Julie Klausner is a woman of many talents. Trained in improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, she broke through as an author with 2010's I Don't Care About Your Band, a humorous memoir about her time in the NYC dating trenches. Her podcast, How Was Your Week, has been named one of the best comedy podcasts by New York Times, Rolling Stone, and GQ, and her guests have included everyone from Patton Oswalt and Joan Rivers to Ira Glass and Sharon Needles. She'll be performing in two SF Sketchfest shows this weekend: a live HWYW episode featuring Ted Leo, Eddie Pepitone, Billy Eichner, and Jon Hendren; and a show inspired by Eichner's Fuse show Billy on the Street, for which she works as a writer. We dialed her up to discuss the Golden Globes, dogs wearing headphones, and more.
Tell me about your plans for the Sketchfest show.
We have such great guests. They flew out these guys just to do the show—they're hand-picked guests. We have two yellers—Billy Eichner and Eddie Pepitone scream a lot, and it's really funny to have them both on the same show, because we're going to set the microphones for them and then when Jon Hendren, who's a blogger, comes out, you're not going to be able to hear him at all. Jon's pretty quiet, but he's really funny, so I'm planning to get, like, a bottle of wine in him. He drank a bottle of wine when he did my podcast, I think he was nervous.
Aww, that's really charming.
He's adorable, I really like Jon. We're having him come in and show off some weird Internet stuff—none of which has been on the show before, it's all new, so that's exciting. Then [show composer/"musicman"] Ted Leo and I are going to sing something at the top of the show and the end of the show. We have a game planned, and Spoony [HWYW producer Chris Spooner] is going to be there. Spoony's really weird. It'll be good! We have some San Francisco-themed goodies afoot; a San Francisco-themed musical opening, and then Billy and I are going to discuss Mrs. Doubtfire, the most important movie set in San Francisco.
Then, for Billy's show, Billy and I are going to co-host a stand-up, variety kind of show...well, we don't really know what we're doing, to be completely honest. But we're both going to be there, and we're both delicious. We both like each other so much. Which is usually disgusting, but for some reason, people don't find it disgusting that we love each other. We'll be having a good time we don't know what we're doing. But we'll both be onstage, and we'll show videos, and we'll discuss things of importance, such as Jodie Foster's Golden Globes dress.
What did you think of it?
People talked a lot about her speech from the Golden Globes, but nobody talked about how that dress is, like, clearly from Burlington Coat Factory. It's what a 50-year-old lesbian would think a glamorous dress would look like. That dress made me sadder than anything she said.
I'm not sure I can feel sad about anything she said, because I'm still not entirely sure what she said.
She said she was lonely. When anybody says they're lonely, it's sad. Nobody wants to hear that. I think towards the end, she kind of free-associated, but [the speech] was overwritten and overprepared. She over-rehearsed it there were things she said that were not organic. When she was like, "I am NOT honey boo-boo child!" I thought, "You did not write that. You barely said it, you just performed it."
I know the 100th episode of your show is fast approaching. What are you planning?
I'm having [Bullseye host] Jesse Thorn interview me. It'll be interesting, because he's a good interviewer and people are curious about me in a way. I very much control how much of myself I let people in on when I do my show, which is part of why I like doing it, because I do have that control, and I can kind of decide how to disclose myself, how to be transparent, how not to be transparent. This is an opportunity to have somebody ask me questions that I wouldn't normally answer of my own volition. But that said, as I tell it to you out loud right now, I feel like I probably should have had a contest for a listener to be a guest on the show.
Maybe that'll be #200.
Yeah, or maybe that's a bad idea. Maybe I should save that for a fundraising thing. If we're going to raise funds, we could do it like an auction.
Yeah, but I mean, do you really want somebody to buy that?
Some dot-com millionaire?
Yes, I want their money! Otherwise, why am I talking to someone who isn't famous? It doesn't make sense.
You put out a show every week this year, right?
I have not skipped a show. Ever. We have not skipped a show since the beginning of the show.
How do you keep up that pace?
Spoony. Spoony does this for free, he does this every week. He has the hard work—not that I don't work hard. But if I had to edit it every Thursday night, I wouldn't put it out.
How extensively is the podcast edited?
