I have the very funny @CulturedRuffian in the Beyond the Bio HoT seat today. He’s hilarious and gives a great interview! If you’re not one of his bazillion followers, you should be. Check him out!
I almost cut my finger off cutting some celery to eat and all I could think is this never happens with cupcakes.
— The Refined Ruffian (@CulturedRuffian) August 11, 2015
Things to know about @CulturedRuffian
Name: My Name is Nathan Sanders! You can call me Nathan Sanders or anything that’s not a swear word. Other names I go by are Dad, goober, dork, geek or nerd.
Living in: Greenville, South Carolina (GreenVegas, South Khaka-Laki). The area is known as Upstate South Carolina. I’m about two hours from Atlanta, 1.5 hours from Charlotte, three hours from Myrtle Beach and three hours from my favorite place – Dollywood.
Number of followers: Almost 250,000 people I refer to as sympathizers instead of followers follow me on The Twitter Dot Com. They seem to understand my unhealthy affection for doughnuts, my dad bod and my terrible jokes.
Year graduated high school: I graduated in 1993 from high school in Pittsburgh, PA and then college in 1997-I’m not really sure how I did either, except that the teachers wanted me so badly out of their classes.
Joined Twitter: I opened my account in 2009, but wasn’t really active until around 2013 when I came to realize my wife and kids no longer wanted to hear my terrible jokes so I decided to tell them to Twitter and let them hate me instead.
'I'm a vegetarian!' -Vegetarians
'This is delicious.' -Non-vegetarians
— The Refined Ruffian (@CulturedRuffian) February 16, 2014
Okay, tell us more!
Tell us about your family.
I’ve been married 19 years to my wife Jennifer and I have three daughters – Jana (17), Leah (15) and Bella (12) and we’ve never had a fight, but only because I’m always wrong and outnumbered. I was married at 21 years old, and had a baby on the way at 22. By 28, I had three daughters and my wife figured out what the problem was and made me go to the people vet so it would stop happening.
You live on a hobby farm. What is a hobby farm and how did you come to live on one?
My wife is from Brooklyn and I’m from Pittsburgh (but born in Kansas) and we wanted some acreage. I bought a 20-acre pasture in the middle of nowhere and built a house on it. She asked for a small chicken coop, then a barn and I was dumb enough to do both! A hobby farm means to me that it is a fun waste of money mainly just for the family. At this time, it is not a business. It was and maybe it will be again one day. We have 100 chickens, 25 sheep, 20 bunnies, 10 goats, eight cows, five cats, four horses, three dogs, two donkeys and a partridge in a pear tree! We do eat what we grow; we can and freeze things for the winter.
That’s a lot of animals. Who takes care of all of them?
Me, my wife and my daughters all help on the farm. It’s quite hilarious to watch, but we have it down to a science! It’s great to have the kids involved and not always on a device. It’s good to unplug and enjoy nature and animals. My favorite is Bernadette the Jenny (female donkey). She’s so sweet and loves her ears scratched. She brays anytime she sees me and walks over to me so I can pet her. Also, I look the most like her, so we get along great!
You'll sleep when you're dead?…that's adorable. Well, I'll lose weight when I'm dead, so pass the doughnuts.
— The Refined Ruffian (@CulturedRuffian) July 17, 2015
What do you do when you’re not on Twitter or tending your farm?
I am a Senior Financial Advisor and Managing Director of Investments at a bank… I also take my silliness to the street as a Contributor to HuffPost Comedy. And I ride motorcycles. I have a Harley Road King Police Issue and a Ducati Diavel Titanium. Not only am I corny on Twitter, but I am corny in real life and take that to the stage when I do improv with a local comedy group called Alchemy Comedy. Sadly, I play video games also – Playstation 2, 3 and 4, XBOX 360 and XBOX ONE, Wii, Wii U, any modern handheld gaming system you can think of and some obscure systems as well. Pretty much anything to avoid contact with a human being. I collect tobacco smoking pipes, German smokers, and pretty much anything German I like-especially pastries. When I’m not binging on doughnuts, I have an agent that helps get me modeling/acting jobs. This is a more recent endeavor as I’m not quite ready to give up doughnuts and sugar….baby steps. I enjoy traveling also. I’ve been to Italy, the UK, all over the Caribbean and this year, Israel. I’m just getting started but I’ve got a bucket list I’m working on.
I remember seeing your photos of Israel on Instagram. Those were really cool. Okay, why did you initially join Twitter?
I had a very close friend (not on Twitter) that told me she didn’t find me funny and that honestly bugged me. I didn’t do anything about it until another (more positive) friend advised me to take my dumb jokes to Twitter – so I did! I took her negative attitude and acted positively on it. She’s not on Twitter today and she’ll never know all the fun I’m having there! I think it’s so important to be positive and encouraging to people, especially children. You never know who you could be influencing – it could be the next Einstein!
