It’s hard to imagine a world without Twitter, and more specifically, a world without people making jokes on Twitter. The medium has become so ingrained in Internet culture that it has now leaked fully beyond the constraints of Twitter so that people who have never even used Twitter before are seeing tweets on Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr almost daily.
But who are the people behind these tweets? And what are the inspirations behind these jokes?
None of these Twitter heavyweights would consider themselves “Twitter comedians.” First because that’s a stupid term that we’re only using for our purposes and second, making jokes on Twitter isn’t anyone’s full-time job. But these ladies and gentlemen have mastered the format and what better way to get an behind-the-scenes look at their thought processes than to ask them the story behind their favorite tweets.
[at the mall]— David Hughes (@david8hughes) May 9, 2014
“Excuse me? I lost my son. Can I please make an announcement?”
[leans in to mic]
“Goodbye you little shit.”
I was in a mall and I was standing near the information desk while my wife was using the bathroom. A woman came up to the desk and asked the man if he could make an announcement because she had lost her son. Now, my first thought was, “Ask her if she wants you to help her make another one,” but I kept that inside. Obviously I tweeted it, but who reads those things anyway. Then as the guy at the information desk made the announcement I thought it would be so funny if the kid’s mother just kinda leaned in and was all bitter about him disappearing in the first place. And then I wrote this.
CRIMINAL: *holding me up at gunpoint* do u want to die today motherfucker— Bob Vulfov (@bobvulfov) April 11, 2015
ME: i mean kinda
C: jesus, is everything ok man?
I think all my tweets are generally bad but I like the ones where I manage to write something a bit surprising. This mugger/muggee scenario is obviously played out but I always thought it’d be funny to spill my heart to a mugger if they were to confront me with a threatening but still kind of reflective question. It’s as if I was walking to my weekly therapist appointment, ran into a mugger, and was asked the same type of question that would’ve probably come up during the therapy session. Well, if you really want to know if I want to die, buddy, then you better be ready to listen up. If I could make this tweet better, I’d add a falling piano in there somewhere.
Dad, who’s Daniel Day-Lewis? *Dad peers out the blinds* He could be anyone, son. *Mom starts weeping* He could be anyone.— Brandon (@UNTRESOR) July 18, 2013
The story behind my tweet? It’s just something I worry about all the time. Daniel Day-Lewis is such a brilliant method actor that he could be any one of us, at any time. People seem to think this is funny, but to me, it’s very troubling. He could be a tree. He could be your Mom. You’d never know. He’s just that damn good. I won’t feel safe until he dies, and even then I’ll probably still live in fear.
I’ve always aspired to be like James Bond, a man who owns a car and has had sex— Pixelated Boat (@pixelatedboat) October 19, 2015
The big secret behind comedy is that it’s based on lies. It’s not true that I don’t own a car - in fact I’m the proud owner of a 1987 Honda Thermidor, a vehicle renowned for both the intuitive placement of its many glove compartments and for its surprising buoyancy when accidentally driven into a swamp. The sex part is real though. I’ve never, as the British would say, “todged me lad-pole up a cheeky Cheryl’s flap-department”. Maybe I’ll have more luck with the ladies once science finds a cure for the medical condition that requires me to wear ¾ length chinos to prevent fatal ankle chafing.
[Testing Cat-Human Translator]— Dan O'Brien (@OtherDanOBrien) November 21, 2014
Scientist: Cat, what is your name?
Cat: I AM KANG THE DESTROYER
Owner: It’s not working. His name is Socks.
I don’t even own a cat, but I’ve found in the past that tweets about cats and dogs do well. (i.e. I was pandering.) I watched some YouTube videos about cats, and a common theme was that cats are willing to attack animals much bigger that they are, even bears. Their self-image is greatly at odds with their actual physical selves. I thought for a while about how to communicate this and decided it would work best to let the cat speak for himself, hence the Cat-Human Translator. I chose the name Kang the Destroyer because it encapsulated this grandiose self-image in very few words. Huge numbers of people have tagged their friends and family in the replies to say “this is just like Mittens!” or Fluffy or whatever. The original version of the tweet didn’t have the last line. It sat in my drafts folder for a while because it felt like it was missing something. Then I came up with the idea of the clueless owner who doesn’t understand that Socks sees himself as an all-conquering badass. This is an unexpected twist, which, combined with the relatability of the cat’s personality, I think explains the tweet’s popularity.
I have well over 150 buttholes— Sal Paradise(nuts) (@Karate_Horse) December 16, 2014
I have thirty one buttholes— Sal Paradise(nuts) (@Karate_Horse) October 3, 2014
I have seven butt holes— Sal Paradise(nuts) (@Karate_Horse) November 13, 2015
The story behind these tweets are simple. They describe the amount of butt holes I have.
