Weird Twitter: The Oral History
Here are some attempts to describe “Weird Twitter,” gathered from around the internet:
1. “[An] intentionally wrong style of idiotic comedy”
2. “A loose group of Twitter users who write in a less accessible form, using sloppy punctuation/spelling/capitalization, poetic experimentation with sentence format, first-person throwaway characters, and other techniques little known to the vast majority of ‘serious’ Twitter users”
3. “A Cabal of Diaper-Obsessed Madmen”
4. “A burgeoning comedy subculture”
5. “[N]ounal phrases referring to surreal compositions of objects”
Most recently, Time called it “the eclectic subsection of the social network that runs on ranking site Favstar … collections of people saying incorrect things will make you scratch your head — and laugh.”
If you consider yourself a part of “Weird Twitter,” or think you have a sense of what it is, then you probably hate these descriptions — none of them are wrong, but none are totally right, either. Weird Twitter is vast and amorphous; what it looks like depends hugely on whom you follow, when you followed them, and what you find funny. Weird Twitter has a small core of members who all follow and interact with one another, making it as much a social circle as just a style of humor. Some of its best writers have a few hundred followers, while others have tens of thousands. Styles of tweeting and types of jokes that originated among its small sects have bled out into the mainstream: Even to comedians, these are some of the funniest people on Twitter.
But this isn’t to say there isn’t a core, or that Weird Twitter is incoherently broad, or that it doesn’t have a history, or that it isn’t important. Quite the contrary: This is where the language of Twitter gets created, where its funniest jokes come from, and where its worst tendencies are isolated, rebroadcast, and sometimes destroyed. It’s a meritocratic place where genders, ages, backgrounds, and jobs are either absent or distorted beyond recognition. It is to Twitter what people used to imagine 4Chan was to the rest of the internet: its best, and most powerful, creative engine.
So BuzzFeed gathered as many of the best representatives as we could of Weird Twitter as we see it, as well as a few people who, without a doubt, were instrumental in creating it. And we let them speak for themselves.
Interviews conducted over Gchat or email. And a preemptive mega [sic] — many of these quotes are presented as they were written.
SO, WHERE DID YOU START?
@cheesegod69 [Bio: “I am a Graw Graw who loves her grandsons. Follow the Kevins y’all. #teambeppo.” Best tweets]: Yeah, I was posting in FYAD since like 2002, and that’s why I started following people like @fart.
[FYAD, short for Fuck You And Die, was/is a subforum on SomethingAwful.com. SA Forums require a paid registration to post anywhere; FYAD was an exclusive subforum where, arguably, Weird Twitter got its start.]
@leyawn [Bio: “Wahhhh life is shit and im always depressed lol.” Best tweets]: I used to post in FYAD around 2004-2006. FYAD was more crude. It’s a forum, and it was a lot more image based. Gross stuff.
@dogboner [Bio: “im 14. im crazy. and i love makeup.” Best tweets]: FYAD had an aversion to Twitter and it was generally looked upon as stupid back then (and probably now, even though a lot of, if not all of, the people who posted in FYAD have joined Twitter).
@max_read [Bio: “News editor, Gawker.com.” Best tweets]: I think a lot of people out there on Twitter had sort of stumbled on some of the same ideas or concepts, but thanks I guess to FYAD these guys had a real community.
@fart: Well, FYAD stuff had an emphasis on brevity. So that worked pretty well for 140 characters.
@fart: FYAD was always more conversational, while Twitter was more just “shouting your dumb joke out.”
@leyawn: In a forum, it’s not like you have follower counts so you could just post whatever. Like there were people with 10-20k posts in FYAD. So to be heard you had to kinda post a lot and in a lot of threads.
@fart: In the end those groups too were more about camaraderie than humor, unlike FYAD which sorta remained humor-focused. We were very strict about booting people who just weren’t funny.
@dogboner: In FYAD you’d have the regular posters, the “accepted posters” and you had people who would lurk and make a funny post once in awhile. If you were funny, you could post. If you sucked, you were shit on over and over again and the mods of that subforum deleted your posts in some cases, so no one saw how shitty you were. It was a cool content control thing.
