@LangstonKerman on Trump’s Cabinet, Redheads, and Cam’Ron
Langston Kerman is a stand up comedian, actor, and writer. He’s written for Chris Rock at the 2016 Academy Awards as well as the upcoming Comedy Central Show Problematic with Moshe Kasher. He was recently selected as a New Face in the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, QC, and has appeared on Comedy Central, IFC, The Oxygen Network, and on HBO’s Insecure. This week I asked Kerman to tell me about three of his favorite tweets, plus Cam’Ron, Trump’s cabinet, and how Twitter has affected his writing.
Kerman: It feels extremely weird to talk about my tweets as if they’re some sort of high art, and not just silly things I write shirtless in bed while letting my morning erection simmer to a halt. (What can I say? Great writing makes me horny.) However, in following the theme, here are some of my recent favorites:
If Trump adds one more bigot to his cabinet, he's going to have enough stamps to get a free sandwich at Chick-fil-A.
— Langston Kerman (@LangstonKerman) November 18, 2016
This first masterful tweet, which I think we can all agree should be framed in homes across America, was inspired by the obviously racist and destructive community Trump continues to build around him for his pending presidency. I think what makes so much of this process frustrating is less the choices of an obvious bigot, but the willingness of so many to justify those choices. White America has reached a breaking point, and now they’ll say or support anything to sustain the power they fear is being stolen. It’s like when LeBron left Cleveland for Miami — sure, they’ll say it’s for the betterment of their families, but we all know it’s just a desperate shot at winning.
Would you say using Twitter has improved your writing, weakened it, or neither?
The beauty of Twitter is that it has restrictions. 140 characters means you have to be concise. If your idea exceeds the character limit, there’s not guarantee that someone will keep reading more tweets to finish your larger premise, which means the joke has to live and breathe in that space. I come from a poetry background, which follows a similar want for concise language (although with way less limitations). In that sense, Twitter has some familiarities, but it’s a good challenge for trimming and revision. I have to always be asking myself can this be shorter or sharper, and whenever you’re doing that it’s bound to help your writing in other spaces.
Do you use Twitter to develop standup or longer pieces?
My standup tends to use pretty long-form bits, so most of my Twitter jokes live and die on that platform. However, I think Twitter has become a strong place for defining myself as a character both on and off stage. Tweets are reactive and quick, which means I have to think about the joke that works best for likes within a matter of minutes, which also means some pretty shortsighted things come out of looking for a fast joke. My drafts folder is filled with plenty of horrific jokes that were easy to write, and a lot harder to post for various reasons. If the jokes don’t match the character or person I believe in, I keep them until I feel like I can better articulate that idea or feeling. In that same sense, it’s taught me to filter out the garbage and excess in the jokes I write for the stage.
I keep finding red hairs in my beard, which is terrifying that I might be turning into another thing that white people don't like.
— Langston Kerman (@LangstonKerman) November 1, 2016
This next slice of Twitter heaven, I’ve been told, has been used to help repopulate certain species of endangered rhino. But I’m just trying to stay humble, you know?
I think I wrote this mostly because I found like three red hairs in my beard, and I can’t figure out why, and I’m even more confused about why white people discriminate against redheads so much. They seem like good people: Bill Burr, Christina Hendricks, the girl from the Wendy’s logo. All winners. We need to find a way to let go of all this hate.
What would you say is the main emotion that goes into your tweets?
I don’t think “busting it wide open” technically qualifies as an emotion, but that’s the feeling I’m always going for.
"Plus I told her how badly I wish I could speak more openly with my father"
— Langston Kerman (@LangstonKerman) August 11, 2016
This final tweet, is sort of like my “I Have a Dream” speech of tweets. People will quote this for years to come, even though the RTs stopped completely at 22.
Cam’Ron is arguably the funniest rapper in history, and his lyrics have never failed to inspire a simultaneous burst of joy and confusion in my heart. Most of what he says is nonsense, but he frames it all in these very cartoonish and catchy descriptions that you would have to be a complete fool not to appreciate, even if sometimes for the wrong reasons. Similarly, because hip hop has come to define so much of contemporary popular culture (despite how unpopular black people continue to be) I’ve found a lot of joy in “digging through the crates” of old lyrics and quotes from some of my favorite artists and playing with their messaging, even if only for a misguided tweet. Also, please don’t show this to Cam’Ron. I really want him to like me.
Are there any more lyricists that inspire you the way Cam’Ron does?
No one makes me laugh the way Cam’Ron does, but I spend a lot of time thinking about R&B and Hip Hop artists from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Sisqo, Ja Rule, DMX, Lil Kim etc. all of those folks tend to play a pretty recurring role in my tweets. I think it’s some sort of strange nostalgia, or just the most active reference point in my life, which is kind of sad in retrospect.
What’s the most surprised you’ve been at a reaction to one of your tweets?
I don’t think I’ve ever been particularly surprised by the reactions of Twitter. I do think I’ve been exhausted a few times. There’s this want from people, usually pretty unfunny people, to add on or correct the jokes. Without liking the original tweet, they’ll come back with their dumb additional jokes, which are often just a complete derailing of the original premise. And I just want to tell them that I hate them, and that even a well-meaning egg account is still an egg account.
What’s the best and/or worst interaction you’ve had on Twitter?
Worst interaction: One time, I did this series of Chex Mix commercials, of which I’m terribly ashamed, where I had to dress up like a giant Rye Chip parodying a member of The Backstreet Boys. We danced and sang and wore silly costumes. We were called the Snackstreet Boys — It was horrific. When those commercials came out, my friends spent days putting Jordan cry faces over my photos, and tweeting the commercials out to all of my heroes.
Best interaction: Any day that wasn’t that.
Photo by Mindy Tucker.
Jenny Nelson lives and writes in Brooklyn.