You can’t spend your whole life gently rollerblading away from your problems— donni saphire (@donni) December 25, 2013
A lot of my tweets are wordplay or misdirection that could occur to anyone, but sometimes I just see something very silly and construct a joke around it. One afternoon I saw a sullen, chubby teen boy rollerblading grimly down the street at two miles an hour. He seemed to be making the world’s slowest getaway. Perhaps from his problems. Such a weird scene. To this day, I think no one else has ever made a “gently rollerblading away” joke. You’d have to have seen him to think of it.
“Good luck with your little skits!”— Nathan Usher (@thenatewolf) August 2, 2013
One time at a wedding, my mom introduced me to a successful television writer, and then proceeded to ask him if he was “working on any skits”. It was so funny to me, because she wasn’t trying to be insulting at all, but moms just have a gift for taking you down a peg that is unparalleled.
No fucking way will I choose the shopping cart that someone left a piece of paper in.— denise (@Stellacopter) April 16, 2013
We’ve all been there…standing inside the entrance of the food store, about to shop by dropping food into a big metal basket on wheels (that often sits outside and is apparently washed only once or twice each year) and if there are only 2 carts left we will ALWAYS pick the one that DOES NOT have a harmless receipt at the bottom of it. It’s like eww, gross. I am too good for you, you filthy tainted cart. The day I sent that tweet is the day I realized how silly the whole thing is. But I’m still not picking that cart if I have a choice, no fucking way.
[in ambulance]— Bea_ker (@bea_ker) November 29, 2014
"Can you describe the snake that bit you?”
Yes it was like an angry rope
I guess it’s popular because it combines human suffering (envenomation) with a funny phrase (angry rope), although it’s really just a play on the word ‘describe’. It still blows my mind that 16,000 people could be fucked to click anywhere near it. That’s probably more than there are snakes, people and ambulances in the world combined.
Office fun: replace your coworker’s mouse with a larger mouse so he thinks his hands are shrinking then call him “baby hands” until he quits— vineyille (@vineyille) July 16, 2013
I shared an office with an older gentleman for about two years. He had a lot of strange habits. He insisted on working in the dark because the hum of the fluorescent lights caused him to hold his head in his hands and moan softly. Some days he would belch under his breath with so much force that he would dry heave, which it turn would lead to me dry heaving. He dropped his mouse on the floor at least four times a day, and also dropped himself on the floor, spontaneously falling out of his chair, arms flailing, cursing his elementary understanding of the laws of gravity. When he talked to me (which was rare because I think he often forgot that he was sharing an office with another human), he told me stories about his strange underground martial arts class which didn’t focus on form, but raw street fighting brutality. This man had to be in his 70’s. So after a few months of sharing a darkened office with this elderly, belching, clumsy ninja with super-sonic-hearing-induced migraines, I started to devise simple pranks to break his mind. This tweet was one of my many ideas, but I never had the heart or the courage to pull any of them off.
CANADIAN: im a canadian— jomny sun (@jonnysun) February 28, 2016
DATE: cool i’ve never met a comedian befor
CANADIAN: [is too polite to corect them, dedicates entire life to comedy]
Oh man! This is actually so fun because while I was writing the response for this article, I wrote a joke on Twitter that blew up like crazy over 24 hours. It’s not my “best” tweet at all nor is it my favorite tweet, but I think it would be fun to talk about because it’s directly related to this article. I guess since I was thinking about comedy all day while writing this response, I was primed to write a joke about comedy in some form (I was also thinking about why so many Canadians are funny people which I was going to include in my response but didn’t because I was already writing too much).
This is a great opportunity to talk about process because I think the interesting story behind this, and all of my writing, I’d like to think, is that it’s just this cool byproduct that comes from thinking about other stuff. I think comedy is such an awesome way of bringing different ideas together, of mashing all these different things up and re-contextualizing them and combining them and flipping them to form new ideas. I very much believe that sometimes, the best creativity happens when you’re thinking about other things. I think when you actively engage your brain, you’re not only focussing on the immediate matter at hand, but in the background, all the other creative parts of your brain are lighting up and making connections and coming up with ideas, all in your subconscious. So, the more you think and focus on anything, the more you also exercise and tap into this creative subconsciousness, which will be working on jokes while you focus on something else. A lot of the time, ideas will come to me when I’m doing something else, which is basically my brain trying to distract itself by being like, hey why don’t think about this fun, more interesting thing instead.
