Pitching The Perfect Joke To Greta Thunberg Trolls.

The hardest part of writing is thinking of something original. There’s no better example of this than Twitter. When somebody famous posts something you can usually predict what joke appears most often in their replies. Especially the more well defined of a public persona they have. Scrolling through you’ll see some variation of whatever the most obvious joke is, usually a callback, peppered throughout their replies like a salad under the mill of a grind happy waiter you feel rude cutting off after one twist.

Take this Tweet from Trump on his pardon of Michael Flynn. The go to joke was a reference to the time Trump insulted John McCain for being a prisoner of war by saying: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

When trying to come up with a joke, even if it’s just a dumb reply on Twitter, it’s always worth pushing yourself a little harder to explore the less obvious possibilities. Even if experimentation in the fringes risks yielding less likes. Less likes from the masses usually means more likes from a cooler audience anyway. Always better to be Conan than Leno.*

*I haven’t watched late night since the mid-nineties.

But of course, most people on Twitter don’t care about craftsmanship. They just want to talk shit and the first and most obvious line of attack is plenty. So when I saw Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist widely reviled by millions of idiots, tweet the other night, I was positive most replies were going to focus on the line at the end encouraging less Black Friday consumerism: “Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.”

I posed the question speculating how many times my pitch would appear in earnest. It was such an obvious homerun to her teeball set up that I fully expected seeing it many, many times. So much so that I wanted to turn it into a fun game, guessing the exact number of times it showed up in her replies like those contests where you guess the amount of jelly beans in a jar.

Based on the number of Thunberg’s followers, the estimated percentage of idiots, and the amount of total replies, I calculated seeing anywhere between five to ten responses with that basic wording.

But after scrolling through every single reply, I was shocked to find… zero.

Not one. Nobody thought to say it. I was genuinely shocked.

I wasn’t ready to give up though. Even if I had to put my thumb on the scale a bit, I was confident I could coax it out of Thunberg’s detractors. So I started pitching my idea directly to them.

It wasn’t just that they weren’t doing what I expected. The true disappointment was that many weren’t even trying at all.

At a certain point I realized that even if no one else was seeing what I thought was the most brilliantly obvious line of attack, it wasn’t because they weren’t seeing their own. As I continued to scroll, a recurring pattern was beginning to emerge: her schooling.

I saw it so much that I was starting to get angry.

I did this for hours and as it got later I grew more desperate. Yes, this was a bit, but I just couldn’t believe I wasn’t finding what I was looking for. This was no longer a jelly bean contest… it was a quest for a white whale.

After pitching, pleading, begging, and bribing to no avail, I decided to change tactics and cultivate one of them with flattery instead. Maria proved to be the perfect candidate.

Unfortunately, Maria proved to be less malleable than expected, so I had no choice but to break out my rock solid, 100% foolproof back up plan:

Jim Carrey references.

Neither her or her teenagers took the bait. I don’t know, maybe it was too deep a cut.

By the way, I don’t want you to think my efforts went completely unrewarded this whole time. No, there were moments that made it all worth it even if I didn’t get precisely what I was hoping for. About an hour in, the first guy I tweeted at got back to me with this:

It was just the thing I needed to hear to keep going. As I pressed on, I discovered that Thunberg’s schooling wasn’t the only theme being repeated. There was another, unexpected criticism I kept seeing.

Came across that one A LOT. And they weren’t mean about it either. They talked about purging millions of human beings from the planet with the dispassionate matter-of-factness of an alderman proposing ways to make city hall more energy efficient.

But just as things seemed to reach their darkest point, that old adage about dawn proved to be correct! Ladies and gentleman, I give you my beacon of hope in an inky abyss… Geoff.

If I was Annie Potts in Ghostbusters I would have hit the alarm and screamed “We ALMOST got one!”

In a sea of miscreants, I had found my white whale. Albeit slightly off white. I figured someone as like minded as Geoff though would be willing to do me a solid and bring this baby all the way home.

Alas, as of writing, he has not yet addressed my notes. As a professional writer, I get it. Geoff had a vision.

As my eye lids began to grow heavy and my fingers numb, I was starting to think this was one of those stories where the protagonist sets off in search of something they think they want only to instead, as the great Mick Jagger would say, get what they NEED.

Our third act begins with this, the first meme reply I saw under Thunberg’s post. It’s an old school “scientists push climate change in order to scam that sweet grant money and intoxicating power that comes with it” line of attack combined with one of the hottest new memes of the Trump era.

That was my final pitch before going to bed and I knew it was futile. Why would someone put any effort altering such a cutting meme into a form that specific and confusing even IF you knew what it was referencing?

I had to face the sad truth. My quest was over and I was crossing the return threshold empty handed.

Or was I?

This morning, I woke to find this in my replies:

There it was. My words… in meme form. And it was just as head scratching to anyone not closely following my indulgent, vaguely off putting twitter thread as I’d imagined. It was a beautiful parting gift.

So what did I learn in the end? Is the lesson here that people aren’t as stupid when it comes to online discourse as I thought they were, or are they even stupider? Obviously the answer is stupider. So much stupider. And potentially genocidal to boot. I mean, a LOT of people were talking about depopulating the planet to solve climate change and I think those were the ones… on Greta’s side?

Fucking yikes.

But there’s also plenty of people like Eleanor who saw what I was going for and took the time to make that meme for me.

Maybe there’s hope for humanity after all.

Thank you, Greta.

Emmy winning writer/producer of Rick & Morty.