Joe Mande is a popular comedian, a writer for NBC’s popular sitcom “Parks & Recreation,” and very popular on Twitter, where he has more than a million followers. OK, so the vast majority of those followers are simply bots that he purchased in bulk at a rate of $5 per 30,000 in a bit of performance art. A minor technicality.
The L.A.-based comic is also a huge basketball fan with a serious NBA LeaguePass habit who has found himself drawn to the surprisingly entertaining and successful Washington Wizards this season. (Mande is a Minnesota native, which makes him a Timberwolves fan; the Timberwolves are mildly entertaining and not so successful, like the Wizards usually are.) Throw in some self-taught Photoshop expertise and last month he felt compelled to create a tribute to both the Wizards’ dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal and Netflix’s D.C.-set hit, “House of Cards.” And so the “House of Guards” nickname was born.
— Joe Mande (@JoeMande) February 19, 2014
“They’re very fun to watch, those two guys are great,” Mande says in a phone interview Tuesday. “And at ‘Parks and Rec’ I work with a couple people from D.C. who like the Wizards. And I also binge-watched the whole second season of ‘House of Cards’ in like two days, so that was on my mind. And basketball is always on my mind,” he says of the circumstances leading to his “House of Guards” creation.
The nickname and photo became a minor meme in our local corner of the basketball Internet. “It got picked up by a couple Wizards blogs which was very exciting,” Mande says. But nearly a month later, Adidas-branded “House of Guards” T-shirts showed up for sale at Verizon Center.
— Ryan Kelly (@RyanJKelly) March 15, 2014
— Joe Mande (@JoeMande) March 16, 2014
Mande didn’t actually get mad until he read on The Post’s DC Sports Bog that, “according to a team spokesman, these shirts were a collaboration between Adidas and the Wizards, with the initial idea to use the phrase coming from Adidas.” So I got Mande on the phone to talk about his demands from Adidas, as well as his relationship with brands on Twitter, his new stand-up album/mixtape (titled “B****face“) and how he’s responsible for former Wizards star/tragic figure Gilbert Arenas’s ultimate departure from Twitter. Mande performs in D.C. at the Black Cat on March 25; a condensed and edited version of our conversation follows.
So a few weeks pass after your tweet and suddenly Adidas is like, we came up with this idea and now we are selling this shirt for $35. Now it seems that your image is much better than the one they’re selling, where it looks like John Wall is a foot taller than Bradley Beal.
Right. I’m sure there were copyright issues with getting the poster for “House of Cards” but at least do something to make it look political. They’re just standing there in their jerseys and the perspective’s all wrong. They could have probably made the font look more like the TV show. I have a lot of issues with the T-shirt itself.
You said if they sent you a T-shirt that you’d be OK with it all.
That was before someone took credit for it! Now I want a pair of Ricky Rubio shoes.
So if you got a pair of Ricky Rubios and a T-shirt, then you’d be fine with that. But you’ve heard nothing.
Well I got a tweet from a guy claiming to be a PR spokesperson for Adidas but he’s not verified so I can’t know for sure. And he said that I was getting a shirt and some shoes sent to me but I haven’t heard anything yet so I can’t verify that.
You can’t verify because he’s not verified.
Aw, hell yeah, dog. (Laughs.)
You have a million followers because you purchased like a million, right? How many did you buy?
I probably purchased like a million and a half bots. A lot of them get deleted. I’ve got a million and change. Twitter has a pretty genocidal policy towards bots. They get wiped out from time to time.
I saw you answered a question and said it cost $5 for 30,000 followers?
Right, that’s the market price.
Do you write that off on your taxes?
I probably could but I don’t want the IRS bugging me so that’s coming out of my personal checking account. I could probably justify it as publicity, like I’m literally buying fans but no, no. It’s just a very dumb bit.
Talking about Adidas, talking about Twitter, that gets into your relationship with brands on Twitter. I’d say you’re one of the premiere “retweet shamers” on Twitter. Is that accurate?
I can claim that move, I guess so. I don’t put much thought into it. I just follow horrifying accounts and on certain days I’ll just go nuts.
But I’m fascinated by brands that try to act like a human. Do you think they feel the need to be part of the “cultural conversation” is just so rampant that Hamburger Helper has to wish me a Happy Independence Day or something like that?
