Try to describe Crimer Show and it doesn’t sound funny. Yet somehow, this three-week-old Twitter account packed full of poor spelling and comic crime drama has developed a cult following, including some of the British comedy elite.
Crimer Show’s Twitter bio is “Im do crimes . Crimeing. Detetcive cant stopme.” A slightly more detailed explanation is that Crimer Show is a Twitter account describing the adventures of a master criminal, Crimer, who repeatedly manages to commit crimes (‘crimeing’) while evading the attempts of a detective (‘Detetcive’) to catch him. A cast of support characters like DetetciveWife (the detective’s wife), Pupey (the detective’s pet puppy), Hotbabe (Crimer’s lady) and Cheif (the detective’s boss) help and hinder the action.
Here’s an example @CrimerShow tweet:
DETETCIVE: Looke Hes is Inthat helpycoptor ! Stope him! POLISEMANS: But thats is Polise helpycoptor ! Hoew didhe get? DETETCIVE: CrimERRRR !
— Crimer Show (@CrimerShow) March 30, 2013
I don’t know why it’s funny, it just is. Putting out a call on Twitter, replies from fellow fans suggested its appeal lies in the mis-spellings, its charm and its developing world of characters. Most though, couldn’t put their finger precisely on the key to its humor. Crimer Show has amassed more than 17,000 followers since its launch on March 28 – not epic numbers, but enough for us to explore the secret of its success – especially when it’s so unlike anything else out there.
To discover the story behind this strangely compelling use of Twitter, I asked its creator, Dublin-based comedy writer Astonishing Sod (he refuses to disclose his real name) to tell us more about his story and how he uses Twitter as a vehicle for comedy. He’s yet to gain paid work in his craft, but he’s been slowly building up an audience on Twitter over the past few years, and Crimer Show is undoubtedly his breakthrough hit.
Where did the idea for Crimer Show come from?
“Well, a bit of background might help. Last August, I created “Freints“, which is a misspelled and demented Twitter re-imagining of that beloved sitcom. Each tweet is an episode I dream up, written in the same Englesque language you encounter in Crimer Show. Then, three weeks ago, this idea crept into my head. I couldn’t stop laughing at it for three whole days. I was like a frightening idiot. I shaped and reshaped it in my head as I padded about the house, until it was ready. So I designed the Twitter avatar for the account, set it up, posted the first few tweets, then linked it to my existing Freints account as a “show-within-a-show”. The rest is mystery.”
You’ve had support from some well known British comedy names, Graham Linehan (writer best known for Father Ted and The IT Crowd) and Rebecca Front (an actor who has been in seemingly every major comedy show in the last 20 years).
“Graham Linehan retweeted a couple of the early bits, and at that point, he had no idea it was me. Crimer Show had 1000 followers in 125 minutes. It’s literally increased since then. Graham is a super great cat who’s always looking for new talent, always encouraging and a Thumbs-Up Guy. Not only that, but he’s a huge influence. You’ve seen Father Ted, right? Greatest thing ever broadcast on TV? I owe him a lot. Anyway, the whole thing has been insane. It’s gratifying to see something like this taking off with no fanfare and no name behind it.
“Rebecca Front is one of the best actresses on the box and I love her to bits. The fact that people like her are getting in touch is more than a little hard to process.”
My son’s introduced me to the joy of @crimershow . I won’t try to explain it – it just works.
— Rebecca Front (@RebeccaFront) April 9, 2013
You’ve amassed over 17,00 followers. Why are they following you?
“I have a suspicion that for every 100 new followers, 50 old ones unfollow. I genuinely feel bad for the people who hate Crimer Show, because unless they’ve got an app that can mute retweets, they’ve been subjected to a torrent of unsolicited misspellings and niche humour. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
“But I’m not entirely sure what aspect of it works. Different elements seem to appeal to different people. Many see it as a “crime drama”, which I can’t get my head around. DRAMA??? These are clearly aficionados of the genre, and they love narrative arcs, twists, character development and so on. It’s nice to think Crimer is providing them with something to nibble on between episodes of Spiral. For some it’s the spelling, for some it’s the economy of expression, for some it’s the relentless stupidity. Mostly, I think it’s different from everything else out there. And maybe it takes people’s minds off real life. Hasn’t everyone had enough of real life? I know I have.
