One of the fun things about Twitter is that, every now and then, it gives you a chance to interact with personalities or authors you admire.
When I read my copy of "The Sheriff of Yrnameer," a satirical science fiction novel by Michael Rubens, I tweeted my appreciation, and Rubens acknowledged it. I once tweeted a message to Peter Sagal, host of public radio's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," asking him why one of the show's regular panelists hadn't been added to its web site, and got a very funny response.
But I can't recall that I've ever carried on a conversation before -- until last week.
I'm a fan of Jesse Thorn, the host of several comedy-related podcasts, one of which, the interview show "The Sound of Young America," is also on some public radio stations. Thorn operates the web site maximumfun.org, home base for his own podcasts and several others (some of the site's podcasts contain strong language). The site is listener-supported.
Thorn can also be seen hosting "The Grid," a 15-minute pop culture show which airs between movies on the cable channel IFC.
Last week, Jesse gushed on Twitter about one of his latest interview guests, "Saturday Night Live" cast member Bill Hader, and how Hader made him laugh so hard by doing his character Stefon.
I had to Tweet a reply -- although I love Hader, I find Stefon to be a one-joke character, funny on the first appearance, maybe the second, but now horribly overused.
Thorn responded that the same allegations been made against every recurring SNL bit for the past 30 years. That stung a little bit; I'm usually a defender of SNL, and think we sometimes unfairly compare the current season to our highly-selective memories of the past.
I responded to Thorn that I really thought the last couple of years had been something different; the show was taking what were, in effect, one-joke bits, not really worthy of repeating, and running them into the ground.
Thorn then came to Stefon's defense, saying that what I considered a "one-joke" bit he found to have a lot more depth.
I realized I wasn't going to win this argument, and I tried to be gracious, saying that obviously, humor was a very personal thing, but given that Thorn was somewhat of an expert in the field, I would concede the point.
A nice little exchange, and all in bursts of 140 characters or fewer.
By the way, when you're following your favorite celebrities on Twitter, you will want to be aware of the little "verified" seal that Twitter has adopted to confirm that a particular account actually belongs to the celebrity in question, and not to some tongue-in-cheek prankster or other imposter.
Be advised that not every celebrity with a Twitter account is responsible for his or her own Tweets, and not all of them actually read or respond to replies. Obviously, the bigger the star, the more replies they'll potentially receive and the less practical it would be for them to respond consistently. So you're never guaranteed a response. But Twitter at least makes new kinds of interaction possible.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is lakeneuron.com.