How Ex-‘Daily Show’ Writer David Javerbaum Brought ‘God’ to Life on Twitter
In a rare interview, former “Daily Show” writer David Javerbaum tells The Last Laugh about creating @TheTweetOfGod and adapting it into the new Godcast podcast.
Organized religion continues to decline in America, but God just keeps getting more popular on Twitter.
As of this week, @TheTweetOfGod has 6.2 million followers, or what the comedy writer behind the account refers to on today’s bonus episode of The Last Laugh podcast as “one Holocaust” of followers. It’s exactly the type of dry, dark, controversial joke that “God,” AKA former Daily Show writer David Javerbaum, has been making on Twitter for over a decade.
Now he—or rather He—has done what so many other restless creators have done during the pandemic: start a podcast.
Godcast premiered last week with Javerbaum’s old friend and devout Catholic, Stephen Colbert, in conversation with God. Episode two found God reminiscing with “Moses” in the form of comedian David Cross. Future episodes will feature interviews with “Lizzie Borden” and “Amelia Earhart.”
Since releasing his first book, The Last Testament: A Memoir by God 10 years ago this fall, Javerbaum has fully immersed himself in this all-powerful character, with a few detours here and there to write for The Late Late Show with James Corden and co-create the Netflix sitcom Disjointed with Chuck Lorre. In December, he’s set to publish his response to The Book of Psalms titled The Book of Pslams: 97 Divine Diatribes on Humanity’s Total Failure.
“God is a character that I know very well,” Javerbaum says. “And he’s not any bigger of a character than any other character would be. He just happens to be God.”
Below is an excerpt from our conversation and you can listen to the whole thing—including stories about writing jokes with Colbert and Jon Stewart and composing songs with James Corden and Adam Schlesinger—right now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Just to get this out of the way, can you describe your relationship with God?
No, I mean, not in a single podcast I can’t. It’s very complex. I just know that about, I guess 11 years ago now, he came to me in my home office in the form of a burning futon. And he said, “I want to communicate again to the people of the world. And you’re a comedy writer who’s currently out of a job and I’m just going to commandeer you indefinitely.” And that’s what it’s been ever since. I take no responsibility whatsoever for any of the tweets that I type and send.
So you’ve been helping for over 10 years with @TheTweetofGod, which has become incredibly popular. It currently has over six million followers, which is a lot, though maybe not as many as you would think God would have, but still a lot.
That’s a unit that God refers to as “one Holocaust.”
Was that the goal when you started this thing?
It wasn’t my goal. It may have been his, I don’t know.
So what about you? Were you a particularly religious person growing up?
No. I know this is going to shock anybody who knows anything about comedy, but I was Jewish.
I can relate.
Wow, we’re like the only two! I was not raised particularly religiously. I was not raised atheistically either. We went to temple on the High Holy Days and what have you. And it’s just something I noticed as I got older and I took various jobs in the workforce and watched media that religion played a large, and in my opinion, often negative role in society and in the world. I’m not the first person to notice that, but I thought it would be a funny point of view to express things. It’s not the only point of view that I have comedically, but it’s the one that’s worked.
Do you remember God’s first tweet and how it went over?
Oh boy. It was a conscious echo of the first day of creation and it ended with “and it was good” or something like that. And also I created the account originally to promote a book. The first idea was to write a book called The Last Testament: A Memoir by God, which I did in fact write. And as I was writing it, my editor at the time suggested that I do a Twitter account and set it up and have it become somewhat known and have some kind of following. So that by the time the book actually came out, I’d have some kind of base from which to market. And so I worked on the book and the Twitter account at the same time and the Twitter account took off fairly quickly to the point where, when the book came out, people thought the book was actually an attempt to capitalize on a Twitter account. When in fact the opposite was true.
Was there a particular moment when the account started going viral or something that really hit and started adding a lot of followers to the account?
