'Missing Missy, ' paying with spider drawings and more: Humorist David Thorne and his Internet playground

Apr 28, 2011

If David Sedaris had a clever but slightly sadistic younger brother - he would be David Thorne.

Thorne is the Internet phenomenon who had millions laughing when he tried to pay his chiropractor with a picture he drew of a spider. He took missing animal posters to a new level with his "Missing Missy" project. And soon, you'll be able to access all his Internet jokes in one book - "The Internet is a Playground."

Join author David Thorne on Thursday, April 28, at noon ET, as he takes your questions on his new book, his Internet jokes and what it's like to be interviewed by Oprah.

Have a question? Ask now.

Hello. I am being prompted to type something here as way of an introduction. Up until this point I have been randomly clicking buttons as this usually works pretty well. I am assuiming that if you type in a question a box will pop up and I will be promted to reply with something witty and endearing. Which, lets face it, probably isn't that likely but lets see how it goes.

So, when do you think this Internet fad is going to phase out?

The current fascination with online interaction is already beginning to show signs of wear. I give it another six months or so before people are bored of it and rediscover fun family activities like slip'n'slide and Jenga. 

Soooo...how often do you get hatemail? Do you respond to all of them with such grace and style? It makes me almost want to send you an angry email just to see what you would say in response, but I don't want to waste your time. Does your offspring ever read your website? If so, what does s/he think?

Whether you write or bake a cake, there will be some that hate it, some that love it and others that will have a piece because there is nothing else in the fridge to eat and they missed out on lunch. Perhaps surprisingly, I get more positve mail than hatemail but it does still account for a large percentage. Regardless of what you write, somebody will take offence. The majority of the "I am offended" emails are in regards to the Missing Missy article and my "disgraceful and cruel attitude towards cats" but these emails are obviously from cat owners and cat owners are insane. 

Seb does read the website and is generally amused. He is also usually the first to tell me when something I have written is not funny.

I love the website, Couldn't stop laughing when reading your material... though I wonder how many emails you have to send out before you find people that take the time in reading your replies and answering you back?

I don't generally initiate email correspondences at all, simply reply. Also, a large percentage of the emails do not get posted as the recipients often cease writing after the third or fourth exchange.

Do you go after every subject that comes across your desk and see it out - regardless of how well it goes, or do you know the ones to make something of early on in the fray?

 

I usually only respond if there is some point to make. Now that the site is relatively known, I receive more emails from people trying to initiate arguments (trolling) but I have learnt to disseminate these from non-constructed exchanges.

 

The Internet may be a playground, but my children broke the computer playing hopscotch on it. I think we need a different playground, what do you think?

When my offspring breaks something, I record the date time and incident. When he starts his first job, I will send him an invoice with wage garnishing and fortnightly payment options. He is only twelve and already the total exceeds the hundred thousand dollar mark so this should prove to be a pretty good nest-egg for me. I will probably buy a boat.

Why does the Internet news that Starbucks passed Burger King and Wendy's to become the third more plentiful chain list McDonald as number one and Subway as number two, thus showing that whoever counted stores this month did not read the news last month that Subway passed McDonald's last month. How can I trust my Internet news when the news won't at least keep a consistent story?

I didn't read this question all the way through as I saw a squirrel playing outside but yes, misinformation is a constant issue for me as well. Somebody should check the internet and make sure everything on there is correct 

Dear David, Marry me. So, will you?

No.

Are your articles (like Missing Missy), real emails?

The email articles are verbatim although I do fix spelling errors, as is my prerogative, and bad grammar prior to posting. I also sometimes change the person's name or remove their second name, unless they have overly annoyed me, and there have been occassions when I have had to add context or delete non-contexual content such as footers. The non-email based articles feature people I know and are exagerated but based on actual events.

How is it that Shannon managed not to kill you? How did the rest of your coworkers feel about your work?

"And you had better not use this on your stupid website" is now a common footnote on many emails from Shannon. Some of the people featured in the book and on the site actually enjoy being a part of it. Others do not. Those that do not make requests such as "change my picture" or "remove that from the internet or I am going to come up the stairs and stab you with scissors."

 

Hi David, Love your site, thanks for the entertainment! sometimes when I read your email-correspondences, I wonder if you have been lucky enough, that none of the people you prank with have payed you a visit?