@dogboner: @hermit_thrush started posting in FYAD back before Twitter. He said he “Lurked FYAD for five years” before he posted.
@cheesegod69: FYAD was the cool place to hang out. You could find most of the cool people there. In FYAD you could just chill and do whatever and totally relax. “Take it easy” was the FYAD motto, for example, that’s how laid back it was there. Show up if you want to have a good time. Another good reason to show up is if you want to hang out with friends.
@fart: I liked being able to post stupid shit [on Twitter] when I wasn’t around a computer, which was an increasing amount of time in my life at that point with the job I’d had. Twitter was like this weird outerzone you’d go fuck around in and then come back to your home base.
@cheesegod69: It was just layer upon layer of irony. Yeah, a lot of people on Twitter got their voices in FYAD but FYAD isn’t like Twitter at all. It’s basically just all inside jokes that you could only get if you were around for a long time or have way too much time on your hands. Slowly everyone funny moved onto Twitter and I dont think anyone really posts in FYAD anymore.
@dogboner: On Twitter it’s kind of an open forum where someone named WeedGoku1488 tweets “u suck” at the official McDonald’s Twitter account and is subsequently hailed as incredible.
WHO LET YOU IN? AND WHO’S STILL THE BEST?
@agentlebrees (defunct): I joined twitter in 2010 as a place to talk about yelling swear words. I picked the screen name “A GENTLE BREES” because I believe all data is a breeze of information
@cheesegod69: I found out about twitter through some coworkers of mine that were giant nerds. I started tweeting about my dumb life in August of 2007 and I never really stopped, I guess.
@virgiltexas [Bio: “i prefer my earlier work.” Best tweets]: I started taking Twitter seriously after the green revolution in iran. I read through him about how people like Jon Hendren (@fart) used Iranian Revolution hashtags to Goatse over a million people. It was then that i realized the potential for this new medium.
@lowenaffchen [Bio: “Constitutional conservative. Gun enthusiast. Six-time Uncle Kracker concert attendee #TCOT #TGDN #illhueminati” Best tweets]: I think it was because I had @cody2k on Facebook because of music stuff and he auto-posted his tweets there.
@leyawn: The first few people I followed that are the best: @sskylark, @utilitylimb (formerly @thebibandit), @graeyalien, @agentlebrees, @dril, @brendlewhat, @leh0n, @bug_deal, @extranapkins. Those are all FYAD guys.
@robdelaney [Bio: “Comedian, Writer, 6’3 217 lbs.” Best tweets]: @boring_as_heck and @Arr deserve mention too, as big gateway drugs in themselves who in turn exposed me to other amazing people. @cool_pond is another favorite. And we must not forget the immortal @tree_bro. I could go on for a very long time.
@virgiltexas: Partial list: 1. me 2. @sskylark 3. @brendle 4. wood thrush
@robdelaney: Everyone I’ve mentioned so far has certainly influenced me.
@mattytalks: Of course loved I @agentlebrees he was a big early influence so smart but not formulaic. I love boring as heck, lowenaffchen. spaceship earth and degg are my two most favorites at the moment. I really love fart too. There are so many.
@mattytalks: Late last year I had a little under 1000 followers or so. One Friday night someone noticed that and retweeted me a lot and said many nice things. All of a sudden all of the people I most respected joined in. @leducviolet, I think @boring_as_heck, and many others. I cried because I am a grown man with the heart and pop culture sensibilities of a 13yr old girl.
@nopattern [Bio: “Artist/designer/photographer/creator. I just like making whatever” Best tweets]: There’s the obvious ones like dril, degg, lowenaffchen, muscularson, boring_as_heck. conortripler, leyawn, famouscrab all funny in their completely own ways. actualperson084 is truly a brilliant dude. TPHD, arealliveghost, utilitylimb, gregerskine, graeyalien…they all are amazing at creating a mood. they could all easily write or design, in a way, moodboards and styleboards for movies and tv and books or whatever
@nopattern: bikinibabelover is one of the funniest twitters man
@fart: @dril, @graeyalien, Rob (Delaney), and iamenidcoleslaw probably. oh and degg and dogboner. they’re all going to be in my Pro Grabass team. The Grippers.
