Art & Culture

Does a Bird Not Tweet? An interview with Katie Jo Goldin, the creator of the wildly popular parody Twitter account, ProBirdRights.

Does a Bird Not Tweet? An interview with Katie Jo Goldin, the creator of the wildly popular parody Twitter account, ProBirdRights.

Pass the Dortitos ann stay IN UR LANE, human!!

Or so might go a typical avian remonstration from the internet’s most insanely addictive Twitter parody account, @probirdrights.

ProBirdRights feathers its digital nest with a disarmingly straightforward profile description: “Hello yes this is a bird i am a birdsrightsactivist and I fight against antibird sentiment.”

That’s true of the wildly inventive, brutally astute European robin known as Bird. (Bird often self-styles as Birb, in keeping with its ungrammatical—and also somehow perfect—Birdglish.) It’s also only part of the story.

A day in the life of Bird according to Bird may involve everything from the usual—getting stuck yet again inside a “Dortitos” chip bag or a menace vending machine; bestowing excremental blessings on cars; you know, bird things—to the existential: “I am feel uncomfortable when we are not about me.”  

I’m a longtime bird enthusiast. At the age of 8, I told my father I wanted to grow up to be President of the Audubon Society. Some two decades later, I was recounting this charming little tale to a mannered, serious man named David at a chic Tribeca environmentalist gathering. I only did so because he had mentioned he worked in bird conservation. And so, after greatly amusing myself with my own anecdote, I asked him to tell me more about what he did in bird conservation. “I’m President of the Audubon Society,” he said. Of course.

Anyway, count your writer among Bird’s 421,000-plus fans. Getting parody right on Twitter, much like succeeding at standup comedy, is a helluva lot harder than it looks. I recently spoke with writer and Angeleno resident Katie Jo Goldin, the mind behind the birdbrain, to discuss what makes this plumed little narcissist sing.

Goldin is a professional writer and podcaster originally from San Diego, who traces her comedic beginnings to post-grad day-jobbing as an educational technical writer. A progressive-minded person with a deep concern for animals and the environment, Goldin remembers having a particular affinity for birds even as a child.

“My mom once told me that I went through a phase when I was two where I would run around the backyard trying to catch a bird,” she said.

Though she appreciated the rigor of academic writing, she found herself increasingly drawn to writing humor. She got her first break moonlighting for Cracked.com (imagine if Reddit and The Onion had a website baby, and you’re mostly there). Soon after, Bird was hatched (sorry). We can thank the “manosphere.”

“I started Bird in 2011, and the genesis is slightly surprising,” Goldin says. “I was talking to a group of friends about these copy paste chain letter emails coming from the developing manosphere.”

Manosphere, for the unburdened, is a vibrant segment of the web devoted to men’s rights. (Today, the manosphere has melded with the alt-right and worse, but that’s another article.)

“These emails and these forums would present themselves as activists, when really they were just hateful and toxic,” explains Godin. “The irrational ranting of it all was somewhat funny to me, so I took it and replaced instances and wrote it from the perspective of an angry bird. Like, I’m mad at squirrels and being gluten-free is anti-bird.”

A friend joked that she should take her political comedy bird concept to Twitter, since … well. Thus, @probirdrights. 

“Hate comes from pain, so I wanted to remove a little bit of that intensity while still commenting on issues that concerned me, and I thought an angry, self-centered bird could be a way to do that,” Goldin says. “I think my first tweet was literally ‘tweet tweet I’m a bird,’ but the tweets became cathartic to write.”

As it turns out, what began on a lark (again, sorry) would be cathartic for thousands of others, too.

Bird’s most defining characteristic is that this little creature is perpetually indignant. Goldin explains that this stems from the fact that birds look, to her, like livid little dinosaurs.

“And now we’re fluffy and cute and we steal chips from stores!” she says. “You can see this roiling tension. A friend of mine describes her pet parakeet as having more tantrums than a two-year-old.”

While Goldin clearly adores birds and advocates for their preservation (literally, she is pro bird rights), she also knows that birds could care less what we humans think. It’s the heightened convergence of this very real bird ur-personality and the reliable inanity of American politics that makes Bird so hysterically appealing.

To a newcomer skimming through Bird’s tweets, a pattern soon emerges of the hilarious—furious feelings about cherished bird concerns such as not enough bread—to the politically hilarious.