It’s interesting because it’s just so unnecessary. However, every company has a person who gets paid to make sure their company has a good presence on the Internet. So everyone has to justify their own existence. So that person either does the Twitter themselves or they’ve hired another person to be in charge of that. Some companies do it better than others…[On 9/11] I wake up early, especially being on the West Coast, to see what companies are going to commemorate with a tweet. It’s just so meaningless and dumb and it happens every year. It’s great. The best was the AT&T one that they deleted, with the towers. Oh yeah, it’s a good idea to integrate your product like that, why not.
Have you ever talked to any of the people who are the social media people for these companies?
I try not to engage with dummies on Twitter who want to argue with me. But I did get into a pretty big argument on Twitter, it was on one of these holidays where I do that. And he was all upset at me and saying how mean I was being to the well-intentioned people who do these Twitter accounts. It was so strange to me. I was like, so you’re taking the corporation’s side on this? I don’t see your point. Yeah, I had [expletive] jobs, too, right out of college. … I don’t see the other side of it, really. Also, I don’t put any thought into it, really. It’s Twitter, who cares. You’re just clicking a button. I’m only retweeting it if it makes me laugh because of how absurd it is.
Twitter’s just a fascinating thing. I always say to my friends, I don’t know why anyone would use Twitter besides comedians and journalists. Right? It’s just a way to get immediate news but you can also follow people who have a funny take on that. But why corporations feel like they need to have that presence is funny to me. Why the [expletive] does Monsanto have a Twitter account? Just [expletive] stay in the shadows and be evil.
So you released a mixtape recently. Why did you want to release it as a mixtape?
At this point the only music I really listen to is mixtapes off of DatPiff. Like French Montana and Migos and Young Thug — the way they interrupt their own songs with yelling and air horns and there’s always dumb skits in between songs. I work at “Parks” for like eight months out of the year and I recorded my album right before I went back. So I was just sitting on it, there was no reason to release it if I couldn’t go on the road. And as it was sitting there and I was talking to my friends, the more I got excited like, oh my god, how funny would it be if it had an intro and skits and DJ drops within my own jokes?
And maybe that’s a symptom of me hearing a plain recording of my stand-up and wanting it to be more exciting for me. It’s also just like — at this point, people don’t really buy albums. So why not [mess] with it a little and see if people are intrigued … That’s what’s funny to me. There are a lot of jokes that I love on the album. And if you want to listen to the album you’re going to hear two or three DJ drops over the joke. Just like those songs. I have all these songs on my iPod that I’ll be listening to in my car and all of a sudden DJ Khaled’s yelling at me.
So do you think the Wizards will win a playoff series this year?
They can beat the Nets and the Raptors. They’re not gonna beat the Bulls. The aggravating thing for me as a Wolves fan is that we’re not going to make the playoffs yet if we were in the East we’d probably be a three seed … I actually got a lot of [expletive] from Wizards fans. I wrote a thing for Grantland before the season started about how terrible it is to be a Timberwolves fan. And I got all these e-mails from Wizards fan, “It’s worse being a Wizards fan!”
I will say this. It’s been very bad being a Wizards fan, but that brief Gilbert Arenas era was so much fun that even though it ended just horribly, it was still amazingly fun as it was happening.
Of course! I got into a big Twitter fight with Gilbert Arenas. It was early on when I joined Twitter and it was really fun.
What was the fight about?
I wrote a thing on my Web site about how bad his Twitter avatars were.
Oh, he was the worst at Twitter. Just the worst. Truly embarrassing.
Right, it was bad! I gotta say, he’s one of my top 10 favorite players of all time. So part of me regrets what happened, which was that he found the blog post I wrote and then went after me and starting calling me a [bad] comedian and we went back and forth for hours on Twitter and by the end of his exchange he deleted his Twitter account. It was crazy.
It was so funny to me because he kept calling himself a comedian. It was just one of those things where he would attack me and I just had to one up him. It was pretty simple to turn his words around. He just kept going, he kept falling into the same trap over and over again. And it was so funny to me. I was home, I didn’t have a job that week. So I was just sitting in my living room in my basketball shorts going back and forth with Gilbert Arenas. I did a bit about it on my half hour special. That said — I love Gilbert Arenas, I don’t want any Wizards fans, or Magic fans to be mad at me about it. … One of my aspirations is to be able to bury the hatchet.
Who do you think will make the finals?
I gotta show love to Roy Hibbert. He’s on my album. He’s on “Parks and Rec.” I honestly think the Pacers are going to win. Pacers-Thunder maybe? Chris Bosh, he was also on “Parks and Rec” so I’ve got to be diplomatic. The Heat are a force to be reckoned with, for sure. All I know is that I can’t wait until the playoffs to start. It’s going to be insane.