Up until recently the concept that someone might take their anger out on me beyond the virtual world didn't concern me at all. I lived by myself on the eighth floor of a concrete fortress and promises of retaliation were scoffed at. Having moved into a 'normal' house, I have become more wary. After I tried exchanging defective snowboard gloves and was rudely denied, I created a newspaper ad stating that the store was giving away 4,600 snowboard packages. Apparently, they received over 5000 calls that weekend which resulted in the owner turning up at my premises yelling, so I have bought a gun. It is a Nerf gun, but if you stick pins into the ends of the foam darts, they can do some serious damage.

How much other content/stories/emails are in the book vs. your site? If i read every one on the site - still worth getting the book?

Yes, because I need to buy jewels. The new book contains more emails, more articles and content that has not been published previously. It has the complete collection of articles from 27b/6 plus around 160 pages of new and previously unpublished material. 

I noticed there are several seemingly blank pages at the end of your book. As a man of such whit I have no doubt that there is some form of secret message hidden away in there but so far have been unable to decode it. So far I have tried: Lemon Juice Invisible Ink A Hot Bath Napalm Guinea Pig Milk Any tips / clues? Malcolm Slade. Didn't win an iPad (ipad,IPad)

The blank pages are for notes. You should have also received a complimentary pencil with your book. If not, feel free to email Penguin and request it.

Do you have a favorite font?

I am a graphic designer by trade so obviously my favourite font is Helvetica. 

What is Bipartisanship, the Redskins Defense and/or Bridezillas?

These are questions I also paused and reflected on. 

Why should I buy your book if it is all available on your website?

The book contains around 160 pages of material that is not on the website. And it comes with a free telescope.

Do you ever get odd looks when you've said something that you think is hysterically funny and no one else does?

All the time. More so while in the US than Australia as certain context does not translate well. 

The e-mail exchanges are extremely funny. Have you achieved name recognition to the point where pulling off similar snark correspondence becomes difficult? Have you encountered intentional baiting by people seeking this form of correspondence?

To a degree. It was easier before the website became known but at the same time, this has meant a larger number of people taking offence to the current content.  I can usually tell when it is a constructed argument.

It is the best no? Also, I'm making a sandwich. What should I put on it?

Cheese, mayonnaise and pickles.

You look like you could be a very short man, are you?

Yes. I am 6"3 short.

As the writer of the best internet guide ever published thus far, I'd like to encourage Bill to write a few more articles. If you see him, can you put the nudge in for that?

Bill isn't talking to me at the moment but when he stops being a grumpy jacka** I will pass on your encouragement.

What does the title 27bslash6 mean?

The title of the website, 27b/6, is a vague reference to Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty Four - which he wrote while living in 27B on floor 6 of his apartment building. Although I would never state that the nonsense I write is making a statement as grand as Orwell's, the site is an outlet for dealing with my own minor Orwellian nightmares. Although I do not have caged rats attempting to gnaw their way through my face, working in the design industry is pretty much the same thing.

Did you get your start in humor through real life experiences? Was there one email or encounter that started the ball rolling that caused you to do more of the same?

I have no idea. I wasn't a funny as a child. While many children have to be funny to be liked at school, I spent most of my time alone complaining about things so there was no need for this effort. I started writing as a distraction to working in the design industry, which one might assume is a creative field but is actually not unlike any other form of cubicle prostitution. Writing to amuse myself is an escape from filling out time sheets, making type larger and explaining to clients that animated gifs will not work on business cards

If you were a hotdog and you were starving, would you eat yourself?

Yes.

Do you have statistics for your website? Do you know from how many different countries people have entered to your website? I live in Spain and I got the link from a friend who lives in India.

It depends on when I post new articles. On average, the site receives between 2 and 3 million unique visitors per month. When a popular article is posted, it is more. Then it crashes and I yell and throw things. In regards to location, most traffic comes for the US, UK, Norway for some reason and Australia.

Why can't you give me one for free?

Because I probably have less money than you do.

Do you use a persona when writing the 27bslash6/Internet is a Playground articles, or do you act the same as in other social situations? If so, do you try to insult them, make jokes or both in your emails?

