Grace Spelman (@gspels) on Spontaneous Comedy and Remembering Old Tweets

gracespelmanGrace Spelman is a comedian, musician, writer, and improviser currently based in Massachusetts and moving back to New York this summer. Though she has nothing else to promote at the moment, she says to come back in a few months because she plans on having a very different answer. In the meantime, you can find Spelman tweeting under the handle @gspels. This week we talked about three of her favorite tweets, and she told me about remembering old tweets, her desire to evolve into writing more situational jokes, and sharing emotions online.

Spelman: I’ll tell you about the genesis of this tweet because it involves an issue that is really important to me. Bob Seger will not put “Night Moves” on Spotify*. (That is it. That is the issue. I mean, he doesn’t have any of his music on Spotify but “Night Moves” is the only song that matters.) So one night I was listening to “Night Moves” on Youtube because sometimes I’ll just play it on repeat for a chill three hours. I happened to see that a Led Zeppelin video was recommended. I Googled Robert Plant and one thing led to another. For the record I would never eat a battery.

*Since writing this, Jay-Z has announced his Tidal project. I am waiting with bated breath for any Bob Seger/Tidal related news.

How does it feel when so many people respond to a tweet that resulted from something like a chance Robert Plant Google search?

If I didn’t use Twitter, I would have just thought “Oh, that’s an interesting fact” and then gone on with my life. But I do use Twitter and now I have a gaggle of old men in my notifications being like “Well, actually….” I see this happening all the time, though. There are always people on Twitter wishing to have a dialogue about a tweet that was just created to make people laugh.

A few weeks ago I read an article about neuroscience and the types of creativity related to comedy – spontaneous vs. the deliberate. As an improviser, I think my best work comes out of that in-the-moment creation. So a lot of my favorite tweets, like this one, are based on actual truths and just come in the spur-of-the-moment.

Have you always preferred in-the-moment tweets? How has your creative style changed over time?

In-the-moment tweets come easily to me. One time I had an idea for a tweet involving two people at a bus stop and the song “Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa. In my head I was like “Wow, Grace. You did it. The perfect tweet. You’ve got to stop what you’re doing and tweet this.” So I sat down for such a long time and worked out this joke. I finally tweeted it and after a few hours of no favorites or retweets, one person replied with “This song was stuck in my head today!” And that was it. So I deleted it and I will take that joke to my grave. I’d like to get out of my current comfort zone and practice more situational/sketch writing. So I’d say my creative style hasn’t changed much since I started tweeting, but I’d like it to evolve a bit.

When reading other people’s tweets do you have a preference for truthful moment ones vs. other kinds of jokes?

Oddly enough, tweets that are written out like conversations or stage directions, or the tweets that involve fictitious “characters” tend to make me laugh the hardest. (Is there an all-encompassing word I can use to describe this? “Situational” feels weird. Is that right?) I wish I could write like that in under 140 characters. It takes a lot of talent to do it well.

This tweet will always be special to me. In 2012 I had been living with depression for a while. It was a really awful time in my life. But I guess there was still a part of me that could conjure up a tweet like this. I don’t know, it kind of gives me a hopeful feeling. Like you can be really sad but there’s a bit of genuine love inside of you that sneaks its way up to your brain.

Do you ever revisit your tweets, and if so can you remember the events and feelings surrounding other tweets the way you can with this one?

Are you kidding me? I love to revisit my own tweets. Similar to the way I love the sound of my own voice. Sometimes I’ll just leave myself voicemails of me reading old essays I’ve written. Or I’ll stare at a photograph of myself for three hours. When I’m in my car I don’t listen to the radio, I just repeat my full name out loud for the duration of the drive. Anyway, because a lot of my tweets are personal, I tend to remember more about where I was and how I was feeling when I tweeted them. Emotional tweets tend to be a bit more vivid. Well, actually, maybe not. I distinctly remember pulling over while driving once because I thought of a tweet about string cheese. (This is a very embarrassing thing I just admitted. A lot of people my age are in law school and med school.)

In 2011 I was living in New York City and was walking down Canal St. when Hayden Panettiere almost ran me over with her white Escalade. I’m not kidding. I immediately tweeted “HAYDEN PANETTIERE ALMOST HIT ME WITH HER WHITE SUV ON CANAL ST. JUST NOW. I just went from scared for my own life to starstruck in 3 seconds.” So needless to say, I remember a lot about that tweet. Every year I always make a plan to go down to that same spot on Canal St. on the exact day at the exact time. I imagine lightning will strike and we will switch bodies. But I never follow through with it because what if it worked and I became Hayden Panettiere? I’m just not ready for that sort of responsibility.

Are you ever shy about sharing emotions online?

No. I used to blog for a really, really, really long time. Livejournal, Xanga, Tumblr, etc. So now I don’t even think twice about it. I’ve always felt like I had a lot to say so talking about my emotions online has actually been incredibly therapeutic. Twitter is different from my blogging experience because on Twitter I’ve made a lot of incredibly supportive friends. They are compassionate, loyal, funny, patient, smart and talented people. Expressing yourself online can feel great. But, in my opinion, nothing feels better than knowing you are being listened to by people who care about you.

Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn and works at Funny or Die.

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