How to be funny on Twitter, Vol. 3

Being funny on Twitter is an ART. It is TOUGH to squeeze your genius into 280 characters, but it’s worth it: no matter what, it’s great practice for concise, show-don’t-tell writing, and a perfect place to test out your jokes. That’s why we’ve already written about the beautiful hellscape that is Twitter here and here—and we STILL have more to share!

 

This time, let’s talk about: the comedy devices people use to be funny on Twitter. Sometimes they’re flash-in-the pan memes that fill your timeline with short-lived riffs or giant cows. But some are the comedy gifts that keep on giving. So when you’ve got a funny thought but aren’t sure how to shape it, look here for ideas!  

 

And if you don’t see your favorite one here? Please DO @ us!

 

Compare and share

Comparisons can be an excellent source of content, and you make them all the time without even realizing it. Use the tweet styles below to draw attention to the comparison you want to make.

 

Me… Also me

This format is great to use when you realize you have made a funny self contradiction or are doing something you know you shouldn’t. Alternately known as the “evil Kermit” meme.

 

Time jump

This tweet style is great for drawing a comparison between the differences in yourself or others at different ages. For teens who may not have that many years under your belt yet, you can structure it as “Me at 13 vs. Me at 18.”

 

Me, an intellectual

Faux-intellectualism is always funny. Bonus points if you can combine it with another device or meme, like the tweet below:

 

Product suggestion

This one is great for when you have an addition or “improvement” to an already-made product. The more absurd you can go with these while still suggesting a semi-desirable new thing, the better. Structure: “Those [familiar product], but [joke].”

 

Log of dialogues

Although people often use Twitter as a place to monologue about their thoughts, don’t forget to incorporate dialogue into your feed. These back and forths can be a simple way to get a point across.

 

You vs. your body

This tweet style puts you at war with… yourself. What does your brain argue about with the rest of your body?

 

Interrupting Cow

Obvs, the famed “interrupting cow”  joke but in tweet form. It’s great for when you want to demonstrate how a common-sense point keeps getting shot down for stupid reasons.

 

Baby talk

Do you have a short message you want to make that doesn’t need a lot of context? This dialogue format between a parent and a baby is a solid option. Works best when your message starts with a “D” for “Dada” or an “M” for “Mama,” but you can get creative with your baby’s first words!

 

A picture’s worth a thousand tweets

Got a great GIF, picture, or video you want to post but not sure how to frame it? Use one of these!

 

ONE JOB

Have you seen something so counterintuitive (read: epic #fail) that you just had to take a picture of it to prove it was real? Now you have ONE JOB: post that pic with the “You had ONE JOB” caption, and let hilarity ensue.

 

Passive aggressive prayers

This one is tricky to do successfully and without shaming anyone, but if you notice a friend or family member that resembles someone/something else, you can plug it into the “Pray for my ____, there’s nothing wrong with him, he just ____” format. When in doubt, check with them first!

 

General GIFfery

Have a funny GIF or video that you want to post, but not sure what to say about it? Set it up so that your GIF/video is the answer to a question! The example below frames it within an interview, but your answer can be to your mom, friend, teacher, or whoever makes the most sense.

 

Re: Retweets

See a tweet that you just GOTTA respond to, but you’re not sure how? Here are some devices you can try out.

 

Check your spelling

See a tweet that misrepresents fact or a news story so blatantly that you can’t help but respond? Use the “You misspelled ____” device to write out what the tweet SHOULD have said. (Also known as “Here, I fixed it.”)

 

Staring contest

This device is perfect for when you want to use your specific background—your race, culture, sexual orientation, etc.—as the focal point of your response without wanting to get too deep into minutiae. Not sure that “stares” is the way you’d respond? Try out “laughs,” “scoffs,” or “nods” paired with your background.

 

Said no one ever

Similar to Check Your Spelling above, if you see a tweet (or quote in an article) that is laughably wrong or one that you know many people would disagree with, just quote tweet with a simple “…said no one ever.”

This + that

You’ll see a lot of these “this + that” Twitter formats that often go viral, where you can really let your creativity and humor shine through your retweeted answer. Don’t be afraid to push the format limits, like this run-on reply did here.

 

 

Tweet tags

These devices are great when you have a topic or idea that feels fairly fully formed already, but you’re not sure how to end it.

 

TED Talk time

Use this one when you have a strong opinion that you know is #hottake OR, if you’re being silly, the opposite. Pop a “thank you for coming to my TED talk at the end” and you’re golden! Note: if you run out of room, this one’s common enough that it’s funny to just trail off, as in: “Thank you for coming to my Ted ta”

 

In this essay

Similar: Have a counterintuitive or unique point to make and only 280 characters to do it in? Write as much of your idea out as you can to get your point across and then end with an “in this essay I will” to show that you could go on long enough to fill a scholarly journal.

 

Don’t @ me

Got a controversial or unconventional point to make? Slap “don’t @ me” at the end of your tweet and prep for a debate.

 

Asking for a friend

Any silly questions you want to ask the Twitter-verse work best when you are “asking for a friend.” This is also a great way to make thirst tweets more palatable: you’re not lusting after Shawn Mendez’s new Calvin Klein pics, your “friend” is!

 

*checks notes*

This device works well when you want to highlight hypocrisy or a piece of information that should be obvious, and is often used with a picture or retweet. A great choice for political opinions and satirical takes as well.

 

Grab bag

These devices don’t necessarily fall neatly into one category, but they don’t have to when they’re as funny as these are.

 

Yeah, sex is cool…

When you want to draw attention to the best moment or feeling in the world, just point out how much cooler it is than sex and voila! Viral tweet activated.

 

Don’t say it…

Have something you really really wanna say, but also have a chorus of people telling you “don’t say it” in your head? This device turns that thought process visual, and has the added benefit of helping you put out your favorite dad jokes, puns, or other silly thoughts into the world.