Creativity is the art of procrastinating productively. So, in this sense, I was literally just thinking about comedy and what drives me to do comedy, and this joke popped into my head, basically fully formed. I like that comedy is personal, so even though this is a silly little tweet, I suppose that my own kind of self-aware insecurity and introversion is on display here, in the feeling of not being able to correct people. I think the joke itself has done well on Twitter because it kind of touches on this universal humanness – it’s a very specific feeling that most people can relate to. Especially in the setting of meeting new people for the first time, and the anxiety of going on dates which takes it even further. It’s also a take on the classic stereotypes about Canadians. It’s also grounded in reality and based in fact, in a way – there really is a shockingly high proportion of Canadians in comedy. And at its essence, it’s also is just a silly pun… which brings it all together. So, this one tweet, I guess you could say it’s broken down as a combination of these disparate elements that come together in a new way, in the form of a joke. That’s the kind of thing that excites me most about comedy and humor as a creative form.
just to confuse people, I’ve named my vagina “the friendzone”— maura quint (@behindyourback) February 24, 2016
Like 99.8% of twitter users, every single word I type into that site is the best so choosing one tweet as superior would be impossible. I’ll just pick one of my recent tweets. Despite the backlash online, I keep seeing guys complaining about women putting them in the friendzone, which apparently many men still think is a real thing that exists, because acting like a friend to a woman and having her in turn treat you like a friend, is akin to some sort of mythological punishment, like they think they’re sex-sisyphuses: “I’m going to be nice to her and eventually she’ll sleep with me, I think I’m getting close and OH NO, SHE WAS JUST NICE TO ME BACK LIKE WE’RE FRIENDS AND SHE DOESN’T KNOW I HAVE ULTERIOR MOTIVES AND AM LYING ABOUT WHAT I WANT FROM OUR INTERACTIONS?!!” In my annoyance at that I just started thinking about how to annoy the guys who say dumb stuff like “friendzone” back and voila, a tweet is born.
*puts out arm*— Sam Grittner (@SamGrittner) July 21, 2014
*falcon lands on it, perfectly*
“I want everyone to know: I trained this bird.”
*mouths to falcon: who the fuck are you?*
The funniest tweet I’ve ever written was inked in my sleep, that is to say, I woke a little before 6 in the morning one day and it just oozed out of my brain into my fingertips and I had hit send before I knew what had happened. I don’t use the story format that often but this tweet combined almost all of my favorite elements: confusion, bad language, me pretending like I knew what I was doing, and falcons. What more do you want out of 140 characters? Oh hey, the entire cast of FRIENDS is waving at me! Wait a second….
Me: Number 17 please— ceeks (@70Ceeks) December 10, 2014
McD: We dont have a 17
Me: Its 2 # 2s, a # 13, an apple pie & a fudge sundae
McD: Ok that’ll b-
Me: 22.17, comin around
Perhaps we should begin with a line-by-line parsing:
Number 17 please (I’ve seemingly ordered a nonexistent value meal)
McD: We dont have a 17 (Employee thinks I’m stupid)
Me: Its 2 # 2s, a # 13, an apple pie & a fudge sundae (ACTUALLY I’m smart)
McD: Ok that’ll b- revving Me: 22.17, comin around (A genius really)
The backstory here is I was probably tweeting while hungry. I think it works because it is always okay to laugh at an ass. This customer is so cocky because he has dominated… the McDonald’s menu. We also get to sympathize with the employee who isn’t paid nearly enough to have to suffer such fools. The price is definitely in the ballpark though I cannot confirm as I have yet to order a 17. I hope to one day… could make a decent vine.
Radiohead’s album ok computer explores the controversial idea that it’s ok to be on the computer— Tamara Yajia (@DancesWithTamis) March 7, 2015
I was falling asleep one day and one of the songs from this album got stuck in my head and I just started thinking about the fact that this album is called “OK Computer” and I started laughing to myself because, if you really think about, it it’s incredibly dumb. “OK Computer???” I’m sure Thom Yorke has an incredibly meaningful explanation for why he named it that, but at that moment the best I could think of was that he was telling everyone that was logged on at the time that it was OK, being on the computer is OK.
Every Scooby Doo episode would literally be 2 minutes long if the gang went to the mask store 1st & asked a few questions.— Erica (@SCbchbum) March 21, 2015
Watching cartoons you loved as a kid, there’s always the pitfall of your adult brain being a party pooper. That’s kind of what happened here. This tweet is just an example of my adult brain ruining my childhood joy.