“Certainly, when you reach a certain age, you begin to feel as though you’ve paid your dues to an extent, and can everything just shut up so I can have a cup of tea and wear some fluffy socks. In fact, can everyone just try that out for a weekend? Fluffy socks, cup of tea, listen to Shalamar, watch The Muppets, talk to a baby. It’s easy to lose track of nice things, because almost everything about adult life is terrible. I don’t engage with it online.
“You won’t find politics in my corner of the internet, unless you’re digging overzealously for meaning. The News: there’s the real problem. It’s relentless. Have you ever experienced the news? It’s pretty heavy, let me tell you. It’s full of vaguely familiar places, but they’re all having terrible things done to them. Forget all that noise. The antidote is silliness, and plenty of it. Silliness is what babies love, so it’s with us from the beginning. If you peel away the layers of disappointment that surround us, there’s a core inside that wants to be tickled by stupidity.”
CHEIF: Everbodey in! Findout wher is Detetcive ! Heckit ,Im not loose nother detetcive inthe Secrat Tunelles ! (kicks leaf) Heckit!
— Crimer Show (@CrimerShow) April 12, 2013
What’s the motivation behind running the account? To sell merchandise, to raise your profile, to get an inevitable book deal for the Christmas gift market?
“Nothing so cynical! I’d planned to set up a t-shirt store since last summer, having trawled through everything I’d written since 2008 and compiled lists of t-shirt slogans. In a quiet week, I opened the shop and launched Crimer Show. The requests for Crimer shirts followed. I had no idea Crimer would be so successful, though I knew it was a good idea, but it’s inevitable that something like this is going to raise your profile somewhat.
“As for a book deal, well, I’ve spent three years putting together a joke book. I’ve put a lot into it. It’s gone through several dozen drafts and I’m genuinely proud of it. There are hundreds of jokes interspersed with longer pieces and illustrations. If you like Demetri Martin’s books or Jack Handey’s, then dig deep, because I’ve got a book for you! I really want to find a publisher in 2013.”
How do you write Crimer Show? Do you have a plot planned out far in advance?
“I have several plotlines. It’s useful to know when you’re going to introduce something new to the show. Plots are there primarily to engineer situations and conversations which are more bananas than the ones that have already taken place. Part of Crimer is also to subvert existing tropes and smash clichés with a hammer, and plot is key to that.
“Strangely enough, I’m rarely concerned with the plot of a film. It often bores me completely. When I hear people complaining about some movie’s plot, I wonder to myself: why is nobody talking about the IDEAS? I love ideas. I remember Will Self talking years ago about how plot was practically irrelevant to him, for the same reason. To me, the value of comedy lies primarily in its ideas, not the mechanics of its storylines. Although, by all means, write an unhinged police procedural on Twitter like some idiot, see if I care.”
DETETCIVE: (running through tunnel) Quike ,pijones is Kile us! POLISE: Helpe ! Ahhg! DETETCIVE: Im not dye liek thise! Im gota kepe lifeing!
— Crimer Show (@CrimerShow) April 12, 2013
Thinking of practicalities, does it involve short bursts of writing where you schedule bunches of tweets or do you tweet on a more ad hoc and manual basis?
“The former, mostly. Scheduling has become a big part of it, because I’m doing so many other things right now that to post Crimer tweets at an appropriate time would be one headache too many. In addition to ‘Real Life Stuff’, I’m running four websites, four Facebook accounts, several Twitter accounts and a couple of merch stores. There are half a dozen email accounts I need to check each day. And I write other things. I get paid for NONE of this. So I need to schedule a lot of tweets.
“Another thing that’s worth considering about Twitter is that it’s a global thing, so it’s busier in different places at different times. When most people are at work in Europe, many are asleep in the US. Australia is ahead of everyone and I’m pretty sure it’s a different day there all the time, so they see things before they’re broadcast. As a result of all of this, there are peak times and dead times.