The interviews are polished. My ramble is generally not edited. Unless I call Spoony and tell him, "You have to take out that joke I made." That's happened, where I'll regret saying something, and he'll cut it out. But to be honest with you, I do this show as much for my own sanity as I do for people who like it. If I skipped a week, I'd feel like something was missing, and I'd feel less mentally stable. It's important for me, for whatever reason, to broadcast myself on a regular basis, and to masticate the experiences and feelings that I have in order for me to deal with them. In order to do that, it involves talking about them out loud to strangers, and make jokes about it as I go. It's just part of my mental-health process. It's important for me to do that with regularity.
Before you had a podcast, was that something you would do with your friends, or is it something that you would just keep bottled up?
I still do it with my friends, and I'm always self-conscious about being repetitive, as well as self-conscious about assuming they listen to the podcast. I tend to not assume that my friends listen, but at the same time, I don't want to make the same jokes that I already made on the podcast. That makes me look like an a-hole, like I'm someone who goes around writing jokes just to use on my friends. Which I am, and I think everybody is, but it's embarrassing when people show their process like that. I don't do stand-up, so the podcast really is an outlet for me to do precisely that, in a way that I've never had before, certainly not on a regular basis.
How pre-planned is the opening monologue? I assume you have a list of topics you want to talk about, but are the jokes pre-written, or do you just free-associate?
Both. Sometimes I'll have an item on my list that I have on the list because I have a joke for it, and sometimes I will find jokes as I talk about something that I know will be interesting, or funny, or both.
When and where do you usually record the monologue?
Thursday night. There have been times where if I'm traveling, I'll do it Thursday morning. There have been some times in the past when I've done it on Friday morning, but it always comes out on Fridays, and I generally record them on Thursday nights in my apartment.
Accompanied by bourbon?
Sometimes! I like bourbon a lot. In fact, I'm going to pour myself some bourbon. Thanks for giving me an excuse for bourbon. It's 5:00, I'm going to have a Maker's Mark. [Pours.] So, sometimes I drink when I do it, and sometimes I don't, and I think there are times for both. I'm getting too old to be reliant on the charm of tipsiness, so I try not to be drunk every week. If I'm drunk, that's fine too, but I shouldn't have to talk about it every week. "Ooh, I'm drinking bourbon, clink clink clink."
You ask your listeners to send in photos of their pets reading or listening to the podcast. Which has been your favorite?
I could never pick. How could I choose one of these animals they're so cute. A lot of it just has to do with how good the photo is. They'll put headphones on them I don't advocate putting headphones on your dog, but it's really funny when you do. There was one where they put a blanket on the dog, and they put his nose in my book. A lot of it just has to do with the positioning of it. That said, there are breeds that I am predisposed to be fond of. Basset hounds, big dogs, mutts. I like black-and-white cats I like all kinds of cats, to be perfectly honest. One thing I'm not crazy about: we lifted the bird ban, and this woman sent photos of her chickens listening to the podcast. I will think about that until the day I die—that's something that haunts me. And I'm not saying that I didn't like it!
Were they meat chickens, or egg-laying chickens?
They were fancy chickens.
So they're going to survive, they're going to live a natural life.
Yeah, but it was weird. It's weird to see chickens in the same context as something that I did or made. It was weird—like someone sending you a photo of yourself in a place you've never been. Like someone sent you a photo, "Here you are at the Taj Mahal!" and you think, "I've never been to the Taj Mahal." That's my relationship with chickens.
Has anyone ever violated your prohibition against photos of pet lizards and snakes?
Not yet. But I feel like any day now, I'm going to get an e-mail, and there's going to be a snake with earbuds near his non-ears. Someone's going to be like, "Wouldn't it be funny to put earbuds where the snake would have ears, if he were evolved?" And I'll see my fat face on an iPod next to him, with the red hair, and the snake will be looking into the camera like snakes do, with this expression of pure dead evil. Like, "I'm evil, but I'm also dead in the eyes." And it will ruin my life. I did date a guy who had an iguana once.
Did you like the iguana?
No! He was one of those guys who had sideburns and listened to Zappa. It's such a stereotype. Those guys liked me at the time, because I smoked a lot of pot. But his iguana gave me the creeps.
You maintain a Redhead Hall of Fame. Who do people pester you most to put in who isn't in there yet?
Tori Amos! And Jessica Chastain.
Jessica Chastain's not in the Redhead Hall of Fame?
She was when I saw her in The Help, but since I saw Zero Dark Thirty, she's not. It doesn't help that she wore something that was clearly from Loehmann's to the Golden Globes. She wore a shower curtain that she got in the Loehmann's home section—maybe TJ Maxx—and she decided to tie it behind her neck. It was lousy. I don't want bad redheads representing us.
