Deep In The Game, our series of interviews with people whose primary sphere of interest is being notable on the internet, continues as we talk to Astonishing Sod, the Twitter character behind popular Twitter police procedural Crimer Show and its older brother Freints.
Can you explain who you are to people who might not be familiar with your work?
I write comedy. Started out on Twitter just over 4 years ago and it’s spiralled out of control since then. I have two other Twitter projects, Freints and Crimer Show. And a couple of websites. All for the funnies.
Can you talk a bit about Crimer? How did you conceive it?
Well, last August, I created a thing called Freints. If you’re familiar with the situation comedy “Best Friends In New York”, you might dig the vibe. I introduced six characters who were something like their famous counterparts, but whose names had been fed through a wood chipper and whose lives were markedly more strange than before. I started writing synopses for episodes that were not, and indeed could not ever be, shot. I developed a parallel world wherein the boundaries were redrawn and everything had to be ridiculous. Freints has its own internal logic and bizarre, but consistent, spelling and syntax. It’s got narrative arcs, callbacks, in-jokes and a bunch of things the casual reader mightn’t pick up on, at least the first time around. It’s relentlessly stupid, and that’s enough.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I must have spent about three days laughing out loud at this idea that had taken shape in my head, and I knew I was on to something. I worked on it, set up the Crimer Show account, introduced it on Freints as a show-within-a-show, and here we are. You might look on Freints as a gateway drug.
It’s blown up pretty quickly, beyond your own audience/the Freints audience though. Why is that?
I’m not sure. I was pleased with the following Freints picked up, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Tara Flynn, who was very vocal in her support early on. With Crimer, Graham Linehan picked up on it after a few minutes and retweeted a couple of the early ones. It had 1000 followers in 125 minutes. I kept an eye on it because I was waiting for the tumble dryer to finish. I mean, it took me a couple of years to reach 1000 people with my main Twitter account, although that’s extremely highbrow and I mostly tweet about arts funding, Lebanese breakcore and lint. But that boost from Graham certainly kickstarted the whole thing. I owe him a lot actually. He’s been really supportive for a few years now and he’s an absolute gent.
One thing I would say is that I consider it an obligation never to let the standard drop. Few things make me angrier than seeing a comedian or a writer phone it in. People in television should thank their lucky stars every day of their lives. There’s no excuse for complacency in comedy, none whatsoever. You should always strive to make everything funnier. And, although I’ve never been paid a penny for my Twitter output – and I’ve put a LOT of work into it – I never rest. You can’t disappoint people who’ve invested a bit of time in your work, just because you feel tired that evening, or the bills have all come at once, or whatever.
Wow – I think I can see your original question on that distant mountaintop. Sorry to veer so far off the path!
Which is more important with Crimer, the fact that it’s internally consistent and developing, or the one-hitters that making people laugh in their timeline? Or can you differentiate?
That’s a great question. Well, I don’t want to “dissect the frog”, so to speak, but I might offer some analysis.
First of all, there are a few things I want to do in my writing. I want to make people’s faces glow. I want their brains to become fuzzy and their eyes to water. I want to write the stupidest sentence ever written. I want each scene, each character, each name, each paragraph, each situation, each WORD to be as ridiculous, stupid and silly as possible. I want to give people pains from laughing. I want to make people feel better when they’re hurt. All very noble ideas, sure, and very right-on, but I really, truly want to do all of the above.
And a woman sent me the most beautiful email last week to say how Crimer Show was actually helping her to cope with treatment for a serious illness. So I thought about what I already kinda knew I’d been trying to achieve in everything I was working on. And in the first couple of days of Crimer Show, as anyone who scrolls through the archive will see, everything is disjointed, scattershot, wild and directionless, which I was happy with, because I love creating vignettes. But inherent in the cop/baddie dynamic, if you sit down and mull it over, is a depth of characterisation that 99% of all procedurals either ignore or can’t get across.
