Talking to @SarahJoyShockey About Twitter Arguments and Tornados

sarahshockeySarah Shockey is a writer, performer, and maker of little drawings in Chicago. She created and performs a one-woman show called Red: The Musical and is a commentator with Resistance Pro Wrestling. She has written several screenplays and is the creator of an unauthorized Heinz mascot Chuppy, and his gang of sauce pals. This week I asked Shockey to expand on three of her favorite tweets, and we talked about gremlins, the word “scream,” and what she likes and dislikes about Twitter.

Shockey: There’s a weird section of the male population that still really thinks all women want to hear comments on their physical appearance. It is one of the strangest, ickiest phenomena. I also feel like because I take a lot of pride in my work (read: dork) and am sort of normal looking, certain guys expect me to be FLOORED when they say I look good. But my real reaction is usually kind of a bewildered disgust, which made me think: is this what they want me to say back? Also in this tweet I’m picturing myself as a pathetic little gremlin which always makes me laugh.

When did you first get Twitter, and did it take you very long to get into/used to it?

I had a twitter account for my now-retired comedy band Shock T’s, but only used it to retweet people and occasionally toss out some favorites if I was bored. When the band ended about a year ago, I figured I’d start up my own Twitter. I had apparently used my e-mail address for a strange account that my roommate and I created to promote licensed music he was composing, and I had completely forgotten about it. It was called Kitty Cat Kitty Cat and we just did a ton of cat puns and tweeted a lot about wanting gold. LeAnn Rimes followed us for a hot second after I tweeted some version of “meow do I live with you I want to know / meow do I breathe without you” at her.

A little over a year ago, I changed that account to the one I have now and made an odd little transitional announcement about how this was going to be my personal Twitter from now on and started posting jokes and semi-jokes there.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts about Twitter?

I love the people that I’ve met. It’s thrilling to admire someone’s writing/tweets/work, have them admire yours and then make this connection across the world just based on the things you like best.

I get very anxious about Twitter feuds. Like if two accounts that I follow trade harsh words. I usually spend too much time researching who said what and trying not to get involved, but needing to know why everyone’s mad. I always feel like I have to pick a side while pretending at the same time that I’m not reading any of it. It’s a weird stress I made up for myself. If I could mute arguments on Twitter I definitely would. I prefer when everyone gets along.

I grew up in Indiana for part of my life and was in the basement during a few real tornados and developed a great fear of them. They’re enormous and unstoppable and despite all our technology we just have to let them do their thing and repair the damage later. So I suppose personifying them as bumbling, clumsy dopes rather than community-eating scream tunnels is comforting to me.

How much of your Twitter is drawn from personal experience, and do you think it’s usually obvious or more subtly based on your life?

If something really strange happens to me, I like to tweet about it so that people are let in on something that might amuse them. But a lot of my Twitter is just thoughts that don’t really have a home. It’s fun to take a mundane half-idea and make it into a quick line that someone else might connect with.

How similar do you think your voice on Twitter is to your voice in performances, or in other writing?

I think it’s fairly similar with a few outliers. I talk about screaming on Twitter more than anywhere else. I think it’s because the word ‘scream’ always sticks out to me in prose – you almost never actually hear screaming in the real world, but book characters tend to scream. For some reason it just sticks out as a funny word to use a ton.

In my performances and writing, I get the chance to do more long-form stuff. Twitter ends up getting mostly raw Sarah Thoughts. I feel like if you read my tweets and then see stuff I do, you’d go, “Oh that makes sense. She is very hammy and likes fairy tales.”

Can you imagine being a member of a touring theater company where this was the case? Like, ‘yeah I guess I’m living my dream performing as Fantine in Les Miserables but the owner of the show always wants to sing over my best notes and hug me when my character dies.’

It’s funny to me that this could totally happen for enough money. You can pay for almost anything. Sometimes I think I should only be moderately successful my whole life so that I never have enough money to own a musical theater troupe. Because that’s when you’ve really made it and that’s probably where the trouble starts.

Do you ever use tweets to develop larger pieces or projects?

When I started, I told myself not to put too much stock into my tweets. I don’t time them out, or worry too much about my numbers, I just tweet ’em if I got ’em. The unexpected side effect was that I started making drawings for people through Twitter. Sometimes I’ll illustrate a tweet, or make a version of their avi, or wish them a happy birthday with a little drawing. I think at the core of all this creative stuff, I like to make things for other people. This is just another way I found out I can do that, which is pretty cool.

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

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