Some people say men aren’t funny. In her memoir I Don’t Care About Your Band, comedienne Julie Klausner says it a few times: (1) “I was tired of pretending I thought he was funny”; (2) “I knew I was funnier and smarter than [insert man’s name here].”
Here are a few things to know about Julie Klausner that will help you get the most out of this interview:
– She is a comedy writer and performer and has appeared in many shows at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre.
– She has written for VH1’s Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins (see Toddlers and Tiaras), Saturday Night Live’s TV Funhouse, and The Big Gay Sketch Show.
– Her memoir evolved from her New York Times “Modern Love” piece, Was I on a Date or Baby-Sitting?
– View her Web site here.
– You know Eat, Pray, Love? I Don’t Care About Your Band is not like that.
– This is a book where the narrator says, “I’m not the first woman under the impression that her magical vagina will inspire a man to change.” No, my friend; you are not.
The Rumpus: You begin your book, “I will always be a subscriber to the sketch comedy philosophy of how a scene should unfold, which is ‘What? That sounds crazy! OK, I’ll do it.’” What is your sketch comedy background?
Julie Klausner: My sketch comedy background exists, first and foremost, as a comedy nerd, growing up obsessed with anything that even resembled sketch or variety, even if it was dismally unfunny, like Laugh-In. . . . [T]hat begat a lifelong infatuation with SNL, Second City Television, Kids in the Hall, Monty Python, etc. etc. Later on, in college, I began making short films and going to live comedy shows in NYC. Then, the UBC four [Upright Citizens Brigade] came to New York, and before they opened a theater, they did ASSSCAT shows in different venues. I saw one in which Andy Richter was doing monologues, and he was so great. He told this story about how he was living in Chicago for one year and was so poor that he only ate one burrito a day, until his fingernails started flaking off. That show made me want to get involved with UCB, and when they finally got their space on 22nd St., I began taking improv classes. That led to doing sketch shows at the theater, and being able to write and put up my own stuff, and then making videos. I love sketch comedy. I love wigs and characters and premises and 3-minute scenes and impressions and all of it. The patterns, the blackouts, the commercial parodies, the non-sequiturs . . . it never gets old to me.
Rumpus: You dedicate I Don’t Care About Your Band to your parents and say, “Next time, I promise to write a book you can read.” I feel this way about my parents and what I write. Do parents just not understand, or are we whores?
Klausner: Is there any question the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff have not already answered in rhyme? I have great parents who have been insanely supportive of me, but to paraphrase John Waters, allowing them to read my book would be a form of parent abuse. And yes, we are probably whores.
Rumpus: I thought so. Anyway, I know your hair caught on fire during a date, you had imaginary relationships with men you met on the Internet, and you have dated the mentally ill and tragically deformed. But you also perform a lot, write for TV, and have an enviable professional life. The fact is we all wait for the sex scene in any book we’re reading, and while sex isn’t love, it is a form of love (like how a rectangle isn’t a square, but a square is a rectangle), so I’m happy about your book. But why not write a memoir about how successful you are as a funny female writer and how you got there?
Klausner: Well, first of all, bless you. Secondly, what have people been telling you? I don’t mean to be self-deprecating to the point where it doesn’t look cute on me, but I don’t consider myself a successful comedy writer beyond the fact that I’ve gotten myself published.
Rumpus: I thought that was the definition of success.
Klausner: I’m able to write what I like on my blog, which is great, but I don’t get paid for that stuff. My TV-writing career is, at best, stop and start, in part because I’m such a stubborn New Yorker. I’m hugely lucky to be working in the editorial department of a tech company right now–I write blog posts about pop culture and do TV recaps. But in no way am I in a position to be like, “Let’s all look back at the scope of my Larry Gelbart-like accomplishments in the field of the comedy arts here at The Paley Festival.”
Rumpus: Maybe someday?
Klausner: I’ve written some web videos and worked on three shows, and four months ago, I’d turned in my final book pages and I was like, “Shit, how am I going to pay rent now that Best Week is canceled?” This book is very much a debut for me, not a blip on an otherwise established career. As for why I wrote about dating and what it’s like to be a smart person doing stupid things that come from an unapologetic desire to be in love, the truth is that it was something very much on my mind. The idea of writing honestly about [my dating life] happened to scare the shit out of me, which was a sign to categorize it as “book” material, as opposed to “blog” or “web video” material. I also feel like there are so many books on the market about love and dating, but none represented what it was like for me . . . [none represented] the stuff I kept coming up against when I was out there looking for somebody.
Rumpus: Like The Rules and The Game, how do you place your book within the “self-help” and “dating-advice” realm? And by “dating advice,” I mean “dating strategies that contribute to the fucked-up way men and women treat each other, beating each other violently on the path to happiness paved with gender constructs, harmful stereotypes, and blatant lies?” I think your book is more than dating advice, much more than that kind of book that feeds an imaginary binary between men and women that originated from wherever, but persists, insidiously and virulently, until we’re all piles of broken, seizing, twitching parts of a now very crazy whole. How do you think your book helps more than hurts?