WHY CAN’T WE CALL IT WEIRD TWITTER?
@weedhitler: Please for the love of god stop saying “weird twitter”. You don’t need to assign a name to the group, if you can even call it that, let alone one that just says “haha look at the weird people”. There doesn’t need to be a name, just say “twitter comedians” or something. I dunno.
@cool_pond: when i think of the prhase “weird twitter” i think…wow… i have to go to the bathroom very badly
@weedhitler: It’s a hell of a lot easier than saying “surrealist narcissists who hate themselves.” But it’s a really irksome phrase.
@celestialbeard [Bio: “cute horse.” Best tweets]: When I first heard about that term I thought it was some sort of label intended to insinuate that there is a “normal twitter”, where everything is really boring and dumb. [But] there is absolutely a shared thing.
@tricialockwood: Let’s throw some other names at the wall and see if they stick.
@leducviolet: That’s the thing about “weird twitter.” Anyone who thinks of it like that misses any point of anything.
@tricialockwood: WILD twitter.
@fart: I think there are different groups of folks that get different things out of this jokey Twitter bubble. There’s the “weird twitter” subgroup and they like humor, but they also really really like the camaraderie. And it’s kinda like high school.
@tricialockwood: Hold up, I’m feeling this… cyberKansas, the fattest newsies, hogs ‘n’ holes, CASIO — Chirping At Suburban Idiot Oldmen, “How Bizarre,” Groundhog Doy (because we do the same thing every day and it’s stupid, but I recognize that this one is kind of reaching), the keyboard prancers, Butt Ouroboros.
@nopattern: Categorizing these people puts a ceiling on their creativity and writing which I am not a fan of at all, calling it ‘weird twitter’, gives it a touch of exclusivity which I do not believe in
SO THEN, WHAT IS IT, ANYWAY?
@tricialockwood: I think of it in terms of a big humor blob, that absorbs people that appear to be of similar “blob material.”
@leyawn: Diapers, skrillex, dubstep, jeans, 420, 69, 666, satan, dildos, sex, weed, krumping, hitler, boners
@agentlebrees: Data-sickness sweeps the land and twitter obliterates all mysteries. All information is present.
@tricialockwood: Wild Twitter has an enormous capacity to absorb and incorporate voices that are complementary but dissimilar. You see this when a new great tweeter comes along and suddenly people start using their tropes and vocabularies and forms! New people do not diminish it, but they add to it, they mutate it
@agentlebrees: To me twitter is how I understand the way that information moves across culture. I deleted my twitter account because I no longer had to learn about data!
@tricialockwood: There are a bunch of people walking around acting normal and then in the middle of them there’s a clown doing himself with a banana. When you come upon a really good tweet in your feed you’re SURPRISED, it pops out, it’s like a punchline to a long mundane joke that everyone else is telling. People are on the internet for serious business! I mean for me I’m seeing these little masterpieces among a stream of discourse about poetry and literature. THAT’S INSANE
@leducvuilet: It’s a bunch of friends trying to make each other laugh
@max_read: If I was a TED talk guy I would say that they’re “hacking” Twitter. Or like “socially hacking” it or something. Is there a word for that? Like they’ve figured out how it works so perfectly that they can push it to its absolute limit.
@leyawn: Whatever “weird twitter” was a year ago, it’s shifted today. It’s like the epicenter is moving. And then as it grows you get more people involved. And I’d like to think the best influence is not whatever stupid meme its about (diapers, etc) but more about joke formats. What I think is currently being referred to as “Weird twitter” is some sort of third wave shit.
@mattytalks: It definitely exists but I think it is more stratified than people are willing to say and it is also less “organic” than people are saying
@leyawn: Like there’s what I think is actually Twitter comedy that works on Twitter and maybe not elsewhere. Then you got stand up comedians that tweet one liners.
