Sorting the Tweet from the Chaff

vuvuzela2 getty Sorting the Tweet from the Chaff

On the afternoon of Monday, June 14, a young man in a ski mask, white wig, top hat and Groucho Marx-style fake nose, mustache and glasses stared out over an auditorium of onlookers at the Hilton hotel in midtown. “The first thing you need to do to get big on Twitter is to destroy the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.

The crowd laughed.

It was shortly after lunch at TWTRCON, a well-attended conference on the microblogging platform that continues against all reason to enrapture us New York media lemmings. Martha Stewart was the day’s headliner. But now the guy in the mask onstage was quickly stealing the show. His name was “Terry,” and in recent weeks, he’d emerged as a top Twitter parodist.

Currently, there are not one but two parodies of the annoying World Cup horns. The Vuvuzela Horn (“ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ”) and the_vuvuzela (“Bzzz. #bzzz”).

His Twitter feed, BPGlobalPR-done in the voice of a bumbling BP flack, (sample Tweet: “Catastrophe is a strong word, let’s all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy”)-now has more than 160,000 followers.

This was Terry’s first major public appearance, and the crowd was loving it. “The reason we started BPGlobalPR is because there’s a lot of bad press,” said Terry. “A lot of people blaming the whole thing on BP. We thought that was unfair.”

“People say, ‘Oh, oh, I’ve just got a picture of a bird covered in oil,” said Terry. He paused and held up a photograph. “Here’s a picture of a cat wearing a wig and it’s not covered in oil.”

Cameras flashed. Now and again, the crowd met Terry’s one-liners with a round of applause.

With public rage toward BP flowing steadily (the company has its own, sincere Twitter feed, with a mere 14,633 followers), Terry has arguably become the top Twitter parodist of the moment. But he is hardly alone. Whatever else, Twitter might be doing to our brains, it is also proving to be a remarkably rich medium for parody.

As a result, we are now living in a kind of golden age of Twitter parody. Behold the riches.

There are the irregularly but enthusiastically updated Cranky Kaplan (“LOOK AT THIS GENIUS OVER HERE IN THE HAT”) and wise_kaplan (“This isn’t going to end well for any of us.”) And little_graydon (“Oh, crap. Security says David Arquette’s in the lobby”). Both parodying Condé Nast editors who were former editors of this newspaper-coincidence?

Also: ones for Apple’s Steve Jobs and NBC’s Jeff Zucker.

Currently there are not one but two parodies of the annoying World Cup horns. The Vuvuzela Horn (“ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ”) and the_vuvuzela (“Bzzz. #bzzz”).

There’s the original brilliance of the big_ben_clock (“BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG”) and the backrub tweeter (“riiiiight THERE”).

Think of a public figure you find grating-Dan Snyder? Check-and chances are there will eventually be a Twitter parody.

And then all the tweeting cats!

At some point, inevitably, the Twitter parody will lose its charm and seem derivative and annoying rather than seminal and brilliant. But for the time being, Terry and his ilk are basking in the ascendancy of the form.

On Monday afternoon, Terry, who has not yet been unmasked, fielded questions from admiring fans.

“I’m really enjoying the rainbow-stained oil and the chocolate pelicans and I’m wondering what BP is planning to do to fuck up the world next?” asked a man with goatee and glasses.

“I don’t appreciate the insinuation,” said Terry. 

“So [what] is your next career move, you think?” another person asked, more sincerely. “Sitcom maybe, or book deal?”

“I’ll do whatever,” said the fake BP flack. “There’s talks about a tour, a series of benefit concerts along the Gulf Coast-a benefit concert for BP, of course.”

After spilling a bunch of water onstage, the young Twitter parodist in the top hat hopped off the stage and ran through the back of the crowd toward a taxi.

fgillette@observer.com