Is sex even cool at all? Are micropenises making a comeback? And just how fucking boring is Kansas?
Kyle Bauer knows the answers to these questions. “The highest-rated attraction in all of Kansas is a ‘historic farmstead,’ which is pretty much just a field that proudly displays a cow made of hay,” he writes. “Like a third-grade art class spent an hour painting dried grass and now it’s the most notable and respected monument in the whole state.”
A writer at Barstool Sports, Bauer—known almost exclusively as “KB” in online circles—has proven himself a master of social media satire time and time again. The trends that pervade Twitter and Instagram are, as it turns out, virtually incomprehensible enigmas. Bauer stands as their lone interpreter, the only man who seems to really understand what the fuck is ever going on online.
When viral tweets asked, “yeah sex is cool but have you ever had someone reply to your sarcasm with even better sarcasm,” KB mused, “When I first saw this tweet, which resonated with a mid-size metro area worth of sex-havers, both of my heads simultaneously winced in confusion. Was it really possible that having sex is less cool than an ordinary, platonic discussion with someone who is, say, fluent in sarcasm?”
When the internet suddenly developed a short-lived obsession with the pleasure capabilities of micropenises, KB reminded us that Adam (of Biblical fame) had a fully-erect penis of approximately 2.8 inches but that “there is no evidence or footage that shows that [Eve] was unsatisfied in any way by his abnormally small penis.”
And when KB wrote a gloriously satirical blog post titled “The Most Popular Celebrity of 2018 from Each State,” he earned an excited response from infamous gun girl Kaitlin Bennett. No one bothered to tell her that her spot as the most popular celebrity from Ohio was, of course, a joke.
Bauer first gained popularity on Twitter as KBNoSwag. Viral tweet after viral tweet and a 170,000-strong following led him to Medium. That took him to a New York City job in the fall of 2018. And so, in true keeping with his author bio, KB “tweeted and blogged his way to a job at Barstool.”
Possibly the best thing about his work is that, in a kind of fucked-up way, it allows us to laugh at the worst parts of the Internet. Social media and the trends that propel it forward often feel like an overwhelmingly depressing and unfunny abyss. But KB lets us confront this vast terribleness with humor. It is, for instance, a lot easier to think about deconstructing online misogyny when KB gives us “The Internet’s Worst: A Shallow Dive Into Incel Culture.” And, on a lighter note, it’s a hell of a lot easier to stomach spring break Instagram captions when there’s “Breaking Down the Worst Party Slang Terms of All Time.”
Anyway. I got to talk to KB about Twitter, his job, and the year 2028.
Lithium Magazine: So, I’ve been following you on Twitter for a while. I’ve always loved your tweets, but I don’t know a ton about you beyond your content.
Kyle Bauer: I grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia. I wrestled and studied Speech Pathology and Early Childhood Special Education at Kent State. After college, I got a job in Early Intervention working with infants and toddlers with disabilities. I was the only male on staff among thirteen women, so by the end of my second year there I was full-blown “one of the ladies.” When they found out I was leaving to work at Barstool Sports, they were like, “What are you gonna do there?” and I was like, “I don’t know, probably write about horny Twitter users and micropenises.” Other than that, I go through lots of short-lived fads and obsessions. Right now it’s soup. I’ve been going out of my way to try as many different types of soup as possible. The other day I went to this Japanese place in Manhattan and got something called Cod’s Sperm Soup. It’s called that because it’s made from the sperm sac of a codfish. I didn’t really like it, but I love telling people about it.
Kyle: Thank you. When I was, like, nine or ten, I would write reviews for Disney Channel Original Movies on Microsoft Word, but they never took off, so I gave up writing for the next ten to twelve years. My senior year of college, I wrote my first blog. It was called “Twitter Translations: College Girl Edition” or something like that, and that’s when I realized I really enjoy writing about social media trends that annoy me.
Kyle: Most of my inspiration is fueled by hate and frustration. I know that sounds unhealthy, and that’s because it is. Social media brings out the absolute worst in people, and I’m on social media—well, Twitter—way too much, so I’m constantly being flooded with new things to hate.
Lithium: What’s the weirdest or craziest thing that someone online has said to you about something you wrote or tweeted?
Kyle: Honestly, nothing crazy. Just a couple of insincere death threats and one person who would DM me pictures of my mom’s face Photoshopped on characters from the Saw movies. So, nothing too weird either.
Lithium: Speaking of which , what’s your favorite—or least favorite, I guess—Twitter phenomenon? Personally, my favorite is the “It’s 2028. Your husband comes up to you and smacks your ass while you’re making buffalo chicken dip” thing.
