My first Beyond the Bio interview is with the very funny Steve Olivas (@SteveOlivas). If you haven’t been following Steve then you’ve been missing out. Steve’s not only hilarious, as you can see in his tweets below, but also a nice guy. He’s one of the few tweeps I follow who really engages with his followers. I’ve been following Steve for about a year and a half, so I was excited to interview him.
Facts about Steve
Name: Steve Olivas
Living in: Nashville, TN
Graduated high school: 1985
Joined Twitter: July, 2012, but I didn’t really hit it hard until June, 2013.
Number of followers: 18,700, probably dropping into the single digits after this blog hits the internet. Unless mom unfollows me, too.
On to the Interview!
Tell us about your family.
Married for around 647 years (“Seems like yesterday” if you’d ask my wife. But don’t ask her.)… Two kids, a 17-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy.
For the people who don’t know you yet, how would you describe your jokes?
I work clean, which makes me somewhat unique on twitter. I try to be clever and also educate a bit with my references or some low-usage words I can weave in. If I make a joke about a sexual scenario or something gross, I do my best to soften the edges with careful grammar and/or a clever metaphor. I don’t swear or use vulgarity – and will only rarely re-tweet any. It will have to be really clever to make me want to post it.
Why does it take a Geiger counter, two divining rods, and a Sherpa in order for the dog to find JUST the “right” place to poop?!? — Steve Olivas (@steveolivas) October 23, 2013
Have people always thought you were funny? How did you share your humor before Twitter?
Great question – I actually tweeted about this a few weeks ago while feeling nostalgic. I have always been funny (don’t know why that changed once I hit twitter…), but my first stand-up experience was doing Steve Martin jokes for my elementary school’s talent show when I was in sixth grade. There were about 200 parents, teachers, and students in attendance, which freaked me out for weeks ahead of time. (I even made a Steve Martin “arrow-through-the-head” out of an old wooden arrow and a coat hanger) Well, I hit a home run that day… but my fondest memory was doing the bits for a panel of teachers who had to vett our performances ahead of time. Anyway, I got one laughing so hard she had to leave the room. I was hooked! The next year, seventh grade, marked the first time I did my own material in the talent show. My original stuff went over better than my “borrowed” material, and I was again bitten by the bug. As a follow-up, they asked me to emcee the show when I was in eighth grade, so I had my first real experience with improv in front of an audience, as I was allowed to riff between performances.
Ladies – if we ever meet in person, I’ll just pepper spray myself to save you the trouble. — Steve Olivas (@steveolivas) June 26, 2014
Do you share your comedy anywhere else now?
I’ve done a lot of improv over the years, and then went on the road for about a decade before retiring from the road a couple years ago. I also did a lot of educational seminars, corporate keynotes, and other performances – for example, I was asked to write a eulogy for a friend of the family about seven or eight years ago. In fact, I was DM’d (direct messaged) a week ago by a follower who asked if I would write her eulogy if I was still around when she dies. Crazy stuff, hey?
Why do you tweet? What do you get out of it?
I originally joined twitter to follow the major league baseball trading deadline. We were in Miami on vacation and I didn’t have my computer, so I wanted a good mobile way to track the different deals going down. About a year later, I was at a birthday party with my son and about 30 crazy eight-year-olds, so needed to escape before I lost my mind. So, I started writing jokes. I liked the quick, 140-character format and put up 20 to 30 per day for a while. Looking back at them, most weren’t very funny because I wasn’t yet good at the platform. Over time, I think I’ve figured it out and feel more successful at writing things that will make people chuckle. But internally, I like the feedback.
When people ask if I’m on twitter, I tell them it’s more like I’m trapped underneath it.
— Steve Olivas (@steveolivas) April 27, 2014
What do you do when you’re not on Twitter?
Lot of chasing around with the activities of parenthood. Travel a lot, but now for fun. My wife and I try to take a trip by ourselves occasionally, but it rarely works out. Pretty invested in the NHL and classic rock.
You’ve tweeted over 17,000 tweets. Do you ever get sick of Twitter?
Surprisingly, not real often. It’s interesting – some days I could churn out jokes one after the other, other days I can’t buy a funny line. But I take the advice from Stephen King seriously (from his book “On Writing”): Write the same amount every day, good day or bad day. Let your different moods color the prose and see what you come up with. But for him, it was also about discipline. Train yourself to be in that mode every day, every day, every day. Writing comedy works the same as writing a novel – wake up and write jokes for ten minutes every day. Or do it before bed or whatever… But subscribe to that daily discipline and ride the highs and lows.
The voices in my head started to argue loudly and then one stormed off and the other started crying and this is why the medication got upped — Steve Olivas (@steveolivas) July 20, 2013
Have your tweets been featured anywhere?
