I’ve got the very funny @HatfieldAnne in the Beyond the Bio HoT seat today. If you’re not already following her, you need to check her out. She’s hilarious!
No, I don't have a bathrobe. I'm not some billionaire.
— Annie (@HatfieldAnne) April 2, 2015
Things to know about @
Name: Annie Hatfield (One of my best friends in grad school was a McCoy, which may be the most fun thing ever.)
Living in: the Mid-Atlantic
Number of followers: 7,700
When did you start tweeting? February 2015
What year did you graduate high school? Is “remanded in custody” the same as graduated? Haha! I’m joking, of course. I graduated in [NSA redacted].
Temperature settings on my in-laws thermostat:
1. Mango Plantation
2. Pompeii City Centre
3. Manhattan Project
— Annie (@HatfieldAnne) December 14, 2015
On to the Interview!
Tell us about your family.
One cat. Medium female domestic shorthair. Gray and white.
One husband. Tall male domestic Bostonian. Sort of–I don’t know–an Irish-y color?
What do you do when you’re not on Twitter?
I worked as a communications director for over 20 years and am now starting a second career as a voiceover actor. I had done some VO for commercials in the past, but my previous job was too time-consuming for me to do much more than dabble. To do VO well is harder than anyone thinks, but I’ve had some small successes and hope to build on that. It’s thrilling, because I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little kid torturing my family with overwrought recitations of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. ”
I find VO acting really interesting. I didn’t know a thing about it until I watched that movie In a World… Is it anything like that (aside from the ruthless father-daughter competition for the same role).
I’m a little too new at VO to tell you how accurate that movie is, but I will say there are a variety of markets for voice talent other than Hollywood movie trailers. There are commercials, of course, as well as promos, e-learning, industrial narration (e.g., training videos, corporate communication, and seminar presentations), podcasts, and audiobooks. All around us–tv, radio, internet–someone is always talking about something. They may be marketing to us or informing us or teaching us, but the outlets are many and diverse.
What VO projects have you worked on lately? Is there anything we may have heard you in?
Most VO people find their niche and work primarily in their own range. For example, right now I seem to be finding my voice in scripts that require authority, reassurance, or warmth in tone. I’m guessing, though, that you haven’t heard me in anything recently unless you called and got my voice mail, which is notable for my masterful delivery of “please leave a message.”
*straddles the chair backwards, so you know I’m cool to rap about which liberal arts degree will be the best waste of your money*
— Annie (@HatfieldAnne) December 27, 2015
Why did you join Twitter?
I may speak for all Twitter folk when I laugh ruefully and wonder, “Why indeed?” I originally joined because I didn’t want to commit to a blog, but I still wanted an outlet for the constant internal commentary that I couldn’t seem to switch off after I’d stopped working full time. Plus, I just wanted to read really clever, funny people.
Why do you tweet? What do you get out of it?
I’ve talked with the excellent @yonewt about this many times. Your Twitter neighborhood is self-selecting. These are the people who get you and like you and think you are funny and worth knowing. Who wouldn’t want to share in a positive, affirming experience like that? It feels like coming home. Also, talented people make you better than you were before. You engage with your best self, writing and thinking in ways you never thought you could. Even better is seeing your gifted friends being recognized for their work. I love that.
How did you share your humor before Twitter? Have people always thought you were funny?
I’ve written what I hoped were droll sketches for as long as I can remember, but my younger sister, Marie, is the funny one and not by a small margin. While she is entertaining you, I am hovering on the periphery asking if anyone wants more to drink or if I need to adjust the thermostat.
When the instructions say so easy a child could do it, I assume you mean one of those genius 12-year-olds who double major at MIT.
— Annie (@HatfieldAnne) August 24, 2015
A few questions from @MomofTeen:
Each of your tweets is a masterpiece. How much time does it take you to craft each one? (Kate’s adding: What’s your typical process for composing a tweet?)
First of all, our friend @MomofTeen is one of the most supportive, elegant, and witty lights in the Twitter salon, but clearly she’s had an aneurysm. Poor thing. I’ll get her some water. Now, without admitting any mastery of anything, I will say that I take more time writing each tweet than I should. I adore words–their sounds and how they work together to create meaning–and am convinced if I just keep tweaking A LITTLE BIT more, I’ll have something funny that’s worth reading. I am rarely spontaneously clever. For me, it’s a lot of experimentation: start out with an idea, write four or five different versions of that idea, rewrite them, and ruthlessly cull the ones I can’t make work.
What about your childhood shaped who you are today?
When you are a quiet, unprepossessing, awkward kid, you read. You read a lot. Reading is how you learn to write. And what you write about are the residuals of being a quiet, unprepossessing, awkward kid.
You speak of Robert Benchley. What do you admire most about his humor?
