[When it comes to] by Patton Oswalt

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).


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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