 

Rupi Kaur poetry slam

Oh Rupi Kaur, what would we do without your beautiful yet formulaic poems? Turn them into a tweet, of course! Copy her poetry style for your short takes that sound deeper than they actually are.

 

Personal reasons

We all have our own personal reasons for doing things, but now you can leverage them as the setup for tweeting about anything that typically occurs regardless of personal reasons.

 

When in doubt

If you’ve made it to the end of this list, you know that there are so many different formats you can use for all your tweeting needs, but if you are ever really and truly stuck, use the tried and true “just gonna leave this here” tweet. Then you can post anything—and we mean ANYTHING.

 


Alex Wolfe is an Atlanta native with two native New Yorker parents, which basically just means she’s a Mets fan who also says “y’all.” Alex is a recent graduate from Vanderbilt University, where she was managing editor of The Slant, a humor and satire publication. She also helped create Vanderbilt’s first performance outlet for standup comedy, the biannual Standup Showdown event, in which she also performed. @alexwolfepack

I landed my dream comedy internship (and so can you)!

Hi hello! I’m Emily Pasqua. I was an intern for the Spring 2018 semester at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and, before that, an intern at Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Now, I’m a 23-year-old graduate of SUNY Purchase who still can’t quite believe I was part of these amazing late-night teams.

Before we dive into the entree, here are some appetizer tips for landing your dream internship:

    • Don’t sell yourself short; internships help you gain experience and if you don’t have much experience under your belt already, use your passion for comedy/television to your advantage!
    • Seek out resources that’ll help you get a move on the application process. This includes LinkedIn, campus career centers and even your friends and family. You’ll be surprised to know that Aunt Jill knows a guy who knows a guy that can put in a good word for you.
    • Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out at first. Be like Ariana Grande and say “Thank u, next.” Keep being persistent.

Ok, now back to the main course. I grew up watching Lucille Ball, a comedy queen, in reruns on early-evening television. With this electronic tutelage, I knew exactly what I wanted to do at an early age. There was just one tiny problem: You can’t be a comedy queen if you can’t perform on a stage in front of many, many people. I had chutzpah for days — just not the kind that I needed to perform on stage in front of crowds.

I tried the improv club whilst at Purchase, but saying “yes, and” led me to nope so hard out of that club. I still wasn’t thrilled about performing every week in front of people, due to this this little thing called crippling anxiety. While it was telling me I wasn’t good enough to pursue my true passions, it also led me to study psychology in college. The problem with that was that studying the human brain’s reasons for anxiety gave me — you guessed it — more crippling anxiety.

The turning point for me was when I enrolled in a media studies course aptly named “A Critical Look at Television.” That class, and my professor in particular, rekindled my love of television and comedy. It was clear that while I would never manage to memorize the formula for serial dilutions in microbiology, I was perfectly able to internalize the (very real) formulas that make sitcoms work. You know, like:

funny characters+ situational happenstancechance of dramahilaritysaucy flair = your typical sitcom

What’s actually fun about this type of “science” is that the formulas are controlled by you, and whatever the outcome may be is your own diabolical, yet insanely beautiful creation!

Here’s a fun media-studies fact: Did you know that Lucille Ball was one of the first women in television to own her own production studios? She took over the Desilu name after ditching her tumultuous marriage to the skirt-chasing Desi Arnaz. She wasn’t only a performer, she was also a bona fide Boss-Ass Bitch. From this, I reasoned that if I wanted to excel in comedy and television, I didn’t have to perform.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: There are plenty of jobs in television other than acting. And landing a production internship is an amazing way to find out about all of them.

Oh. Did you just get a cold shiver going up your spine? That’s just your crippling anxiety telling you that you don’t have the experience, contacts, or chutzpah to land an internship. Nothing that a little wisdom from a complete stranger can’t fix! I’m going to tell you how I did it, and believe me — I’m just as cripplingly anxious as you are. Read on and learn.

Lesson 1: Don’t ignore your campus-wide emails.

There it was, amidst a flood of other emails I may or may not have been willing to look over: The three-time Emmy winning show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was seeking applicants for their production internship. I applied without a second thought and within a few weeks, I scheduled an interview.

This, of course, meant that our old friend crippling anxiety pretty much moved into my dorm room. I was anticipating the worst, and already thinking about my plan b. Nothing had even happened yet!

Let’s talk about interviews. I hadn’t been on any as important as this one before, and all my preconceived notions led me to expect something like Detective Benson from Law and Order: SVU drilling me with questions into the night. Turns out interviews are just … conversations. At least, this one was — a long and magnificent one that went more smoothly than I could have imagined. Which leads me to —

Lesson 2: If you’re passionate about the position you’re interviewing for, it’ll show.

That’s what interviewers are looking for. So walk into the room knowing that you’re the best woman for the job, and let your enthusiasm do the rest. Nerd out if you want to! I distinctly remember going into a rant and rave over my favorite TV shows like 30 Rock and I Love Lucy, but just when I thought I was going way in over my head, turns out my interviewer shared some of the exact same sentiments. It was so refreshing and exhilarating, in that moment I was as optimistic as I’d ever been.

Lesson 3: don’t be afraid to reach out to potential employers for an informational interview.

This means you want to meet them just to talk about their workplace or line of work, not for any specific job. You don’t have expectations other than information-gathering. They are a great way to meet face-to-face, build a connection, and ask a lot of questions. You’re not being annoying, I promise! Employers get to see your personality in action, something a resume can’t provide.

How does one ask for an informational? Simple. “I’m interested in XYZ; when you have a chance can we have a chat about XYZ?” BOOM! You did the thing! I had my informational with my supervisor at Last Week Tonight to thank her for a shot at another dream come true. We had talked about my career aspirations, my interests and what I’ve taken from this internship. When The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon was seeking applicants for their internship, she told me about it. I jumped on that chance so fast.

I walked in with the same underlying anxieties that I did when I interviewed for LWT, but this time, I was beaming with a newfound confidence. I knew I had what it took to be a part of this late-night team. In the interview, I was asked, “Why late-night television?” I responded with, “I want to be a writer. I want to create content that’s fun and unique, and that may even resonate with people.” See? It’s not rocket science.