I found my first volume of Robert Benchley at a used book sale. I wasn’t any older than 10 and certainly didn’t understand half of what I was reading. I knew he made me laugh though. Benchley’s best stuff was born of lampooning middle-class norms. Yet he was never mean. It’s his kinder voice I so often hear when I think I’ve gone too far with something I’m writing. He hasn’t enjoyed the enduring fame of his contemporaries (Dorothy Parker), and that’s a shame.
If you could choose anyone, who would make an ideal President?
The sad truth is that the ideal president would be a person who is far too smart ever to want the job.
Why do think people spend so much time on Twitter?
It’s a sort of happy addiction, isn’t it? We spend so much time on Twitter because it’s fun. It’s fun and difficult, too, if we do it right. We as humans love that combination. Challenge us, give us obstacles, force us to perform at the top of our game–this is where we shine. Except at the gym, where everything is terrible and the trainer hates me.
Who is your favorite philosopher … and why?
Yikes! You understand that I write about Law & Order reruns, cats, and domestic catastrophe now, right? I’m not sure I’m equipped to answer questions like this anymore. If pushed, I’d have to say John Locke for practicality and, though not exactly a philosopher, Victor Frankl, for largeness of spirit.
Get your feet off my dashboard. This isn't the cable spool in the living room of your mom's trailer.
— Annie (@HatfieldAnne) September 5, 2015
Have you interacted with any celebrities on Twitter?
Everyone knows where they were when that humble genius @JustinGuarini first retweeted them. I was walking into the kitchen and promptly forgot what it was I was walking in there for (Kidding! It was cookies). I also had one of my favorite tweets plagiarized by an actress with a recurring role on an ABC sitcom. We interacted by blocking each other.
I think of the Twitter folk who make me laugh each day as the real celebrities and I get a little giddy when I engage with any of them.
Do you feel like you have a good handle on which tweets will be successful and which ones not as much?
Here’s the thing: I NEVER know. When I’ve fallen in love with something I’ve written, I lose all perspective on whether it’s actually any good. I am an unabashed deleter, as well. If a tweet tanks, it’s gone.
Who are some comedians (or comedy shows/sitcoms) who have influenced you?
I have tried to absorb as much of Robert Benchley’s sensibility as I can. Both he and P.G. Wodehouse made me appreciate how hysterical the written language can be. Dave Barry and P. J. O’Rourke, too. Monty Python was an early influence, as was the smart banter of those great old movies with stars like Myrna Loy, William Powell, and Cary Grant. Friends and Frasier reruns still just slay me. More recently, it’s been Modern Family and Parks and Recreation. Oh, and one more: the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons were funny and poignant and gorgeous like nothing else before or since.
What advice do you have for someone who’s trying to get better at joke writing on Twitter?
Know where the joke ends. With a 140-character limit, you might think overdoing it wouldn’t be a problem. But too often we think we need to add that extra word or phrase or explanatory sentence to make sure the bit lands. We don’t. Write your tweet and then stop. Resist the urge to close with one of those empty qualifiers: “just sayin’” and the like are poison. They are the written equivalent of elbowing someone in the ribs. They tell everyone we are unsure if what we’ve written is worth reading. Be confident!
Great advice! I did a lot of overdoing for about the first year I was on Twitter. It really does weaken the joke.
Husband's Boston accent remains largely unintelligible to me. Have worked out a system of communication based on food rewards.
— Annie (@HatfieldAnne) July 14, 2015
Tell us something about yourself people on Twitter may not know.
- I have never had a cavity.
- I am terrified of heights.
- I tell everyone my favorite movie is The Godfather, but it’s actually Jaws.
I’ve never had a cavity either! Which is nothing less than a miracle since I went my entire fourth grade year only ever using Scope.
Name some tweeters whose tweets consistently make you laugh.
There are so many talented people who make us laugh, aren’t there? And so many different styles. I keep a list of some of my go-tos, the folks who are always doing something fantastic, called Busy, Busy World
But…since that’s kind of cop-out answer, how about I give you my favorite tweet of all time instead? It’s so good I wish I’d never read it so I could read it all over again for the first time. I love it, I have it memorized, and if I ever got a tattoo it would be this tweet.
Early cartography was pretty easy: here's us, here's water, here's a sea monster, here's Spain, and here's the sun with puffed up cheeks.
— RunwayDan (@RunwayDan) July 4, 2015
Thanks for the great interview, Annie!
Sure I could kill you with kindness, but let’s see what else is lying around first.
— Annie (@HatfieldAnne) December 7, 2015
Next up on Beyond The Bio: @Underchilde
In case you missed it, last time on Beyond the Bio: @KentWGraham
A butt-load of the funniest parenting tweets all packed into one place! – The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets, available on Amazon. Or try the original, The Big Book of Parenting Tweets. They make great gifts!