Six Word Memoir

By JoCo July 9, 2009

UPDATE: So many great ideas, it’s hard to pick just one six-word memoir. I think I should have six six-word memoirs, that should be a thing. There is one that has become my favorite because it makes me laugh out loud, and it also captures a little bit of that “I am unable or unwilling to be a grown-up and have a real job” feeling. “For sale: adult shoes, never worn.” It’s a reference to Hemingway’s six-word story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” (which may or may not be real but is famous anyway). It was submitted by Tim Canny, who, if he will email me a mailing address, will receive a free DVD from me. Thanks everyone for thinking on it, this was a lot of fun.

The coffee shop I frequent here in Brooklyn is filled with lots of other people who are, like me, using it as an office. I can’t imagine the work that everyone else is doing is quite as important as my own work, which is mostly avoiding the OTHER work that I have to do, but they all seem pretty busy. There is one person in particular who is always there before I arrive and after I leave, and who does not seem to be merely reloading Twitter every couple of minutes. In fact he is working on his media empire: you may know it as SmithMag, and that might be because you have heard of the Six Word Memoir. This fellow and I – let’s call him “Larry Smith” – Larry Smith and I were talking about the Six Word Memoir and he suggested I contribute one for his book about same. Let me tell you, it’s hard. Just take a look at the ones that people have submitted, some of them are sort of brilliant. In its perfect form, it’s kind of like the punchline of a joke, where something very small and specific suddenly expands in your mind to sum up a life story. OK, now do that for your own life. Actually, stop, do it for mine instead.

I asked Twitter to help me out on this and got some great responses. From a quick scan, here are some of my favorites:

@meaghano: Sorry didn’t get to this sooner.
@awryone: Should have left that pimple alone.
@mehuman: Already peaked with song from portal.
@petersagal: Vanished after failing as IT professional.
@aaronfever: I need someone to work merchandise.
@colleenky: Should not be trusted with cats.
@paulandstorm: Paul and Storm just won’t leave. (Note how even MY six word memoir is somehow ABOUT THEM.)
@unmodisch: Internet pioneer, domesticated money-pooping cow.
also @paulandstorm: Dear Internet: thanks for…well, everything.
@marmotry: Liked cold baths with Angela Lansbury.
also @unmodisch: Phase one: music. Phase three: profit!
@scottknaster: Couldn’t write own six word memoir.

And they continue to trickle in. Boy do I love the hive mind! Since I don’t want the blog readers who are not on Twitter to miss out on the fun, I’ll take suggestions here in the comments as well. A couple of things I didn’t know until I started getting suggestions: I probably will avoid using my own lyrics for this, and ideally this will not be about me being dead. Though it’s only six words, it would be nice to somehow capture the collaborative nature of my rise to online semi-celebrity, by which I mean that while I owe the internet plenty already, it would be fun and appropriate if you also did this work for me. By Tuesday.

OK, back to tweeting about sandwiches and pretending to be on vacation.


BillyD says

He sang. His goal? We laughed.

Nentuaby says

Forget conclusions, I reject your premise.

Nentuaby says

Hmmm, actually, I think that ended up being my S.W.D. :)

Lindsay says

Was cut off on morning show.

Susie the Geek says

Best Musically Awesome Internet Boyfriend Ever

Vynce says

Thing a week worked out well.

(it's a shame you won't use your lyrics -- "This Job Fulfilling in Creative Way" is pretty fantastic.)

Gilana says

Zombies, monkeys, and robots. Oh my!

Basil says

Once had bad sandwich in Iowa.

Echo says

Learned indie music rocks the Internet.

Colleenky says

Frustrated geek. His muse must speak.

Secundus says

From my Twitter:

Can only fight ninja on weekdays.
Wrote some songs, conquered all sadness.
Once, Batman said "_I_ respect _you._"

New one:
Proved Robots could be our friends.

Scarybug says

New York Times: He's Shaggily Handsome.

Nerdrew says

Bearded acoustic geekery somehow spectacularly awesome.


Acoustic auteur always apprehensive about alliteration.

Nerdrew says

He's eating brains with Jesus now.

JoAnn in VA says

Husband, daddy, internet geek rock star.

Gotta go with whats important after all...

Caroline says

Introduced to Chuy's during Texas visit.

Xarrion says

Yeah, pity you're reluctant to use lyrics

"Making a note here: Huge Success" pretty much sums everything up nicely :)

"I should have syndicated Monkey Shines"

Justin says

I need more than six words.

Drew says

Code Monkey leave, become Internet rockstar.

Prisoner06 says

Was really Jim Henson's lost muppet!

Yngve says

Looking back it makes perfect sense.

Morgan says

Hodgman's greatest discovery, feral no more.

Kari says

Seriously - ask for what you want.

Colleenky says

Playing out to commercial - my specialty.

Pinder says

Half Pony, Half Monkey, very pleasing.

Luke M says

Made Internet busking a business model.

Wife supported crazy idea, thank God.

Poster child for the wired meritocracy.

Songs were free; fans paid anyway.

Sorry, RIAA; talent is still enough.