It’s also a completely subjective answer. If you are ever presented with the same question in an interview, it’s okay if you truly have no idea! More times than not, I’ve found that being honest with yourself in regards to your career aspirations is a totally valid answer. It’s okay to not be sure of yourself. That leads us right into –

Lesson 4: Have fortitude! Potential employers admire honesty.

I had spent weeks deliberating on what I was going to possibly do next if all didn’t work out. Anxiety truly is a funny little friend. I was at the wrap party for LWT when I got the call offering me a position as a writer’s intern with The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. One dream internship was coming to a close, and the door to another one was opening up.

John Oliver and Jimmy Fallon are just some dudes on TV. Yes, applying for their internships can be daunting, but it all comes down to you. Who are you? Why do you stand out amongst the bazillion other applicants trying to snag the same seat as you? Make sure you remember what your true passions are. They may come to you in school, or they may come out of the clear blue sky. Most importantly, remember you will doubt yourself at every moment when applying to internships — or any job, for that matter. You’ll always feel this ounce of inadequacy, but I can for sure tell you that as a human being, there is nothing more admirable than honesty. A dream internship becomes a reality when you take those doubts and insecurities and turn them into creative content. Throw your ego out the window, because the more passionate and authentic you are, the more likely you will land that desired internship!


Hello valued reader! My name is Emily Pasqua, I’m 23, hailing from Brooklyn, NY and an ABBA enthusiast. Currently on a valiant quest for the best mac and cheese.

How to be funny on Instagram

Now that you’ve been schooled in the art of writing a funny tweet (the original fun-size and the updated Costco-size version), let’s take word counts out of the whole equation. If you’re building your comedy brand, you’ll want to think seriously about Instagram. It has more users, and its platform boasts higher engagement than Twitter. Translated into human-speak, that means more people, particularly people your age, are going to see you there.

Of course, if you’re like me, and you’re happily neck-deep in social media addiction, you’ll have several platforms running at once, each with a slightly different flavor. (For the love of God, don’t do that thing where you cross-post the same joke on every network. People are seriously allergic to that much déjà vu.)

 

The basic setup-punch

So. You’re on Instagram, and you’re funny. What do you do? There are a few different options: You can use it to showcase your cartooning talents, which is great. You can use it as if it were Vine 2.0, creating short snippets of video hilarity. Also great. But what I want to dig into here is how to create a joke that depends on the image, and is deepened with your commentary. This is different from a meme: Memes have text written write on top of them. Boom. Instagram comedy is a little more nuanced, and takes a little more time; viewers will look at the image, which is the setup. Then they click, and get the punchline. See? It’s a joke.

Chelsea Peretti of Brooklyn 99 is great at these. In this one, she’s copping to being that person who cannot be told not to do things, because that will just make her do the thing even harder. It makes me laugh and it makes me identify with her.

 

The collection of oddities!

Another kind of joke: The collection of oddities. There are lots of these on Insta, but my personal favorite is called “Sad Topographies.” It’s as simple as it is brilliant: Images of real place-names in  that are totally devastating. Anything you’re fascinated with, you can collect and reproduce in this way, as long as you credit the source and honestly, enthusiastically adore your subject. I’ve got a file of lamps from David Lynch movies and TV shows waiting for me to have the time to categorize and upload them one by one. What’s your obsesh? Share it.

This account, @poundlandbandit, creates composite images that illustrate a concept. It can take a minute to get into it, and some of the jokes thud with Americans because the ideas are Brit-based, but goddamn, when it works – as in this joke, about that one girl who goes out to the club and just acts miserable, but for why? But she does – plays on common experiences that connect us all in misery and hilarity.

Snap now, caption later

If you’re thinking of getting started being funny on Instagram, I would love to give you some pointers. When writing a joke, you walk around with a notebook and write down things that strike you as funny, so that you can think it over later and develop it into a bit. Visual bits work the same way: I take pictures of things that strike me as odd, ridiculous, incongruous, or just plain amusing, and later, I look them over and try to think of how I can deepen the joke with words.

 

Here’s an example. My synagogue has this odd little door in a wall high above anything that could possibly serve as a floor. (Never mind that I clearly snapped this photo in the middle of Rosh Hashonah services. Obviously I apologized on Yom Kippur.) So the image itself is surreal and amusing, and would have been fine on its own. But I thought it over, and first typed “This is where I go when I want to get high.” But 420 jokes are kind of stale. Next, I thought of “I really hate visitors.” Still didn’t do it for me; I’m a little tired of introverts announcing what introverts they are every other minute. I thought about a Rapunzel joke, but I finally settled on “I said where’s my pizza?” For me, this hit a sweet spot and told a tiny story about a woman who is sick and tired of people not being able to reach her unreachable home. I love thinking about that woman. I think that sometimes, we are all that woman.

Rewrite!

I should mention here that I have a hard-and-fast rule: Never use the first version of a joke. In fact, the first three versions are garbage. I held to this rule when I was writing headlines for Cosmopolitan and when I was doing standup, and I stil hold to it when I’m texting my dad. Never settle for that first version. That first version is for the bro in the backwards baseball cap who says “I’m hilarious, right?” and “People say I should do standup.”

 

There used to be a game we played at UCB called “stab the joke in the face.” I don’t know if they still play it, and I can’t remember what it consisted of beyond flogging a dead joke until it was pulverized dust. From that dust, you often find gems forged of pure desperation. And that, my friends, is comedy.

Don’t fear the dad joke

Speaking of texting my dad, my next example is pure Dad Joke. I know for a fact that my dad would love it because I did, in fact, text it to him. I snapped the picture because I just thought it was bizarre to see all those fours in a row like that. But what to say about it? A 2/3 of Satan joke? I was stymied and about to fall back on just being plain-old stunned into wonderment, when I realized that “what’s it all for” could so easily become a painful pun. Sometimes the jokes are so bad, they’re good. You be the judge.