Who else? Carrot Top. That's just mean, that's just a mean joke. When someone's like, "What about Carrot Top?" It's not famous redheads, you asshole! It's redheads that are worthy of honor. And Carrot Top is a nothing for the community, he's an embarrassment.
Redhead Hall of Shame.
Yeah! He would be in it! A lot of people also write to me about people who don't have red hair. Like Jan Hooks? Jan Hooks is a brunette.
If you had asked me to guess, I would have guessed that you got a lot of e-mails about that girl from Doctor Who.
Yeah, but I don't know who that girl is, and I don't want to Google it. I've seen photos of her, and she's beautiful, but because I'm not familiar with her work, it's tough for me to say that she's worthy of being initiated. That means that I'd have to watch Doctor Who, and I can't do that. Spoony likes Doctor Who, but he doesn't have the key—he can't induct members. My friend Nate wants me to start a Critter Hall of Fame, but I just don't have time. Because if I started the Critter Hall of Fame, it would be for animals that have done noteworthy things, like if a bear broke into someone's house, ate all the butter, and fell asleep in the bathtub. He'd be in the Critter Hall of Fame.
Did you hear about the dog that ran the half-marathon?
Good for him. You know why? Because it wasn't different from what he was already doing. People who are good at dancing, they don't walk over to the dancefloor and just start dancing—they're already dancing, you know what I mean? Dogs are just like, "And now I'm running." They're already running, that's what they do. But I can't start a Critter Hall of Fame—I can barely manage the e-mails that I get. If I started that, I would get more animal e-mails than I already get, which is a lot of e-mails, and I wouldn't be able to keep track.
Do you feel like you hear about pretty much every noteworthy animal in the news cycle now?
There's no way that I could, but I have a pretty good cross-section of animal-related news items that come to me. Like I said, there's no way I can be on top of everything, which is why I subscribe to a lot of different dog-related Tumblrs. And there's a new cat I found on Instagram that is really remarkable. His eyes are two different colors. He's really handsome.
You love reality television shows. Are there any shows you've tried out but couldn't stand?
I didn't like Dance Moms, when I first saw it. The teacher's hilarious, she's great, but I couldn't get into it for some reason. I couldn't get into Extreme Couponing—I watched the special, I think I watched one other episode, and then I was like, "OK, I get it." I don't like network reality television; I don't watch The Bachelor, I don't watch Big Brother, or Survivor. I mean, I was into Survivor in the first season, but that was because it was the first reality show and everyone was into it.
What's coming up for you? I think I read that you're writing a young-adult novel.
I did! It's called Art Girls Are Easy, and it's coming out this spring. It's about a girl who goes to art camp, and it's very good.
Is that in the description?
No, but it should be, because it's true! [Laughs.] Amy Poehler gave it a blurb! She's awesome. Nobody ever says anything bad about Amy Poehler because Amy Poehler doesn't do anything bad.
You've mentioned on the podcast that the TV pilot season did not go the way you hoped.
Yeah, the Apocalipstick pilot didn't go forward last year, and this year, I pitched two different shows, and those didn't get bought. Therefore, those people are stupid. [Laughs.] I'm just going to keep writing and pitching until somebody buys something new. The good news is that one of those shows might go forward this year—I might take one of the others out again this year, and hopefully we'll sell it. But that's all network, and I work on pitches for cable, too. I just wrote another new pitch for cable, and hopefully that one will sell. You just have to keep writing. It's really hard right now to sell something, harder than it's been in the past.
Because networks don't want to produce scripted content as much?
Not necessarily. It's just harder to sell anything, even unscripted stuff. Even people who are way more famous than me, way more successful, have way more credits it's just really tough to sell stuff right now in TV. People don't have as much money and they're not taking as many risks.
That's not going forward with the team that was originally assembled to develop it, which is fine, because I own the rights and it's still a property that's available to be licensed. I would love to see it find a home on television at some point.
Is there anybody you've been dying to get as a guest on the podcast who you haven't been able to have on yet?
John Waters, Fran Lebovitz, Kate Pierson: three gay people who are incredible. I would love to have them on. I'd love to have Stephen King come on, he would be an incredible person to have on. I found out David Sedaris is a fan of the podcast, so we're working on getting him on in the spring—I think he has a new book coming out then. I like talking to writers, directors, filmmakers. I love talking to people who make documentaries. You get to have your dream come true, where you see a movie and you're like, "That was great, I have a few questions." And then you actually get to ask them.