I have learnt the hard way the difference between sarcasm from behind the safety of a computer screen and sarcasm within punching distance. I think a lot of people misconstrue apathy and procrastination for humour. This does spill over into real life to some extent as procrastination doesn't knock off at 5pm. 

Did Missy ever turn up?

Missy turned up in a neighbours hedge that evening. In my defence, it was about the 5th time she had attempted to escape from Shannon.

Are you a bit angry with the Washington Post for scheduling this QA so late for you?

I am in the US at the moment and it is lunch time. So no, I am a bit angry at them for scheduling it so early.

Do you consider yourself a humorist or just a person who has done humorous things?

I was labelled "an idiot with an occasional vague point" once in a newspaper article which I quite liked. 

Not a question here, but I could not believe my eyes this morning when I saw that you were hosting this chat! Almost a year a go a good friend sent me the link to Missing Missy. As an advertising/marketing professional it had me laughing so hard I was in tears. "Obvious Foggot" ranks up high with me as well. Some days it's hard getting any work done when I visit your site and now I cannot wait for your book to come out. Thank you!

Thanks. Always happy to provide a distraction from actual work. I credit the success of the site to people's propensity to waste time at work. Which is the employers fault really for failing to provide an entertaining and richly fulfilling work environment so I should probably credit them instead.

Hello, Mr. Thorne. I'm a media student, and considering working in graphic design or filmmaking? What do you think of your job, and when you were in school, what was your dream job?

Despite what those in the industry may have you believe, graphic design is not a real job let alone a hard one. As I am inherently lazy, this is probably why I chose that path. Up until I was ten, I was obsessed with the space shuttle. During 5th grade, my teacher had the class participate in Career Day by dressing as what they would like to be when they grew up. Sent to bed early that night for constructing an astronaut suit by cutting my mother's polyester jumpsuit to length, I awoke to find my father had stayed up late to paint NASA mission badges on the sleeves and super-glue dials from a Rank Arena record player onto the chest. He had also constructed a television screen on the stomach by cutting out a rectangle and gluing a magazine picture behind it of a lady getting her hair cut. That day, due to the task being misunderstood by most, the class had six fairies, a vampire, two pirates, a stormtrooper and one astronaut with a picture of a lady getting her hair cut on his stomach. Drawing a ray gun on a piece of paper during recess and gluing it over the magazine image to put an end to the question "are you a television set?", the ray gun was accused of being a penis and I was forced to remove the panel completely, leaving me with an exposed stomach. During lunch, a duty teacher asked me if I was a belly dancer from the future. It was probably this lack of encouragement that caused me to give up my dreams of reaching the stars. And the lack of space shuttles in Australia. 

Peanut or plain?

Both of course. 

Why did you leave Australia? Did it have something to do with the amount of legal freedom you had to post certain content? I notice that beyond legal threats, the police had taken an interest in your site.

A lot of interesting things have happened since I began the website as it has opened a few doors that I was not aware existed previously. One leads to Kronos-12, a planet orbiting Procyon in the Canis Minor constellation. Possibly the nicest 'surprising thing' occurred two years ago when I received an email from a strange American girl, in regards to the spider article, who eventually became a close friend and traveled to Australia to visit. She stayed for a year and we married last year. Which is why I am currently enjoying all the US has to offer.

 

If you had a choice between living in a space station with only Shannon and Thomas or living in a mobile home with that redneck who called you a foggot, which would you choose and why?

I would choose the space station and go Hal9000 on them. Accidents happen in space. It is a very hazardous environment.

Your bio says you live in Virginia. How long have you been in the U.S., and can we count on keeping you?

I have been back and forth between Australia and the US over the last 12 months or so. I am currently in the US and love it here. I have permanent resident status as of last week which will allow me to travel more often.

What's the ratio of questions you're getting to the questions you're answering? Is there any point in asking more questions? And why are we, as humans, compelled to question everything? Is there a god?

I'm not particularly good at percentages. Or any math for that matter. At a guess, I would say fourteen to eleven.

How often do you misspell your name as 'Throne' on purpose?

Not as often as I would like. I do sometimes type 'retards' instead of 'regards' on my email sign-off because the letters are very close.

Hello. Is there any difference between the two books available on the amazon.co.uk? They seem to have different names. Also what kind of dog do you have and does it enjoy pretending to be a bear?