Kids do the most ‘grammable things

Apparently this article is mostly just me going through my Instagram and bragging on it. I’m okay with that, despite my dismal numbers. (I am no longer performing standup and don’t need a platform. Yours will be different!) A major theme in my Insta-stream is “random stuff my kids leave around that is disturbing/odd/amusing out of context.”

 

In this case, I found a worry doll in the kitchen and noticed that it had a baby, and the baby was giving me side-eye. I am ALL ABOUT babies giving me side-eye. If I were a baby (and some might argue that I totally am a giant baby, and where, I ask you, is the lie?), I would give everyone the side-eye, because being a baby is 100% bullcrap.

 

Actually, this particular pair of worry dolls tells a story, too: The mom is giving side-eye to the baby, who is giving side-eye, or disdainful front-eye, to the viewer. I simply titled it “This worry-doll baby has zero time for your nonsense” to let the viewer know that (a) I know they are worry dolls, (b) The worry dolls’ expressions amuse me, and (c) I know exactly how that worry doll feels.

Now that I look at her again, the worry doll might be flinging herself in front of her mother to protect her from an errant laser beam, something she is very tired of having to do. Also, the mom might be Beyonce because her hair is blowing back for unknown and obviously glamorous reasons.

In sum: If you don’t feel like your Twitter jokes are landing, try another platform, and another form of joke. Your voice might need a different kind of mic.

 

What’s your favorite visual joke? Send us a thousand-word image.

 

How to write a funny tweet

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?)

  1. The Dough: A thought that makes you laugh and feels truthful, even in its lumpy form.
  2. The Rolling Pin: Give it a set up and a punchline.
  3. The oven: Put some hashtags on it so it becomes part of a larger conversation.
  4. 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

How to write a funny protest sign

Right now, everyone’s mad about something. And during a time of high-visibility, ultra-Instagrammed civic engagement, we have more opportunities than ever to amplify our infuriated opinions.

 

You only have one piece of poster board to make your point, and you want to hit home.


This is about getting a laugh—and it’s about using humor to make a serious point.

But what makes for a funny and powerful protest sign? Let’s look at what makes these signs hilarious and important, and talk about how you can be not just bitter — but better.

 

Be passionate (but open to understatements).

 

If you’re thinking of going to a protest, but you feel so lukewarm about it that you’re tempted to carry an anti-protest sign, think again. That’s a dick move. Unless you’re counter-protesting – which should ignite equally passionate feelings – there’s no reason to show up just to yuck someone’s yum.

Here’s an exception missed by the people who made the post I linked to above: If your “lukewarm” sign is deliberately ironic, understated for comic effect, and/or flat-out sarcastic. For instance, this lady, from that article:

That’s not the face of a someone who’s “a little upset.” That’s the face of a woman who has brought home the bacon, fried it up in the pan, and gives zero f*cks if you feel like a man at this point. If you want to harness the power of sarcasm, think of the thing you would love to SCREAM at people. Then, think of how you would dial that all the way back to where it’s totally ludicrously understated. For instance:

At a rally for DREAMers: “Please let my friends’ parents stay here to actually parent them.”

At a protest against bullfighting: “This is bull.”

At a demand to take down confederate statues: “Didn’t these guys lose the war?”

 

You see what I mean.

 

Go big. Comedy is about being genuine, and then exaggerating—taking your point to the max. Things just aren’t bad, or hellish, they are almost literally HELL, says this woman:

Use comparisons. This is one of GOLD’s own  5.5 types of jokes! This girl’s sign is hilarious, awful, and true. By comparing dress codes to guns, she’s highlighting their ridiculous nature. What’s more is she’s actually raising two important issues instead of one: girls’ dress codes and gun control. Comparisons are great for multifaceted protesting—and for, you know, being funny.

 

This is where corny works.

I’m not usually pro-puns. Used wrong, they can be so corny they make you cringe. However, when you’re working with a fortune-cookie-sized message, you have to employ whatever will work in a small space. Be punny, rhyme like the wind, indulge your inner dad.

Use your age. It’s funny when kids swear. It just fucking is. Also, kids are usually more observant than adults — we’re not so cynical, and we care a lot about the world around us, despite the stereotype of the bored and angsty teenager. Take your unique point-of-view and apply it to comedy! This kid probably has uttered the words “I’d rather die than go to math class”. That’s something kids say. They don’t usually follow it up with calling people a-holes. That’s the punch. Solid.


Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut. She is currently a student of Competitive Swordplay (member of Fairfield High School Fencing Team.) She is also an alumna of GOLD Comedy’s pilot workshop series!

 




How to start your own comedy YouTube channel

Picture it. The date: Spring, 2015. The challenge: Fresh off a firing, I told myself to do something I enjoyed, even if it was not for money. The result: I launched “Stay Golden,” a YouTube channel of weekly original videos inspired by The Golden Girls. We’re talking mashups, interviews, rankings, lists and original scripted comedy (and more).

In the three years since that first video, I’ve produced over 90 videos, gained over 9,200 subscribers, started turning a profit, became a certified YouTube content creator, branched out to hosting Golden Girls Bingo in NYC, and got paying creative work. All of this came out of the channel that I still run today.

 

YouTube is a valuable platform for comedians at every stage in their career and should be in your creative arsenal. From showcasing your gigs to making your own content, YouTube will be a spotlight on all things you! With no money down, I’m going to give you the inside scoop on how to launch your channel in an hour or less. These are the basics to get rolling on YouTube.

 

What Kind Of Channel Do You Want To Be?: YouTube channels, like movies, tend to fall into categories. Stay Golden is a combination of comedy, entertainment, and vlogging inspired by the show. I make videos ranking every episode, mashups where “The Golden Girls” meet shows like “Game of Thrones,” and one epic five-hour loop of Dorothy Zbornak screaming “Condoms, Rose!”

 

The idea of a channel is to showcase your funny, your way. You could do comedic monologues, write and star in sketches on trending topics, develop a full-on web series based on your own life, or use the channel to upload videos of your live performances. And there’s so much more!