HA! Another great question… If you tweet funny stuff AND stick around for a while, I’ll bet all the humorists on twitter have similar stories as mine. I did a series of tweets about my fondness for the McRib sandwich and had McDonald’s pick one up and retweet it. I’ve also gotten replies to a couple tweets where I poked fun at rock stars. The lead singer of Saigon Kick took good-natured offense to a tweet I made about being nice to your pizza delivery boy because he may be a former member of Saigon Kick. Also, Jeff Scott Soto – who sang briefly for Journey – got into a good-natured mock brawl with me about my tweet that his fifteen minutes of fame only lasted thirteen minutes. Good guys with a sense of humor.
Ex-Lax: $4.99 Taco Bell waffle breakfast taco: $2.69. It’s simple economics. — Steve Olivas (@steveolivas) April 30, 2014
You retweet other tweeps’ responses to your tweets a lot. That’s unique. Why do you do that?
Sure… So, I love clever people and those who have a good command of timing and language. I think humor is taken to another level if someone has good verbal dexterity, and I try to reward people with intelligent, funny things to say. Having said that, there are some folks who I call “reply artists.” If you scrolled through their regular tweets, you wouldn’t find anything particularly funny or novel – BUT – they can bounce a response off one of my jokes and just bring me to tears I’m laughing so hard. I retweet those replies to tip my cap to those folks. Also, the reply tweet has to be able to stand on its own. I don’t want it to be necessary to read the original tweet in order to understand the humor base for the reply. And lastly, I retweet folks who are crafty about insulting me. Usually done as a reply to one of my tweets, I have a couple followers who are really good at casting a zinger in my direction. But same rules apply – I don’t retweet boorish, cursing, or mean-spirited comments toward me or anyone else. If you are clever with a good zinger, I will appreciate it like any other original humor.
The key to being funny on Twitter is just to pay attention. Life writes its own jokes. We only transcribe. — Steve Olivas (@steveolivas) July 11, 2013
Let’s talk about crappy jokes. Everybody has them…right? What’s your reaction to one of your own jokes that you feel completely bombed?
Well first of all, I HARDLY know what you are referring to, but I’ll do my best to respond… (HA!)… This is something that HAS changed over time. I used to leave all tweets up, no matter what, no matter what. Over the past few months, I realized that too many mediocre tweets can dilute the feedback from followers. In other words, if I throw up 15-18 jokes and only three or four are good, quality jokes, the good ones suffer from lack of attention. I think most folks don’t want to see too much of any one person each day – or else they only want to dole out a limited number of stars and may have “burned out” by the time a really good one floats down the pike. So lately, I’ve been deleting jokes that don’t get firm traction within a few minutes. That way, the good ones take hold and get a lot of attention without the distraction of the marginal ones.
Tell us something about yourself people on Twitter may not know.
Hmm. Well, I would NEVER tell that I’m much healthier and not nearly as fat as I tweet I am – because that would ruin the joke! But let’s see… something nobody knows… Probably that I used to be a pretty good athlete in my day. You’d never know by looking at me now, but I went to the WI state high school tennis finals in 1985, have run about 30 marathons and ultra-marathons in my life, and was a very good baseball player at one time. Oh! And I was in a garage band called “Swollen Head” when I was 19. We played one gig. One miserable, disastrous, epic failure of a gig. And then disbanded (pardon the pun) forever.
Name five tweeps whose tweets consistently make you laugh.
Another long list, honestly. I have a twitter list I call “Twitter’s Top Guns” of the twenty-or-so folks I enjoy a helluva lot. The ones I have the utmost respect for are @mastergracey, @HeyZeus666, @AbbyHasIssues, @Lindseyallen, and @Nicoleroxxu. And who can deny the unabashed hall-of-fame talent of @KateWhineHall? (Editor’s note: I paid him to say that)
Is there anything else you’d like to say/share?
Sure… I think everyone who has been around for a while has a cadre of tweeps who they sort of “grew up with” on twitter. You and I, Kate, we’ve run parallel tracks for a long time and I consider you to head up that cadre for me. But I have made other friends along the way who would probably be friends in real life too. Twitter is a great place if you can appreciate the wheat as you sift through the chaff.
While other guys dated “girls” and had “fun” in school, I told jokes into a comb in front of the mirror. So who’s the loser NOW! (cries) — Steve Olivas (@steveolivas) August 9, 2013
Great answers! Thanks, Steve.
Feel free to tell Steve how awesome he is, in the comments.
Next week on Beyond the Bio: @XplodingUnicorn.
Read more tweets by @steveolivas and many other hilarious tweeters in the The Big Book of Parenting Tweets, available at Amazon.