Winding up the offence takers on Twitter keeps comedian Limmy amused, writes Ellie O’Byrne
GLASWEGIAN comedian Brian Limmond, aka Limmy, is keeping himself entertained between shows while on tour: winding up the offence-takers of Twitter with screenshots of a series of fake WhatsApp pranks played on his fictitious parents.
From the absence of punctuation to his use of emojis and the Americanised “mom”, he’s nailed the tropes of the viral screenshot form. They’re expertly crafted, gleefully nasty and have generated a gratifyingly outraged response from social media users who believe they’re real.
Scenarios include him messaging his grandfather from his father’s phone to tell him he’s being put in a home, or messaging his mother to say his father’s been killed.
“I’m hooked,” he says. “I got an app where you type in the conversation and it lays it all out for you. I’m in the middle of one right now that’s hopefully even worse. I love it when someone goes, ‘I’m sorry but there’s nothing funny about this. It’s just not funny.’”
His voice assumes a note of ferocious glee: “It’s like being in class and you’re not allowed to laugh, and the teacher’s looking at you and you cannae help it; you’re just exploding inside. I get a real buzz out of it. I don’t know if that makes me sick, or sad, or pathetic, but I really like it.”
Doesn’t he care if people think he’s sick or sad or pathetic?
“Not at all. It kind of lights me up and makes me glow. I don’t know why; I just really, really like it. At the end of the day, it’s all imaginary. I know they think it’s real, but my dad’s not on WhatsApp, and my Mum died 22 years ago. It’s just a laugh.”
Limmy’s tweets have the same in-joke feel as his BBC Scotland sketch show, Limmy’s Show; you either get it, or you don’t. Bleak and surreal in equal measure, the series saw him become something of a cult figure in the comedy world.
With a history of self-harm in his teens, he’s been refreshingly open about his battles with alcoholism and depression. He says anti-depressants were an important part of the treatment that has brought him to the place of relative balance that he inhabits today.
“Now I’m off the pills,” he says. “On occasions where I would have thought, ‘You can always kill yourself,’ I’m on it right away. I just monitor myself a lot more. I don’t get angry and I don’t let myself get wound up by things.”
Dry for 15 years now, the 42-year-old admits there’s a compulsive element to his social media use, and to his creative output in general, that used to be mirrored in his drinking.
“I could never just have one drink. I had to have another, and another. But it wasn’t about alcohol, it’s something else; it’s needing to get away from things, or needing constant stimulation or something.
“I used to drink out of boredom. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go and you just need to make something up. A wee idea pops in and you just go, ‘Right, I’m going to make that.’”
If exorcising demons through constant creation is the pattern, the result is a decade of highly original, if not always likeable, multi-media output, from his breakthrough Limmy’s World of Glasgow podcast to the Swearing Xylo app, from onanistic Vines to electronica (try his techno Fry’s Turkish Delight ad remix, complete with voiceover: “It’s like eating old woman’s perfume.”)
Limmy’s success is the product of a democratised entertainment landscape, part of an explosion of digital self-publishing techniques and platforms. 140 characters, 140 seconds: with his penchant for bite-size forms, short stories seem a natural next step. Following his decision that Limmy’s show had “run its course” three seasons in, he penned his first collection of grimly funny and off-beat Daft Wee Stories.
His second book, which he’s currently launching with a live tour, is the decidedly darker That’s Your Lot.
“All of the characters’ lives have gone a bit wrong; that’s why it’s called That’s Your Lot,” he says. “I tried something a bit more serious. Some of these don’t have a big punchline at the end. I think they are a bit grimmer… but I like the dark stuff anyway.”
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