 

You can be one of these things or all of these things. The key here is to have a clear vision, at launch, of what you want to do that makes you feel confident and excited for your new channel.

 

Setting Up Your Channel: We can get this done in under five minutes.

 

  • Already have a gmail account? Congratulations, you are 50% done with this part already. Log into YouTube using your gmail address. Visit your account settings to change the name of your channel.
  • Don’t have a gmail, or want to make a new one for your channel? Go to YouTube.com and click “create new account.” Fill out all required information. Your email is not your channel name; the “first and last” name fields make up your YouTube handle.

 

The key here is your channel name as a part of the setup. If the channel is about you, whether it is vlogs or videos of performances, consider making it your name. If it is sketches, scripted shows, or other comedy, make it your show’s name. Pro tip: Be sure to search the name in YouTube first to see if its already in use. If you need to change it, you can do this anytime in Google+.

 

Channel Art: These will be the first two images viewers associate with your channel. There is your banner and thumbnail. Think of these two items as your visual business card. They work together to tell the story of you and your channel.

 

  • Thumbnail: Also known as your logo. When thinking about your channel, what is the image that comes to mind? “Stay Golden” uses our name and a picture of a slice of cheesecake. If the channel is all your stand-up material, use your face as the thumbnail.
  • Banner: I talk about Golden Girls all day. My banner is their faces with information about my show. Banners are larger than thumbnails and take up the top of the channel page. Use bold colors and uncluttered images to catch viewer’s eyes. Relate it to what you do. And keep it simple. If your comedy is all about kittens, don’t put your dogs in there too. It doesn’t make sense.

 

Remember more than half of viewers watch YouTube on their phone. Your art needs to be clear enough to look good on smaller devices. Pro tip: You can use free services like canva.com or snappa.com to make these graphics in a snap. They come with drag-and-drop templates, fonts, and styles.

Uploading Your Videos: Whether it is original content or a recording from your last five-minute standup set, the process is the same. After clicking the camera icon in the top right corner to upload your video and hit these four hot spots:

 

  • Video Title: You have to call it something. No video will ever get published on YouTube without one. Titles range from the silly to the straightforward. I like to number my videos so viewers know there are more out there to watch. Pro tip: Keep titles under 70 characters so they show up in searches without getting cut off.
  • Description: This is your area to chat it up! Tell people what the video is about. Plaster it with all your social media links and your website; tell people where they can find your next show.
  • Tags: These are search keywords related to this video and your channel. They help you show up in searches. Fun Fact: Don’t add too many tags a single video. If a video has more than 15 hashtags, it may get automatically left out or searches. We don’t want that.
  • End Screens: People are loving your videos. Laughing it up. Wanting more! Use end screens to give them what they want: More of your awesome content! End screens link directly to your other videos and encourage viewers to subscribe.

Promotion: Launching a channel will expose you to a brand-new audience you might not otherwise be in front of. To broaden your exposure, you should promote your channel across other social media platforms. Share your links on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (if you’re on them). Don’t overlook other options like Tumblr, Buzzfeed, and Reddit. For example, I post every new video in the Golden Girls subreddit and get tons of views. Pro tip: Remind people to subscribe to your channel whenever you link to it.

 

Why YouTube Is Important: Comedy is a hustle. I am constantly submitting to shows, pitching producers and trying to get writing published. Let’s be real. It can often leave you feel lonely, stranded, and rejected.

 

With Stay Golden, I don’t have to wait for acceptance. If I have an idea, I make it. YouTube means creating without permission. You don’t have to be booked to tell jokes or commissioned for a sketch. You set up a camera or your phone, do your thing, upload it, and make your own audience. You take control and power of your voice by making your own opportunities.

 

Stay Golden has over 1 million views, 99% coming from total strangers. I think about the shows where I’ve performed for an audience of nine people or how hard it can be to get friends to come out for a show on Tuesday at 11 pm. YouTube breaks down the barriers of time, location, and space.


Courtney Antonioli is a performer and storyteller living in NYC. She produces Stay Golden, a YouTube channel of original content inspired by The Golden Girls. She hosts monthly Golden Girls Bingo at QED and does too many Tough Mudders. You can find her at @stolafprod.

How to collaborate in comedy with literally anyone ever

Sure, I do solo comedy. But I’ve been collaborating in one form or another for the majority of my life: sketch, improv, choreography, directing, producing, and working in writers’ rooms. I like both ways of working, and I think the best thing you can do for yourself is know how to do either one.

 

Finding a great writing partner, producing partner, or any other sort of comedy collaborator is a worthy goal. Working with someone else can make your creative life so much richer.

 

It can also make it a lot more complicated because now, instead of only navigating your own hang-ups, craziness, bad moods and assorted mishegas, you’ve also got someone else’s to contend with.

 

Add to that, there’s no playbook for a working relationship with your funny friends.

 

So I’ve written a little primer for you, replete with tips and tricks to remember as you bring collaborators into your (previously solo) process—and alphabetized for maximum adorableness.

Always encourage your collaborators and let them know when they’re doing a good job.

Between you and me” — Or maybe not. Gossip is toxic and will always come back to haunt you.

Constantly check in on deadlines to make sure that your partner knows what is due, when.

Deadlines are the only way. Create them for yourself. Little ones and big ones all along your path.

Everyone you meet is a potential collaborator. Treat people with respect (until they really blow it and then GTFO).

Forgive small mistakes. We are all learning. Learn and move forward and help your collaborators to do the same.

Give all of yourself to your projects or don’t bother doing them. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Have fun working together with your friends. When it stops being fun, notice — and make changes.

It’s okay to put yourself first. Make sure that you are not giving too much and getting nothing back. This should be an equal exchange.

Just say no to people who make you feel like garbage. You don’t need a collaborator who belittles you. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Kick butt. Celebrate. Relax. Repeat.

