Julie Klausner, former UCBer and all-around classy gal, just had her first book optioned by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s Gary Sanchez Productions for HBO. Klausner talks to The GLOC about the upcoming show starring Lizzy Caplan and the process in finding her creative voice.
What has been your biggest obstacle in finding your voice?
A shit smoothie of self-doubt and lack of opportunity, combined with there being no clear path for people who want to write and perform comedy, and no set mentors/supervisors like there are in, say, Med School. But basically, a combination of external and internal forces that conspire in tandem to say on a loop in different ways: “Don’t do the work; spend your time more self-destructively.” Though, now that I think about it, I might be speaking instead about finding my groove in terms of being productive and assembling a volume of work. I think my voice was always there. I think it was a question of doing whatever “cardio” version of the work that it takes to hone it and to apply it to things that are good, and then better, and more ambitious and representative of who you are and what you want to say. So I will revise my answer to say “nothing.” And sometime Ursula the sea witch.
You’ve accomplished a lot in the past few years—what do you attribute that to?
No, I’m just kidding.
I really credit whatever productivity and successes I’ve had since I began my career to my continuing to write, and there being stuff in the world that came to me out of the sky, because I continued to write. So luck and stubbornness, basically. It’s just marathon running and sometimes somebody gives you a Gatorade. “Thank you!” you say, and then you keep jogging.
Can you reveal a bit about your creative process when writing?
I start with an assignment, then procrastinate as much as possible, checking the internet and snacking constantly. If you know anybody who tells you how easy it is to write or how it comes as naturally as breathing, avoid them when you’re trying to get anything done, or never talk to them about their process when you socialize. Or get rid of them as a friend entirely, Jesus, who needs THAT. But generally my process, when I’m actually WRITING, is to keep a document open and spill out my brains while trying to maintain that delicate balance of being non-judgmental while, at the same time, not letting myself become a free form jazzy poet and just barfing crap out. Ideally I’ll have had a conversation with a friend recently that will help me crystallize what it is I want to say. More often than not, I’ve just run out of web pages to hit “refresh” on, and I just fucking force myself to start out of boredom, desperation, or having a deadline.
Your book, I Don’t Care About Your Band, is a must-read for all ladies; what do you hope take from reading it?
Thank you! I hope women take away the idea that they are not alone in their massive romantic frustrations. That, generationally, we’re in this unique position that makes us categorically more spectacular in pretty much every way than our respective, male dating prospects, by and large. And I hope it is liberating to know that, most of the time, when it comes to horrible dating experiences, it’s not our fault. I also just hope women laugh at my jokes and enjoy the truthiness of it all enough to nod and say “yes” and then recommend it to their friends and sisters and whomever, who by the way should buy their own copies, helllooooo.
Aside from your book and subsequent HBO option, what are you most proud of in your career?
I’m really proud of my book. I am DELIGHTED about the HBO/Gary Sanchez option. I think there’s a big difference, because the book is something I bled onto the page for a year in order to transcribe a life story that took me thirty years to experience and learn from, and the option was really luck and timing and lots of wonderful forces conspiring to bring fabulous people together, and all those other things that you can never control, just vaguely hope for. What I’m proud of is what I could control–the work I put in, and again I’m talking about the “cardio” element of sitting at your desk and putting in the hours and slogging away in edits and revisions and telling the story with your keyboard in Word that you know in your head already, but that you need to transcribe into typed words in order to figure out what it is you really think about what happened. I’m proud I was able to sit with my own self for enough time that it took to tell those stories.
I am also tremendously proud of teaching my cat to appear on camera in several web videos. But that is mostly/entirely her.
Do you feel a divide between the sexes in the world of comedy?
Oh, of course. Any field in which women are in the minority brings a massive divide along with it. And a fundamental inequity.
Do you think the comedy game can be changed and, if so, what will it take?
Just, what it’s always taken—women being better and more dedicated than anyone else, and then rising one by one in ranks. It’s the Obama Model. You just have to be better than anybody in the majority in order to get one of you in the spotlight and serve as an example for, hopefully, the mass quantities of little kids who look to you as someone who made it, so why shouldn’t they? Like Chris Rock said in his standup before Obama was elected. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something about how he was tired of ***telling*** his kid that he could grow up and be anything he wanted to be. Once we elected a black president, it sort of made that point without having to pay lip service to it.
What do you hope to see from the future of the gorgeous ladies of comedy?
New voices, character work that is inherently female in origin—meaning, comedy that comes from how women think and act, that doesn’t just come from the mind of a man who’s paid to write dialogue for a woman who can do a funny voice–and ideally, a greater diversity in shapes, sizes, race, etc. I want the funny best girl friend in comedy movies to be every bit as fucking fat as the leading man. And I want to see Jewish chicks fucking blonde guys in their movies, because why should Woody Allen and Judd Apatow have all the fun? WASPs and Irish Catholic guys are hot, and believe me, we are every bit as neurotic as our Semitic male counterparts in this department.
What advice would you give to young women wanting to pursue a career in comedy?
Don’t stop writing. Keep writing for yourself because you will never have too much material stockpiled, and it’s the single most important skill you can hone, because it sets you apart from a pretty actress who can land a joke. You’ll compete with those on auditions so you might as well have your own thing; if you can write, you must write. And then just keep doing it and get better and better.
Who inspires you?
Terri Garr. John Waters. All the SNL women. Elaine May. Nicole Holofcener. Jamie Denbo is my hero. Lizzy Caplan is a fucking rock star, like everything you’d think she’d be times one million. So many more.
What is your jam right now?
I’m hate-watching an episode of the Millionaire Matchmaker. It’s filthy garbage. I hate that woman. I think she is terrible for the Jews. My jam is Cher. Cher always. And the B-52′s. They are my favorite band.
Who would you like to hear from next on the blog?
Somebody really angry. Somebody sort of revved up to tear a male comedy institution a new asshole. Somebody willing to knowledgeably talk shit about, like Michael O’Donahue or Bill Hicks. Teri Garr did an interview for the Onion after she got sick and it made me love her more, somehow, and it also made me sad that it took her getting sick in order to be so honest about all the sexism she’d encountered in her career. We should all be so brave as her. But it’s tough when you’re not at a point in your career where you’re able to say “fuck you” to people you might need work from someday.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I have more female friends than male friends. I’m very proud of that. And every year, I feel myself becoming less competitive with women, and liking myself more, and I think the two are related. Also, I think most women on television are entirely too skinny.
More at julieklausner.tumblr.com
HBO develops “Band” comedy with Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Lizzy Caplan [Deadline]