Mill returned online fire and all of sudden we were watching one of the strangest interactions that the internet has produced—it was like your grandpa showing up at a friend's house party coincidentally."Grandpa, what are you doing here?""What are you doing here? I've been friends with Rachel for years."Kelly threatening rappers like he was Suge Knight should come as no surprise, especially if someone is digitally stepping to Drake. Kelly's Twitter feed in the past year has become quite a hit sensation amongst Toronto's Twitterati. With over 30,000 followers, Kelly is more popular than any counsellor who isn't a) the mayor or b) the most famous crack cocaine user since Rick James.But what is driving a 73-year-old grandfather to become a verified Twitter god?Before conquering social media, Kelly's professional career was spent honing to a razor's edge the art of being boring. This is a man who is so boring, so diligent in his ability to not step out of line in any way, that he was able to serve on the Executive Committees for Mayors Mel Lastman, David Miller, and Rob Ford. A man so boring that he was able to return normalcy to City Hall after the reality TV-meets-Mad Max circus of Ford. If you can put out the internet fire that was Rob Ford, that is a Bruce Lee level of boringness. I mean just try to keep your interest alive while watching this.
His traffic update tweets:
And his pothole-filling update tweets:
The difference between his steady, responsible tweets and the ones that read like those of an aspiring comedian is striking. It's not only that they are funny—that's not surprising. Kelly is clearly a sharp guy. By his account, he reads up to four newspapers a day. That's like, every newspaper in business, pretty much. In many of his interviews, I see a sort of impish charm in his eyes. Despite the dullness of his appearance and voice, I can believe that there is a goofball somewhere in the recesses of his Dracula-hosting-a-kid's-show visage.It's the tone and style of his tweets that raises my eyebrow. This is a man who has become fluent in the medium. His tweets read like he took a course. His rhythm and sense of timing are thoroughly of the internet. It's not clunky. Sometimes the material of the jokes is clunky and old-mannish; but the delivery, the way he lets references go unsaid, they way they are steeped in irony and self-depreciation, is very skilled.
I smell bullshit: You can't tweet like you have Worldstar as your homepage and then claim to not know "sick" can mean "good."Which brings me to the uncomfortable appropriation angle. Smarter, more appropriate people could speak to this better than me, but I thought it was particularly glaring that, on July 22, the same day the police who killed Jermaine Carby were exonerated despite their very questionable behavior, Kelly was sucking up all the media attention with his hacky, I'm an old white man hilariously getting involved in a hip-hop beef BS. His jokes remind me of when this was considered a good idea:Kelly claims that he writes all his tweets. A friend of mine who works in City Hall told me she asked his staffers and they confirmed he writes his own tweets. He does ask them for help with Photoshop, but he's admitted that. I'm inclined to believe him due to the aforementioned hokey nature of some jokes. Ultimately, much like the question of does Drake have a ghostwriter, whether or not he writes his own tweets is less important to me than the motivation behind the material. Whether he writes them or not, Kelly clearly wants to be noticed.
Using personal conversations as a testing ground for material? That's a comedian talking right there. Look at this tweet:
I do, but I've told everyone that I steal shamelessly from everybody. If you say something to me that gets me thinking, or you're close to me and I throw them at you and listen to your response, I might use that.
Not a bad tweet, but what I'm interested in is its creation. It's existence suggests that Kelly is thinking of the jokes now, he's looking for them. This is not a man who accidentally stumbled upon a fun new game for his spare time—the way he likes to portray himself in interviews. No, this tweet to me suggests that Kelly is focused on becoming Twitter famous, that he's working very hard at it.
In interviews, Kelly describes a Toronto in transition from being a sleepy provincial capital to the sleek, sexy center of the universe. Kelly, though, found himself both part of that transition and, I think, inspired by it. I wonder if he thinks to himself, Hey, if Toronto can be this cool, then why can't I? His Twitter account then is evidence that Toronto is changing, that the eyes of the world and it's accompanying fame and attention are here. It shows what the effect of that can be, that it can turn even the most sensible of men into fame-hungry, hack comedians.But maybe I'm not the only one who thinks it's all getting a bit much…
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Need to charge up. Taking a break from Twitter. Be back in 2 weeks.
— Norm Kelly (@norm) July 27, 2015