Kevin says

Quit job to live my dream.
The Internet is a powerful tool.
People should choose to buy music.
With great power comes great responsibility.

Wait, scratch that last one. Wrong guy. :P

Colleenky says

Geeky songs plus internet equal superstar.

(This should be geeky + songs --> superstar, but that doesn't fit the form.)

OK, I'll stop now.

Colleenky says

(Ack, I was afraid that the formatting wouldn't work. "Internet" should be a catalyst over the yield sign. I have no html fu.)

Thomas says

My God It's Full of Stars

DWishR says

Hive mind swallowed, enjoyed and regurgitated.

Alex says

Jonathan Coulton is Tired of Monkeys

Brett Glass says

No panties have been thrown. THWOP!

Bryce Jensen says

Humility is a farce. I rock!

Ron says

So crazy- it just might work.

Zach Totz says

JoAnn's is the best.

Jeremy says

Here are few from my twitter feed they all suck but I wanted to have them in two places to show my ineptitude in its full glory.

Finding creative ways to avoid work.
Mad-Scientists, geeks have anthems too.
Sweet Crap! It worked! It worked!
Successfully avoided work. Conquered the Internet
Harbors an unnatural love of sandwiches
Yes! The Internet loves me back
sang songs. Cow pooped. Ate sandwiches.
my life the Internet love affair.

There is the distinct possibility that have of these describe me more than JoCo.

Mike Whaley says

Some fans confused: MEMOIRS, not epitaphs!

Mike Whaley says

No lyrics... monkeyszombiesmadscientiststomcruiseflikrmaymandelbrotbaseballpresidentsandstrollers are all OUT!

See your monkey, raise three zombies.
Write memoir later... too busy recording!
Does JoCo plus copper equal Cujo?
The sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick. (SOMEONE had to do that one...)
Six word memoirs may cause brevity.
Pancakes, eggs, and... wait, that's HoJo.
Mathematics majors count on Jonathan Coulton's music.
We all are the corporate ashtrays. **

** OK, a little backstory on this one, but hopefully JoCo types might find it mildly interesting... a friend of mine wrote a program that mixes up phrases from various text documents you feed it, to create some very odd and often amusing new passages. Usually works best when you combine a serious/news type story with something really inane or funny. When he sent me the program, the above phrase was one of his favorite examples, created by combining a press release from some random major corporation and a news article about stop-smoking therapy.

DCD says

Think "Jim Henson's Warren Zevon Babies."

Some rights reserved (otherwise go nuts).

"Suck it yet again, Old Media!"

manstraw says

I don't need six words. Monkeys!!!

Zaf says

Even the french have a fanclub.

To basically show that you're an international celebrity even in countries were they don't speak your language.

JoAnn in VA says

Awww, thanks Zach!

Craig says

Would like to perform at J&R.

(That one is not so much a memoir as it is a not-so-subtle hint to JoCo.)

Angelastic says

Some variation on these:

Created new life (not just baby)
Created new life, rethought/reinvented old one.

Will Hughes says

Quits: Connection reset by Zombies

Robert says

"Damn imaginary ninjas... got my keys."

JoCo says

Some of these are really great - thank you everyone. I got a little distracted yesterday with making up bad first draft movie lines on twitter, but I think there are a few nice options here. Though now I realize:

The internet helped me write this.

Sean says

I'm not alone during couple's skate.

manstraw says

Here's the secret to .

manstraw says

Here's the secret to -message redacted-.

manstraw says

wordpress actually redacted my first message redacted.

The V Man says

Well, a few are breaking the no lyrics rule (or at least one interpretation of it):

"Met Bob, from down the hall"
"Liked big butts, could not lie"
"Not dead, just installing new servos"
"Jonathan Coulton: Bearded for *your* pleasure"
"Jonathan Coulton: Soft Rocked to death"
"Here lies King of the Geeks" (
"Imprisioned: Brookline. Send Nuts and Wine."
"Robot Council problems - Banished to Asteroid"

Aaaaand I'm spent.

Jack Sheehan says

Square peg, Round hole, try anyway.

Tim Canny says

For Sale: Adult shoes. Never worn.

Craig says

"Not your father's Internet Rock Star."

Craig says

"Can I play the Mac now?"

Craig says

"This one's not about you @paulandstorm:"

stefan gnessin says

what pretending to be on vaction either your on vaction or not decide

Laurie says

For sale: Jonathan's razor. Never used.

Finally played 'Presidents' without blowing it.

Nytsky says

Hello Jonathan;

The first I have already submitted to the six word memoirs site:
Universal creations require space to create.

This one I created via your request:
Opened portal entered Networld creating history.

Be well;

Rob K. says

"I get paid for this? Really?" ("this" could also be replaced with "music.")

"Rejected software programming, play music instead."

"Total strangers know my life's story."

OK, that last one's gotta be a bit freaky.

Adamoes says

Beard. Beard beard. Beard beard beard.

Mike says

"Code monkey get up, get coffee."
"Doing science and I'm still alive."

Wesley says

"I'm an internet celebrity... suck it!"