There was a good, slow and steady growth. I think once it got to Ricky Gervais’ notice and we started having a little back and forth because he, of course, is perhaps the world’s foremost and angriest atheist. So we were a natural pair. And he drew a lot of attention to it for which I’ll be forever grateful. I took a year off in 2016 and 2017 to work on a television show I was developing and produced for Netflix and also partly for mental health reasons. As I’m sure everyone who’s worked on a Twitter account can tell you, it does weird things to your mind, to your brain, to your comedic sensibility, to everything.
Yeah, you at one point compared the experience of tweeting on behalf of God to shooting heroin.
Yes. And the experience of not tweeting for a year is like heroin withdrawal. So you’re damned either way. It’s just very addicting. And I think that’s true for any person who’s looking to be funny. If you’re looking to be funny, by definition you want to get laughs, you want to get approval, you want to feel appreciated. And with Twitter you have that happen immediately and calculably and you see the number and you can see the relative number compared to previous things you’ve done. Is it better? Is it worse? And it’s absolute heroin for comedic sensibilities, particularly if you’re weak and insecure to begin with, like many of us are and like I certainly am.
I wondered if it made you relate to Trump at all in the way that he clearly has a Twitter addiction that he's now had to go cold turkey on. So did that make you relate to him at all?
Fair enough. Trump got permanently suspended. You got briefly suspended, I believe a couple of years ago. Can you explain what happened?
I got briefly suspended for a couple of different reasons, a couple of different times. The less interesting one was I got suspended for, I think I used the Twitter symbol or some other copyrighted thing that Twitter has, without their permission. And that was just a purely legalistic suspension.
That was because you were kind of trying to imply that you were verified as God.
Yeah, that’s right, I think I was trying to imply that I was verified. But then I was suspended because I tweeted something that was…
I actually have it here, if you don’t mind I’ll read it for you. This was in June 2019: “If gay people are a mistake, they’re a mistake I’ve made hundreds of millions of times, which proves I’m incompetent and shouldn’t be relied upon for anything.”
Right, which is the usual ironic take that I give. But they took that as being genuinely anti-gay.
From God no less.
Yes. And while there are many things about the world that God has a very wrong point of view about, that is not and will never be one of them. That’s just not going to happen. So they got that one wrong and they realized it and I got back on and I let them know that their sense of irony had some deficiencies that ought to be corrected.
Especially considering all the things they’ve let go over the last few years, the fact that they flagged that one is really suspicious.
But at the same time, they’re the platform that’s allowing any of this. They’re a private company so they have the right to do anything. They have the right to kick me off. They have the right to kick Trump off. They have the right to do anything they want to, and it’s not censorship. It might be stupid, but it’s not censorship.
There have been other times when people have taken offense at God’s tweets. Have there been any memorable instances of backlash or getting into a back and forth with people who really are upset about what God is tweeting?
Not as much as I would like, to be honest with you. Because what I’ve found out is that what people get really upset about is when you make fun of either Jesus or Muhammad. When you make fun of one of those two actual human beings, because that’s their guy. And that makes them feel really upset. But God is everybody’s guy. And everybody recognizes that God is a bastard. That’s why Jesus had to come down to fix it on his behalf. And so people don’t get that upset when you make fun of God in that way. And I don’t generally make fun of Jesus. I have nothing bad to say about Jesus as a person. Christianity I have plenty to say about, but not nothing about Jesus.
So this started as a book and the Twitter account kind of went with it. You’ve since written a play about God that was very successful. And now you have a podcast. So what has the process been like helping to adapt this Twitter account and this whole universe into a podcast?
Well, I think of it as adapting a character. God is a character that I know very well. And he’s not any bigger of a character than any other character would be. He just happens to be God. But he’s, in many ways, just the cranky old man on the lawn of the universe. And I always thought that a podcast was the ideal form, more so even than Twitter, because it’s the voice of God.
And it’s imaginative and you can picture in your head, which is the ideal place to be picturing God. And I knew early on that my friend, Tara Sands, who is a professional voiceover artist, would be my sidekick. She’s Joan of Arc. And I knew that was the right sidekick for me, somebody who was a human being and had some empathy for other human beings. And it’s been a blast. It’s really, really been fun. I’m enjoying it immensely.
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: SNL alum and star of NBC’s ‘Mr. Mayor,’ Bobby Moynihan.