Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up this week: The online humorist known as @nascarcasm. This interview is available as a podcast and is also partially transcribed below:
Obviously, you had nothing handed to you. This is a creation you made. What advice would you give somebody who thinks they’re funny, or even a journalist just starting out on how to build a following on Twitter?
What you gotta do is look for something that’s nowhere else. At the time, I looked around and it didn’t look like too many people were cracking bad dad jokes about NASCAR. So that’s when I figured, “What the hell, let’s give this a start.”
That’s your niche.
(Laughs) Yes, exactly. Crappy dad jokes. It’s what it’s all about.
But that’s what makes it hard, because whether it’s a parody account or an inanimate object account or whatever it is, it seems to me like the first of all of those seems to be the one that takes off. And Twitter is so saturated now and it’s been around so long. (It’s) like, “What’s not out there that I can latch onto and make this account be about? What is there?”
The @NASfacts account, which is one of my personal favorites, that’s one that has somehow found this little niche. And if you’re not following it, you should. It’s hard to describe. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but it’s from the standpoint of an unintelligent person trying to tweet facts about NASCAR. And again, that account didn’t exist at all. So here it comes, and it picks up a big following. So I would say the most important thing is to find something that hasn’t been done yet and do that.
That’s why accounts like @DarkStockPhotos, a guy who finds stock photography that has these really creepy, what-the-hell-is-this kind of connotations and puts them out there, they get hundreds of thousands of followers just for that because they’re the only person doing it. So it’s picking a weird idea like that and running with it.
In NASCAR, you’ve not only turned your Twitter account into a large following, but you’ve turned it into a job working for NASCAR.com. Obviously, NASCAR.com pushes your stuff out; they’re posting it. You have Facebook where you can do that. But how much of a role does Twitter remain in your job?
Very much. It’s very very important. It’s really still the best way to get yourself out there. We’re all serial link tweeters; that’s what it’s all about. I don’t really look at click numbers all that much, but you need Twitter to get that stuff out there. If you’ve got a big following, it’s a good way to yell at people and be like, “Hey, look at this.” So Twitter is still 100 percent important.
Just moments ago before we started this interview, I saw that you retweeted something funny about Chad Knaus lying on the ground. You made a Titanic joke. And Dale Jr. retweeted, quote tweeted you and said, “Hahahahaha.” What’s it feel like when a notification pops up on your phone that says, “Dale Earnhardt Jr. retweeted you and laughed at your joke?”
Here’s the deal: If Dale Jr. retweets you or quote-tweets you or answers you on Twitter, I’ve always likened it to if you’re a nerd in high school and all of a sudden the quarterback of the football team says, “You can sit at my lunch table.” That’s how it feels, like, “Oh my gosh, I hope I don’t make him mad. I hope he likes me.” It’s that kind of reaction. But it’s kind of akin to that. There’s sort of an, “Oh my gosh, what do I say next?” kind of deal with him because he’s just the overlord. I’m sure he knows that.
I was talking to Conor Daly earlier in the fan zone. And you walked by, and Conor Daly stopped and said, “Hey, the famous guy!” to you. It’s really funny how both in the IndyCar world and the NASCAR world, most of the drivers know you. How many of them do you know or have personally interacted with?
I’d say a few. Not really all that many. I’ve never felt like I should be in the position or was in the position where I could bum-rush a driver and say, “Hey, do you know who I am?” The way it started out, you were kind of a troll, you were kind of cracking jokes in the background. And I feel like to a degree, it should kind of stay in that regard.
Now if I meet a driver, obviously I’ve met Keselowski who’s been tremendous, I’ve actually met Jamie McMurray on more than one occasion and he’s actually a very good guy (despite their faux rivalry). If you’re still confused about that, that whole thing was like Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon light.
Your pretend feud?
Yes, exactly. And there’s all usually very nice. I do have a couple of funny interactions. The first time I’ve met people kind of stories. They’re usually like, “Oh that’s you,” handshake and go along their way.
I think I told this on the Nate Ryan podcast, and this might have gotten taken out actually, so if you have to edit it out also…but several years back for IndyCar I went out to the IndyCar finale in Fontana and Will Power won the championship that year. The night after, they had the banquet in the theater downtown and then the afterparty and so on.