@weedhitler: I think the whole point of those kinds of jokes, or what everyone’s doing, in a sense, is to provide a short and easy to “get” narrative wherein you describe an entire, almost obnoxiously surreal situation
@mattytalks: It’s a style of tweeting and a general disregard for the conventional approach to anything.
@robdelaney: Well, comedy is interesting in that you have to be MASSIVELY confident at the exact same time you have to remain humble, teachable, and keep an open heart. So even though I’m blessed to make a living doing comedy, I absolutely recognize the total necessity of nurturing and supporting other comics and writers, especially the younger ones, which I think a lot of what people are calling “weird Twitter” are.
@fart: It’s all pretty silly.
@mattytalks: I have always looked at Twitter simply as a medium to communicate the things that I find funny with similar people and also as a way to put release some of my misanthropy about what’s bad with the world in a safe place. My dream was always to have my own talk radio show but practicality won out.
@leducviolet: i jump from baseball to insurrectionary politics to foreskin tweets in the space of three tweets
@mattytalks: I have always loved word games and the rest is just de-constructing real events in a way that plays up the most embarrassing aspects of life or to challenge what is accepted. I find humor in scenarios where the people reverse roles. Parents acting like teens etc…
@robdelaney: The people I’m talking about employ an impressionistic style of tweeting and it has made a big impression on me. I’m no face for the movement, as its face is 1000 faces. It is H Y D R A, to speak in weird.
@jakefogelnest [Bio: “Professional.” Best tweets]: It’s frustrating at times to try to explain to people that don’t even understand Twitter exactly what kind of talent is out there. I don’t think it’s just meaningless blurts of subversive nonsense. I think there’s true talent there. I get the same kind of feeling reading some of these tweets that I got watching Adam McKay’s early short films on SNL. It’s just clear distinct original voice.
@lowenaffchen: Most of the time I just post whatever stupid thing pops into my head when I’m walking around the woods, usually something about poop or some pop culture reference or both.
@methadonna [Bio: “jokeman supreme. team ๒єคг ђ๏ยรє ///▲ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ▲.” Best tweets]: I think Weird Twitter has opened up some people’s eyes. It might be a bit of a buzzword and some people complain about it being a “label”, but the sense of humor it refers to and the style of interacting with social media has captured some imaginations in a broader way than small forums like FYAD couldn’t.
@mattytalks: I took a road trip to buy grateful dead tickets in 1995 on the way there we ate a bunch of “special” cookies. I spent the next 3 hours adding vegetables into song titles until they wanted to throw me out of the car. I did that on twitter and people loved them. my friends still talk about that trip disdainfully.
@cool_pond: john, what ARETN I doin on twitter
is the question
I also make art on the computer.. I am proud of my lego guy army, john
SOMEONE TRIED TO MAP IT OUT, RIGHT?
In October 2012, Twitter user @koala_hugs tweeted out a “map” he drew that connected various tweeters into different subgroups. The negative reaction to being characterized (as well as whether or not the map was “accurate”) was huge.
@koala_hugs [Bio: “I’m 19 and enjoy long walks on the beach leave me alone.” Best tweets]: The stupid part is I literally never really had a reason to make the map, if you want the honest truth. Oh man the reaction. Oh lordy jesus. It was 2 AM when I posted it. When I woke up, somebody really big must have RTed it and then somebody added it to one of the articles about Weird Twitter, and the next thing I know Adrian Chen from Gawker is making snide remarks in my interactions tab.
@AdrianChen [Bio: “Gawker staff writer. @Newinquiry editor.” Best tweets]: I thought it was great because I knew Weird Twitter would fake hate it but also obsess over it. I like watching them simultaneously not give a fuck but give a huge fuck. It’s one of the interesting things about the scene.
@PatriciaLockwood: Hahaha the map.
@koala_hugs: And then came the backlash. I guess a lot of people were fairly understanding/forgiving about having been “left off”, a few were just ecstatic that I even remembered them, but then there were some people who just really didn’t like it at ALL. I’ll get some snide “Yo koalasshole, whydja leave me off your stupid map, I’M THE KING OF WEIRD TWITTER I DESERVE TO BE ON THERE” or something like that, so stupid.