When you’re running something like Crimer Show, it’s important to settle on the same time period each day and try to stick to it. And even at that, you can’t please everyone. By mid-afternoon (in Ireland), several people will have complained that the day’s episode hasn’t begun – which is nice, but I’m doing it for free, so please be understanding!”
Crimer Show uses the same odd spelling as Freints. What’s the story behind the way you use language here, and how much of the humour do you think relies on spelling and language?
“Well, this is the part I really don’t want to over-analyse. What I will say is that I find it rewarding when, for example, a TV sketch show has been crammed full of ideas from top to bottom. The best example I can think of is Limmy’s Show. It’s a one-man production – an idea that obviously appeals to me – by a Scottish guy called Brian Limond. Total creative control. He does EVERYTHING in it – music, graphics, acting, writing, casting, design, direction, fluffing, you name it. There are layers upon layers. It’s real auteur stuff, the complete package. He thinks like nobody else.
“He’s so restless and prolific, it’s bewildering. And he uses every available approach in his comedy – wordplay, amazing character stuff, monologues, non-linear narratives, extended riffs, callbacks, crazy sight gags, wrongfooting the viewer, playing with the fourth wall. I often say that while many shows break the fourth wall, Limmy’s Show broke the Forth Bridge. Anyway, he puts so much into the show, and most others would settle with a run-of-the-mill sketch package. The details, the layers, the sheer effort – phenomenal.
“So I think there are layers within the text, and the language is another. I hope it amplifies the effect. But I try to ensure that, even without the misspelling and garbled syntax, Crimer would still be funny. It’s certainly got it own internal logic, as does Freints. But on Twitter, you answer to nobody, and you’re free to present your material in its Sunday best. All I’m working with is the buttons on the keyboard, and you can toy with convention to your heart’s content. I can’t comment on dialects or accents, as that’s personal to every single person who reads the tweets.”
ASSTANT: Cheif!Detetcive ! Looke outsied! Whole Citey am crazzy!Somuchcrimes ! CHEIF: (looks out window) O Moy Goot. DETETCIVE: CrimERRR!
— Crimer Show (@CrimerShow) April 7, 2013
What makes Twitter a good vehicle for comedy?
“It’s the fact that you’re squeezed into a tiny box, isn’t it? Limited resources and all that. On Twitter, the ONLY rule is that you’re restricted to 140 characters. Everything else can go out the window. You only need to take a cursory glance at the feeds of @dril and @UtilityLimb to see just how far Twitter can be stretched. Seriously, look at their Favstar pages. Awe-inspiring. These are people who can write tweets that are so good, they make you gasp in amazement. If you can be consistently funny in an original way on Twitter and not pander to anyone, you’ve got my respect. Very few can do it.”
What does the future hold for Crimer Show? Do you have an ending planned? Any offers of work come out of it?
“I plan to keep it going for the foreseeable future. It would be far too easy to end it; I could think of a thousand ways to do so. The challenge is to keep it funny while taking the characters to ever more ridiculous places and surprising the “viewers”. That’s where the enjoyment lies. There are plenty of plotlines in the works. Canyons of stupidity. The other side of it, which has become more apparent by the day, is that there are people who appear to be EMOTIONALLY INVESTED in it. Try to get your head around that! Maybe people are looking for some warmth in the glow of their monitors. I want to make people do all the different smiles. (There are 14.)
“I haven’t had any offers of work yet. Plenty of strangers have suggested this and that, but nobody has offered me a writing job. So I wait. If anyone wants to publish my joke book or ask me to write for a thing they’re doing, I’d love to hear from them! If nothing else, it’s nice to chat about laughing.”
MAYOORE: (tied to chair) How inheckes didyou gete inheere? CRIMER: Im… (puts on sunglasses) crimed my waye in. VOISEOVER: To be contingue!
— Crimer Show (@CrimerShow) April 7, 2013