Badbanana: Is he the funniest man on Twitter?

He describes himself as a thinker, writer and retired trombone player. See how Nebraskan Tim Siedell went from 0 to 407,000 followers using a special ingredient: his wit.

That Indian dinner was so authentic I think I hate Pakistan.

Miss England has given up her crown after getting into a bar fight. I think this automatically makes her Miss Ireland.

Why does the Rudolph special end before we get to see how disappointed the kids are with their misfit toys?

Welcome to the exoplanet of Tim Siedell, aka Badbanana, who has amassed 407,000 followers since he joined Twitter in 2007. Siedell—co-founder of a brand communications studio in Lincoln, Neb.—is a maestro of the tweet. Along the way he has won a book deal, drawn marriage proposals and been called one of the 10 funniest people on Twitter.

Not bad for a man who started out simply exploring Twitter rather than using it strategically to promote himself or his brand. But as he writes in a Ragan.com e-mail interview, “Twitter has helped me find my voice when I didn’t know I was looking for one.”

That voice has won him legions of fans. NPR’s Scott Simon has interviewed Siedell for his take on events like the balloon boy hoax, and MSNBC listed Badbanana as one of “four Twitter feeds that could be hit shows.”

In a conversation with David Letterman, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone gave Siedell a shout-out.

“Lady Gaga—6 million-plus followers,” Letterman said. “Who’s your favorite person to follow?”

“There’s a guy named Badbanana,” said Stone, “and I find him to be terribly funny.”

When Siedell started his Twitter account in March 2007, he just wanted to see whether he could recommend the medium to his clients at Fuse Industries, his boutique studio. (“I remember it well,” he writes, “because my wife and kids went out of town to see family. I started a Twitter account, set up a blog, and invented the Beefaroni sandwich.”) But he found it to be a good way to stay atop industry trends, interact with leaders and find inspiration by scrolling through tweets.

“I fell in love with Twitter as a creative release in and of itself,” he writes. “A way to shoot out a joke or a nearly instantaneous quip about some breaking news. The instant feedback made it rewarding. That’s something I never experienced in my career as an advertising copywriter, really. I found the exercise quite enlightening and liberating.”

Others liked what they found at Badbanana, where Siedell offers his thoughts under a mug shot of the late British adman David Ogilvy. Ogilvy is one of Siedell’s heroes, and whenever he has changed the photo, complaints have flooded in.

“I’ve come to realize my quips and comments seem a little funnier coming out of that face,” he writes.

Those quips were offbeat enough to be read onstage in Munich and reprinted in a German book. Everything is in German except for his tweets, so he has no idea what it’s about. (“No pictures of Hitler, thankfully.”) And he has even drawn many marriage proposals from fans who are perhaps enchanted by his Ogilvy good looks.

“I assume they’re from women,” he writes, “but it’s the Internet so you never know for sure.”

Just as well, as he has a wife of 20 years and two daughters, ages 13 and 11.

Twitter has won Siedell opportunities beyond declarations of love. He is working on a screenplay and writing for The Huffington Post, where he has riffed on “Classic Drink Recipes for Today’s Economy.” One recipe includes advice on how to defend your cardboard sleeping box with a broken-off rum bottle.

Siedell’s quips are often bursts of inspiration seemingly apropos of nothing: “Don’t you hate it when time travelers from the future want a photo with you but then refuse to say why they’re laughing?”

At other times, he offers his take on current events or celebrity buffoonery. After scrolling through a feed in which rapper and Twitter philosopher 50 Cent suggested that strippers who are fat and ugly kill themselves, Siedell mused: “Can’t believe the guy’s only been shot nine times.”

This raises questions about the unfiltered nature of celebrity in the age of Twitter. Asked about the dangers of drinking and tweeting, Siedell pronounced himself all for it. He appreciates a good flameout, he says, especially by celebrities.

“We’re living in an amazing time where celebrities can bypass publicists and lawyers and managers and editors and go straight to the fans,” he writes. “The results are often hilarious. Unfiltered celebrities are a comedian’s dream. The more alcohol we can add to an already volatile mix of camera phone, ego, and bad judgment, the better.”

How Siedell tweets

When asked by Silicon Prairie News about how he composes his tweets, Siedell spun a tongue-in-cheek yarn about his “foolproof system.” He veered from 17th-century Spanish art to a discussion of how he translates his musings from Latin to English.

In a Ragan e-mail interview, Siedell offered a more straight-faced assessment of his inspired use of Twitter.

“I think it’s the same method anyone in a creative field uses,” he said. “You have to keep your radar up. Notice things around you. Don’t go through the motions every day. Really try to observe the world around you, the big stuff and the little stuff. Actively force yourself to get out of your ruts.”

Other suggestions from Siedell on how to create a more interesting Twitter feed:

1. Don’t be yourself. Be a more interesting version of you.

2. Think small. Don’t try to please everyone, but add value to someone.

3. Stop worrying about it. Be consistently interesting and your audience will find you. Eventually. … If you’re not sure if something is interesting, post it.

4. No tricks or shortcuts. It might take a while. I had 5,000 followers when I wrote my 10,000th tweet.

5. Barney Miller jokes don’t work. Trust me on this.

6. Who says a tweet has to memorable? Most interactions, whether it’s a phone call or a water cooler conversation, are ephemeral. That’s OK. Memorable is not always the goal (see: Benedict Arnold).

7. If you want to be more creative, fill your brain with tons of stuff. Let things bounce around in your head. Then be aware when new combinations are made and record them. Too many ideas are lost because we’re not paying attention.

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