@FamousCeleb [Bio: “Keeping you updated on ALL #celeb news! Follow for news updates about #celebrities and pop culture.” Best tweets]: The guy who posted this map and about 80% of the people on the map — I don’t know any of them and they all have names with hugs or bugs in them.
@dogboner: I rolled my eyes when I initially saw it. It’s very silly. The whole “weird twitter” thing causes a knee jerk reaction in the form of non-stop eyerolling. Like “Super Troll Crew” and “Beandog Crew” and all that other silly shit, It’s just a bunch of bored people trying to connect with one another
@hell_homer [Bio: “Twitter user @hell_homer (whose avatar depicts the popular Simpsons character, Homer, in hell).” Best tweets]: Yeah I felt really bad for him. I think he also suffered from the same thing I was complaining about, being taken too seriously.
@fart: I mean, one way to feel like you’re part of a group is to be outraged together.
@hell_homer: I certainly was the most vocal about that article; there’s no denying that. I more just saw it as an opportunity to get on top of a hot topic and be funny/vocal. But I wont deny that I was somewhat ticked, I mean, I like the sort of underground undocumented vague nature of whatever this is and I don’t want to see fuckyeahweirdtwitter.tumblr, you know?
I MEAN, ARE YOU KIND OF JUST A BUNCH OF TROLLS?
@weedhitler: Around late 2011 early 2012, trolling was a HUGE deal and one of the most often used joke formats. while you still see it today in the occasional tweet, a lot of corporations have caught on to the joke and flat out ignore people.
@rare_basement [Bio: “creator of ＮＯＴＨＩＮＧ, writer at ＮＯＷＨＥＲＥ.” Best tweets]: My first experience of that was the “Lucy Lawless Arrested At Occupy Oakland” hoax the night that the police tried to shut down Occupy Oakland. Somehow this rumor started on Weird Twitter and eventually “normal” twitter was tweeting about it as if it were true. My favorite reaction from a person who thought it was real was “are you sure it was actually Lucy Lawless or just someone dressed like Xena?” The responses were even funnier than the rumor, and then the next big one I remember I think was RIP Ron Paul. I was sadly asleep when that became a worldwide trending topic. Then, “RIP Scott Baio” a few days later. We killed a LOT of celebrities for a while.
#RIPScottBaio was a stunt in which Twitter users tweeted the hashtag #ripscottbaio so many times it became a trending topic, sending fans into mourning. The prank became national news.
A popular trolling style was to tweet at corporate Twitter accounts with increasingly ridiculous complaints in an attempt to get an earnest response. It was soon discovered that @XboxSupport replied earnestly to any complaint, making it the biggest target.
@TriciaLockwood: 2011 was a beautiful time. Ripe plums of trolling grew on the trees.
@methadonna: I definitely think – and this is an attitude that you see in forums like FYAD, and going back to usenet and IRC and stuff – that the internet is meant to be a playground and whenever people try to treat it purely as a place to make money, they are going to run into this sort of static.
@fart: I think trolling corporations and celebrities is pretty vital. The Xbox account is self-aware now; it’s not as funny as it once was. I mean, every company using twitter to promote shit absolutely deserves being trolled. Not to get all banksy on you here, but seeing an advertisement is a very tiny theft of your attention and brainpower, and it adds up over time. It’s pretty much everyone’s responsibility to fuck with companies all the time, and I say this coming from a background where I did social media work for a large company.
@methadonna: Some of us have been online for a while and we like to remind people they don’t necessarily get to decide how things work around here. I know a lot of trolls and pranksters who do or have done social media & SEO work. So the morality of it isn’t black and white but there’s a definite sense that some commercial behavior needs to be regulated through humiliation.
@dry_hugs [Bio: “~(´;◞౪◟; ) EMOTIONAL PARTY APE (⁎ ᵘ ᵕ ᵘ )~” Best tweets]: @Xboxsupport1 gives straight-faced support to any question that anyone asks them for it. At first people were just asking them completely audacious things and reveling in getting a legitimate response in exchange, it’s a perfect setup for the sort of “one-sided vaudeville act” methodology of trolling corporate twitter accounts. But at a certain point you could start to tell that whoever was writing for @xboxsupport1 was in on the joke?
