Talking to Joe Rumrill (@2tonbug) about Standup, Twitter, and Trumpets
Joe Rumrill is a standup comedian and writer living in New York City. Her performs regularly at the UCB, the PIT, Over the Eight, and at various comedy shows around the city, as well as the 2014 Brooklyn Comedy Festival. Rumrill is also a creator of the weirdo comedy showcase Fresh Perspectives, which he co-hosts with Julio Torres every fourth Monday of the month at Muchmores in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Rumrill told me that he hopes to, “with the right amount of campaigning, luck and crowdsourcing,” perform standup in the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In the meantime, he talked to me about three of his favorite tweets, his influences, and trumpet sounds.
I came here to do two things: read Frog and Toad All Year and read Frog and Toad Are Friends…and Frog and Toad Are Friends is checked out
— Joe Rumrill (@2tonbug) July 5, 2012
Rumrill: Probably one of my favorite things is little kid stuff being taken very seriously by the adult world. That definitely drives a lot of what I write. My mom’s a first-grade teacher, so children’s literature has always been a lingering presence throughout my life. But, really, I chose this tweet to prove once and for all that I was doing Frog and Toad jokes BEFORE it became the “it” thing to do.
That’s an interesting observation about your mom’s job’s influence on you, are there other things you notice that have similarly influenced the way you tweet or tell jokes in general?
Jack Handey’s writing is a super huge influence on me. He discovered the perfect intersection of wholesome and psychotic that I’m just obsessed with and strive for with my jokes. I was discussing comedy inspirations recently with my friends (who are, sorry to be sappy but, DEFINITELY my hugest influence) and my mind kept going back to this one Weekend Update joke Norm MacDonald did that went along the lines of “The richest girl in the world celebrated her tenth birthday this week. What is it like to be the richest girl in the world? Well, to give you some idea – at the party, they had two cakes.” I don’t know who wrote that one, but man oh man, that’s just about the golden standard for me in terms of shaping a joke. I love that grandiose build-up to something that just sort of fizzles. It’s like a bunch of kneeling trumpeters in the royal throne room playing a fanfare to usher in the king, but, instead of the king, someone just wheels in a mangy cat cleaning its hind legs. That’s what I like.
If I ever stole a garbage truck the first thing I'd do is start picking up people's trash weekly, to not arouse suspicion. Haha, suckers!
— Joe Rumrill (@2tonbug) January 28, 2015
I guess what I’m trying to say with this one is: you’d think it would be all fun and games now that you have that neat garbage truck, but boy are you mistaken. Turns out you’re a garbageman now! That job’s hard work! Even harder than your last job: “criminal”!
When did you first join Twitter?
I don’t remember the exact year I joined, probably around 2009 or 10, but the circumstances were that I was in a blues-punk band in college and Twitter seemed as good a platform as any to tell people about what scummy basement we were playing in that particular week. But then pretty quickly it turned into, “nope, I’m gonna use this thing to post whatever dumb thing about the M&M’s mascots that crosses my mind”
Did it take you very long to figure out the best way for you to use Twitter?
Yeah, I didn’t even know I wanted to do comedy until a year or two after starting tweeting. A lot of what I was putting up at the beginning was, like, surrealist situations involving cartoon characters and godawful puns. But at some point I read Steve Martin’s book Born Standing Up and watched the Comedians of Comedy film within the same week, which got me hooked on the idea of standup. Then I moved to New York to actually start doing it and that’s when I really began trying to write jokes that would hopefully make sense to say to a crowd of real people, rather than followers reading on the Internet. Almost all of my jokes go to Twitter first, because I can just send it there as soon as I think of it, good or bad. I treat it like an open mic for learning what stuff to try at ACTUAL open mics.
What’s the most time or effort you’ve spent on a single tweet?
I certainly try not to labor over them too much! Sometimes it takes a bit of finagling to whittle it down to 140 characters, and sometimes it takes some sneaky maneuvering to make sure my boss doesn’t see me making jokes on my phone, but other than that I keep it a pretty leisurely activity.
I hate when I'm in a restaurant bathroom, and I run out of toilet paper. Like my dinner guests are gonna be scared of HALF a mummy costume
— Joe Rumrill (@2tonbug) January 3, 2015
You know how those old Bert and Ernie sketches would end with Bert looking really exasperated into the camera while a loopy muted trumpet sting plays? That’s what a lot of my jokes are missing.
How well do you think your jokes online communicate your real-life sense of humor? Are there major similarities or differences you’ve observed?
I’d say very well! I don’t tend to make jokes about stuff I don’t care about it real life. An awful lot of my standup is comprised of one-liners that originated on Twitter, oftentimes verbatim. But I definitely like to maintain a separation between the two. Folks have mentioned my twitter when introducing me on shows, and I find those shows tend to go really badly because when I go into my material it just sounds like I’m reciting tweets. Sometimes I think quitting Twitter would make the process of joke writing a little more “pure.” Half of me really loves the idea of having them exist purely for the stage. But then again, like I said before, then what would I do in the walk-in freezer at work? Y’know, besides sob.
Photo credit: Mindy Tucker
Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny or Die.