Let's Kill Twitter hosts talk social media and online comedy

Image shows from L to R: Julian Hall, Sajeela Kershi

Let's Kill Twitter (@LKTzoom) is a live comedy show on Zoom which features top guests from the media and comedy worlds. Here we chat to the show's hosts, freelance writer and PR Julian Hall and comedian Sajeela Kershi, to find out more.

Hi Sajeela and Julian. How did you meet each other?

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: We met at the Gilded Balloon Library Bar (remember going out?) back in the 2000s (remember them?). Sajeela was starring in Brendon Burns' Fringe show, So I Suppose This Is Offensive Now?, which won the If.Comedy Award (remember that?). I was a comedy critic (paid not self-appointed) in those days and was one of the awards' judges and had seen the show twice. Sajeela was a major part of the show's twist, so I said hello and well done. We kept bumping into each other and, a few years after, I PR'd a few of Sajeela's shows, including Immigrant Diaries at the Royal Festival Hall.

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: I was already familiar with Julian's work as I had seen his name on reviews. I actually thought we first met in real life at the Edinburgh If.awards ceremony party, but it was certainly at some point during the madness of Edinburgh 2007! I worked closely with Julian a few times after that. He did a great job PRing for my shows, my stand-up shows Shallow Halal and Fights Like a Girl, my storytelling show Immigrant Diaries and even my theatre production - a commission for the Southbank - Mother Tongues From Farther Lands.

And what made you decide to setup a show together?

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: During lockdown Julian approached me about his idea for Let's Kill Twitter - I absolutely loved it! I was very excited by it and immediately wanted to be involved! I'm always intrigued by new innovative ways to get content out to an audience - Ha! You can tell lockdowns dragging on as I'm using words like 'content' check me out down with the online kids.

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: I talked to a number of people about the project during the first lockdown. Sajeela was particularly keen and suggested the Zoom approach, which was so immediate and had the advantage of filters with funny hats (Kidding! We absolutely don't use those). I was agonising over podcast versus YouTube show at the time and watching way too many tutorials, so I was sold on a third way. It was like the 90s all over again.

Can you tell us more about the format. How does it work?

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: It's essentially a live video chat show based on tweets and featuring comedian guests. We (that is our two comedian guests and ourselves) share our tweets of the week or, within reason, the last two weeks, as we are fortnightly at the moment. If people book for the Zoom room they can comment, ask questions and share their top tweets. If not, they can watch through streams on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch (at the last count). You get a lovely quad-shape on Zoom for the guests and hosts that we haven't yet migrated to the livestreams. Recommended.

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: The USP for LKT is that it's immediate and live with the guests and the Twitter feed, and the audience can be involved. There's a lovely frisson and element of surprise as you never know what guests will say or where the conversation will end up. It's completely uncensored! Yes, we are discussing and detoxing our Twitter feeds, but we can also get to the heart of what makes our guests and ourselves tick. This happens very organically.

As well as being a comedian/writer I'm also a promoter for live comedy for Comedy at the Cottage in Redhill, so we're already plotting and planning how LKT might look as a live event with real 3D humans watching, but I'm happy to embrace this new way of performing in the meantime.

Let's Kill Twitter

You're both active Twitter users. Do you remember your initial impressions of the platform when you first signed up?

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: I remember being a bit reluctant to join any social media, but I remember being reluctant to try a lot of things that I later enjoyed. To be fair, I still don't really enjoy Facebook (and don't get me started on Insta), but it's a necessary evil. Just ask Cambridge Analytica. As for Twitter, I was wary of it for a while. I was converted when I saw how it reacts to major events. You can learn and laugh at a supersonic speed when the crappest things are happening. My first memory of this was the London riots in 2011. I was in Edinburgh at the time, sweating over a review while also scrolling through Twitter to see if the chaos was going to reach where I lived. It stopped about half a mile short. Some night. You can't beat that for on-the-edge of your seat entertainment! I may have accidentally written that in the review.

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: I was quite daunted at the idea of joining Twitter. My impression of it was influenced by news stories; that it was a medium where fans could get up close and personal to the stars they followed. I thought it was something for teens. Then I recall reading stories of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore tweeting and sharing the BGT audition of Susan Boyle - which in turn turned an ordinary Scotswoman into an extraordinary world class singer. I was fascinated but also petrified of the medium. Like other comedians I was on there to promote my work, but I didn't get it or understand how to use it. I mean what is the deal with people you know in real life not following you back, when you need a RT why do they just like? In short, I'm fascinated by the linguistics, power dynamics and influence of Twitter. I still feel like I have much to learn, another reason I love our show so much!

What are the best and worst things about Twitter nowadays?

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: They are probably one and the same. Ever since Twitter began, people used to say 'People wouldn't say in real life what they say on Twitter.' What they meant to say was: 'People say on Twitter what they would like to say in real life.' It can obviously be a cesspit, and that is depressing, but there is usually something at the end of every scroll that will make you smile. Right now, I think Twitter could be the worst thing about Twitter because of how they are reacting for (understandable) calls for accountability around content. Fleets? @Birdwatch? Anyone?