Though Weird Twitter isn’t particularly interested in celebrity culture, there were a few celebrities who became targets, either because they tended to actually reply to people on Twitter (such as David Draiman, the singer of Disturbed) or because they were generally considered awful, like Nickelback.
@rare_basement: Interacting with celebrities seems like a really basic normal twitter thing, but even that has been subverted to a degree. Like just tweeting weird stuff and see if you get a response and some of it has been golden, like the tweets to Dog the Bounty Hunter.
@lowenaffenchen: I’ve been blocked by:
– Dog the Bounty Hunter – threatening to put him in a diaper
– Roseanne Barr – calling her “a tool of the Zionist internationalist menace”
– Mark McGrath – accusing him of doing 9/11
– Uncle Kracker – accusing him of doing 9/11
– David Draiman – telling him I vandalized Disturbedpedia to say all the songs were about gay sex
– deadmau5 – don’t remember
– Paul Kagame – don’t remember
– Scott Baio – the diaper fiasco
– Nickelback – making fun of Chad Kroeger for being horny
The problem with trolling is that for every time Dog the Bounty Hunter threatens to put you in a coma or Scott Baio freaks out there are ten times where they just don’t respond or whatever.
@dogboner: Jose Canseco blocked me because I told l him I was going to pull down his shorts and show everyone he wore a diaper the next time he was at his favorite restaurant (Home Plate Bar and Grill in Las Vegas. He used to plug them incessantly). Nickelback blocked me because Jon and I would retweet them being horny to their female fans. Dog The Bounty Hunter blocked me because I took a picture of a piece of poop and told him I spotted his wife out on the street. Stone Cold Steve Austin blocked me and I don’t know why.
@fart: I’ve been blocked by:
– Nickelback – I posted a daily Chad Kroger Horny Report detailing how many babes he was sexting via his mentions. he was doing it a lot for a while there.
stone cold steve austin – I told him his head looked like a penis sticking out of a wal-mart shirt or something
– danielle straub, “real housewife of New Jersey” – told her she looks like a cross between a dachshund and a skull
– wil wheaton – he posted some jerkoff thing about “Oh, a mysterious rocket launches and everyone just assumed it was Evil Wil Wheaton!” so i quoted that and said “shut up” and a bunch of people RTed it
– dog the bounty hunter – no idea why
– scott baio – for being associated with people trolling scott baio, i guess. i didn’t do anything.
– jose canseco – i told him he wore a diaper for months but he never blocked me until i said something about his estranged girlfriend, i don’t remember what
– lord_voldemort7 – not really a famous person, but i’m proud that this loser blocked me for making fun of its shitty gimmick.
SO, LIKE, HOW ABOUT A GREATEST-HITS COLLECTION?
@fart: @arr is a music journalist, and he reads lots of industry press releases. He got one about a contest where Pitbull was teaming up with Walmart. Pitbull will go to any Walmart store in the US that gets the most likes. So we talked it over, and it seemed natural to ask people to vote for the most remote Walmart we could find, which was Kodiak, AK, and that store ended up winning. Walmart’s folks contacted Dave and told him he’s welcome to come along to Alaska, but he’d have to pay his own way. They said this would be an “excellent opportunity for you to build your own brand” or some marketing horse hockey. Then Pitbull’s people contacted Dave and told him that Walmart had said not to associate with him because he’s “anti-establishment” but Pitbull’s folks were like, “we’re anti-establishment too.” So they bought Dave a ticket, and he spent a few days exploring Kodiak and met Pitbull for a couple minutes. He had a fantastic time. Walmart’s awful marketing team probably still hates him though.
@methadonna: I think something like that can just be a fun idea at first, and then it spreads so naturally, it grabs people, because it taps into that sense of messing with the marketing machine and talking back. At the end of the day that sort of thing can work out really well for the “victim”, as I think it did with Pitbull/WalMart/Sheets, because they just went with it. They got their promotion, David had fun, we all had fun.