When a veteran stand-up comic is also funny on Twitter, it doesn’t exactly come as a shock. When an unknown phenom makes you physically choke on guffaws, though, it’s a revelation and also something of an extended audition. Those who can make with the funny often earn chances to do so with more than 140 characters for an even wider audience. One of the most prominent Twitter discoveries so far is Megan Amram.
After catching the attention of the comedy cognoscenti in 2010, the then recent Harvard graduate soon got jobs writing on the Oscars and Disney’s A.N.T. Farm., before moving to a staff writer position at NBC’s ensemble sitcom Parks and Recreation. (The show was just renewed for a sixth season.) The in-demand writer is also an accomplished poet, with a book deal to pen a satirical guide to science for ladies.
Megan Amram’s frothy blend of dark humor and smart, surreal silliness has found more than 356,000 followers on Twitter so far. Although not everybody trying to generate laughs online is doing so for the same reasons, or with the same twisted flair, Amram’s consistent comedic quality is enviable for anyone trying to make their mark with brief bursts of humor. The multidiscipline writer recently spoke with Co.Create about puns, poetry, and how to be funny on Twitter altogether.
The structure of poetry is actually kind of similar to comedy. I think the thing that draws me to both mediums is making language extraordinary (not to be too grad schooly about it.) Comedy is about breaking expectations of day-to-day life; so is poetry, on a more miniature level. I know a lot of comedians who gravitate toward a lot of different literary forms--secret bookworms who like word puzzles--and I find it really cool to see literary smart people who end up being the funniest.
I have a twin brother who’s not a comedian. He’s in medical school, but he’s one of the funniest people I know. I send him every single tweet before I tweet it, and he tells me if it’s good or not. So that’s my secret weapon--the vetting process of whether my brother likes my tweets.
Whenever I go on Twitter after a major event or when somebody’s died, it’s so overloaded with jokes that I just don’t want to add anything to it. That’s my instinct. Obviously, there are some amazing very topical jokes people make, but I sort of like not being in the fray. It overwhelms me and I tune out a little bit. I don’t want to do the same joke as 100 other people.
There have been a couple times I’ve accidentally tweeted something that someone else has already tweeted. There are just so many people on Twitter, and so many funny people in the world; you have to make sure nobody else has already done it.
When it happens to other people--and it’s happened where other people have done things that I’ve done before--I in no way take it personally, because it’s so easy to do that accidentally. When people get too upset about Twitter, I always think, “It’s just a stupid website. Don’t worry too much; we’ll all be okay. We all die.”
I used to be really anal about timing. I wanted to post tweets at the prime time, which I think is 11 a.m. west coast time, [which is] 2 p.m. east coast time. Everybody’s up and on their computers at work then. I’ve kind of chilled out about it, though. If you post at like 1 a.m. on a weekday night, there are fewer people reading it. But the fun thing about Twitter is that I have followers from all around the world, so someone’s always up. And that’s the way that time works!
Jokes that are popular on Twitter are very often wordplay or even jokes that have funny spelling or whatever. They are often very much things that have to be seen instead of heard. Also, when it’s in the context of a tweet, you’re seeing it along with hundreds of other little tiny notes, and you can compare it within the restrictions that Twitter puts on you.
Usually the tweets that I do are like one-liners with some kind of twist that fits in a very small area. I’ve definitely tweeted things, though, that then became blog posts. If I’m going to use something as a premise for a video or a blog post, I try to save it and not tweet it, but it gets tempting to boil it down and use it as a joke.
Everyone in my family makes puns. That’s what our family is known for. I make puns a hundred times a day in my head, and I’ve taught myself from years and years of experience not to say them out loud because people think they’re awful. But actually, the few puns that I put on Twitter have done extremely well in terms of people liking them and sharing them, and my mom always calls me to say “See, puns are the best.” I did musicals in college, and they were riddled with puns.
These are my favorite kind of thing, and Selfie-a Plath might be my favorite tweet I’ve ever done. I was late to Instagram, but now I’m obsessed with visual jokes. I tweeted a Starbucks cup a while ago with a swastika drawn on it, and put as a caption, “They spelled my name wrong again.” It’s such a fun way to get a sight gag onto the Internet. In TV or movies, people always love a good joke where you don’t need to explain it.
Tweeting offensive shock stuff just for the sake of tweeting offensive shock stuff is not up my alley. I did just say that I tweeted a swastika picture, and I’m all for the perfect rape joke or the perfect Hitler joke or whatever. If I’m reading something and it’s offensive but well structured, I’m going to like it. But I try to stay away from offensive things, and when I do them, I usually delete them. Mostly because I don’t have the energy to defend them.
I don’t want to have to think about Twitter every second of every day, and I don’t think I’m funny enough that my stream of consciousness should be tweeted all the time. I like when people don’t tweet a ton. Most of us are following hundreds of people, and if everyone’s tweeting 20 times a day, it can get a little exhausting. If you’re tweeting funny stuff all the time, though, good for you and I’m probably going to like it.