And so the afterparty is going on for a while, it’s a fun time and one of my friends out there says, “You gotta come meet Will Power.” And I’m like, “OK, sure, I’ll do that.” So he takes me over past the velvet rope where the VIP area is, and Will’s there, and my friend there says, “Hey Will, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Dave here.” And Will goes (in an accent), “Hello, pleasure to meet you, how you doing?” And then I see my friend kind of lean in and whisper into Will’s ear, and Will turns to me and gives that signature lemur wide-eyed look and goes, “Get fucked, really?!” That’s probably the highlight. I don’t get the, “Hi, nice to meet you,” that often — that’s what I get.
I think on the podcast we did in May, you told a story about Carl Edwards pointing at you and gesturing you and stuff. So for instance, have you had a chance to say hi to Dale Jr.?
I met him in passing once years ago, but it’s kind of hard to do that. Sometimes in the beginning, a lot of people are like, “You gotta come by and say hello.” And if you’re at a track on a day where there’s practice and the track is hot, coming by and saying hello is a very difficult task. By that, if you mean do I loiter outside your motorcoach, do I come by your hauler? It’s just hard to do. So like I said, I got to meet him once in passing once back at Michigan. Nothing since. But he’s a busy guy, it’s alright.
One thing I noticed about your Twitter account is you’re not only interactive with the drivers, replying to them or tweeting at them, but you’re very interactive with the people who are replying to you, the regular readers. You’re extremely interactive with people. Why do you choose to write back and say thanks to all these people who are commenting back at you?
I mean it’s the absolute least you could do.
It’s not the least because I do less.
(Laughs) Valid point. But for me, this is gonna sound totally lame, but if someone’s willing to click on a link that you barf out there and read through it…I don’t think I deserve a single click, but these people are doing that and if they take the time to say, “Hey that was good,” the least you can do is say thank you.
I know how probably painful it is to be a longtime follower at this point, and if they hadn’t clicked “follow” long ago, then I don’t know if I’d be here talking to you necessarily. So I wish I could take them all out to dinner at some point, but, you know, journalism degree. So like I said, it’s the least you can do. I try to do that as much as possible.
One thing I didn’t realize that happened, but we recently got verified on Twitter. I don’t know how Twitter’s algorithm works or how it figures out what it’s gonna put in your mentions and what doesn’t, but it seems suddenly to take those mentions out of your mentions timeline. A lot of people are responding, but for some reason it’s not showing up. So to me, I didn’t realize that was part of being verified, that that would happen. That’s been kind of detrimental. So I’ve gotta go back and do a lot of searching just to get as many people as possible.
I want to ask you about Facebook as well. Do you use Facebook for any sort of purpose in terms of driving links?
I only use that on a personal basis. It probably doesn’t make sense, knowing that Facebook is the most visited and most-used form, and I don’t have a page at all. So that’s how much sense I make at times.
But I only use it for personal reasons right now. I don’t visit it that often, to be honest, just because what they did with their timeline, where suddenly it’s, “Your friend’s cousin’s godfather’s second cousin liked this page about Rush Limbaugh.” That’s what it turned into. And it kind of turned me off in that regard. Yeah, I’ll visit it from time to time, but a lot of my Facebook friends, a fair amount are NASCAR motorsports followers, a lot aren’t, so I don’t feel like bombarding them with links necessarily. If something funny happens on the track, I’ll put a photo up or so, but I don’t wanna be link bombing all of these friends for years.
How about Instagram? What do you feel like the goal is with that, or are you just having fun with it?
Really, that’s just for fun. I’ve always liked photography. My wife is into it, too. Before this, I worked in graphic design, so there’s always been some visual interest, so to speak. I probably put way more out there than is necessary, but to me it’s just fun because it’s a much kinder place than Twitter is. You usually get, “Cool shot, bro.” That’s the kind of comments you get there. I’ve likened it to be a serene, peaceful area of social media where you can just go and look at all these pretty pictures and so on.
I tend to post more than I should if I’m at a track or if I’m on vacation because on the average work week, I work at home. I don’t see anything interesting or do anything interesting, you know? I don’t wanna post a picture of my energy drink every morning or my breakfast. That’s why when we go on vacation or come to the track, I just basically go completely nuts.
