[When it comes to] by Patton Oswalt

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The first tweet in Oswalt’s performance.

On August 17, 2013 from 3:26 to 5:22 pm comedian Patton Oswalt put together a Twitter writing performance that has been praised as masterful trolling and comedic art. It consisted of a series of 18 paired tweets in which he expressed his views on laundry, voting laws, medicine, illness, God, music, race, and other politically sensitive topics. Written as prose in a document or spoken aloud, these statements would’ve just come across as a leftist leaning rant that promoted peace, understanding, and slammed the absurdities of right-wing American politics. But as an experienced stand-up comedian, Oswalt is also very familiar with the expressive and comedic power of timing, represented by rhythm and pause in vocal performances, and a line break in written ones. As a time-based writing medium that demands brevity, Twitter (a rich platform for e-literature), gave him an opportunity to deliver a series of sentences that when broken in time and space as separate digital entities deliver some powerfully mixed messages (see image below).

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To read this tweet in isolation, out of context, would give the impression that Oswalt is promoting racial segregation in a tweet that reinforces that frame of reference by referring to his “conservative followers.” Of course, when you read the tweets together, the complete sentence reads as follows:

When it comes to doing laundry, I firmly believe in using environment-friendly detergent and I ALSO believe whites and “darks” should be kept separate. Sorry if that sounds too “tree-huggy” to my conservative followers.

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