Local man Dan Daniels is reported to be entirely incapable of coming up with original jokes that aren’t quotes from the NBC sitcom The Office.

“Dan’s failed attempts to make wildly overused pop culture references funny by adding finger guns or whatever have driven me to almost complete madness,” said Daniels’ coworker Rick.

“In meetings, Dan’s contributions usually go down as at least 3 minutes of Dan going, ‘Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s… oh no, I can’t remember the rest of the quote! Hang on! Oh no, what was it?’ while we sit and quietly die inside. And sometimes outside. RIP Tim.”

Turning directly to the camera we were using to film this interview, with gratuitous irony, Rick said, “Wouldn’t it be great if Dan took a comedy class to come up with some original comedic tropes? That’d be just peachy.”

Daniels’ intern Jessica finds his inability to recognize which parts in The Office were literally jokes about what not to do in the workplace have made him nearly impossible to work for.

“Last Tuesday at lunch in the break room, Dan performed the Chris Rock bit, as Michael Scott,” said Jessica. “Apparently, somewhere along the way, Dan realized that bit in The Office was funnybut he clearly doesn't know why. And not understanding what the bit was about is not an excuse. I didn’t understand most of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But even I don’t come to work on Halloween dressed as Eric Idle in blackface.”

At this point in our interview, Jessica stood up and began repeatedly banging her head against a nearby wall, presumably to relieve the pain.

Jessica then grabbed the laptop we were using to record this interview and yelled into it, “I beg of you, someone out there, sign Dan up for a comedy class. We are hostages living in hell. End our agony. If you do, I will give you my firstborn.”

Dan Daniels was last seen on the top of the office building, yelling “You ignorant sl*t!” at passersby.


P.S. Don’t be like Dan. Take a comedy class at the Manhattan Comedy School and learn to write and hone your own original jokes. You don’t need to be interested in doing stand-up comedy professionally to take a comedy class. Knowing how to be funny will be helpful regardless of what field you work in. In fact, funny people are more successful wherever they end up. Take a comedy classspecifically, take a Manhattan Comedy School comedy class. Our courses are taught by comedy professionals, including international stand-up headliners! Check out our classes here!

Before the pandemic, I had a healthy relationship with social media. I was able to be with my friends in person, the way humans are supposed to interact with each other. I didn’t have to use a screen to interact with other people. But the pandemic took that from me.

I am a current Computer Science undergraduate student studying at George Mason University. Over the last year, I have found myself easily drawn to social media, and sometimes I’ve struggled to use it in a way that benefits rather than hurts me. And that’s only the conscious side of things. It’s important for us to understand things that social media is doing to us that we might not even know about. We’ve all heard that social media is harmful for our mental health, but have you ever taken the time to learn why?

As you might expect, social media use in the United States increased during the COVID-19 pandemic — but notably, only by seven minutes. It is perhaps even more interesting that many tech companies have reported their users’ increasing disregard for “time well spent.” In the tech world, the concept of “time well spent” fuels a culture in which technology does not seek to exploit users’ vulnerabilities, including in ways that may lead to addictions. But despite tech companies’ efforts in this area, Americans have been spending even more time on their devices.

Despite what your mom may say, those hours spent on a screen are certainly not all wasted. Social media can be a place to stay informed and keep in touch with your friends and family. But as we all know, social media can be deleterious to one’s mental health.

It goes without saying that social media can be addictive, but many may not understand how social media addiction can come to be. It works this way: when an individual gets a notification, the brain receives a dopamine rush and sends it along reward pathways. This results in a feeling of pleasure. As noted by the Addiction Center, social media is particularly effective at providing plenty of dopamine rush-creating rewards for “relatively minimal effort.” As the brain becomes accustomed to receiving this dopamine, its tolerance increases, and increasingly more dopamine is needed to satisfy and please it. Ultimately, social media causes the brain to rewire itself around this need for more social-media-induced dopamine.

Not only is social media addictive, but it can cause profound harm to individuals’ self-esteem. Amidst all the chaos of the last year, social media has remained a constant. The Addiction Center reported that on social media, people talk about themselves around 80% of the time on social media, notably compared to only 30-40% of the time in real life; people’s highlight reels are on display for all to see. Research has demonstrated a clear link between social media use, poor mental health, and low self-esteem.

Pre-pandemic, I largely used social media as a way to stay connected with my friends and family. But slowly, social media changed from a way I could keep in touch with my loved ones to a place I compared myself to others online. I can’t help but feel pangs in my self-esteem sometimes when I scroll through social media.

Many are reaching a breaking point during this pandemic. It also cannot be overstated that the trauma we have collectively experienced during this pandemic won’t just go away ⁠when we all go back to our campuses in the fall. So, while I’m still an undergrad⁠ — and by the way, I am not qualified to provide official medical advice!⁠ — I want to offer some potential tips for how we young people can have a better relationship with social media during this time.

Tip #1: Move around more. It could be something as simple as taking a walk or stretching to a full-body workout. Activity helps create a distraction from social media and helps improve your overall health.

Tip #2: Avoid using your phone at night. I try to do this as much as possible, but I definitely still struggle with it! Using your phone at night will negatively affect your circadian rhythm, an internal process your body has to regulate sleep, in return causing many health problems, including depression. But in addition to the blue light, simply stated, it can be much harder to fall asleep if you see something that makes you unhappy. Negative feelings and nagging stressors can easily distract you if you’re attempting to clear your mind and fall asleep.