Well, I don’t think your jokes are dumb, they’re hilarious. How’s that for positive?
So, why do you tweet? What do you get out of it?
When I was young I was overweight, legally blind and on welfare. Many nights I listened to my single mother who raised four kids crying in the bathtub. It was crushing to be called names like ‘four-eyes’, ‘fatty’ and many other terrible things. I was beat up and physically hurt often. I had to wear clothes from the mission barrel at church. I was made fun of and told I would never amount to anything regularly. Not to be mushy, but I believe there are people every day who are dealing with such difficult things in life. Sometimes they may not want to even get out of bed. Maybe they have nothing. Maybe they are sad or lonely. If I can help just one of those people smile every day-even if it was a really corny joke – it was worth it. People need to laugh. They need to feel loved and they need to feel validation – we all do. They need hope and maybe we can be that one joke or word of encouragement to help someone make it through another day in a difficult world. We need each other.
Wow, well said. Your childhood sounds really rough. Do you point to someone or something that influenced you or encouraged you to be the person you are today?
Many people helped me along the way. I thank everyone for small, random acts of kindness. Whether you give a small toy to Toys for Tots, gently used clothes to a mission barrel or Goodwill, food or shelter to the less fortunate, or cash donations to help support underprivileged children-no gift is too small. I was the recipient of all of that. Sometimes we didn’t have gas to get home from church and someone gave us money. I regularly didn’t have clothing, and people donated things to us. I relied heavily on my faith and still do today to help get me through difficulties in life. Some people call it a crutch, I call it faith and hope in Christ, my God. I’m so thankful for kind, tenderhearted people in this world who can look at a divorced mother of four poor, snotty-nosed children and have compassion and mercy on them. Those are the heroes in this hurting world. The mothers who struggle and hurt and cry in private because they cannot provide for their babies yet keep going day in and day out with hope that it will get better – those are my heroes.
And how’s your vision now?
I’ve had two LASIK correction surgeries on each eye. I am 20/20 in each eye now. It’s an amazing surgery and I feel like a healed blind man. If all I did is work my whole life so I could pay for the surgeries and see, it was worth it. I’m so thankful for the day and time in which I live. I would have been a beggar just a few centuries ago. I’m so grateful and thankful for the amazing doctors who can literally make a blind man see.
Wow! That really is amazing.
Waiter: Would you like regular or decaf?
Me: Do you want me to tip you with real money or Monopoly money?
— The Refined Ruffian (@CulturedRuffian) February 19, 2015
Your write comedy for HuffPost Comedy. Tell us about that?
I’m a contributor. [Link: HERE] They came to me and asked me to do it. I’m super thankful for the opportunity and like anything in life, if it’s handed to me, I’ll usually give it a shot. So far it’s been great and I’m super excited what the future holds! I believe in providence. If there’s an opportunity and I don’t give it a try, how will I ever know if I could or not? I’m so grateful for every opportunity that comes my way and whether I win or lose, I’m happy to look at it as a learning experience.
You do improv. Tell us about it. How long have you been doing it?
I’ve been doing improv with my group now for four years. It’s great fun and helps your reaction to things that happen in every day life. Everyone knows that improv is ‘Yes, and’ which is general acceptance of whatever gift your teammates give you and building on that. It helps me look at awkward and bad situations more positively. I go to “practice” most Monday nights. Improv also has helped me with public speaking for my job and speeches I’ve given at local colleges to encourage and motivate kids to follow their dreams and complete their education.
Tell us about your modeling? How did that come about?
Last year I was asked to be on the cover of a magazine for their inaugural Men’s Issue. The editor asked me who my agent was and I just laughed because I thought she was kidding. She got me an agent and the agent now gets me work. So far, the most profitable thing I’ve done is a Home Depot commercial. It’s nothing I was looking for, they came to me and I’ve had no formal training. If they continue to get me work, I’ll continue doing it-if not, that’s ok and it was fun. I’m thankful for the fun I’ve had so far and I’m happy to be able to do it.
Whoa, a commercial? That’s cool! Do you have a link?
We all want to know, how did you get so many followers? What did you do?
Besides tell awful jokes so people feel sorry for me until they follow me, I follow a lot of people back. I am criticized for that, but that’s ok. I’m not a celebrity. I am no one. Who am I that someone should follow me? How should they even know me, unless I follow them? Although I don’t have the time to follow everyone back or track that, if I happen to see another funny person no matter what their account size whenever I’m on, I just might follow them too. If that means I’m not in the cool kids club, then that’s alright with me. 🙂
I think following a lot of people is a good way to get your name out there. I did it early on in my Twitter life, but got lazy/busy. Since interviewing you, I’ve started following more people. Some day I’d like to make some money off all this “joke” writing on social media and I need more followers for that to happen. Makes sense to build an audience.