Classic Bird logic on display:

When bird interests and politics intertwine, as they often do, the internet all but breaks.

Bird’s egotistical tweets about the complete and total importance of Bird and Bird alone are disturbingly on-the-nose when considering the current White House resident, although one could argue Bird has better hair. It would be understandable to assume this parodic character emerged in response to 2016.

“Gaslighting” is a term many have come to know in the year 2020 (we’re all psychologists now, baby), but the behavior has been on Goldin’s mind for more than a decade.

“At this point, it would be nice to have a politician who even pretends to care,” she says. “I’m in a constant state of anxiety. Sure, it’s fun to do the tweets, but it’s also scary when things are so bad. The sky is literally orange.” (This interview was taken during the apocalyptic height of the recent California fires.)

I ask her what Bird will do if mass death, mass unemployment and mass protests still aren’t enough to turn Donald Trump into a one-term Oval Office occupant.

“I think I think about this more from a survival angle,” Goldin says. “I haven’t thought specifically about what Bird would do if Trump wins reelection. We’d be set so far back from everything that matters to our existence.

“Here’s the trouble with satire and someone like Trump: In terms of my life and everyone’s lives, I would like him to lose. But I would also like him to lose because of comedy. It’s incredibly hard to satirize someone who is blatantly evil.”

Satire pulls back the curtain. It’s one thing to find comedic relief in mocking the hate at the fringes of a society. It’s another when the fringe becomes the very fabric.

“When someone has the curtains open, and says right out loud that we hate immigrants, or we hate leftists, or we’re for authoritarianism, this is our whole deal, that actually makes satire harder,” Goldin says.

We both take a deep breath. Let’s talk about good bird things.

For such a massive following, Goldin says she doesn’t spend as much time as she’d like to on the account. She tweets as ideas come to her, but doesn’t follow a strict schedule or formula. Among her other writerly successes, she’s the host of the Creature Feature podcast and is exploring a bird comic concept. I ask her for her top bird-related recommendations. Here are a few:

@falseknees

“A wonderful comic artist who does absolutely beautiful nature illustrations and is so funny, some of the funniest I’ve ever seen, and they’re beautiful.”

@chickythoughts

“Comics about pet birds like cockatiels that really capture the universal language of birds, which is very self centered.”

@alexthehonk

“One of my favorite real birds on Twitter.”

*********

An Interview with Bird

By Sara Ost 

Q: Ahem. Dear Bird (Mr. Bird? Ms. Bird?), thank you so much for joining us. How are you today? 

A: thats president professor doctor bird to u 

Q: Tell us about the early years. What was your upbringing like? As a fledgling, what were your hopes for your future? What do your broodmates do?

A: my parents sat on me and spat worm in my mouth so u coud say i had perfect chickhood. i did try kick brother out of nest but it okay we are friend now and he run a hedge fund. inside a hedge. where the funds is. 

Q: What would you say your greatest contribution to your community is? In these epic times of peril and strain, how are you doing your part?

A: i figure out how to carry two chip at once: allow me to dermonstrate: one in mouth. one in foot. Then u just walk over. wait. no hang on i got this. ya put one chip on head and one. wait. sorry. i ate the demonstration chips. 

Q: You’re very vocal online and your tweets are read by thousands. What inspires you?

A: whats that? kajillions of people gather in the onlines to hear me a bird tweet?? wow u mean to say i am most famous celebirdy on all time???? wow stop flatter me (dont stop)

Q: Who do you predict will win the election on November 3?

A: me because there no law what says birds can’t vote and DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY BIRDS THERE IS M’AM??? prepare for thine reckoning.

Q: Have you taken up any new hobbies or developed any new skills during this time?

A: is eat a hobby?

Q: How do you spend your days, as well as your nights?

A: see prevous answer

Q: What are your thoughts on humans? Give us the birds-eye view.

A: humans think they so great because of ‘thumbs” and “cell phone” and “pants.” but while u human fight about “stockes” and “taxflation” i have already taken ur pastry and am eating it right now. Oops who the dominante species now????? 

also wake up squirreles is a conspiracy 

Editor’s note: Katie Jo Goldin, the creator of ProBirdRights, contributed reporting to this piece. Please do not tell Bird.

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