Matt Walker, a stand-up comedian in the Los Angeles area, decided he deserved more recognition for his jokes on Twitter. His 140-character jokes and funny photoshopped pictures had garnered him thousands of followers on the website, but he still didn’t have any tangible evidence for his online success.
When a friend told him about the Shorty Awards, an event that honors the best short content on websites like Twitter and Youtube, he rallied his followers to help get him nominated for the #Comedy Award. They got the job done, and Walker was soon in New York City accepting the award on stage from The Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones.
Twitter may have helped Walker get a shiny trophy to go along with his thousands of online-fans, but the veteran comedian says the website does more than just bring him attention.
“I do find that writing jokes all the time makes writing material easier,” he said. “It’s sort of like batting practice if you’re playing baseball. That’s not exactly how to play the game, but it keeps you in shape to do it.”
Most comedians have not experienced the kind of success that Walker has had on Twitter, but that hasn’t stopped many from using the site to help their career. Whether it’s being used to write jokes like Walker, for business purposes, or even as a spark for creative ideas, it’s clear Twitter is becoming an important aspect of the comedy industry. As evidence of its growing involvement in the industry, Twitter even partnered with Comedy Central two weeks ago to hold an online comedy festival. The festival, entitled #ComedyFest, was the first of its kind, happening over a span of five days and featuring 68 comedians who hosted online events like “Vine Parties” and live-tweeting of Comedy Central shows and movies.
Walker says it’s crucial for a comedian to find the audience that will enjoy his or her work the most out of the site’s nearly 250 million users. For him, that meant utilizing the Twitter’s “trending topics,” an aggregate list of the most tweeted about subjects at a given time. Most of his jokes poke fun at these topics, which makes the audience who read them that much bigger.
“Because all these trending topics are geared around what teenagers like, I have become sort of a guy who’s known for making fun of teenage celebrities,” he said. “But that’s how people read what I say on Twitter, and that’s a good thing.”
Matt Wiegand performs stand-up in the Reno area and reluctantly joined Twitter two years ago. Although he doesn’t like to tweet, he says he recognizes the importance the website has when it comes to the business aspect of comedy.
“You have to main an online presence to be a comedian now-a-days,” he said. “Bookers will look at your Twitter account now. They only care about making money, and the more popular you are online, the more popular you’ll be for their club.”
Evan Rabalais, a stand-up based in Baton Rouge, doesn’t use Twitter in the same vein as Walker or Wiegand. Rather than using it as a business tool or writing witty jokes, he uses the site as inspiration for his on-stage act.
“Instead of a punchline, I’ll say ‘Hey, this is a weird thing I saw today,’ and a week later it will become a full joke,” he said. “I’m not really trying to do one-liners that will get re-tweeted a hundred times.”
While comedians like Rabalais are using Twitter to help bolster their on-stage act, they must remember that potential fans across the Internet are judging their work.
Coulter Cranston, a 21-year-old from Wichita, follows many comedians on Twitter, and he says a few good tweets could gain a comedian a new paying customer.
“I only follow comedians who tweet one-liners and things like that,” he said. “If a comedian is able to consistently make me laugh on Twitter, I’m probably way more likely to see them if the come around my area.”
Even though Walker has been able to win a social media award, attract more than 10,000 followers and even have his account verified by Twitter, his career on stage hasn’t quite taken off. While he waits for that to happen, he still relishes his online celebrity.
“I haven’t quite figured out how to monetize it yet, and I’m probably still two years off from doing that,” he said. “But still, people will come up to me after the show and say, ‘I love everything you do on Twitter, it’s really funny,’ and that is really cool to hear.”
For more on the influence the Internet is having on comedy, check out the infographic and video below.