Lily Du (@LilyD) on Death and Dragging Out Jokes

Laborers app Danny Ghitis for The New York Times
Lily Du is a comedic performer and writer based in New York. She performs at The UCB Theater on Harold Night and across the country with UCB’s Touring Company. Lily appears in the upcoming season of Broad City and in videos on MTV, Above Average, Go90, and Funny Or Die. She’s written for Reductress, and videos she’s created have been featured on Daily Dot, Cosmo, Bustle, Refinery29, and Dan Savage’s blog. Lily always has snacks in her bag. This week, Du told me about three of her favorite tweets, plus we talked characters, verbosity, and Boston Market.

Du: I think so much of modernity is very funny and fruitless, chief amongst them, the hour-long waits to pay $12 for a big-ass salad. And I’m partly making fun of myself, because I get swept up in the frenzy for fresh leafy greens as much as any bougie New York mortal. But when I’m in that line and look around me: everyone looks like a very successful ad executive, just out of yoga class. Successful people who are otherwise very efficient in their lives, using their time very poorly, all because of some well-scooped avocados.

Is there a place or time of day you find yourself tweeting the most?

Not really! I guess I tweet slightly more when I’m traveling because airports and train stations are hotbeds of weirdos and frustrating situations. I’m so turned inwards all the time, that I miss things. Maybe if I lived more in-the-present I would tweet more, but that also seems like a contradiction.

What are your favorite subjects to tweet about? Are they the same subjects you like writing about / talking about IRL?

I like tweeting about that bullshit that women, POC and performers have to deal with. Whether that’s tweeting my true feelings about how female actors go from playing teen girls to young moms like it’s a binary, or an absurd joke about a perfectly ripe avocado being better than a baby. These are absolutely the same subjects I talk about in real life. I also think about death a lot (fun!) and that sneaks its way into a lot of my tweets.

In general, how similar is your voice on Twitter to your voice IRL?

It’s similar! The only big difference is that in real life I’m too verbose and add too many unnecessary details. It’s helpful to have to limit it to 140 characters. 80% of the tweets I write are multi-chapter novels in their first iteration.

I love adding a twist to recognizable phrases or tropes, which is just basic joke-writing 101. But I also tire easily of comedy conventions and I like things to get dark. The “baby shoes” short story by Hemingway is already very dark, and supposedly perfect and has this shocking reveal. Which is why I think it’s very funny to drag it out unnecessarily. For the couple writing the ad to get really defensive and try to hammer in the point past the point of obvious.

What are some of your other favorite formats to tweet in and play with?

I like playing around with forms. I do a lot of music lyrics, check-lists, multiple choice quizzes, that kind of stuff. I like couching absurd ideas in familiar casings.

Do you have other characters or points of view you like tweeting from?

I like tweeting as a nonsensical hyperbole of a modern woman. Someone who sends in her Rx prescriptions with a Valencia filter and ties her pubes in a man-bun because it’s aspirational. I also find it easy to tack-on the voice of a sexist sitcom dad because it’s so familiar and recognizable. The kind of guy who is like “I’d like to call my senators but who has time when your WIFE and KIDS keep NAGGING.”

I don’t even know if this counts as a joke. This is a real thing I discovered when I tried to go to the bathroom at the Boston Market on 23rd and 8th. I thought about all the reasons why this might have happened. We were a month into Trump’s presidency and sales of 1984 were soaring. Maybe an employee was trying to subtly protest our fascist president. Maybe they had no idea, and just chose those numbers because they were born that year. Both the intentional and unintentional justification are funny to me, because it’s such a strong statement to have to punch into the door of a dirty bathroom when you’re just trying to eat six cornbreads for $2.

Have you found that Twitter has made you feel better or worse about what’s going on with the current administration?

It often makes me feel worse. I try and just get my news from vetted publications like The Times and The Post, instead of what gets curated by my friends and people I follow on Facebook and Twitter. But I also have no self control, so I usually end up reading whatever pops up. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s some old polemic essay meant to incite outrage. Also, if some big story breaks, inevitably I’ll see a stream of jokes about it and just feel this sense of futility like, what can we do with this skill to actually incite change.

Jenny Nelson lives, writes, and performs in Brooklyn.

From Our Partners