Advertisement

Andy Richter’s Twitter Is No Joke

Conan O’Brien (left) with Andy Richter CREDIT: EVAN AGOSTINI/INVISION/AP
Conan O’Brien (left) with Andy Richter CREDIT: EVAN AGOSTINI/INVISION/AP

You’d expect Andy Richter, the comedian, writer and actor best-known as Conan O’Brien’s right-hand man, to have a funny Twitter account. And he does. There are plenty of tweets like this one:

And this one:

But then Richter will hit you with an epic, earnest, hyper-informed rant about a political topic. Like this one on Planned Parenthood.

But Richter and his partner in crime, Conan O’Brien, are not known for their political comedy. In of era of The Daily Show, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, the comedy on Conan is decidedly silly and apolitical.

Advertisement

So how does one reconcile the Andy Richter on Twitter with the Andy Richter on TBS at 10 p.m.? ThinkProgress talked to Richter to find out.

There is a lot of passion expressed in these tweets. Where does it come from?

I do get passionate and engaged. There is a reason I’m not a topical comedian because I don’t happen to find a lot of things that happen in the world to be very funny. I prefer to keep my comedy much more absurdist. It’s a lot easier for me to laugh about things that actually make me laugh. To do The Daily Show to me, I wouldn’t be able to pull it off with a light touch.

It’s a weird sort of compartmentalization in my mind. I don’t find there to be a lot ways to make what’s happening to Planned Parenthood to be very funny. And it does kind of build up. Thoughts occur to me that I do feel you know the need to express. I feel especially Twitter has given me a platform.

The thing about Twitter is you can do whatever you want with it. There is no rules. I don’t have anyone telling me what I can and can’t say. So I say things because I feel like I need to. I have a personal desire to share this. And possibly to point something out that might that might sway somebody.

Advertisement

You know to call myself an activist, I would shy away from doing that. I fall more under concerned citizen who happens to — because of being on television — have a large Twitter following.

A little while ago, and this was after a self-imposed hiatus about any kind of gun talk. I recently after the shootings in Oregon got back kind of involved in more of a real way in terms of opening debates and retweeting a lot of things and engaging people about the topic of guns. And it’s because I need to. I’m distressed.

Why did you have a hiatus from talking about guns?

Because the gun trolls are so relentless. And its a relentlessness that ends up silencing you. it doesn’t feel scary. It doesn’t feel I’m being squashed with logic. It just feels like there is some sort of loud annoying noise that you just want to stop.

Muting does a wonderful job. If you are very assiduous and you sort of disciplined about muting. And I don’t mute people who have a good point. And I don’t mute people who are polite. But people who are just there to pick a fight or to be rude. I just feel like it keeps the discussion going and doesn’t get weighed down with people who are just there for just the pro wrestling aspects of Twitter.

You said you took a hiatus but I also see you on Twitter mixing it up with your trolls. Why do you do that?

I generally ignore a lot of trolling. Unless a good joke happens. Sometimes if there is a funny response to a troll, I won’t pass up a chance at a joke 90 percent of the time. So if it’s going to be amusing I will answer.

Advertisement

But what I frequently do. And I started doing this while I was engaging with people on guns. I will take a screenshot of their — especially if they are well meaning — I will take a screenshot of their comment and then obscure their name and image and if someone really wants to go after them they can go through my timeline and find them but it basically keeps my followers who want to bully people and it makes it a little more difficult for them to just attack.

I’m not interested in inciting social media mob violence. Mass trolling on some poor person that happens to believe differently than me. Then on the other hand there are people who are assholes.

You can incite a mob attack in Twitter terms. But yeah, largely I try to steer clear of that and I try to keep people’s names out of it. Especially with the gun stuff.

Does politics seep into Conan? How do you navigate that?

It does seep in because it is a nightly show and just end up having to. Topicality happens. You can’t do a show four nights a week without there being some kind of topicality. Because you’ll just run out of stuff to say.

People tune into this particular type of show for some kind of humorous interfacing with the days happenings. They expect it to happen. We tend to — and it’s a very conscious decision — to be more silly about it. We will make political points occasionally but we didn’t start out doing that back in 1993 and it isn’t really part of the [show].

Conan is not a apolitical person but his public persona is decidedly apolitical and that’s because he feel like. He’s not interested in doing that. To him it’s more fun and more interesting and more funny to do apolitical comedy. It’s just a preference that he’s stated. I feel comfortable speaking for him because he said it. He even said to me once that in the long run he feels like the absurdist stuff is ultimately — in terms of the human soul — probably more important than really getting in a good zinger about Mike Huckabee. And I agree with him.

Is there tension between the people who are following you because of your comedy on Conan and your political content on Twitter? Do you get people who say: Hey, I was here for jokes?

Oh, absolutely. All the time. My bottom line is it’s my Twitter. You can come you can go. It’s up to you. But it’s my Twitter.

And if you don’t want to hear the actual human being that runs this account react to something upsetting or something that makes him angry, or something that makes him feel frustrated, then you are welcome to unfollow. Because the jokes will keep coming. But occasionally you’ll actually have to hear from the human being that is making the jokes.

That happens all the time. And there is the troll-y version of it which usually involves some sort of insult. Stick to the jokes, fatty. That kind of thing. Something classy.

This interview has been condensed and edited.