The 'international' version is simply a POD version. A white cover version of the book was distributed a while back by a dodgy Australian publisher which contained only half the articles and was plagued with rights ownership and delivery issues. I ended my relationship with them in 2010 and do not endorse that edition of the book in any way. During the later half of 2010, I was approached by Penguin Publishing to publish a new version featuring the complete collection of articles from 27b/6 plus 160 pages of new and previously unpublished material. 

Book Promotion or Graphic Design?

Both are just simply different types of the same prostitution but if I had to choose, I would say graphic design is the more degrading of the two.

as the possible writer of the three questions you have not answered, I am sad and must now leave -sincere retards

Every time I answer one question, several new ones scroll past me. I took a break a few minutes ago and played the new Need for Speed on Playstation. It isn't very good.

I read that your hair is going on tour, in an effort to copy Justin Bieber. Really? Who wants to see your hair?

Yes, this is sad but true. I began to question the agenda of Penguin some months back. Expecting requests of "Please confirm your availability for the book signing tour dates" or "Conan O'Brien has read your book and would like to fly you to his mansion to spend a few days in his hot-tub doing drugs,is this ok?", I was instead given instructions to create Justin Bieber websites and cut off my hair so that it can go on tour. As such, I have begun to suspect this may all be just a big prank. I have my doubts that they have even printed a book. I have seen a few mock-ups but going by the artwork, in particular the horrific blue spikey flash on the cover, these could have been thrown together in a few minutes. I am expecting an email any day from Penguin stating "Got you!" 

 

It takes me about four hours to do my hair in the morning so the commitment to cut a chunk out of it should count for something. To be honest, I usually just cut my own hair using a Remington electric razor (purchased from Walmart for $29.95) but a few days prior to receiving the request from the guys at Penguin for a lock of it, I paid for a decent haircut. Being pretty pleased with my new haircut and not wanting to ruin it, I instead cut off a chunk of my wife's hair while she was sleeping, coloured it in black using a Sharpie, and sent them that. It's all pretty much the same dead stuff so there is little chance of them discovering this deception. If scientists, a thousand years from now, decide to clone me by putting the hair in a scientific cloning machine, they will be surprised when a fine point black Sharpie and pissed off female with red hair pops into existence. 

I'm thinking of having a poo, but I don't want to miss anything. Would you mind not answering any questions for a while until I'm back?

Take your time. I might do the same.

Do you live near a Waffle Hut?

I live in waffle hut.

You are at dinner with Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and Jim Morrison, and you are allowed to ask only one question. What question would you ask?

I am not a huge fan of any of those people so I would probably ask "was that my phone? I am expecting a call." Then I would pretend to talk on my phone and say "oh, no, really? I will be in ten minutes." Either that or "Can someone please pass the wine."

Do you know how many books sold through pre-order?

6

Hi What is the next direction your writing might take? I noticed you have a terrific imagination - is being a novelist an option or is that too demeaning?

With the new book being released I am being kept fairly busy with interviews and stupid requests from Penguin but I am still managing to find time to write my second non-fiction novel. Look for the cover featuring a cyborg cat riding a dolphin in bookstores later this year. I started writing it this week so I should have something to send to my publisher by Tuesday. These things pretty much write themselves which is handy as I intend to spend the next few days in bed watching television. After that, if the book sells well, I will probably spend each day by the pool, on a solid gold deck-chair, drinking piña coladas and taking copious amounts of drugs. That's the plan anyway. With great wealth comes little responsibility. If the book only sells five copies then I will just continue writing to amuse myself and blame the people in marketing for its failure. I also plan to walk the Appalachian Trail and write about the experience. I already own sneakers and shorts so will just need to grab a tent and snacks on the way. Apparently Wal-Mart has tents for $39.95, which is a bargain. I will probably get one of those.

Obviously you enjoy stirring up the hornets' nest, and with hilariously spectacular results. But at the end of the day when everything is said and done and you've shown yet another person just how the internet can be, how do you deal with negative criticism?

I dont. I only read feedback that talks about how funny and attractive I am.

Who has a better sense of humor - Australians or Americans... or Kiwis? Big Fan - (6'7" 250)

Australians and Americans have a similar sense of humour. New Zealanders do not have one at all.

How much longer does this go on?

