Sammy Rhodes is a campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at the University of South Carolina, but he's best known by his Twitter handle, @prodigalsam. Though Rhodes, 32, spends much of his week meeting with students, preaching, and teaching, you won't find RUF-related info on his Twitter feed. Instead, it's a steady stream of hilarious, self-deprecating comedy that's gained him a six-digit follower count, the kind reserved mostly for celebrities and news organizations: 128,000 and growing.
CT contributor Joel Oliphint spoke with Rhodes by phone about his progression from gospel tweeter to comedy tweeter, his book project, and whether he really does spend most of his time thinking about pizza. (Updated the afternoon of June 3 to include Rhodes's response by email to the recent Twitter dust-up over his "stealing" jokes.)
Update: On Friday, June 7, 2013, Rhodes announced via Twitter that he would "step away from Twitter for a season, for the sake of my family, ministry, & own soul … ."
When did you first start tweeting?
I think it was 2009. I started trying to be a gospel tweeter, like Scotty Smith and Jared Wilson—pastors who were sometimes funny but mainly just tweeted quotes and encouragements about the gospel. I did that for probably the first two years. Every now and again I would try to say something funny. Finally a friend, probably sometime in 2011, said, "You should just try to tweet funny things. I think that's what Twitter is for." That was a lot more interesting to me than gospel tweeting.
But also, when my wife was about four or five months into the pregnancy [of my youngest daughter], we found out she had a condition called Dandy-Walker, which is a neurological condition. Her cerebellum ...1