Lone writing is not a bad thing. It’s great to take a break from collaborators sometimes and do it all on your own. You’ll learn a lot. See which way you prefer.

Make friends with people whose energy and work ethic you admire. Talent is nice, but over time, work ethic and positive energy will take you further. Seek out people who are talented and have an indefatigable spirit.

Nobody knows you better than yourself. Speak up about your needs creatively, financially, and in terms of time management. Don’t let alpha personalities silence you, and don’t step on the voices of others either.

Open yourself up to your writing partner’s ideas. Accept notes. They will make your work better.

Put yourself in the shoes of your collaborator. How is s/he seeing this situation?

Quality over quantity when it comes to rehearsal and writing time. You can get a lot done in a short, focused period of time and surprisingly little done when you’re unfocused or your team is too chatty to do any writing.

Read. It makes you a better writer.

Stop comparing yourself to your collaborators. Their strengths complete your weaknesses and vice versa. You had the good sense to work with them, and that’s a skill unto itself.

Take care of your body. Don’t rehearse and write till all hours of the night. Sleep makes you more awake and therefore more talented and more FANCY.

Untangle complicated social problems as soon as you can. Don’t let bad energy fester in your group. Talk it out and get rid of it. Put the work first.

Vent your grievances to your journal or practice role-playing with another trusted friend before having a difficult conversation to your collaborator. Words matter.

Wait until the show is over to celebrate. It’s not over till it’s over. Stay focused. Eyes on the prize.

Xerox your scripts well before your rehearsal so that everyone has copies and you’re not scrambling for a Staples. By Xerox, I mean print. (Work with me here, people. X is a tough one.)

You are always learning, even though you’re already a superstar. Stay humble.

Zip Zap Zop is still a fantastic warm up for your sketch or improv group. Don’t knock it. You’ll never outgrow a game that’s all about focus.

And those are the ABC’s of Collaboration!

Tell us: Do any of these tips remind you of a good story? Let us know (keeping people anonymous, though. See the Gossip note above….) Failure and success stories welcomed!


Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and actor who frequently hosts HQ Trivia live in front of a million 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. www.emmatattenbaumfine.com

@EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter

@emmatbomb on Instagram


How to produce a comedy variety show at your school

 Most of the comedians I know happen to also be excellent producers. They weren’t born that way — babies are notoriously terrible producers (of everything but poop and drool). Comedians learn to get good at producing by necessity. They want stage time — a lot of stage time — and the best way to get it is to make it.

But though most comics are producers, not all comedy producers are comics. Some are comedy lovers who want to get comedians onstage so they can sit back and laugh at them and think, “I made this!” And maybe wear a top hat and have a cane like an old-timey producer. Because why be a modern producer when you can be an old-timey one?

Whichever type of producer you aspire to be, you might get a little overwhelmed at the idea of creating your first live event. Let’s start with some terms that sound fancy, but are actually just … English words.

 

Producer

Yeah. Like what even is a producer? Producer is just a catch-all term for a person who makes something happen. Have you ever planned a surprise party? You “produced” that party. Have you ever been the most hard-working person on a social studies project where you were teamed up with two other students? You were the “producer” on that social studies project. You already produce. You just weren’t using the name yet.

 

Venue

The place where a show or event happens. You will need to pick an appropriate venue in which to do your show or event. The auditorium or your school’s black-box theatre, if it has one, come to mind. The cafeteria is another option, or maybe there’s a local coffee shop in your neighborhood that would welcome performers from your school. Once you choose the physical location, you will need to find …

 

Your Point Person

Also known as the “contact”, this is the person to whom you are going to send a million polite emails asking questions about the space and sorting out details. Your point person for the venue should be someone who is professional and timely in their correspondence and who is in a position of power at the venue such that they know what they’re talking about. In other words, your point person should not be the part-time employee who started working there yesterday and will be quitting in a week. An owner or manager is ideal. Which brings us to …

 

Communication

Producers send more text messages and emails than anyone else living (or dead, certainly). I hate phone calls. I find them stressful. But sometimes a producer has got to put on the headphones for a good, old-fashioned telephone talk. Or she has to physically go to a venue to speak in real life to a human being in person. This is to avoid the miscommunications that can spin out of control with endless texting and emailing. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. And by “don’t be afraid,” I mean “be afraid and do it anyway.”

 

Acts

Once you’ve got your venue squared away, you will need to book the acts, otherwise known as the people who will be performing. The process gets more creative here, because you are now asking yourself, “What do I love about the best shows I’ve seen?” You can curate to your tastes.

 

Do you have a super-talented storyteller friend who must be seen? Ask her to perform! Do you know a weird, but friendly, ventriloquist you saw one time at your friend’s little brother’s birthday party? Ask her! Do you have a songwriter friend who can accompany herself on guitar? Ask her to join. Ten to twelve acts at 5 minutes apiece is a rough guide, and no one is ever mad about a quick intermission where they can eat some (free) snacks. Much less after seeing a ventriloquist.

 

Wait. I wanna see this “snacks and a ventriloquist” show I just made up. Please produce it and invite me?

 

Sound and lighting

Comedians must be lit. Not lit as in enlightened and turnt and fun and in touch with current trends (though that is ideal), but specifically with light on them. So that you can see them. When you speak to the venue’s point person, whether that’s the theatre teacher at your school or the owner of the local coffee shop, make sure that if lights go down on the audience, they can be up on the performers.

 

When it comes to sound, make sure that the space is intimate enough that your performers can be heard without mics or, preferably, you will have a standing mic for your performers to use.

 

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

Sound issues are the most likely ones to tank your show. If you do opt to use a mic, arrive at the venue a full hour ahead of curtain time to make sure the mic has been tested. Ask your point person multiple times to confirm that someone will be present the night of the event who can help you with the mic.

 

When you are an older and more seasoned producer, you will remember the above paragraph and chuckle and think, “Whoa. Was Emma giving good advice or what in that one paragraph about sound!” Future-me thanks future-you for taking this to heart.

