Adam Rotstein (@madamepotstein) and Alt Comedy on Twitter
Adam Rotstein is a comedy writer who lives in Los Angeles. He spent two years living in Brooklyn and was legally obligated to move to Los Angeles after that lease was up. He’s written a couple of pilots that he “accidentally” leaves behind at high-end coffee shops in Silver Lake. He also regularly contributes to Reductress and McSweeney’s when his computer is working. Unfortunately, he does not have AppleCare.
This week, Rotstein talked to me about his foray into comedy, how Twitter differs from other platforms, and his self-deprecating sense of humor.
You ever write a screenplay so good you can almost see your daughter’s cocaine problem during her junior year at Harvard Westlake?
— Adam Rotstein (@madamepotstein) March 23, 2016
This has been my pinned tweet for so long and I just can’t bring myself to take it down. It obviously speaks to such a tiny, stupid subset of privilege and yet I think everyone gets the idea that it’s just some fancy prep school in LA. My “thing” freshman year of college was to remember where everyone went to HS (I think I thought it would help me make friends) and I just sort of just turned into a disarming rolodex on that matter. My LA friends have since told me that all the TV/film writers’ kids actually go to Crossroads (which is apparently DIFFERENT from the iconic Britney Spears film) and Harvard-Westlake is more for the execs/lawyers. Anyway, that’s more than what’s ever needed to be said on this stupid matter.
Haha this is hilarious. How did you first get into comedy? Do you have a funny family?
How DID I get into comedy? I studied neuroscience in college and think I could still apply to medical school like, tomorrow! My grandma brings that option up all the dang time! I got rejected from like 5 a cappella groups freshman year (I honestly have an amazing voice and to this day it is criminal that none of them accepted me). I remember feeling like the one sketch comedy group at Wesleyan would have to accept me (and they did!) because I wrote all the satirical skits about the weekly Torah portion at my Jewish summer camp. That was called Parsha Players, by the way. After college, I got fired from my first marketing internship in San Francisco for “not having a passion for marketing” because I am a horrible millennial and promptly moved back home to New Jersey. Eventually, I landed an internship at CollegeHumor where I mastered the art of the listicle. The rest has been a total nightmare!
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy switching SSRIs
— Adam Rotstein (@madamepotstein) October 17, 2017
Ok by now everyone knows that Twitter is THE PLACE for mental health jokes. I think some people find that piece of it toxic but I find it sort of cathartic – jokes you might never make IRL are pretty destigmatized. In that sense, it’s like a little utopia where you don’t have to feel weird about mental illness (obviously it also often feels like a dystopia, for the same reasons). I think a lot of coworkers would not know what an SSRI is let alone feel comfortable laughing at this but on Twitter it’s par for the course (except for a bunch who follow me and that is stressful).
I remember thinking this past year when everyone was posting about the Twitter holiday #NationalMentalHealth day that the whole thing is redundant – every day is National Mental Health Day on Twitter dot com! It’s a magical place. Also, did we all come to Twitter poorly adjusted or has this site done this to us? It’s a classic chicken or the egg. Note: This is NOT a pun about how the Twitter avis used to default to eggs.
That’s a really interesting comment about certain jokes being destigmatized on Twitter. Are there other subjects that are taboo in real life or other mediums but acceptable on Twitter? Any topics that you avoid specifically on Twitter?
Yes! One that is top of mind is like watching porn and masturbating. Sometimes even simultaneously! I tend to not tweet about how I work by day as a copywriter for brands’ social media because I’m pretty sure no one gives a shit! Instead, I actually run a parody account on the side for this guy who owns an ad agency I was recently fired from. He is this megalomaniac influencer who is essentially a demagogue for aspiring entrepreneurs. There’s apparently a place in the media/tech/advertising Twitter world for this hyper niche content. Slide into my DMs for more details ‘cuz I’m afraid I’ll get sued!
How does your voice on Twitter differ from other social media platforms?
I always say, “alt comedy for my Twitter friends, mainstream comedy for my Facebook friends.” My Twitter world is weird/dark and mostly comedy people so I think there’s this urge to do experimental shit that doesn’t feel trite or even follow traditional joke structures. When I move a joke over to Facebook, I’ve usually tested it on the open mic that is Twitter dot com and am confident that my Aunt Marcy, former high school bully, and current odd coworker will all appreciate it. Fun for the whole family!
Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man about Phish, he’ll go to the same fucking concert 4x a year for the rest of his life
— Adam Rotstein (@madamepotstein) July 18, 2017
This is a fun case study ’cause I got dragged for weeks after posting this by the Phans (that’s what Phish fans call themselves). This subgroup of Twitter somehow stumbled upon it, and let me tell you, for a bunch of super stoned people they are MILITANT. They all snapped back with different variations on a theme – that 4 shows is a gross understatement, that EVERY SHOW IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. If my Twitter name were to ever become besmirched, I would gladly have it be over the fact that Phish sucks.
Who are some people you enjoy following online?
Oh jeez. I love consuming mobile content. I love the Los Feliz Daycare Twitter so much, and Cher – her snap back about Dreamers a couple months ago was just… the best. J.K. Rowling is an expert burn crafter. I have a Twitter friend Connor McClausland who I’ve never met in real life (THIS IS VERY NORMAL) but all of his tweets are amazing. My friend Emma Specter, who I HAVE met in real life rarely tweets anything that isn’t brilliantly observed.
Do you make fun of yourself a lot? Any recurring bits?
Yes! All the time! Comedy, baby! I love complaining about my self-sabotaging behaviors – like cold brew induced anxiety attacks. Maybe I secretly hope someone out there will help hold me accountable for this elusive art of self-care. Also, I have a Mountain Dew t-shirt I got at a some promotional booth in Midtown and whenever I wear it I tweet something along the lines of “Dating Update: Wearing my Mountain Dew T-shirt again.” It’s incredibly soft.
Karen Chee is a is a writer/performer who contributes regularly to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s.