The Rumpus Interview with Sara Benincasa

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Sara Benincasa is an incredibly talented New York-based comic, writer, feminist, advice-giver, and all around awesome person. Sara’s book, Agorafabulous! Dispatches From My Bedroom, is a brutally honest, comedic telling of her battle with agoraphobia and comes out on Valentines Day (today!).

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The Rumpus: Your book deals with some pretty heavy mental health issues in a hilarious way. What first inspired you to do comedy about such dark subject matter?

Sara Benincasa: I think laughing at the darkness is the best way to tame the demons that live there and turn them into cuddly pets. Well, maybe it’s the second-best way to do that. The first best way is to take the right medication.

Rumpus: What’s your writing routine like? Favorite place to write, your writing mood music, something you need nearby. Example: At a local coffee shop that only plays ragtime, with my cat in a baby bjorn. (This example refers to no one in particular. Definitely not me.)

Benincasa: Jesus, a cat would fucking shred a Baby Bjorn in a second. My favorite place to write is pretty boring: on my couch at home or, if I’m feeling super-productive, at a desk at home. But usually I’m just on my couch. Neil Gaiman told me he writes in a gazebo with a tombstone as the step to the front door. Fucking Gaiman and his better-than-everyone-else set-up. That dude is so awesome it makes my butt hurt.

Rumpus: Most writers have an “oh my god, this is terrible, what am I doing with my life?!” phase while working on any project. Did you have this? How’d you power through?

Benincasa: I lost my shit towards the end of the project, right around when final edits were due. So that was convenient. Thankfully, I have a very supportive, loving family that welcomed me back home in the Dirty Jerz with open arms and dealt with my amateur bout of near-but-not-really-suicidal depression as if it were a normal thing, which for me it actually is. My editor was also really supportive. So though I had loads of crying jags, we got ‘er done, and pretty soon I moved back into big, pricey New York City.

Rumpus: You have a fantabulous video series called The…Uninformed Reviewer? Where you review movies and tv shows that you’ve never seen. Please give me a short review of Glee. Or The Fast and The Furious franchise, if you’ve watch Glee.

Benincasa: It’s actually now called “The Uninformed Opinionist” and it’s on LOGO TV’s blog, NewNowNext.com. I have seen Glee, and I used to fucking love it. At this point, it’s like an old friend who I’m mostly sick of but who I would still go to the hospital for if he/she were in need. So instead I shall review The Fast and the Furious: cars go fast. People get mad. Bare chests happen, on ladies and on dudes. It’s terrible but fun. The end.

Rumpus: Does your writing process change when you write about personal subject matter, versus when you’re writing for something like “The Uninformed Opinionist”?

Benincasa: Well, I don’t write “The Uninformed Opinionist” per se — I just turn the camera on and improvise. It’s fast, easy, and fun, which is how I hope all my lovers describe me to their mothers. Writing personal subject matter takes more effort, more focus, and more emotional energy.

Rumpus: Your book description says the book contains some sexy parts, but that they’re really awkward. What celebrity do you think you’d have the most awkward sex with and how would it go down? Paint a cringeworthy picture for us.

Benincasa: I would have terrible sex with Mr. Clint Eastwood and his scratchy, edge-of-death man-voice. It would be pale on both sides, with more wrinkles on his, and probably he would have to take breaks to breathe, and that would just be sad. Also, I can’t picture Clint Eastwood eating pussy. And that is a requirement for me.

Rumpus: I heard you once accidentally dated a woman. Please tell us more.

Benincasa: I just felt like eating box would make me a better feminist. And it did!

Rumpus: We both give advice to teenagers on the internet via Formspring. If you had a time machine and could ignore the rules of time travel to talk to your younger self, what advice would you give to a young Sara Benincasa?

Benincasa: Start exercising and stick with it. Start stand-up as a college freshman, and then don’t put any of the video on the Internet for at least four years. Take your medication, and if it doesn’t seem to work, find other medication that does work.

Rumpus: Now, what advice would you give to a young Janine Brito? I’ll attach a really awkward picture of myself to convey how much awkward I was dealing with.

Benincasa: Janine, wearing a tampon means you’re not a virgin anymore. Use pads.

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Photograph by Lauren Goldberg.


Janine Brito started doing standup comedy in St. Louis and has performed at clubs and theaters throughout the United States and Hong Kong. Praised by 7x7 Magazine as "one of SF's more daring voices," she is the recipient of Rooftop Comedy's 2010 Silver Nail Award and was named the 2011 “Best Comedian with a Message” by the East Bay Express. She lives in New York. More from this author →