Elizabeth is Ruined
I don’t know why these shootings keep happening, we’ve tried literally nothing.— Elizabeth (@Elizasoul80) December 2, 2015
My best tweet? hmmm. That’s hard to say. This is my top tweet. They story behind it is pretty obvious and while the circumstance behind it is not humorous, it reeks of sarcasm and truth. Now if I were to say what my favorite tweet is in terms of straight humor it would be
I’m gonna hire a person to speak at my funeral and say a bunch of crazy stuff about me so my friends and family think I had a secret life.— Elizabeth (@Elizasoul80) November 6, 2015
tbh, I like it because my life is extremely boring and mundane and the thought of everyone I know being completely confused at my funeral brings me much amusement. Imagine if someone got up at your funeral and started talking about things everyone who knew you had no idea about and then they all spent a bunch of time trying to figure out who you were or what you did. It still makes me laugh every time I think about it.
Do I have a plan for the zombie apocalypse? I don’t even have a battery in my smoke detector, and fire is real.— Sean Thomason (@TheThomason) December 1, 2014
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years reading online dating profiles – impressed? – and after a while you start to notice annoying trends, especially if you are unreasonably easy to annoy. One profile cliche I see a lot is people talking about their zombie apocalypse plans. They also like to ask “what’s YOUR zombie apocalypse plan?” as a conversation starter. So I had just read one of those profiles, and was thinking about how my generation is better at planning for fake sci-fi emergencies than the basic essentials of our real lives, when I noticed the smoke detector that had been sitting empty on my desk for, I dunno, 6 months? A year? Since whenever it started chirping that judgmental “the battery’s dead and you will roast alive for your laziness crimes” chirp, prompting me to yank out the battery and throw the detector on my desk where I’d be sure to remember it. And, thanks to zombies, the frustrations of online romance, and twitter, I eventually did. It’s kind of crazy, but this story has an exciting twist ending: a few days later, I replaced the battery.
Wait what do you mean Jesus loves me? Did he say something to you? OMG I’m freaking out right now tell me his exact words.— Mike Primavera (@primawesome) December 4, 2013
My best tweet is a prime example of not overthinking it. I fired it off while at a red light without spellchecking it or anything. I was driving by a catholic college here in Seattle and there was a guy standing on a corner with a sign that said “Jesus Loves You.” That tweet was my visceral reaction. I really didn’t expect it to do as well as it did. My favorite thing about this tweet is the number of responses from Christians telling me how it’s not funny and I’m going to hell, because obviously that’s what Jesus would do.
“I’m the only cop on the force who can play the bassoon dammit” “Not anymore” New cop in sunglasses walks in, just killing it on the bassoon— pat tobin (@tastefactory) September 30, 2012
This was back when I first started using Twitter for comedy. I was watching a cop movie at the time and the concept popped into my head. The bassoon is a funny instrument to me. I don’t know why I put the two ideas together but people like it. It doesn’t have to make sense. Some of the best jokes, especially on Twitter, don’t make sense.
Little Mermaid: I want to be where the people are— Dani Fernandez (@msdanifernandez) February 24, 2016
Me: trust me u dont
I don’t know if this is my best tweet but I wrote about the Little Mermaid because I thought it was funny how badly she wants to be amongst humans despite how much we all want to avoid each other. I also thought it was funny she wants legs when most humans sit at a desk all day or will generally make up excuses not to exercise. I think if she watched the news for just a single day, she’d want to keep her fins.
Leonardo DiCaprisun— Fred Delicious (@Fred_Delicious) February 26, 2015
All of my tweets are my best tweet in a way, because I’m so incredibly talented, funny and handsome, but if I were to choose one, it would probably be this one. There’s a funny story behind this tweet. Basically I realised it would be funny if you replaced DiCaprio with DiCaprisun. This tweet has been retweeted over 4,000 times because it appeals to fans of Hollywood and also refreshing soft drink pouches. A very lucrative cross section of online humor.
“yeah of course I can paint your ceiling.” Michelangelo scoffed to himself, “gonna paint a bunch of dudes with they dick outs on it tho”— the garbage shit boy (@davedittell) June 13, 2013
Some of humanity’s greatest art has been made by some of its biggest assholes. Unfortunately, I inherited the asshole gene without also receiving the genius one.
Kanye West is a current artist who inherited both and is a lightning rod of controversy, most of it dealing with his narcissism and sense of entitlement, and underneath it all is a seething sense of injustice by those who dislike him and his work that not only can he get away with it, but that he can get away with it while black. Kanye’s blackness is what separates how his work is criticized and denigrated in ways that the works of Michelangelo, Picasso, van Gogh, and other famous assholes and creeps throughout history are not, so in this tweet I wanted to present what’s ultimately a fairly accurate portrayal of Michelangelo’s personality in a way that most readers will find anachronistic because our society excuses and obfuscates the petulance of genius in white artists while demonizing it in, and using it as a weapon against, black artists. And anytime you can sneak all that into what’s essentially a dick joke, well why the hell not?