Chris says

"Needs to write new songs... soon"

Not to rag on ya, but... damn. I need more musical nerdery! MC Frontalot can only fill in for so long...

Wesley says


Yngve says

Quit job to work from closet.

Laura says

Conquered the world through Warcraft videos.

Yvonne says

Nescient of you, until smithmag. Youtube.

Nate says

Hopefully I made the right decision.

BobCat says

Patented zombie monkey robot music ONLINE.

[pity the analog n00bs who failed to stake a claim...]

Jack says

Infatuated with simians and the profane.

Kayla Neff says

JoCo: Helped me pass Social Studies.

M_pony says

Dan Fogelberg would have been proud.

Hardrock says

The cake is not a lie

its a sweet chant from the live cd. wish there were more songs about cake

lavacano201014 says

I wanted only five words. Forklift

lavacano201014 says

Up with the large wooden badgers

lavacano201014 says

Coffee and donuts by my shoes.

lavacano201014 says

Lost my mind in Kentucky, help?

lavacano201014 says

The betting odds say I die.

lavacano201014 says

Brains are useful in most cases.

lavacano201014 says

How many ideas does lavacano201014 have?

(There's my last one)

Thomas says

Kayla Neff's Suggestion actually describes me too. I had to write an essay about American Involvement in Vietnam from 1957 to 1975, so I sang WashyAdJeffy to think of who was president in the late fifties. Eisenhower kept the commies well in hand.

And here's another suggestion:
Write Nerdy Music, Question Mark. Profit!

manstraw says

Just like Raffi with swear words.

manstraw says

Creative Commons made me almost rich.

Jessica says

"seen his monkey, now show yours"

Slythytoves says

No song can not be written

Eric in Raleigh says

Closet, computer, microphone, internet, zombies, success!

Billiam says

Patron Saint of Netterwebs: "Beardy McInternet"

Amanda says

I've got it:

"Monster from closet last seen online."

AmandaAgain says

Here's another:

“Dissonant troubadour finds support group online.”

I'm supposed to be on vacation too....anyone else using some well-earned time off to follow cupcake week on Martha Stuart Living.....?

Lol jokesb says

Hemmingway rip off, real original sucka

Captaincuastic says

No, did not write "Skipper Dan"

Ally says

"The Internet helped me write this." -- Substitute "with" for "write", and it can refer to more than just the SWM: "The Internet helped me with this." Yay ambiguity! :P

Dave Counts says

Gives away milk and sells cows.

jjohn says

Your choice of six word memoirs:






Patrick says

Sad songs about evils makes money.

Patrick says

Being an evil genius sympathizer rocks.

Mike says

Feral monkey fan sings, wins internet.

Craig says

" night, the ice weasels come...."

Sean says

Geeks steal music, "Creative Commons" redundant.

manstraw says

dang, I wish it was 7 words.


MarsJenkar says

Here are a few. Not very good, but hey, I tried.

"Music from unique points of view."
"Creative Commons, but far from common."
"Jonathan Coulton: Now with sad vampires!"
"The mad scientist of folk music."
"Why stop at just six words?"

Borderline lyrics option:

"Baby got back on a jetplane."

Tim O says

Not me, it was my monkey

Trooper311 says

A man, an artist, a fool.

Tim O says

Did no one pick:

"This monkey shines wherever it goes"?

Slythytoves says

Ooh, how 'bout "Snails are Fibonacci's mollusk of choice"!

Blindmoe says

Found Fame Bringing Reason to Rhyme


'Still regretting never learning to count properly."

Logan G says

"Lots of laughs; mostly my expense."

Brett Glass says

Maybe I used too many monkeys.

Alex Dawson says

"With big warm fuzzy secret heart"


"Code Monkey just waiting for now"

AJS says

The internet is, therefore I am.

Greg says

Jonathan Coulton: eats shoots and leaves.
Free music, comedy, and Creative Commons
Money for nothin', monkeys for free.
Thought about self while baby born.
Everybody loves monkeys ... and robots too.
Prosthelytizes free art, really just poor.
Geeky male teen angst really sells.
Visual Basic sucks, geeky songs rule.
Come on muse, more office jokes!
One week, one song, one dollar.

Auburn says

I wrote songs about monkeys.

Auburn says

There's monkey shines wherever you go.

yomper88 says

Well, OK...but no eyes, right?

yomper88 says

Re: your eyes: I lied. Tasty.

Erstwhile Poker Buddy says

Do three hyphenated words count? They-should.

Jesse Kaufman says

Seeing as how you were a programmer and then became a full-time musician and I'm a full-time programmer that is also a musician, my 6-word legacy could work for you as well:

geek by day, rockstar by night

Hal15900 says

Still Alive. Still Alive? Still ALIVE!
(Does that count as 6 words?)

Jason says

Geeks gone viral. I'm the man.

Christopher Hawley says

Awe-inspiring master of extrapolative folk.

(Folk tunes? Folk brains? You decide.)

- CJH / esper

Tim Canny says

Still waiting on my DVD! :( Should I resend my mailing address?

Daniel says

Wake me up when September ends

Giulianna says

I'm a little late for this, but here's my entry:

The best in terms of pants.