Tip #3: Remember that you are not alone in facing the struggles the pandemic has forced upon us. Even more specifically, if someone appears from their social media to be absolutely just fine right now — during the pandemic, before, or long after this time in history has passed--the chances are extremely high that they’re not.

More often than not, social media is a place for people to share the best of what’s going on in their lives. That doesn’t make them evil! It’s just something to keep in mind while you’re scrolling. Remember, you’re more than just a highlight reel.

Having a better understanding of how social media is affecting your brain can help you clearly address when you’re demonstrating symptoms of addiction. Understand the science, and you’ll have a better relationship with this vital tool — it won’t be exiting our lives anytime soon.

Updated: Jan 27

Illustrator Phoebe Im, known for her work as @bobblejot on Instagram, is releasing her first book, Cute Chibi Animals, on January 19. Im, who has 295K Instagram followers, spoke with The Hilltop Show about her artistic journey, creative process, and career growth.

Im said she has been an artist for as long as she can remember.

“I was inspired to start drawing at a very early age by my parents who are both artistically inclined,” she said.

She said she learned how to read from books her mother illustrated and grew up watching her father paint, skills which quickly rubbed off.

“As a kid, I would never leave the house without a sketchbook and pencil, and I would just be drawing everywhere I went.”

Her drawing style has evolved a lot since then, but Im said she still brings her laptop and iPad Pro (loaded with the MediBang Paint app) with her everywhere for when inspiration strikes.

“I used to draw on my computer using Photoshop, but I started drawing more while I was commuting and found the iPad to be a more mobile alternative.”

Growing up, Im said she watched a lot of anime, so her original illustration style leaned more toward anime and manhwa.

She even started a webcomic in that style but found herself being drawn to creating cuter characters. From there, her chibi webcomic series Tori and Samuel was born.

Tori, a lively corgi, and Samuel, a sassy Munchkin cat, get into all kinds of adventures on Im’s Instagram page.

“Initially, Samuel was based on my husband and Tori was based on myself, but over time I subconsciously started modeling both Tori and Samuel after the different facets of my husband’s personality,” Im said.

“Samuel encompasses my husband’s more nurturing and snarky personality, while Tori represents his more playful and curious side.”

She said that most of the ideas for Tori and Samuel storylines also come from her husband.

“We always sit around bouncing ideas off each other and discussing little storylines that come to us as we’re going about our day,” she said.

Once they find a story they like, Im said she takes the script and begins sketching out the characters.

“I will usually try and put myself in the characters’ shoes to visualize the kind of poses and expressions they would have in any given situation,” she said, “which I feel helps to make the characters more expressive and relatable.”

She said that many of the storylines are built around real-life experiences because it is easier to translate their emotions over to Tori and Samuel.

“One of our comics was inspired by a time when my husband started hiccuping, and I laughed so hard I started hiccuping too,” Im said.

When that comic came out, she said she was amused to find that her followers assumed her husband was the one who laughed at her and not the other way around.

In her comics, Im also has to work on character continuity.

“I’ve always wanted to keep my characters’ appearances consistent throughout a comic series,” Im said, “but over time I realized that even though I never actively made a decision to tweak the way my characters look, they started to take on slightly different shapes and forms as the story progressed and they were made to react to different situations.”

“As you draw a character over and over again, you start to understand the character’s personality and become familiar with their quirks,” she said. “After that, it becomes more intuitive to accurately portray their emotions, and they’ll start to become much more expressive and consistent in the way they behave.”

Im said she finds that the most appealing characters are ones that are relatable, yet slightly different enough in an absurd way that they are entertaining.

“The great thing about fictional characters is that they’re able to get away with things we could only dream of doing,” Im said. “For example, Tori brings home teddy bears three times her size, rewards herself with a dozen cookies for doing a jumping jack, and sets a kitchen on fire trying to prepare a birthday cake for Samuel.”

Im said she created the Tori and Samuel comics to spread joy and positivity, and her popularity on Instagram seems to prove her mission successful.

“We’re just really lucky and blessed that there are so many people who enjoy the comics we create,” Im said.

“I personally feel that people are more likely to share comics they are able to identify with,” she said, “so I would recommend creating comics that are heartwarming and relatable.”

The other note she has for artists trying to grow their social media presence is that there is no one route to success.

“The important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing and to not be afraid to take risks and try new things,” she said.

Im said she had always been drawing as a hobby but only started illustrating full-time in 2019 after much encouragement from her husband. Now, she is a published author.

She says the process for the book was not unlike her usual routine for creating illustrations.

“I would start by figuring out what I wanted to illustrate, and then I would proceed to sketch, outline and color the artwork,” Im said.

Then, she would get feedback from her publishers at The Quarto Group on format, dimensions, and fine-tuning the illustrations to make the book cohesive.

Cute Chibi Animals is a guide for illustrators wanting to draw in the style of Tori and Samuel and Im’s other characters. The book teaches its readers to draw 75 different cuddly creatures, from an axolotl to a narwhal and everything in between. It is available now for pre-order from Amazon and other booksellers.