With just over 1,300 followers on Twitter, comedian Halli Borgfjord trails behind the other three stand-up comics on the “140 Characters or Less!” tour.
Borgfjord finds this funny, considering the show’s tagline — “2012 comedy tour featuring America’s favorite Twitter comedians.” What tickles him even more is that he was the one to come up with the idea for the tour, which also features Travon Free, Eli Braden and Pauly Casillas.
“Pauly has something like 90,000 Twitter followers, Eli has about 60,000 and Travon is at 30,000, so they’re all hugely popular,” Borgfjord said recently from his home in Los Angeles. “I get all my followers because they talk about me sometimes; that’s kind of how it works.”
The tour has performed intermittently throughout the country. In September, the four comics did two nights in the Louie Anderson Theater inside the Palace Station in Las Vegas. On New Year’s Eve, the show will be at the Palace Theatre in Albany, for the venue’s fifth annual New Year’s Eve Comedy Blast.
New Year’s Eve Comedy Blast
With: Halli Borgfjord, Travon Free, Eli Braden and Pauly Casillas
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany
How Much: $35, $30, $20
More Info: 465-3334, www.palacealbany.com
Tool for comedians
Beyond promotion, Twitter is fast becoming another tool for comedians to work out ideas for jokes, something that all four comics on this tour have taken advantage of. In addition to his personal account, Casillas also runs the popular NotGaryBusey Twitter account, which has more than 195,000 followers.
“Twitter forces you to write quick one-liners, and be really brief and really funny in a short time frame,” Borgfjord said. “Sometimes you can get really good ideas from just a Tweet. I’m trying to think of examples, but I know I have stuff that started on Twitter — man, this idea is really funny, so you start with that and go into it.”
Although Twitter is the tour’s hook, it’s not necessarily the focus for these four up-and-coming comedians, all of whom have made their marks in multiple media — from Free’s appearances on “Tosh.0” to Borgfjord’s work on XM Radio’s “The Bob and Tom Show.”
“Between us, we all have the same draw,” Borgfjord said. “Promoting ourselves on Twitter is the initial draw for the show, but we’re all established comics; we all have other jobs within our comedy realms. Doing this is a good way to mesh us all together, I guess.”
Borgfjord says that Twitter has hurt stand-up comedy in some ways. “I think it’s made some comics crappier,” Borgfjord said. “Some people think some of the dry stuff they say on Twitter is really funny, and then they go onstage and read it, and it’s like, ‘Yeah, we don’t get that.’ . . . Some comics go onstage — ‘Hey, I’m on Twitter; let me read you some of my Tweets from my phone.’ I’ve seen that 1,000 times, and it’s not funny — maybe the first guy who did that was kind of funny.”
So don’t expect any of that at the New Year’s Eve show, at least from Borgfjord. “I can’t speak for the other guys, but it would be kind of funny if they did that, now. I won’t do that. Actually, it would be funny if I did, now that I’ve talked so much crap about it.”
On the rise
Since moving to L.A. from his hometown, Kalamazoo, Mich., three years ago, Borgfjord has seen his national star rise thanks to the aforementioned appearances on “The Bob and Tom Show” and frequent U.S. stand-up touring. On the West Coast, he began honing the observational comedy that he first started out doing at clubs in Chicago and Grand Rapids, Mich.
“The biggest problem going into the Midwest is that the audiences don’t know how to watch comedy — they get disruptive and yell at you,” he said. “[People in L.A.] are experienced comedy watchers. Then, when you’re doing shows with Louis C.K., then Dane Cook, and then you’ve gotta go on — that raised the bar a little bit.”
In September 2010, he released his first album, “Have You Been Borgfjorded Lately?,” recorded live at the Kalamazoo State Theatre.
“I had my eye set on a big venue, and it ended up doing well, but man, for a minute I was nervous — I may have overstated how popular I am in this town,” he said.
At this point, he already has enough material for another new album — new bits including a riff on Toe Shoes and a story about a 4 a.m. pregnancy scare his girlfriend had have been frequently showing up in his sets this year. However, he’s in no rush to put it together.
“I want to hold off a little bit so I can really put out what is the best thing possible,” he said. “I want to get a few more things on TV, or I guess do those two hand-in-hand. But who knows? It all depends on how the next couple years go, I guess.”
Borgfjord has had a few background roles on TV, including a gay sailor in the Halloween episode of “Raising Hope.” Next year he’s set to appear in an episode of the comedy series “The Mindy Project.” “Hopefully they don’t cut me out of it,” he said.
But stand-up is still Borgfjord’s primary focus. He still writes his bits basically the same way he did when he was first starting out after high school, by jotting down observations.
“I honestly think that’s one of the real differences between comics and any other people — a comic remembers what’s funny, writes that down and develops it into a story,” he said. “Every time I think of something that works, I jot it down in my phone, so later I can look at those ideas and try to make something out of it.”