You also RT quite a variety of people, which is really hard to do. How do you find the time to do that?
It is super difficult. I do it because I enjoy it and there are so many other funny people out there much funnier than I’ll ever be, so I RT them. I have a few followers more than others and I’m happy to help and give back. I’m just doing what other people did for me to get me where I am on this Road To Nowhere we call Twitter.
Do you have something in place to make this all a little more manageable?
Because every RT is done personally, it’s very difficult. I do have lists that are private and a very loose schedule of when I RT, but that’s it. Everything is done by me personally though, so there’s a lot of love and appreciation that goes into it. No RT is automated.
Dear Girl Scouts,
Your Mints did not make me Thin.
ps. Please send more.
— The Refined Ruffian (@CulturedRuffian) February 27, 2014
Twitter has allowed us to start retweeting our own tweets. You do this. What are your thoughts/strategy on RTing your own tweets?
Well, it seems to be a source of embarrassment or maybe considered narcissistic and I do feel that to an extent. I have thought about it and all of its pros and the cons. I feel that so many people do not have the money to pay for Favstar or don’t know how to search for tweets. I also feel it’s a little narcissistic for me to think that someone would think good enough of me to go back in my 20,000 tweets to a year ago (or longer) to find something to RT. In this case, you have two choices: delete the old tweet and copy and paste it again, or just RT yourself. Frankly, I think it’s fine even if it isn’t widely accepted yet, as long as I’m meeting my goal which is to help a perfect stranger smile. I have no strategy, except usually when I see someone RT something of mine from a year ago or longer and I chuckle at it, I’ll RT it.
Also, many people are on at different times. I tweet randomly. Because I’m on the east coast, I’m tweeting while the west coast or other countries are asleep. Sometimes they won’t ever see that tweet I tweeted at 6am EST. This is another reason I feel it’s ok to RT yourself. We all have busy lives and there are some days it’s tough to come up with a tweet. If this is the case, I also completely agree with a “Selfie-RT”. Either way, my goal is to help people smile. Whether it’s a new tweet or an old one, there is nothing better than getting that mention or a DM from a single mother who is struggling and hurting thanking me for helping make their day better. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Speaking of 20,000 tweets, you’re a really prolific tweeter. How do you come up with all that material?
At my job, I watch the news all day. I am constantly checking news sources and stay on top of current events and new ideas. Part of my job is keeping up with Wall Street. The best way to get new material is to stay on top of current events and trends. My goal is to make people laugh, not pass off an agenda. I have very formulated opinions on religion and politics, but I doubt that anyone really knows where I stand. That is the way I want it. I want all people of all faith, non-faith, religions, socio-economic status, race, sex and creed from every country to be able to laugh equally. I watch zero television outside of the news and parts of major sporting events (last one was the World Series, innings 6-10 of Game 7 only) I watch no shows on any network outside of the news and go to about six movies at the theater a year. Occasionally I’ll go back through my old tweets and remind myself of what was good and why or what was bad and why. Sometimes I can make a similar tweet to an old one I made but better or it may remind me of something along the same lines I can tweet today.
What is your process for composing a tweet? Do you write tweets off the cuff or do you draft them first? Do you have a special “work on writing tweets” time? Do you ever schedule your tweets?
I have no process. I’m a horrible tweeter. Unfortunately, I am doing something all day long and stay pretty busy. When I tweet, it’s usually from an elliptical machine, while I’m getting dressed, in the shower-yes, in the shower, while I’m driving or if I get a quick break at work. I write all of them off the cuff. This is why my grammar, spelling, syntax and flow is terrible. HAHA! I should draft them and work on them, but I just don’t have time. My draft folder is full of half-baked ideas for tweets but no actual tweets I would ever tweet. I never schedule tweets, and my wife and kids don’t allow me “work on writing tweets” time.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR FITTED SHEETS:
1) Know when to hold em.
2) Know when to fold em.
3) Know when to walk away.
4) Know when to run.
— The Refined Ruffian (@CulturedRuffian) January 8, 2016
You’ve got a bajillion followers and you do modeling. Even though you’re really nice and RT a lot of different people, I’d imagine that some people get jealous. Do you ever get haters? If so, how do you respond to them?
