Quinn Cummings, Writer


Cool Tools Show 215: Quinn Cummings

Our guest this week is Quinn Cummings, a writer of three books and numerous articles, the partner of one man, the mother of one woman, the caretaker of countless foster animals and a lifelong fan of Mexican food. You can read “A Small Story” daily non-fiction stories ofher life on Twitter @quinncy. You can find her on Instagram @quinncummings.

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Show notes:

Fitbit (trying to get resting heart rate down)
I am the last person in the world to come to Fitbit. I think people have put Fitbits on their pets before I got to it. Because I know myself well enough to know I get a little obsessive about things and I thought I don’t need to constantly be checking my step count. I’m boring enough as it is. But I have a fast resting heart rate and it annoys me because I’m in good shape and I just sort of feel like it’s a flaw in my character. It’s right around 80 which is perfectly normal, but a little on the high side and I am exactly that persnickety that I thought, well I’m not going to be a little on the high side. So one of my resolutions was I’m going to get that resting heart rate down. So I am chipping away at it. Again, might be the most boring reason anyone’s ever gotten a Fitbit, but I am so happy with it. I want to be buried with it now, which will kind of defeat the purpose. I have now become a runner. I am a very bad runner. I don’t like it. I feel sorry for myself. Not the least of which being, because I have asthma. So it always hurts and my brain is always nearly completely certain I’m going to die. But, I take a class that is half on the treadmill, half pilates. And by the end of it I am rung out. I wander out of class. I think that can’t be doing me any good at all. But I’m down like three points in a month on my resting heart rate. I am in the high seventies now and I will not be happy until my heart is basically barely moving.

Twitter (the thing which both alleviates and exacerbates my anxiety, see: resting heart rate)
I have a complicated relationship with Twitter. I have issues with anxiety which certainly have not been helped in the past few years and Twitter for me is designed to both alleviate and exacerbate my anxiety. I go to read the news, I become upset, I write some jokes, I feel better. I see that people write to me and say, “Thank you, I feel better.” But on the other hand I’m back to reading the news and now I’m getting anxious again. It is a cycle and I think it is designed to keep people just as anxious as I am. Because that’s what keeps you around. The way I describe it is I’m like that bacteria that evolves to live in a septic tank. If someone apologizes to me and says, “I’m sorry, I’m not on Twitter.” I say, “No apology necessary. Don’t come.” There is nothing to be gained from going there. If you’re there, I hope to make it a little less “Twitter” for you, but if you’re not there already, dear God, stay away.

Mark Frauenfelder: Do you have any tools for someone who wanted to be funnier than they were?
That’s a really good question. At some point somebody brought me in and was saying, “Okay, here are different ways you can monetize your brand”. And already I’m getting a headache because it’s like, eh, you’re making me feel dirty. But one of the things she said was, “Can you teach people how to be funny?” And I looked blank and I said, “I don’t think so.” What I think you can do is teach people to start noticing things which are unlikely. When I first started writing jokes on Twitter, I would look at a bit of the news and I would think, okay, where is the weak point in this story? Because comedy comes at the flection point. Someone who has been married four times and constantly stepped out on his wife decrying somebody else’s fidelity, is hypocrisy. If you pointed at him and shout hypocrite, that’s not funny. That’s just noticing. If you can come at it at a slant, if you can find a way of reframing that in a way that people aren’t expecting to hear. Comedy is anticipation mixed with uncertainty. In the oldest comedy movies, you would see the guy walking down the street towards the open manhole not paying attention. You know something’s going to happen. You don’t know how. I’ll tell you one thing that’s here in Los Angeles, a lot of stand-up comics are doing a side hustle where they teach standup comedy. Most are no good. There is a teacher or a comic by the name of David A. Arnold who teaches the classes called The Art of Standup Comedy. And he has an instinctive understanding of how to point people in the right direction. You can’t teach comedy, but you can open people’s minds to the idea of where comedy may be in their lives.

Tile, because I lose my keys constantly.
Tile has given me back a certain quality of life. I mean, do I know where my keys are? No, but I will in about 35 seconds. I love my Tile. The Tile is a small white plastic square that you attach to objects or put into objects. I have one in a side pocket of my purse and it is an app and you can go to the app and you can say, “I can’t find this object”. And the Tile will start singing at you. And then you can find it and if you can’t hear it, you can look on the app and it will show you, “Hey dummy, it’s in your car,” which is one I learned a lot. As far as I’m concerned, this is witchcraft. Its just happy witchcraft.

About “A Small Story“:
“A Small Story” is a daily non-fiction story of my life, usually humorous, told in threaded Tweets.About a year and a half ago, I remembered a story out of my life which was, the worst day I’ve ever had in an office and it had a fantastic punch line because I was an idiot and it wasn’t like I created a great story. I was an idiot. And then a story grew up around it. And I thought, I’d love to tell this story. Is there a way of doing it on Twitter? And I thought, you know what, let me see if people will have the interest to read a short story through a series of threaded tweets. The story did well. The last time I checked, I think it’s been retweeted 47,000 times. Several hundred people support through Patreon, the premium supporters are getting an extra story every week.


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