Talking to @merrittk About Formulas, Furries, and Phrasing

merrittk
Merritt k is a writer and podcaster. Her first book, Videogames for Humans, is an exploration of contemporary interactive fiction and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Anthology. She hosts the podcasts Woodland Secrets and dadfeelings. This week, she spoke to me about three of her favorite tweets, plus gaming, joke formulas, and branching out online through humor.

k: This is probably one of my favorite joke formats, even though it’s kind of lazy. I’m working on getting it down to a formula, like take one aphorism, add a pop culture reference, sprinkle in some self-effacing semi-sexual content, and finish it off with a cuss. Not to get too high-minded about what is a pretty goofy joke but I love the way all of the parts come together in this kind of tweet, where you’re getting different audiences with each aspect of it but it works as a whole even if you don’t understand all of it. Like, not everyone will get that it’s a reference to an older videogame and not everyone will understand the real feeling of sexual ennui it’s describing but you can still understand that it’s funny on some level. I’ve been stuck in the Water Temple in Zelda since 1998 gamers don’t @ me.

Are there subcultures on Twitter that you strongly identify with or have found are particularly receptive to your tweets?

Honestly one of the nice things about this hell platform has been that I’ve been able to meet so many different people in different circles. When I made the decision to pull back from personal disclosure and to shift towards telling jokes, I started branching out from my networks into wider groups of people online. Jokes are a good way of making connections which is I guess an extension of how I learned to use humour as a survival mechanism very early on. Thanks for making me watch Fawlty Towers as a small child, dad!

I want to own that my use of the dialogue joke format is completely inspired and to a degree ripped from Colin Spacetwinks, one of the funniest people I know online. They’ve really mastered the rhythm and economy of it and I love the way they do it with established characters from cartoons or movies in the same kind of way that fanfiction does, to play with character traits and relationships that a lot of people are already familiar with. Anyway I don’t know about you but in this situation I would probably risk it. It’s 2016 and we’re all furries now. I’ve never been to a farm or had sex. Please follow Spacetwinks for more good content.

What are some of your other favorite joke formats?

I love the format where you contrast like, 1996 and 2016 to totally absurd effect, either to point out how normalized something that used to be verboten has become online (e.g. furries) or to just make fun of the idea that history is a linear slope ascending towards progress or sliding into decline. Also quoting song lyrics but then changing the second half, either in a way that fits with the original rhythm of the song or just exploding into a seemingly-unrelated tirade. I guess these are kind of hacky formats but that’s fine. It’s fine to just have fun online.

Who are other people that informed the way you write online?

Winter k and Nick Robinson are both very funny people who have shaped my writing. Also Mat Jones and I may actually share a brain in a kind of quantum entanglement scenario because we love the same groaningly terrible humor.

Sometimes I tweet a phrase that gets lodged in my brain and nobody else seems to think it’s as funny as I do. That’s okay. Not everything has to be for other people. Sometimes you can do things just for you. Sometimes taking care of yourself looks like making a joke about Anthony Kiedis talking to a sexy dermatologist.

Do you spend time reworking tweets or do they usually come to you phrased a certain way?

All of my tweets spring forth fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus and I definitely have never spent upwards of twenty minutes hunting on thesaurus and rhymer.com for the perfect word to use in a joke about Bon Jovi. That’s not me. Tweeting is all instinct and either you have it or you don’t. This is easy for me, I’m not constantly exhausted, please send help but like, as a joke.

How do you approach tweeting differently from how you approach other writing?

I know I’m tweeting good if my replies are all just people saying my name. But seriously I have basically expunged all personal disclosure from my twitter. I put out a chapbook with my friend Charlotte Shane recently and I would never have tweeted most of the things I talk about in there. Partly this is because Twitter’s wired me to make shareable jokes through classical conditioning and partly it’s just because wow being a woman online is already not great a lot of the time and putting your whole life on display can make it so much worse! That’s a lesson it took me a long time to learn. The internet runs on disclosure and it can seem sometimes to young women like it’s the only way to success as a writer or creative person, but it’s totally not.

Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn.

From Our Partners