Real talk. You want to be funny on Twitter. But how do you do it? Back when we first wrote about how to write a funny tweet, we had only 140 characters. Now that we have twice as many to play with (!), so we thought we’d double the number of articles on this topic, too!
Being funny on Twitter is very similar to being funny IRL. Twitter is a terrific place to: See what resonates with an audience, find YOUR audience, get practice writing jokes. You may find that if a joke lands well on Twitter, it will also land well in your standup set or in your script. And. That. Is. #UsefuLInformationForYouToKnow
In your phone, keep a notebook page dedicated to funny tweets. You can even title the page “FUNNY TWEETS.” My page is called TWEETS, IDEAS, SKETCHES because I abhor labels and I like to keep it open as to what my random musings will turn into.
On that page, you can digitally scribble every passing observation that strikes you. The note you take down doesn’t have to be funny. Just write what grabs you as truthful or piques your interest.
At this point, your thought is a lumpy piece of dough. Before you can share it with the world, you will get out your rolling pin, shape that baby up, and then put it in the oven. (I haven’t baked bread since Girl Scouts, but probably that’s roughly the sequence of events?)
- The Dough: A thought that makes you laugh and feels truthful, even in its lumpy form.
- The Rolling Pin: Give it a set up and a punchline.
- The oven: Put some hashtags on it so it becomes part of a larger conversation.
- Feed bread to strangers on the internet: See how people respond. If people reply to you, that may be an opportunity to add tags to your initial joke! You know you’ve made a fun tweet when other members of the Twitterverse dive in and play with you.
Okay, so that’s how you get inspired. But what form will your tweet take? Here are a few genres of tweet that may slay:
- Internal monologues, especially when written like a script:
- Comparisons (again, this is really good show vs. tell):
- Comparisons (again, this is really good show vs. tell):
- Captions: Some photos just beg for elaboration.
- Honest, sardonic, sad, socially responsive tweets, such as the constant gifts that Aparna Nancherla bestows upon the Twitterverse. I don’t know what to call the “genre” here, so I’m making Aparna her own genre. Read her tweets and you will see why.
Since I’ve got you here, let’s talk about how to structure a Twitter joke. The additional characters mean that you can express yourself more naturally, without resorting to letter-words (u c what i mean?) and awkward abbreviations. Say it out loud a couple of times before you tweet it to make sure the reader can hear your voice, as if you were performing the tweet live.
You don’t have italics, but you can convey timing and expression with all-caps, some-caps, and no-caps, as well as with too much or too little punctuation. Voilá, all-caps as a stand-in for yelling:
And lack of punctuation to indicate utter resignation:
Sometimes it’s funnier — I can’t explain why — to just dispense with punctuation altogether, or to just not really end a sentence because you ran out of craps
Hashtags are another modern-day form of punctuation you can play with. Feeling the urge to tweet, but not the inspiration? You don’t have to come to Twitter with a brilliant idea. You can roll up to it with a wide-open, blank brain. See what news events and hashtags are trending, and treat that as a brainstorm extravaganza!
For instance, as I write this, #NationalBowtieDay is trending, which reminds me of my friend’s dad, who always wears bowties. He is a classy gent. That, in turn, reminds me of how people have stopped having manners and being classy. Makes me think of…. Okay…. Here is the lumpy dough version of my future tweet:
Bowties are about class and a type of man* who is rare in this day and age.
That feels truthful to me, but it’s kind of a lumpy thought. I need to knead it. Here’s the rolling-pin version, as I attempt to give it a set-up and punchline.
I dedicate this #NationalBowtieDay to the men out there who know themselves well enough to say, Hey. I’m just gonna spill ketchup on a tie anyway, so why not upgrade to a bowtie? To thine own self be true, gentlemen.
So I took the idea of respecting a man in a bowtie and asked myself, why do I respect this person? Well, maybe it’s because he’s a dork, and he knows he’s a dork, and he keeps it real with himself.
But this tweet is not ready for the oven yet. It needs to be shorter. Trying again:
I dedicate this #NationalBowtieDay to the men out there who spilled ketchup on their ties so often that they just. stopped. wearing them. Knowledge is power, gentlemen. To thine own selves, be true.
Okay! I like that! It keeps my initial idea of “classiness” intact by including old timey sayings like “knowledge is power” and my amended Shakespeare quote: “To thine own self, be true.” It honors the initial germ of the thought that men who wear bowties are kind of going against the grain and being a little subversive by not wearing ties, yet still managing to be old-fashioned and more classy than the times require.
I put a couple of periods in there (“just. stopped. wearing”) because I want you to hear how I would read it aloud. Now that I’ve put my tweet in the oven and shared it with the strangers of the Twitterverse to see how they receive it! If I get some funny gifs back, I will definitely retweet them because I am obsessed with a well-placed gif.
Here’s the tweet I made just for you! See how it fares! Twitter is live theater, folks, so I make no promises:
Your turn! Tweet your funny-ified thoughts to the world and mention us, @goldcomedy, so we can share in the fun you are creating!
*Womyn and genderfluid folx also wear bowties. Sometimes they wear the BEST bowties. For the purposes of my tweet, I am focusing on the traveling-salesman image of an old-timey gent in a bowtie.
Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and performer. She can be seen on Netflix in the acclaimed series “Explained” and has hosted HQ Trivia live in front of millions of players internationally. She was named a 2016 Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” and a finalist in the truTV “Comedy Breakout” competition at the 2017 New York Television Festival. Emma was a staff writer on Almost Genius at truTV, and as an actor has collaborated with Al Sharpton, Reggie Watts, Aparna Nancherla, and Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls at the Party”: writing for and then appearing in absurd sketches with them. Emma is a founding member of sketch group Political Subversities and the writing duo Ari and Emma. @EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter @emmatbomb on Instagram