It began as a goof.
Since February 2009, I’d been running a Twitter account under my real name, @ChrisSerico. Better known for my love of comedy than attempts at it, I tried to keep tweets unusual and funny, but never scored much traction beyond people I knew in real life.
One day in November, Twitter was rendering me numb and nearly catatonic. I felt inundated by cliché phrases, life announcements and tired tropes that can make Twitter a cacophony of the mundane. (“Mondays are the worst.” “Come see my show!” “My kids are hilarious.”) It all felt ripe for satire, and I hadn’t seen anyone tackle that beyond a one-off tweet.
So, late at night on Nov. 30, 2011, I launched @EveryTweet_Ever. The goal was to channel the id and the ego, to be subversive without being mean, and, most of all, to make people laugh. And, hell, if someone wanted to offer me a TV deal along the way, I’d listen. I kept the account anonymous not only because mystery is fun, but also because I wanted the comedy to be judged on its own merit, rather than dismissed because of any existing judgments of who I am or whom I’m perceived to be.
In the beginning, I followed a bunch of people from my “real” account, making a point to not have it follow ETE, or vice versa, in an attempt to stave off sleuths. My first follower was @JakeFogelnest, someone who didn’t know my identity but who’d rocked my Pop On The Clock podcast only weeks earlier. His immediate retweets and endorsement prompted similar support from @JoeMande, @JamesUrbaniak, @AndyLevy, @radiomaru (Bryan Lee O’Malley) and others, boosting ETE’s follower count to 400 within three hours of launch. The tipping point was when Bryan retweeted what would become my most popular tweet to date, “[Joke to hide the pain],” to tens of thousands of followers.
Within 12 hours, I’d surpassed the follower count of my “real” account, which was nearly three years old. If I recall correctly, 4,000 people were following ETE within 24 hours of launch, thanks in large part to Jake, Joe, James, Bryan, Andy and this Huffington Post Comedy piece by @RossLuippold.
I felt vindicated and humbled at the same time. In one respect, I always felt like I had decent comedy chops. In another, who the hell was I, anyway? It was odd: As my confidence in comedy writing grew, I reminded myself that it could all disappear in an instant, as success with humor and Twitter is equally ephemeral.
It didn’t take long before about a dozen of my friends figured out ETE’s identity, especially after I linked to the HuffPost Comedy article on Facebook. (Hey, I was excited but, in retrospect, that was an obvious hint.) I initially played it off like I wasn’t the culprit, but I’m a terrible liar, and I figured it was smarter to beg them to keep quiet so as not to disrupt momentum. I never thought I’d reach @ShitMyDadSays levels of success on Twitter, but I’m incredibly thankful my buddies didn’t rat me out before I had a chance to let this play out on my terms.
As time wore on, I let a few more friends in on my secret. Some of them told other friends, and while I wasn’t thrilled about that, it didn’t slow momentum. By the end of the first month, it was surreal to see a half-dozen of my Facebook friends, who never followed ETE or knew it was my baby, post my fake New Year’s Eve party poster on their Walls. And I’d always be flattered when ETE followers surmised I was older than I am, younger than I am, in a different time zone, of a different gender or sexual orientation, or even multiple people. Mwooooohahaha.
Every few weeks, I swore to myself I’d announce my identity and/or stop tweeting altogether for fear of running out of material, but some words of encouragement from the great @DaveHolmes, who was in on the secret pretty early, compelled me to continue: “When you’ve hit a wall, keep going. That’s where the really fun stuff is.” He was right.
I’m always shocked at people who’ve @-replied to ETE with some variant of “Are you making fun of me?” Though they’ve told me I strike a nerve, far more often than not, I’m mocking my own ego and insecurities. (Yes, ETE is human, too.) I’d be hypocritical and in denial if I thought the “real” me hasn’t been guilty of tweeting (or thinking about tweeting) self-promotional, ill-advised, desperate, drunk, passive-aggressive, defensive or emotionally erratic blurbs, dripping with subtext.
I had visions of revealing ETE’s identity via a late-night talk show cameo or a three-minute segment on one of @MarcMaron’s WTF podcasts in front of a live audience. Yes, those were ambitious and perhaps absurd premises, but I never thought @Questlove, @Andy Richter, @WilWheaton or @JennyJohnsonHi5 would be following me at any point, either, so there was no harm in shooting for the moon.
As of today, ETE crossed the 23,000-follower threshold, nearly six months after I began my experiment. I’m announcing my identity today because I just thought it was time. I’m probably also going to ease up on ETE’s tweet frequency (tweetquency?) a bit from now on, too.
There are too many people to thank, but I’ve chatted with and discovered hundreds of brilliant, supportive Twitter folk along the way, people whose accomplishments continue to astound me. If you’re following ETE now, I thank you for being in on the joke. If you ever followed it, even briefly, thanks for at least giving me a shot. And if you just happened to laugh at one of my stray ETE tweets, thanks for that as well. And if ETE is following you at this very moment, well, you get an additional +5 Internets, redeemable nowhere except in my heart.
If you’re still curious about me, then allow me to say, “Hi, Mom!” and/or refer you to this link. OK, you can shoot me an email at serico2000(at)gmail(dot)com, too, if you’d like, but only if you’re nice, because it’s only cool when I offer constructive criticism.
Celebrate your originality. Be funny and kind (yes, it is possible). And before you hit “send” on anything, think about what you’re about to do. Because, even if you think otherwise, @EveryTweet_Ever is watching.
And, oh yeah, so’s the Library of Congress.