming him as a talentless hack, unless it was kind of a running joke he has with his fans and that’s the type of relationship he has with the ones who “get” it: they pretend to hate him and slam him, but it’s all good-natured ribbing. I have no idea, but it was stupid and boring. And then he tried commenting on societal happenings in a non-comedic way, which is generally fine, especially coming from Quinn, whose excellent show Tough Crowd did exactly that for a half-hour, but several of those tweets just fell flat… I couldn’t take all the completely content-less, confusing tweets, so I unfollowed him, too.
The best comedian I’ve found on Twitter is Jim Gaffigan, by far. All of his tweets are at least attempts at humor, most of them quite funny. Mike Birbiglia is a good one, too, although he leans towards interacting with followers and promoting things and re-tweeting things more than Gaffigan. Conan O’Brien’s tweets are also hilarious, though much less frequent.