Twitter is a blasted hellscape of poor grammar and worse behavior (with the occasional Republican wingnut calling for literal white supremacist sedition), but there are those who’ve managed to use the micro-blogging platform for the greater good. Or at least to work out some killer, 140-character one-liners. Such is the undisputed purview of comedian George Wallace, who brought along his new book of perfectly polished online jokes, Bulltwitt...and Whatnot, to Conan on Wednesday. For those in the know—and after a half-century in stand-up, that should be everyone—Wallace is a joke-writing legend, a craft he’s only honed with the coming of social media. Not that former neighbor Conan O’Brien has ever taken the time to book Wallace on any of his various shows.
“After 28 years, Conan,” Wallace began in mock-gratitude, before snapping, “You’ve got five minutes—Go!” Luckily for us, we got a full 20 minutes of the venerable comic’s time as Wallace talked. And that’s all you need, really, with Wallace segueing with a lifetime’s ease through jokes about his COVID-adpoted lockdown city of Atlanta (home to the Black Panther movies since Africa didn’t have enough Black people), how he used to use Arsenio Hall’s show as his pre-Twitter warmup to work on his Letterman set, and his 45-year best friendship with one Jerry Seinfeld. Noting that he—Seinfeld’s roommate for 13 years at one point—is “the real George,” Wallace told O’Brien that he’s the only one who can still tell the Fortune-ranked Seinfeld he’s got too damned much money. (He also slipped in an expertly timed line about his best man duties extending to the parentage of Seinfeld’s kids, just so Mr. Riding In Expensive Cars With Famous People doesn’t get too ahead of himself.)
Sympathizing with Conan about the previous president’s exit leaving comedians (and pop culture sites) with “all these Trump jokes around here, stinkin’ up the place.” Still, both men were happy to accept the trade of a competent, decent leader who speaks in complete sentences and unveils an actual pandemic response team of scientists and medical professionals rather than, as Wallace put it, “family members and some guy pushing pillows.” Not that George Wallace has any shortage of things to joke about any time, as he and Conan read out some of Wallace’s Twitter-winning jokes from Bulltwitt...and Whatnot. (Wallace’s signature use of “...and whatnot” alone is a master class in comic timing.) Noting that fellow comic and foreword-writer Patton Oswalt’s favorite joke is in there (it’s about Whac-A-Mole, and you owe it to yourself to hear Conan crack up while reading it), Wallace also shared the one about sweater vests having to make a choice, which, again, nobody’s spoiling for you here.
Now, turning a Twitter thread into a book (or, god forbid, a sitcom) might seem like a cash-grab, but, with Wallace’s sure hand involved, Bulltwitt...and Whatnot is giving off more of a Deep Thoughts than a Sniglets vibe, longevity-wise. Plus, as Wallace notes happily, you can only get it through his website, since Amazon takes half his damned money. Signing off from the now-blue Georgia with a joke about a Black man and a Jew walking into a bar (the bartender says, “What can I get you, Senators?”), Wallace urged his fellow Atlantans to follow him to the city’s COVID vaccination sites, noting that it’s incumbent on Black people to overcome their understandable but potentially deadly skepticism when it comes to the United States government and the medical establishment. “We need to get this, and get it done,” stressed Wallace to Conan, leaving with his signature show-closer, “I love you and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.”