 

Red Flags

If you start to feel uncomfortable with people involved in the show — either acts you’re booking or the folks you meet in arranging a venue — involve a trusted adult right away and know that it’s okay to back out of a venue or a commitment. Follow your gut, and if something feels wrong, it is! Producing comes with huge responsibilities and you meet a lot of people. Some are the best and some are the worst. Keep an eye out and ask for help if you’re not sure.

 

Reasons to Produce Things

I know. I made it all sound kind of hard. But the rewards are tremendous. Here’s a short list of reasons why I think you should try at least once to produce comedy:

  • You will meet people who share your interests. These could become lifelong collaborators!
  • You will put yourself in a leadership position that will teach you more in one month than you’d learn doing some other thing for years.
  • You will have something really impressive on your résumé that you can talk up in admission and job interviews.
  • You will have FUN. (I always forget to mention this ‘cause I’m such a type A curmudgeon, but really, FUN should have been the first thing I said.)
  • You will find out what really makes you laugh and sharpen your skills and your voice in choosing the acts.
  • You will perhaps get yourself on stage, and that’s awesome!
  • Your friends will remember that you booked them and will book you when they produce. Producing, like the flu, is wildly contagious and takes all your energy! FUN!

Please reach out to me on Twitter @emmatattenbaum if you have specific producing questions. The future of comedy has a lot to do with who produces it, and I really want it to be you!


 

Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and actor who frequently hosts HQ Trivia live in front of a million 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. www.emmatattenbaumfine.com

@EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter

@emmatbomb on Instagram

5 ways to handle rejection (in comedy)

As you ponder the path that will help you become a successful comedian, you’re going to have to get used to a few things. One of these is being an unsuccessful comedian, at least for a little while — a subject I covered with a delightful article about how I inadvertently terrified a roomful of Youngs with a simple herpes mention at the mic. Another challenging reality will be rejections. Lots of rejections. So here’s my take on how to handle all those times when you don’t book the gig.

Get a life

I’m not trying to be shady! I mean this quite sincerely and with great love. Is comedy the only thing you think about, or do you have a community surrounding you that is rich enough and nurturing enough to help you sustain these rough ups and downs? If you find yourself obsessing about a recent rejection, reach out to a friend who will understand.

 

If you don’t have such a friend, get one. Get three. Everyone (your teacher, your aunt, your bank teller) understands rejection in one way or another, but you will find that your circle of artist buddies really gets, better than anyone, what it feels like to put your heart on the line and then not book something. Rejection in comedy can be particularly shaming because you make yourself really vulnerable when you’re trying to make people laugh. So when someone tells you they’re not feeling it, it feels somehow personal.

 

Make sure that your actor/artist/comedian/poet/musician friends know you have their back. Support your friend when she doesn’t get the role she wanted or when she is rejected for the second time from Jazz Choir. Be there for your squad and they will be there for you.

Comedy may look like a solo endeavor when you’re watching somebody’s Netflix standup special, but a quick Google search will reveal the enormous team and community behind every comedian.

Look for a pattern  

Are the yesses and nos you’re getting early in your early career starting to show a pattern?

 

I studied theater in college. After being roundly rejected from nearly all my auditions in my first two years of school, I unexpectedly booked a wonderful paid show that called for actors who could write, sing, dance, and act. I marveled at this opportunity, because so many of the things I’d auditioned for that year called for me to do only one of those things.

 

In the years to come, I’d consistently get rejected from shows and opportunities, but whenever writing was in the mix, I’d book the show, the sketch group, the workshop. Once I had the presence of mind to reflect, the pattern became pretty obvious: Writing comedy was the thing that separated me from other aspiring artists; performing the comedy I had written was a close second. Those were the skills that booked me the jobs.

 

Take a look at your recent yesses and nos. Does a pattern emerge? Can you look at that pattern with a little bit of detachment (I promise, you can be bitter as you want when you’re done reading this article, but just indulge me for a sec)? Let the rejections fall away and take a look at where you are getting those yesses.

 

Now, to contradict myself. If you are very new to the comedy game, don’t read into your rejections at all. Notice that I was reflecting on my first two years of college when I began to trace this pattern. It may be too soon for you to do that. If that’s the case, just keep on trucking. Your rejections, though they may sting, are basically irrelevant information for you, young squire;  right now your job is to build up your endurance and keep getting back in the saddle of the comedy horse that keeps throwing you off. Yes, you can!

Have a ritual

When you work out, you do a warm-up and a cooldown. (Or you should, anyway.) The warm-up is to get your muscles ready, and the cooldown is to return your muscles to normal. Your emotional muscles work in much the same way.

 

When you prepare for a big audition, for instance, you get your brain and heart working at full capacity. You warm up, prepare for that moment, and give it all you’ve got. One thing I learned recently from a quick interview (aka phone call) with Peak Performance Coach Rae Tattenbaum (aka my mom!) is that after a big show or audition, you need to have a come-down ritual to bring your brain and heart back to a neutral state.

I told my mom that I was having trouble focusing after I had done a big show. I told her that my mind and body still felt like I was performing. I was on edge and couldn’t relax and move on to my next projects, despite their looming deadlines. She told me that I needed to cultivate a cool-down process after shows/events/auditions so that I could bring myself back to a neutral state and start my next projects without what Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, calls “attention residue” — the feeling that you’re still kind of doing the last thing you did when you try to start the next thing.

Rejection works the same way. When you get the email or the phone call or you see the cast list posted, have a little ritual or quiet moment planned ahead of time. Honor the effort you put in with a cool-down ritual to thank yourself and just be sad for a little bit if you need to be. The day you’re expecting news, plan ahead for it, and you won’t be blindsided if it’s bad news that comes your way.

Reward the effort, if not the result

My friend had submitted a killer writing packet for a TV show and gone through multiple rounds of interviews. She was very close to booking a job that she had put many hours of work and daydreaming into. After a month of labor and back and forth emails, she called me, heartbroken, with bad news: She was not hired. She confided in me that she felt she might not get over this for a long time. What could she do to put all those lost hours in perspective? What should she do about this terrible feeling that she’d never book anything ever again?