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: The worst thing for me is that it's addictive and can eat up your time. It's ultimately a community online, though. You can watch a TV show alongside others on Twitter and comment. My fave is Question Time night or, pre-lockdown, BGT or Strictly.

I do also love seeing activism on there. Marcus Rashford raising awareness for kids' school meals springs to mind. I love how it helps people find pets or lost family members. One of my favourite Tweeters, and an online friend, was the late journalist Simon Ricketts. We never met in real life, but he was extremely popular on Twitter. All who followed him knew he loved and adored his partner Andrea Gibb (also another great talent and tweeter I follow, @gibbzer) and we his Twitter fam were with him on his journey as he fought cancer with dignity, posting regular updates to his blog as well as sharing great tweets that would get the longest thread. Many of his followers, including myself, attended his memorial. Now that's incredibly special.

Do you have any good tips for individuals/organisations to follow?

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: I really like the ones that follow us back. The ones that make you laugh will always have an edge, of course. Some tips for people to avoid: anyone who starts their tweets with 'So...'* or announces that they have stopped writing for a blog that no one has ever heard of, or generally sounds like they are making an Oscar speech or an address at a lectern.

(*It's ok to start a show with the word 'So', however.)

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: It's good to follow news outlets across the political spectrum and key politicians. I hated Trump but loved following him on Twitter. No leader of any country could ever be so entertaining. I like the account True Facts - @fact - silly facts that are entertaining . I want all you readers to follow @LKTZoom and, of course, our guests. Every one of them is worthy of a follow.

Back to your show... how are you finding performing on Zoom?

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: I'm quite a confident performer on stage. Once I got over the initial weirdness and shock of it - I bloody love Zoom gigs! I'm deaf (without hearing aids) so as long as I can see faces, I'm not thrown by no audible laughter. I love not commuting and love wearing comfy clothes, I want to ban bras and high-heeled shoes forever! I also love chats in the 'Zoom Green Room' pre-show and after. If you want to see LKT, I urge you to experience the show by joining us on Zoom, it's like a backstage pass. You will catch us prior to putting our showbiz face on.

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: As a layman performer, what's not to like? I was staying in well before it became fashionable, so to be able to sit-down in my front room and have a go at entertaining people... well, it's a win for me, at least. I can drink my vanilla rooibos without judgement.

You've had some great guests taking part... what have been some of your personal highlights so far?

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: Nooo! I know how Sophie felt now - I can't choose! I loved them all. Each guest has contributed some wonderful insights and it's been a joy to spend time in their company!

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: I have honestly enjoyed every show, but favourite moments/clips include: Konstantin Kisin and Viv Groskop finding common ground on Big Tech; Gráinne Maguire on the Sex And The City reboot; Rosie Jones talking about appearing on Question Time; Shazia Mirza on her online shopping habits, and a shout out to Erich McElroy who flew solo for our trial run, just before the US election, and joined us again for a full show. Also a big thanks to Juliet Meyers for joining us at short notice for our December 6th show.

You've got more guests lined up for future shows too?

Voice of LKT in unison: We try and work a few weeks ahead. At the time of writing, we have just had Francis Foster and Gráinne Maguire, and we're now looking forward to Andrew Doyle and Ayesha Hazarika on Sunday 31st January.

Zoom-based comedy shows were not a thing in 2019, so the format is still really new. It's been a real period for innovation in British comedy, hasn't it? And things are still evolving?

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: Yeah, people are linking Zoom up to all sorts of gizmos and experimenting with platforms (just like they did in the 1970s) and I think the entertainment options are infinite. In terms of stand-up, specifically, I've seen some Zoom gigs where the acts have a space that they're clearly comfortable with and the just go for it, and it pretty much feels like the real thing. Sometimes, it can be more like a work-in-progress feel or just a nice chat. I've had worse nights out, though.

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: When we first went into lockdown like everyone else all my gigs got cancelled.
It's been heartbreaking for creatives to see their industries disappear overnight. I think the only way to see this is that we don't actually know what the 'new normal' will be. We need to all think outside the box in terms of creativity. I'm a total technophobe but I accept I will have to grasp the skills if I'm to continue to nurture my creative soul. The comedians who are doing well through the pandemic are ones like Sooz Kempner (previous guest), and the boys from TRIGGERnometry as they are constantly putting content out there and finding their audience in the process. The landscape of live entertainment has changed forever, and we need to accept that.

Let's Kill Twitter

Fast forward to 2022 when hopefully there'll be no more safety restrictions... do you think Zoom-based comedy will continue to be a thing at that point?

Sajeela Kershi

@SajeelaKershi: I think once restrictions are lifted we shall all become flower power, free love shagging hippies! We have all been starved of the atmosphere and energy of a live audience, so, of course, both audience and acts will want to return to the stage. However, Zoom will still be there, it will just keep evolving.

Julian Hall

@TextualHealing2: Yikes, we really have to project, don't we? I think everyone will be so hyped to get out that we might experience 'The Great Social Media Mute of 2022' (except for people tweeting 'I'm out!', maybe) before everyone comes back hungover and hugs their laptops again. I'll still be at home, sipping my non-caffeinated tea, wondering where everyone is.

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