Total bs that when Sleeping Beauty spends all day in bed she’s a “beautiful princess,” but when I do the same I’m “clinically depressed.”— Sarah (@thetigersez) October 31, 2014
All of my tweets, while perhaps not 100% “true” are definitely inspired by my life. This one came to me on a beautiful Fall day when I was lying in bed, thinking about how I wished I was dead, you know, typical Tuesday stuff. And honestly, it really is bullshit. I mean, Sleeping Beauty and I, we’re basically twins. Especially the eyebrows. Look. Look at them. Identical. And so on fleek. So anyway, I was lying there with thoughts of my family and friends and therapist and whoever telling me I should get out of bed and, like, live my life or whatever. And I was intensely jealous of old SB, who could just be in her bed, looking all perfect, and admired by everyone and just chill until some handsome prince showed up to rescue her, whereas I have to go on Tinder like some sort of gd peasant.
Manda Like Wine
Sorry I pretended I was drowning so you could see how incredible my hair looked underwater.— Amanda M-W (@Manda_like_wine) August 18, 2013
This is a favorite by far. I got to morbidly poke fun at the strange eroticism that we ascribe to the sway of submerged hair. Instead of a frantic return to surface, the rescuer, however briefly, decides to bask in the visual. Conversely, I, the “drowning” girl, finally get the attention I want. It’s a moment I imagined as a child: Shelley Winters opens her eyes after that scene in Night of the Hunter, smiles, and swims to the surface after a perfect cut.
‘welcome to subway how can i-’— great, person (@hippieswordfish) March 12, 2015
ME:*punches counter*WHY DOES THE KOOL-AID MAN CARRY A SMALLER PITCHER OF KOOL-AID
M: IS IT HIS PISS
Maybe about 5 years ago, I was making some Kool-Aid and I noticed that on the packaging there was a picture of Kool-Aid man holding pitcher of Kool-Aid. As everyone knows, the Kool-Aid man is, himself, a pitcher of Kool-Aid, so why on earth is he carrying around another, smaller pitcher of Kool-Aid? At first I thought 'oh it’s probably just his kid’ but upon further inspection, I saw the smaller pitcher had no face. That’s when the real questions began. Is it his blood? Why would he carry around extra blood? Did he kill another Kool-Aid man to become THE Kool-Aid man and now he carries this pitcher of the other guy’s remains as a way to intimidate those who might dare challenge him? To this day, I have no answers and it has plagued me enough that I have started asking complete strangers why he’s carrying a tiny pitcher of Kool-Aid. If anyone has the answer, please tell me. I’m losing sleep. Thank you.
[God looking at a pug dog for the first time] what the fuck did you humans do with my bad ass wolf I gave you?— luke [from online] (@internetluke) January 18, 2016
The story behind this one was from somebody I overheard at a park one time. She was carrying her pug out of the park and I heard her say “he can’t breathe all too well and needs to be carried at the end of our walks” and I thought to myself how ridiculous that is. In under 100 years we completely reversed thousands of years of evolution in creating the ultimate killing machine only so this middle aged women could walk her pug out of a park.
Everything I need to know about whether or not cops are allowed to search my car I learned from Jay-Z songs.— Amber (@amburgklur) August 22, 2011
This is probably my favorite tweet I’ve ever done, because it is so stupidly simple and true. Personally, I will find humor in something that bears a certain truth- hence the saying “it’s funny because it’s true” (that every aunt writes on Facebook accompanying a 3 year old meme about how husbands leave the toilet seat up).
I can’t say I had any inspiration to write this. I was driving to work one day and right before I drove through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, I saw a hidden cop shooting radar. I also had a blunt on me (sorry dad, don’t read this) and I tensed up for a moment. Then remembered the line from the 2004 hit “99 Problems” by Jay-Z and in case you’ve been kept in a Cincinnati basement for over a decade, let me remind you: “Well my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back And I know my rights, so you gon’ need a warrant for that” I worded it similarly to a “everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten” poster that hangs on a guidance counselor’s office wall and there you go. I find that sometimes if you make a tweet short, simple, and true, it works.
man. i need to admit something. every time i’m drunk i make missouri slightly larger on its wikipedia page pic.twitter.com/u8xl1wvHnd— rob whisman (@robwhisman) November 29, 2015
I’m pretty sure people like it not because of what I did, but, for the life of them, they can’t figure out why I did it. Neither can I, to be honest. Beer does that.