That was my question too. Apparently it is meant to be just one hour but it is several minutes past. I could be looking a pictures of boats.

The cover doesn't fit! Was this deliberate? I have pondered this for hours. Malcolm.

Apparently that is a design feature, not an error. An enticing green glimpse of what lies inside. I asked the same question when I received my copy, along with "What is up with the ms-paint blue starburst? Is this a joke?"

How is this a live chat if we have to submit the questions in advance? I call shenanigans.

I call shenanigans on your shenanigans. I assume it is so I don't have to answer the same questions over and over. I have been asked if Missy was found twenty times in the last ten minutes. (Yes, Missy was found. She was found in a neighbours hedge.)

I was googling your image and found an author photo of you standing naked in front of a mirror. Is this really you or did you photoshop a gay porn star's hot body into that picture? If it's photoshop, can you let me know the name of the porn star? He's really sexy.

One excellent example of why, when asked "can you send me a photo to use" by a magazine editor, not to respond drunk. The joke may last a few minutes but google images remembers everything.

So you've only been married a year. In that span, how many times has she threatened to slay you in your sleep?

Never. Because I am extremely easy to get along with. People often describe me as the perfect partner. No, I can't tell you which people. You don't know them.

To prove this is live, I will mention that Missy was in the neighbors' hedges. She hasn't gone missing again since, has she?

Probably. I have seen Shannon's house and if I ever found myself locked in there, I would do everything possible to escape. 

Have you ever clicked on that? Has anyone? Does it work? Will you divulge the secret please? I'm not gonna click it... you'll click it for me won't you?

Some people must or they wouldn't still be advertising. I always click on the ones that read "Local mom.." to see if it is someone I know but it never is.

Have you ever been actually sued for some of the things you've done. (aka - free snowboards.)

When I posted a fake internal memo from McDonald's, regarding the implementation of short-changing customers as a procedure, I was arrested a few days later, questioned and had my laptop taken for evidence under Australian e-crime legislation. Luckily, when they asked for my laptop, I pointed to an old one that hadn't been used in ten years and they took that. When they searched through it, they only found photos of me at the beach, bad 90's mp3's and fan emails to Winona Ryder. McDonald's dropped the charges so this probably doesn't count as being sued though.

Do you have any good tips & tricks for getting into shape? Do you have a diet, and how do you exercise?

Every day I go for a two hundred kilometre jog along the beach and then swim back. I have been asked many times to do male modelling but am far too busy jogging and swimming.

Are you still there? Or is it all an illusion at this point?

I am still here for some reason but playing Farmville in the background so it is not time wasted. You wouldn't happen to have a pig and cart of corn I could buy? Friend me.

If the copy I preordered comes in today, which it should, and I am one of those people that believes this is the type of book one should not read in order, which I am, and I had read everything on the site, which I have, what particular part should I skip to?

If you specifically bought this book only for the robot and explosion components, which would be completely understandable, you will find mention of robots on pages 18, 31, 62, 129, 138, 146, 168, 204, 220, 239, 249, 251 and 267. The only mention of explosions that I could find are on pages 62 and 207.

My favourite bit of the book is where Richard and Emmeline are shipwrecked on a tropical island and without either the guidance or restrictions of society, emotional feelings and physical changes arise as they reach puberty and fall in love. Later, on page 144, where Richard moves with his mother to a neighbourhood in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, their new apartment's handyman, an eccentric but kindly Okinawan immigrant, teaches Richard not only martial arts, but also important life lessons such as balancing on a boat.

My two hours is up. I didn't get through all the questions because some of them gave me a headache even just reading but thanks for taking the time. I am going to illegally download and watch a movie now. If anyone has any recommendations feel free to twitter me. I have already seen that one with that guy. I will probably also make a sandwich. 

In This Chat
David Thorne
David Thorne is an Australian humorist, satirist, Internet personality, and author. His website, 27bslash6.com, receives several million unique hits a month, and his work has been featured everywhere from the BBC, The Late Show with David Letterman, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show to Late Night with Conan O’Brien. In his own words, he reads too much, generally exceeds other’s tolerances, and listens to Linkin Park. He stays up too late, drinks too much coffee, smokes too much, hates getting up in the morning, and has offspring who thinks he doesn’t know what he has been up to when he deletes his Internet history. He lives in Virginia.
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