Heard the one about Twitter jokes?

February 13, 2013 in Comment, General

Procartoonists.org member Royston Robertson on the rise of Twitter jokes

“Everyone’s a comedian” is a phrase often uttered sarcastically, but with the rise of the Twitter joke it almost seems true.

If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon you need to be hanging around on Twitter when a major news story breaks. Recent stories such as the horsemeat scandal, the resignation of the Pope, and the unearthing of the body of Richard III, have provoked huge numbers of jokes (click those links to see some of them). Some are by those in the business of writing jokes but most are not.

Twitter cartoon by Royston Robertson

© Royston Robertson @ Procartoonists.org

Of course there are plenty of clunkers, and quite a few groaners, but a lot of them are really rather good. And it leads to a bit of a problem for cartoonists: how do you follow that?

It can be tricky to come up with new and original ideas, possibly to be seen a day – or several days – later, in an age when a colossal wave of jokes travels around the world as soon as a story breaks.

Well, the simple answer is that you just have to up your game. Of course, you can’t read every tweet to make sure your joke hasn’t been done, you just have to get on with it. Twitter is clearly here to stay, so there’s no point in complaining.

For political cartoonists, the problem is even more acute as people have taken to predicting on Twitter how the following days cartoons will turn out, most notably when the Richard III story broke on the same day that the MP Chris Huhne changed his plea to guilty.

As predicted by the Twitterati, some cartoonists did combine the two stories. But if it is done with enough skill and original thought, it’s clear that there is a big difference between a beautifully crafted cartoon and a 140-character quip.

Ultimately, what the trend for Twitter jokes tells us is that millions of people love to look at the world and all its problems through the prism of humour.

And that has to be good news for cartoonists.

Editor asks: Do you agree? Please tell us what you think in the comments.

9 responses to Heard the one about Twitter jokes?

  1. What is this Twitter?

  2. Its yet another reason for mobile phone addicts to constantly check same, Pete. I did actually join Twitter, but grew rapidly fed up with having to check it, so I don’t use it at all now. Baled out of Facebook for the same reason. Thankfully, my life is not over.

    Royston’s piece [above] is good – engaging and thought provoking. Made me think about Rob’s observations elsewhere about attention spans. Why only 140 characters ? Was research into average attention spans done before Twitter was launched ? What’s wrong with emails ? Is the “a picture’s worth a thousand words” cliche true ?

    Made me think also about the impact television [and radio]had on the old time music hall comics who could confidently travel the country using the same material because nobody in Cleethorpes had heard the gags he told in Torquay a week ago. Come TV and the need for new material grew exponentially.

    But I suppose all of the above and more can be put down to them being “a generational thing”. I’m old and hate the idea of predictive text. I’m not going to allow a gadget to gainsay me. I also abhor phrase abbreviation- “lol”  and the like – smartarse language shrinkage which becomes a code. Not knowing the code marks you down as olde worlde. It saves time. Why do we want to do that ? Royston’s piece also made me wonder about all those people wandering about down in Northwich with a phone stuck to an ear, or with thumbs flickering over its buttons. Do they do that because they must, or because they can ?

    Off to sharpen a quill………………..

  3. Bill, the 140-character limit is purely technical – from the days when people would read things via mobile phone. It’s just happy accident that it also prevents people from waxing too prolix.

  4. As I say David, this is probably a generational thing. I DO have a mobile. I only use it to text or sometimes call half a dozen people. My partner’s phone is either buzzing or vibrating almost constantly. I choose not to have to tolerate that.

    I understand that 140 characters is a technical thing, but for me, it falls into the soundbite knowledge category. “knackered Pope resigns. Unseemly rush for top job “

    And its odd really isn’t it ,because cartoons are sight/sound bites ?.

  5. I’m with you on this  – 140 characters is a ridiculous constriction to a  and how u’re supposed 2 make any luci

  6. One answer is to say less and keep to the point just like a cartoonist can.

  7. You’ve changed somehow, Bill or @billstott from Eccles as you appear to be called.

  8. Eccles ! Christ. That’s as bad as Glossop ! Will the real Bill Stott please shut up.

  9. Worth noting that some of us young’uns also abhor text speak and avoid predictive text, Bill. As for length and waxing lyrical, I think Matt’s spot-on here. As a creator of these so-called gag cartoons, it’s always good to practice writing concisely. And  I’ve never read anything on Twitter that I’d like to see expanded into several paragraphs (or more)…

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