There's a saying among comics: tragedy plus time equals comedy. Comedian Laurie Kilmartin is choosing to ignore the "time" part of that equation. Kilmartin, a writer for Conan O'Brien's late night show and co-author of the parenting humor book "Sh*tty Mom," is broadcasting her simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious thoughts about her dad's final days as her family gathers together in a hospice.
We all cope with death in our own ways, but sociologist Nathan Jurgenson says we'll increasingly see people use social media to work through it. Like last summer, when NPR's Scott Simon famously tweeted his final hours with his mother.
When we reached out to Kilmartin for a comment, she declined an interview, and said via email, "I just want to keep tweeting, that's all the attention span I have right now. That's all I got in me at the moment." But a few hours later, she sent a tweet that suggested this is just her way of working through a difficult time.
There's something about the idea of a person live-tweeting a parent's death that feels a little wrong — it's using the most casual of platforms to publicly discuss something that's so deeply personal. Kilmartin has gotten some of that criticism from her followers, including some who've gone so far as to make the (ridiculous) accusation that she's using her dad's death to increase her Twitter following.
“It’s not necessarily about the photos, or selfies, or Twitter, or Facebook — it’s not about those platforms. It’s about how we deal with death in a social way,” says Jurgenson.
“This revulsion, this taboo about talking about death and hiding death, is actually really new,” he says. “And what we’re seeing on social media is a lot of people breaking that taboo, in interesting ways. Death is part of life, and it can be social.”
We've compiled some of our favorite of Kilmartin's tweets, but do yourself a favor and head over to her Twitter page and read though them all.