Kyle: That 2028 one has always been fascinating to me because I truly believe it was the result of some type of CIA mind-control experiment. Seeing so many college kids tweet about how they want to “fast forward” to when they’re 35 and making mortgage payments while their kids tear apart their house… What the fuck was that shit? You’re a twenty-year-old sophomore in college… You should be anxiously awaiting Thursday, not 2030.
Kyle: Yeah, you’re, like, the second person to ask me that since Labor Day. It took me years of relentlessly tweeting jokes and trying to be funny before I finally went viral and started gaining a lot of followers.
Lithium: I know how you feel about Tweetdeckers. What are your thoughts on similar Instagram accounts, like FuckJerry and TheFatJewish, and how they could impact the future of social media-based comedy?
Kyle: People eat up those Instagram accounts that just post screenshots of other people’s tweets, and it’s just like…that’s Twitter. You’re opening up Instagram to look at…tweets? Just get on Twitter instead. So, yeah, it’s obviously fuck FuckJerry, but people need to stop following and showing so much love to those kinds of accounts or they’ll keep existing and profiting.
Lithium: How did you make such a successful transition from being this very well-known presence on Twitter, to getting lots of views on Medium, to working for Barstool?
Kyle: I pretty much just turned my tweets into long-form blogs. I was writing about topics—Twitter trends that I hate—that I knew my audience was interested in, and, thankfully, people were really supportive. My plan was to actually write more blogs and keep my Medium page going, and then reach out to Barstool and other sites to try to get some type of gig. Luckily, I ended up catching Barstool’s attention before that.
Kyle: It can get chaotic when they’re filming shit, but other than that it’s laid-back and a great environment for getting work done in fifteen-minute intervals. I like the people a lot. There’s a wide range of personalities, ranging from really weird and socially awkward to slightly less weird and socially awkward.
Lithium: What’s the best part of your job?
Kyle: For me, it’s the creative freedom. I like to experiment and get weird sometimes with my content ideas, and they allow it.
Lithium: What’s been your favorite thing you’ve done for Barstool so far? I think my favorite was “Instagram Travelers Take On the World’s Most Unappealing Places.” Steubenville really is kind of a shithole.
Kyle: I have a weird obsession with geographic humor, so I had a blast with that one. Shoutout to Nick Turani for doing all the incredible Photoshops and helping me with the writing. My favorite thing I’ve done is the “Most Popular Celebrity of 2018 from Each State” blog—Nick also made the Photoshopped map for it—because my goal was to trick a lot of people into thinking it was serious, and that’s exactly what happened. I had Kansas in such an uproar that some of their real “celebs” were sending me mean replies. Also, I got replies from the King and Queen of Entertainment, Johnny Sins and JoJo Siwa.
Lithium: Do you ever go into your satirical pieces with the intention to make social critique? Your work is always hilarious to read, but I do sometimes feel like there’s thinly veiled and spot-on criticism of sexism and general douchiness, especially in ones like “The First Annual Creep Olympics.”
Kyle: Yeah, I mean, my moral compass is pretty questionable, but I’m always gonna call people out and make fun of them for being shitty. So that includes people who are objectively shitty—sexist, racist, Midwestern, homophobic, et cetera.
Lithium: I don’t know if you consider yourself a celebrity, but I know plenty of other people do . Have you had any particularly notable interactions with your fanbase-slash-followers? What’s it like to have this large crowd constantly tuned in to what you’re saying?
Kyle: Anyone who thinks they have any type of “celeb status” because they have a lot of online followers is a gigantic dweeb. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also lame to act too cool or self-loathing to appreciate having a large amount of people who are interested in you and support you. It’s definitely cool and has some perks. One of my biggest fans, Kaitlin “Gun Girl” Bennett, acknowledged my admiration for her once, and that reciprocated love meant a lot to me.
Lithium: A Google search of your name led me to a Reddit thread, “Is KBNoSwag Barstool’s Most Polished Journo?” A quick read-through of another Reddit thread turned up comments like “Love this hire. Hilarious” and “Good stuff that has substance.” So, I guess, how do you feel about potentially being Barstool’s Most Polished Journo?
Kyle: Embracing and remembering that for when a thread about me being an unfunny try-hard pops up.
Lithium: And, finally, do you have any advice for people who may want to work for Barstool?
Kyle: Whatever it is you want to do for Barstool, do it on your own, for free, without worrying about getting Barstool’s attention. Start a blog, create your own website, make a YouTube account, post videos to your social media, and work on perfecting your craft. If you want to do it for a living, then you need to be passionate about it enough to do it consistently for no money.
Interview by Julianna Chen