I do have a few haters, unfortunately. I’m very sensitive to bullying towards myself or other people because of my background. I understand if I hurt someone or did something to upset them, but I have the hardest time understanding a person who doesn’t know me, who never met me, who I’ve done nothing to hating me for no reason. It’s so foreign and difficult for me to understand. I want to fix it and make it better, but with some people, they just hate you for no reason except that there is evil in the world and they’ve let it fill and control them. It is a sad reality. As a result, I’m sure I’ve blocked over 1,000 trolls so far…and my mom. HAHA! (That was a joke.) You can’t let other people knock you down when you know what you’re doing is true and good and right.
Holy crap, that’s a lot of trolls. I’ve had like, four.
What’s your favorite song right now? Don’t lie, even if it’s by Taylor Swift.
Oh no! I listen to everything but I’m not a huge fan of popular music. Right now, I’m listening to old school INXS, Foals, The Lumineers, Family of The Year, City and Colour and The Avett Brothers. Sadly I burn a lot of patchouli incense and listen to spa music like Nicholas Gunn and Deuter. I wish that was a lie but it’s the truth, LOL!
Who are some comedians (or comedy shows/sitcoms) who have influenced you?
When I was little I enjoyed The Cosby Show and Family Ties. I love Jim Carrey and Jim Gaffigan’s humor. I don’t really actively watch or listen to popular comedians today. I mostly listen to a variety of local comedians do stand up and improv live when I’m at the theater. I prefer clean comedy that the whole family can enjoy.
What advice do you have for someone who’s trying to get better at joke writing on Twitter?
1) Be positive-not too many people want to hear consistent negativity. 2) Don’t get angry at the system-your joke may be funnier than someone else’s, but often gets retweeted less. That’s just the way it goes. Hang in there and keep trying! 3) Be teachable. I have so much to learn from other people and we are all learning our entire journey in life. No one ever ‘arrives’. 4) If someone is critical of you or mean, there is always something to be learned in that even if what they did or said was wrong. Look for something to take away that will make you better. 5) Tweet the way you want, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t appeal to the masses. We have to remember that we have the right to say what we want, how we want, but people also have the right to dislike it. (‘Mericuh!) ie. If you want a big account, but you rant and rave about how much you don’t like doughnuts-you’re probably going to turn off people that like doughnuts. That’s life. If you want the people who like doughnuts to follow you, either keep your pie hole shut about doughnuts, or talk favorably about doughnuts whether you like them or not. This seems pretty basic, but I’m shocked when someone rants and mentions people on their timeline, then they wonder why they don’t have more followers.
Say NO! to drugs.
Say YES! to drugs.
It really doesn't matter what you tell drugs because if you're talking to drugs, you're taking them.
— The Refined Ruffian (@CulturedRuffian) August 31, 2015
Tell us something about yourself people on Twitter may not know.
Well you know I have a farm, do improv, model, ride motorcycles but how about this: My father was a minister before my parents got divorced so I love to discuss religion. I have a sarcastic account @funnymentalist that respectfully pokes fun at the people in a fundamentalist church who don’t practice what they preach. I also was a History major with a Political Science Minor in school (I met my wife in a political theory class) so I love politics, the process and political theory. I have worked on Presidential, gubernatorial, local and US Congressional campaigns in the past and have interned for a United States Congressman. I also play the alto and soprano saxophone. (No Bill Clinton jokes please, although I have smoked some cigars-hahaha!) I have a fantastic pipe collection I’m building and I love German smokers and cuckoo clocks.
Alright, Sunday morning church ended 10 hours ago people, come pick up your children of the corn from the church nursery already!
— The Fundamentalist (@funnymentalist) March 7, 2016
Is there anything else you’d like to say or share?
Every day is a gift. It is a new day, a clean slate. It is a fresh start from which we can reinvent ourselves if we wish. The past is the past. We all make mistakes. Learn to forgive yourselves and others. Saying “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me” are some of the best phrases we can all learn. Tell people you love them when the feeling arises. Let them know how thankful you are to have them. Hug and hold your friends and family – they’re what’s really important. Live each day like it’s your last. Be respectful of all human beings regardless of their sexual orientation, religion or political persuasion. No one deserves to be called a name for voting for one candidate over another or for being different than you in any manner. If you need to take a stand on an issue, attack the issue, not the person. This is a terribly cruel world full of hurt and hate, don’t add to it. Be positive, encourage and motivate others around you to become greater than they were yesterday.
Name some tweeters whose tweets consistently make you laugh.
There are so many more, those are some recent interactions though that had great tweets.
It's been 3 years since I gave myself 1year to live after self diagnosing on WebMD and I'm still here defying the odds everyone. WINNING!
— The Refined Ruffian (@CulturedRuffian) January 17, 2014
Thanks for the interview, Nathan! Really enjoyed getting to know you better!
In case you missed it, last time on Beyond the Bio: @CruisinSoozan
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!