This cuts to the heart of rejection pathos. It’s like cooking a whole meal, smelling it as it comes out of the oven, serving it to diners who get to eat it and then having nothing left for yourself. Rejection can leave you feeling cheated and dissatisfied.

 

Best way to solve this? Jewelry. Well, costume jewelry.

 

I told this sad friend what I tell you now: Go buy yourself a little present that will forever remind you of what a great job you did in pursuit of this opportunity. Celebrate what you know to be your success, even if you didn’t get the results you wanted.

My friend bought herself a little silver ring that depicts a hand making the OK signal. She wears it all the time. To her it means, “You done good, kid.” It helped her to close the chapter and, indeed, she did go on to write for a different TV show not long after — with me, no less! Lucky girl!

Follow up

Just because a gatekeeper rejects you in this moment doesn’t mean they always will. It took me three auditions to get into my college’s prestigious sketch-comedy group. Persistence pays off and, along with that, follow-ups pay off. Stay in the network of the people who reject you, if you like them and think you’ve got a future collaborating together. Sometimes you’re not quite ready, or they’re not quite ready for you. Wait it out and when the fates align, your persistence and your follow-ups will pay off.

Rejection is a temporary thing. A temporary thing you hafta go through for a long time. That’s the truth, but it’s no way to end an article! Here’s a picture of a llama with a very cool haircut. In my eyes, you are as brave and as fabulous as this llama. Go forth and make your comedy!


Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and actor who frequently hosts HQ Trivia live in front of a million 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. www.emmatattenbaumfine.com

@EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter

@emmatbomb on Instagram

 

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Eight things you need to start your own (funny) podcast

Elsa Waithe is a comedian, activist, and all-around wildchild. Her comedy is a mix of light-hearted but critical jabs at homosexuality and race but mainly herself and weed. She can been seen as a regular performer (and producer) at the Cinder Block Festival and in her feature on an episode of the This American Life podcast. She is also an instructor and incredible supporter of GOLD Comedy!


My partner and I launched our podcast, 2 Spicy, as a response to Heather’s being laid off, and my constantly getting 30-day bans from Facebook. We wanted do a joint project that highlighted news and activism and amplified voices on the left in an effort to push those in the middle further leftward. That’s all we had when we started: an idea, and time. We had no equipment,  experience, or money. But we did have lots of FRIENDS—and tons of questions. Our first step was to reach out to our network and ask them EVERYTHING.

 

So now, I’m here to tell you what we learned—by asking and by doing—so that you, too, can start your own podcast. Here are the top things you need.

 

A topic and a take.

The idea of the podcast was to discuss some of the things that would get me banned from Facebook. We both had really strong ideas and opinions on the world and wanted a way to communicate them other than social media. We’d always been told by the folks around us that they really valued our opinions. In deciding your brand/topic, look toward your interests and hobbies. Surely there’s nothing new under the sun, so don’t be discouraged if there’s already a podcast that deals with your chosen topics. No one can talk about it in the way you do. Humor keeps your listener engaged, it doesn’t need to be goofy or campy to be funny. It just has to be interesting, and the more complex and niche, the better. You want to talk about sports? Then talk about something specific, like worst football fumbles. Politics? Maybe funny speech flubs. Try recurring segments. Have listeners write in. Humor can spring from your personality, your rapport with your co-host or anywhere.

 

A good partner.

As a creative couple we’ve always wanted to do a project that combined our talents. Mine, speaking and humor. Heather’s, thoughtful analysis. We were told before we started the podcast that we wouldn’t make a good podcast because we “agree too much”. We posit that good podcast partners need not agree on every topic nor do they need to argue all the time. It’s more about good on-air chemistry and banter.

 

Equipment: free and crowdfunded/donated.

It is entirely possible to start a podcast with zero dollars. We reached out to our community about helping us record and someone with podcasting experience volunteered to bring his equipment to our apartment. After releasing a couple of episodes and receiving positive feedback, we knew we wanted to be able to record more often without having to wait for someone to come from the other side of Brooklyn. We found out what basic equipment we needed and made an Amazon wishlist, totaling a little over $400. The basic equipment needed was a Zoom recording device, 2 microphones with mic stands and an SD card.  Within a few weeks all items were either purchased for us or donated to us..

 

Research and prep.

Our podcast focuses on current news and trends so our research involves following the news, watching trending topics on social media, and whatever fun/interesting/scary articles we come across during the week. We compile 6 to 8 topics, the points we’d like to discuss about said topics and try to order them in a way that will flow on-air. There’s no scripts, just a pre-planned outline. We like to be able to flow as the convo grows organically.

 

A platform.

Of course the main platform is iTunes. But not everyone is jazzed about Apple products so we are also on BuzzSprout and Stitcher. We don’t use it, but there’s also SoundCloud. These are places where it is free to host your podcast but there are also services where you’d pay. We’ve heard good things about BlogTalkRadio and PodBean. And, of course, there’s always the chance that you’ll be picked up by a larger podcast “stable” like Maximum Fun or American Public Media.

 

Promotion.

We promo the podcast across the three major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The drawback to Facebook is that you’ll need to spend a little money to promote your posts due to their algorithms. We’ve also started making clips of the more interesting sections of each weeks episode and releasing them as video teaser clips which are then released on Instagram and YouTube. We have a Patreon that we direct our listeners to so that they can support the show and get exclusive goodies. And we are always developing tie-in merch—like our 2 Spicy Habanero Sauce. Tune in to our podcast while you put it on…everything!


Elsa Waithe is a comedian, activist, and all-around wildchild. Her comedy is a mix of light-hearted but critical jabs at homosexuality and race but mainly herself and weed. She can been seen as a regular performer (and producer) at the Cinder Block Festival and in her feature on an episode of the This American Life podcast. She is also an instructor and incredible supporter of GOLD Comedy!

Stay GOLDen

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