Borowitz Lite: A Twitter King Scales Back His Online Presence

Before heading uptown to a book party at Andy Borowitz’s elegant West End apartment last night, I checked his Twitter

Andy Borowitz. (Photo via Getty Images)
Andy Borowitz. (Photo via Getty Images)

Before heading uptown to a book party at Andy Borowitz’s elegant West End apartment last night, I checked his Twitter feed to see if he’d said anything interesting that day. The comedian’s satirical Twitter presence has earned him nearly half a million followers (sample tweet: “Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I wish mental health care were as easy to get as, say, a gun”). But to my surprise, his feed was virtually empty—and frankly, quite boring—a stark contrast to the lively account he maintained for several years.

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Near the end of the party—held to celebrate Mr. Borowitz’s friend Jennifer Vanderbes’s new novel, The Secret of Raven Point—I asked him what was up with that. Had I missed something?

“You know what I did?” said Mr. Borowitz, who writes “The Borowitz Report,” the parody newswire acquired by The New Yorker in 2012, as we took a seat in the kitchen away from the noise. “About a year ago, I converted to a different kind of Twitter feed, which just tweets out my stories, instead of doing what we could call tweets.”

The consummate quipster went on a Twitter diet? For what reason?

“I was an extremely prolific tweeter,” Mr. Borowitz, casually dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, told me reflectively, as though he were disclosing information about his past at an A.A. meeting. “But my wife, for one, said that she felt that Twitter was this sort of third party in our relationship. Like, instead of just saying something to her, I would say, ‘Oh, I should tweet that.’ But for a long time, I was pushing back, saying, ‘No no no, it’s not invasive at all.’”

So what was it that changed his mind? 

“I had this moment of clarity,” Mr. Borowitz explained, “which I guess is an addiction term—like a moment of lucidity—where I was shopping for clothing, and I remember I went to my Twitter feed and someone had written a response that said, ‘Casey Anthony was just acquitted, where are you?’ And I just thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s really sick, I’m on call now; I’m like a physician.'” 

“Having said that,” he added, “I don’t go on Twitter very often, but I enjoy people who are super prolific and just keep going.” 

I told him that I enjoyed the comedian Rob Delaney’s feed.

Mr. Borowitz agreed. “What’s great about Rob is that he has this wonderful sort of pervy persona that he’s created, so he can always go to that and create unbelievable gold.”

But sometimes you wonder, I said, if these prolific tweeters have a life beyond the Internet. The tagline of Mr. Borowitz’s Twitter account—“There is a fine line between social networking and wasting your fucking life”—is a biting nod to that idea.

“And I said that at the height of my Twitter mania,” Mr. Borowitz told me.

“I don’t mean to dis Twitter,” he said. “There are only a few times a year when there’s a kind of communal experience, like the Oscars or the Super Bowl, so it’s just funny to hear what people have to say. It is a great platform, and probably during the next presidential election I’ll tweet some things, but for now …”

There’s also the whole not-getting-paid-to-do-it aspect.

“I noticed that,” Mr. Borowitz said, “and I also noticed that Twitter did an I.P.O. recently and they seem to be doing very well, so it’s like an ultimate sucker’s game.”

Christopher Hitchens once said that he would charge for phone calls and emails if he could. What did Mr. Borowitz make of that?

“Well, I agree with him,” he said, chuckling. “I did actually get approached to tweet the Oscars about three years ago, for free, by a very major newspaper. And I said, ‘You know, I don’t think I want to do that,’ and they said, ‘We’ll mention your website,’ and I thought, ‘I don’t like how I’m coming out in this barter economy.’”

He mulled what he’d said. “In no other profession would that be considered appropriate. Like, you couldn’t hire a plumber and say, ‘If you fix my sink, I will tweet about it.’”

Borowitz Lite: A Twitter King Scales Back His Online Presence