I remember you brought that up when you went to Dubai for your honeymoon: What is the right amount to post on vacation? For me, it’s like if it’s somewhere that I’ve never seen like Dubai or like when you went to China also, there can’t be too many. I wanna see this place, I wanna see it through your eyes and your perspective.
You talked about how Instagram is sort of a nice corner of social media where you’re not getting a lot of hate. Let’s talk about the corner where more hate comes, I guess, or more negativity, which is probably Twitter. By extension, somewhat Reddit is a social media form in some ways. I do notice at times that people on Twitter and Reddit just want to take shots at you for whatever reason, or you tweet out something and they’re like, “This is so lame, this guy.” How do you react to that? And how do you handle it in terms of Twitter? Do you use the block button, do you mute people or do you ignore it?
Ignore. The block button is way too much work, it really is. And it’s really, you gotta think, but to take the time to hit reply and tell someone, “You suck,” it’s like, “Thank you, I really appreciate that.” And to be fair, I put a lot of stuff out there where if I read it back, I would unfollow myself.
I really do bad dad jokes all the time, but I figured at this point, it is what it is. And you know, everything I put out there is not gold, I really know some of it is barely wood, so to speak. So people definitely have the right to do that. But again, it’s more of just an ignoring thing. It eventually goes away.
I can tell you it does affect me at times when I get some of that negativity. Does it throw you off at all? Did it affect you?
It did early on. There were some persistent folk, some really, really persistent folk, but I don’t hear from them anymore, and I’m still here shitposting, so it is what it is.
You’re often cited when people say their favorite NASCAR person to follow on Twitter is. I see that named a lot. So who are some of your favorites to follow on Twitter in general?
Again, @NASfacts is one of the funniest just because it’s one of those role-playing things. It’s so bizarre. When it comes to humor, I think Dale Jr. is really funny. I think Landon Cassill is probably the funniest because he is so immersed in that Millennial Internet culture; he can crack jokes to that audience. Me, I’m pretty old, and I follow him to see what the kids are doing, what’s hip and so on.
But my favorite, another good follow, my favorite comedian, a fellow named Anthony Jeselnik, and I believe that is his Twitter handle. He is a comedian who, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him at all.
Biting, dark humor, right?
I’m sure all of us, we’ve authored tweets and read it and deleted it like, “That’s too far.” Or we put stuff in our drafts folder where we go, “Maybe I’ll tweet that later, I can’t do that right now.” He doesn’t care, and that’s what amazing about it, is that he doesn’t care.
He discussed in one of his specials, about the whole “too soon” thing that happens in social media. When is “too soon?” And he talked about how on the day of any sort of tragedy, he puts a joke out about it. And it was really fascinating to hear why. He said, “I’m not making fun of victims. Victims got victim shit to do.” He says, “What I’m doing is I’m making fun of all these people whenever a tragedy hits, you feel the need to get on Twitter and say, ‘My thoughts and prayers are with so-and-so.'” He says, “That is like, ‘What a terrible tragedy, but look at me.’ It’s like a wedding photographer that only takes selfies.” And so, obviously I will never be at his level of not giving a shit necessarily, but it’s just like, “Wow, you went there. That took guts and you’re still here.”
What’s next for you as far as social media? Where do you see this all going for yourself? This journey’s been hard to predict. Do you have idea what the future looks like?
That’s the thing: I really don’t. Going back to the fact that I don’t know what to put on my business card, I don’t know what the long-term job outlook is for this, whatever it is. There’s really no prior metrics or statistics or person who did this before that I can go by. I don’t know if it’s a temporary thing, but I’d be foolish not to be here and do everything I can, because it’s a lot of fun.
I’m nowhere close to their level, but seeing like the Barstool Sports guys, who have suddenly turned this niche of sports and humor and mixed them, and they’ve just blown up exponentially. You gotta do it for as long as you can. Like I said, prior to this I was working in production in print media, and it ain’t like that was a growth industry, so I’ll stay here and I’ll have fun.
If it were to end, I’d just be grateful for the chance, because it’s been so weird to just be here and for it to happen.