Meet Daniel Hiscock, the Feller Behind Townie Memes
There is a good chance that you will see some sort of meme shared at least once a day while browsing through social media, and if you are based in St. John’s, Newfoundland or have ties to the province or its capital city, there is a good chance one of those memes that you see comes from Daniel Hiscock. You may not recognize his name, as you may be more familiar with his Townie Memes handle on Facebook and Instagram and might even be one of the over ten thousand followers each social media page has amassed.
Hiscock, 29 calls himself a “true townie”. He was born to a pair of townies and raised in St. John’s growing up in the city’s east end and graduating from Gonzaga High School. “[B]ut don’t hold that against me!” he told The Racket via email. Hiscock would go on to study English and History at Memorial University and obtained a bachelor in public relations from Mount Saint Vincent in Halifax. He now works in the communications and marketing sphere and dabbles in freelance writing.
“People sometimes expect me to be some larger than life character because of the page, but I’m disappointingly boring,” said Hiscock. “I enjoy staying in with a cold beer and a few re-runs of Anthony Bourdain’s shows. I also pre-record and binge watch Jeopardy, so I’ve got some Newfie Nan in me.” He said nothing brings him more joy in life than getting Final Jeopardy when the players on TV get it wrong.
Despite his self-professed boring life, Hiscock seems to use his cleverness, love of his hometown, to create Townie Memes in an effort to entertain people on social media. Townie Memes started in 2017 when Hiscock was living in Halifax and feeling homesick. “I was always, and still am a fan of the other Newfoundland meme pages, but I wanted to do stuff that was specific to St. John’s primarily,” he said. This is a unique city with a lot of humour in both its charm and its not-so-charming aspects.” Hiscock said he planned to promote that unique brand of humour through the popular medium of a meme. “I think every townie has a love-hate relationship with this city, so we can appreciate that humour and laugh at ourselves,” he said. Hiscock was adamant that his intention is not one of ridicule, and if anything, he is making fun of himself mostly.
Townie Memes started slowly at first, but Hiscock said that within a few months things started to pick up. .”There were a few key posts, like one I made referring to the McGregor/Mayweather fight, that took off and increased my followers,” he said. Hiscock’s goal was, and still remains growing the page organically, and chooses not to use hashtags to attract spam followers. “That means most of the followers are townies, Newfies, St. John’s newcomers and anyone else who understands and appreciates the references. I make the page to try and give people a laugh and to represent our funny little city and province.” He believes that the world can be a very serious place and it needs some silliness every so often. “When someone writes me from away, saying they’re homesick for St. John’s and the province and that they look forward to the posts, that’s always amazing to hear. I also love when St. John’s newcomers tell me they love the page. It means the references are coming across as intended and that they’re appreciating the things we all get a kick out of as locals.”
Hiscock credits a poor sleep schedule and an excess of coffee to the creation of many a meme. “[S]ometimes the memes just come to me in the middle of the night and I’ll make some to post when I wake up. Others are purely topical and get made related to something relevant in the news or in the city, like ones about George Street Fest or the Regatta for example.” Other times it can be something funny from the Internet that Hiscock gives a local spin on or a quote from a favourite movie or TV show. “At the fear of sounding pretentious, St. John’s and Newfie culture is the best muse I could ask for! A meme may come to me from simply walking around the mall (Avalon and Village) for half an hour,” he said. There are local takes on popular styles of memes found elsewhere on the Internet but Hiscock loves a good Nan meme. “I come from a large family, with its share of characters on both sides, so that influences a lot of what I make,” he said. “Is there anyone better than a good ol’ Newfie nan? Tough but loving women, with a great sense of humour and a serious appreciation for their stories and their Shoppers [Drug Mart] flyer.”
Sometimes, a meme doesn’t go over the way it is intended. Hiscock admitted to being surprised and elated that people care or find anything he does to be funny but he said sometimes he doesn’t get the response he hoped for. He also tries to be aware of his audience and posts certain memes on Facebook, or Instagram, depending on the platform. “If you look at my Facebook account, I post about a quarter of what I post to Instagram on there because it’s a different audience,” he said. “There could be things that the Facebook audience find more offensive or the reference might just be completely lost, which has happened before. A simple way to look at it is, your nan and your great aunts probably have Facebook, but they’re probably not on Instagram.” Hiscock tries not to be overly vulgar or provocative with any meme that he makes and avoids blatant swearing and writes edited versions of curse words instead.
“The only time people seemed obviously offended was at Easter when I made some Jesus-related memes,” Hiscock recounted. “This goes back to the Facebook/Instagram thing. I put a few on Facebook, and right away, the older audience jumped all over it. I figured I didn’t want to open that can of worms, so I took them down.” They stayed on Instagram though. Hiscock told us that he was raised Catholic and went to church every Sunday and wasn’t trying to attack the religion. “[M]y nan is very religious and never misses mass at the Basilica and I respect that about her,” he said. “Some people need [religion] in their lives. I just think, in the same way, people from St. John’s have a dark sense of humour towards the city, people raised Catholic are the same way towards the religion.” After this, Hiscock said he realized the attitude he was trying to capture might not come across in a meme when viewed on a phone or computer screen. Hiscock did note however that “[a]t the same time, I’m sure you could find a million things on the internet much more offensive towards organized religion than the posts I put on Facebook that day, but, to put it simply, I didn’t want to upset anyone like my nan!”
Grandmothers aside, Hiscock also noted that he tries hard not to use the word “skeet” in his memes but admitted it’s almost hard not to sometimes. “That is just such a St. John’s specific thing that it was an uphill battle not to use the word!”
There are times that a meme does not go as planned but turns out for the better. Hiscock mentioned an example of an admittedly lazy meme that said “Me explaining anything to anyone,” with a quote from the Trailer Park Boys. It ended up garnering hundreds of thousands of shares and reached over a million people on Facebook. This story is just part of the extremely positive response Hiscock said Townie Memes has received. “The page wouldn’t exist without the people who like and support it and I try to always keep that in mind,” he said.
Hiscock enjoys hearing from people on social media who express their love of Townie Memes but welcomes all feedback. “If someone did inbox me and had a problem with something I put out there, I would take the time to discuss it with them and understand why they were upset about it.,” Hiscock remarked. “You never know how some people are going to take certain things, particularly when you’re dealing with very specific references and dark-ish humour.” He noted that there has not been much of a negative response but admitted to hoping “there isn’t a crew of b’ys out there in tracksuits and gold chains waiting to give me a beat down for some of the posts I’ve made!”
If you identify as a member of that group, or you are a fan of Hiscock’s particular brand of humour, you might be able to catch him doing stand-up comedy routines in the city. (We’re kidding about the gold chains and tracksuit b’ys; please don’t hurt Mr. Hiscock). Hiscock made his live comedy debut at Bitters Pub at the end of August. “I talked about life in your late-twenties and some stuff that was reminiscent of the tone of [Townie Memes] for sure.” He admitted that the experience was nerve-racking but fun. “Trying to make people laugh in person is very different than doing so behind a smartphone screen! It’s something I always wanted to do though and now that the ice has been broken I hope to keep at it!”
He noted that Bitters hosts a comedy night every Tuesday at 8:30 PM and charges a two-dollar cover. Hiscock seems to have plans to do more stand-up in the future as he invited readers to “[C]ome and heckle me the next time I go up!”