Rip Torn's fan account 'Rip Torn Outlives' still has something to live for

Nardine Saad
Los Angeles Times
Actor Rip Torn attends a fundraiser at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif., in March 2003. (Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images/TNS) **FOR THIS STORY ONLY**

Actor Rip Torn outlived Grumpy Cat, "Game of Thrones" and Theresa May's stint as British prime minister. He also lived longer than iTunes, Mad Magazine and "Jeffrey Epstein's freewheelin' international waters underage sex adventures," may they rest in peace.

That's according to tweets from the fan account @RipTornOutlives on Twitter, which has been devoted to "The Larry Sanders Show" star for nearly three years. It's a novelty account that its owner says is now "obsolete" because Torn died Tuesday at 88 and no longer has things to outlive.

L.A.-based screenwriter Conor Sullivan started his self-described "dumb account" because he's long loved Torn, but also because he found it "so insane that this old, brash, hard-drinking wonderful maniac stayed alive when so many other people, places, and things did not," according to a Twitter thread he posted Wednesday.

When news of the Emmy winner's death surfaced Tuesday night, the condolences poured in — to Sullivan's Twitter account.

"This is the craziest, most surreal thing," Sullivan, 32, told The Times on Wednesday. "If I posted that my own family member died, I wouldn't have gotten the same amount of condolences. ... This is the first time I've ever had constant notifications" on Twitter.

In a thread bidding adieu to the actor — and his fan account — the sketch writer wrote: "Rip Torn was, without question, one of the finest character actors ever to grace the screen. His stint as Artie on 'The Larry Sanders Show' is not just one of the finest comedic performances ever, but also one of the most subtly moving. His film performances as well are some of the best ever. He storms into Albert Brooks' 'Defending Your Life' and steals the movie right under Brooks and Meryl Streep!"

That verve isn't what made the account notable though; it was the appreciative snark Sullivan infused in each missive, especially those containing lazily Photoshopped images of Torn's face. It has amassed 3,800 followers — a number that nearly doubled after Torn's death. (For the record, the actor didn't have his own verified Twitter account.)

"When I was kid, I felt like he was everywhere — 'Men In Black,' 'Hercules' — I always thought he was a movie star. I always loved how big and brash he was," Sullivan told The Times. "Then you find out about 'Larry Sanders' and 'Defending Your Life.' Then you find out about his past — driving drunk into a bank and weird footage of him at police stations. He's this type of character actor that doesn't exist anymore, and he kept living with respect, and there was no hatchet-job piece taking him down."

Sullivan capitalized on that admiration when he hurriedly began his fan account as "a fun way to get his name out there" and to keep track of the numerous celebrities who died in 2016, namely Garry Shandling, the pioneering cable TV star and writer who costarred with Torn on HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show."

"It's insane that Rip Torn outlived Garry Shandling," Sullivan said matter-of-factly.

It was after mother-daughter duo Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher died that Sullivan fired up the account in December 2016 because Torn "seemed to be surviving against all odds."

The jokes then evolved and got sillier, turning into a near-daily commentary on pop-culture headlines, particularly those about celebrities dying, careers coming to an end or institutions and landmark chains like Toys R Us and Payless Shoe Source shuttering.

But it was Sullivan's politically charged fare, such as superimposing Torn's face on the bodies of disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein or former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, that garnered the most support online.

"I just thought it was even funnier that I could take something so politically charged and defuse it a bit with Rip's face. But people ended up really getting behind it," Sullivan said.

Nor is he ready to stop. The account lost its original purpose, but Sullivan plans to continue his salute to the late actor, highlighting "great moments in Rip Torn history." Recent tweets include recipes for Arthur's favorite drink, the Salty Dog, or videos of Torn's tour de force performances.

"The novelty of him actually being alive is gone. so there's really no point in actually continuing it besides as a tribute for him," Sullivan said.

As part of the Wednesday farewell, one follower pointed out another apropos conclusion: Torn even outlived the Associated Press writer Bob Thomas who wrote the actor's obituary for the wire service before he himself died in 2014.

"That's the best ending it could have had," Sullivan said with a laugh, "that his obituary writer died before him."