I boiled it down to its most ludicrous form, taking the binary good-bad nonsense to the most nonsensical conclusion. So in the city, there’s exactly ONE baddie who commits ALL the crimes and exactly ONE detective whose life is consumed by the need to catch the guy. It writes itself!
I want warmth, silliness, surprise, stupidity, more silliness, the lot. So I do put a lot into the narrative arcs, the callbacks, the little nods, the obscure references that are only evident if you dig deep, etc. And it should flesh out the characters as the show proceeds. I’m all for the Seinfeld “no hugging, no learning” thing, but we’re dealing with a Trope Avalanche here.
VOISEOVER: Peviosly on Crimer Show… DETETCIVE: CrimERRR! BRAINIUS: (smokes pipe) CHEIF: Heckit! PUPEY: wuf ! CRIMER: (puts on sunglasses)
— Crimer Show (@CrimerShow) April 8, 2013
Can I ask you quick reactions to influences that might be real or imaginary, just from casual reading?
Absolutely. I’ll try my best.
Can’t be overlooked. But it’s not explicit, aside from the Joker thing and a couple of plotlines, which – if there’s any relation – I subvert utterly.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace
Not consciously, but I’m a big fan, and these things tend to burrow into your brain mulch. I wonder about format actually. Could Crimer Show work in another format? Hard to say really. Darkplace is probably in the same ballpark. You name it, someone’s suggested “turning Crimer Show into” it. Film. Live-action TV. Claymation. Webisodes. A radio play. A Kindle book. People have already made a Jeremy Renner CrimerShow GIF Tumblr – none of which were even real words a few years ago – Lego dioramas, pencil sketches, gesticulations outside police stations, parody accounts – is that a new level of meta? – and the inevitable Banksy homage on the walls of St. Peter’s Basilica.
That is pretty impressive. What about this underrated and now pretty much dead meme of mispronounced food names: http://www.urlesque.com/2010/
How have I never seen that before? That’s unreal and I love it. I’ve been playing with spelling for a couple of years now, and food is high on the agenda in EVERYTHING I write. Maybe I’m… a foodaholic? There are plenty of recurring themes in Freints and Crimer, many of them food-related, and I take great pleasure in working out the stupidest spelling of every food type that crops up, as I do everything else.
Two reactions I noticed were Pointless Friend Richard Osman and more recently an actual actress from police procedural Lewis. That must be pretty surreal.
Sorry, I’m genuinely in pain from laughing at that link you sent me. Thanks you so much. Have you read the comments? Takes it to another level! How am I so out of step with all these people?
Well that was from the glory days of memes directly transplanted from 4chan to people in offices. Reddit has sort of mediated it. You don’t get that level of confusion now.
Anyway, that “actual actress” is Rebecca Front! She’s amazing in everything she’s ever been in! I was just talking to Rebecca Front. She’s a big fan! Let me tell you, Rebecca Front: the feeling is entirely mutual! What is my life! I’ve used Twitter for a little over 4 years and it’s fair to say I know the ropes. (The upholstery sales bots are the ropes.) But nothing prepares you for a response like this. It’s nuts.
Russell Brand followed Crimer within a couple of hours. Limmy (one of my actual heroes, no exaggeration whatsoever, see my profile picture for proof) loves it! Which blows my mind. Seriously, he’s so far ahead of nearly everyone else it beggars belief. And HE likes it. There’s a load of Big Dudes following. Rob Delaney, David Walliams, Mark Gatiss, Michael McKean, Caitlin Moran, Frankie Boyle, Arthur Smith, etc etc. I know about these guys because it’s gotten so crazy that I now only get notifications when people with lots of followers follow Crimer. I could go on, but I won’t.
Richard Osman has been behind it for ages. He’s a cool dude and he’s clearly a fan of the whole thing, so he’s let his followers know about it on a daily basis. Not only has all this madness been happening, but I’ve been designing dozens of t-shirts for my merch store (which I’d planned long before Crimer happened), making the website, writing Crimer and doing Life Stuff. It’s insane and I love it.
What’s your take on Weird Twitter? Are you/have you been a part of it?