Q&A with SNL writer Anna Drezen
Anna Drezen appreciates being called “funny,” but the former blogger turned SNL writer deserves distinction.
Drezen started the blog “How May We Hate You?” about her time as a hotel concierge and leveraged its success into a book and television sitcom pilot in development by ABC. She writes for popular television show “Saturday Night Live” and is the editor-at-large for the satirical feminist website, Reductress.
Drezen performed stand-up for the UB Student Associations Comedy Series Friday night in the Center for the Arts alongside fellow comedians Streeter Seidell (Collegehumor), Alex Moffat (SNL), and Ron Funches (“BoJack Horseman”), and sat with The Spectrum for an interview in between the first and second show of the night.
After the interview, Drezen offered apples and a family-sized bag of Lay’s barbecue flavored chips to the The Spectrum reporters, but the real treat was the interview itself.
Q: You were named one of “Brooklyn’s 50 Funniest People” by Brooklyn Magazine. When did you realize you’re funny?
A. It was at that moment, it was at that very moment. They were like you and 49 other people, most of whom are fashion bloggers, are very funny ...
I went to summer camp and we did skits at the end of the week. It was called “council fire,” and I did a Swedish character named Strudel and everyone laughed. It felt like a superpower and I’ve been chasing that ever since.
Q: Your blog “How May We Hate You?” and book of the same name are being turned into an ABC comedy pilot. How exciting is this for you? And with a blog being turned into a TV show, are you breaking new ground?
A: I’m the first person to turn anything into a T.V. show... There was “$h*! My Dad Says” [The Twitter account turned CBS sitcom] a couple years ago.
Yeah, it’s exciting. It’s really funny and a lot of great people took what me and Todd Briscoe wrote in the book and in the blog and are making it into a really good show. I can’t wait to see how it shines.
Q: You touched on topics like pornography, but are there any jokes that you normally do that you can’t do on the college circuit?
A: Oh man, I used to do a joke about student loans, but now I’ve paid them off, so I don’t do that just in general because I’m like this is a full lie.
I don’t know, I’m OK with losing people a little bit, so I’ll generally do what I feel like doing. But, I guess stuff about people getting engaged and other more adult things because college kids are children. No, but like, the more boring aspects about being old [are not performed].
Also, me and my old sketch group did a show at NYU Welcome Week and there was one sketch that absolutely bombed because it was about Nancy Grace, which none of them knew who she was... It was also welcome week so none of them had taken a cab yet and the rest of [the show] was about Uber. It was just like none of these kids know what Uber is or who Nancy Grace is, and we were all adults pretending for people who don’t like it.
Q: You perform with Story Pirates Changemakers, a troupe that turn children’s original stories into wild sketch comedy musicals to teach them confidence. Did you always enjoy working with kids or did you just figure they’d be an easier laugh?
A: Yeah, I was like kids are smaller and they don’t have much say so we can sort of do whatever we want when we perform for them.
But no, I was a camp counselor and I like kids, but I always feel awkward [around them]. I don’t know what to talk about with them so I have social anxiety with kids, but I think they are cool and I like pretending to be a pencil in front of them.
I started working with Story Pirates because they have some of the funniest people involved in it. A lot of the improv and sketch scene in New York. It’s just like a bunch of adults pretending to be unicorns that are nervous for the school dance and it makes me laugh really hard because it’s ridiculous.
Q. You currently work for SNL. How do you get inspired to think of new characters and sketch ideas?
A. It’s hard. It’s usually in the ambient media that you absorb while you are going through your day, you’ll be like ‘oh, that’s a dissinent idea that can be extrapolated into a sketch.’
But, yeah I’ll keep a list in my phone of little nuggets, and you’ll kind of bounce them around with other people and see if there is something workable there.
Q: What’s your favorite sketch that you’ve gotten onto SNL?
A: Me and Alex Moffat write this, ‘guy who just bought a boat’ character for Weekend Update, which is a delight and disgusting. And then, me, Kate McKinnon, and Sudi Green wrote the Debette Goldry character, who’s like this elderly old Hollywood actress that talks about like Clark Gable using her for target practice and tells horrors of old Hollywood. It’s fun to do nonsense with my friends.
Q: You’re an editor at Reductress. I’m sure your website gets a lot of angry-confused people complaining about an article. What’s the funniest comment you’ve read about one of the articles you wrote?
A: You would not believe. I wrote a first person article and it was making fun of how people get baby girl’s ears pierced like immediately. And [the article] was called “We’re Piercing My Baby’s Tongue. Here’s Why”... And a big discussion that [went] off on the comments, especially on Facebook, was that it was an allegory for circumcision of babies.
[Someone wrote], “actually the writer is very right and that circumcision should go away forever. It’s a plague and it’s mutilating our boys.” And I’m like, I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but also how did we get here and stop talking. But then, on top of that, I would get emails from people who thought I was a real mom who was piercing my baby’s tongue and they were horrified and angry at me.
I’ll still sometimes get an email that’s like “you’re disgusting!” But, I got one from a woman who said, “OK, my friend told me that this site is satire, but I’m so worried about that little baby, so please just tell me that it’s not real and I’ll feel better.” And I wanted to get mad at her, but she’s really worried about the baby, and it takes me two seconds to write back so I was like, “Hey, yeah, it’s satire and no, I don’t have a baby.” So that was a delight.
Q: To follow that up, what’s your favorite headline you’ve written for Reductress?
A: I think it was ... I wrote a fashion article that’s like a slideshow called “Yellow: Not Just For Pee Anymore!” and it’s just a list of different yellow things, describing it like someone who’s never seen it before and saying it’s a trend started by pee. A baby chick, “like wow, small chicken rocking the trend of pee…” I went to college and I’m in a writer’s union, so that’s the kind of work you can expect.
Q: What was your college major?
A: Drama. Because I start shit all day. I’m trouble.
Q: I want to ask a funny person. Is “The Big Bang Theory” objectively funny?
A. First of all, thank you for calling me a funny person, which is really nice. But yeah, I think I’ve watched some of it and there are an impressive amount of jokes. Like writing any kind of sitcom, there are a lot of funny people who work on it and it’s a stunning amount of [work]… whether or not the jokes are funny, they’re so crammed in there.
I don’t personally think it’s funny because I don’t think women should be allowed to do science. As I find it offensive … it’s offensive to my religion that I made up.
Q: Standup vs sketch vs improv?
A: I’m someone who’s happiest when I’m doing a bunch of different things. I think improv is a great place to start because you don’t have to put in a lot of preparation. It’s expensive because you’re paying for classes or even just rehearsal space or coach. But, it’s a low cost way to get together with people and bounce ideas around, so it’s good for that. But, then you can’t make it a job. There’s not a ton of payed improv opportunities unless you’re going to be on a cruise ship forever.
Sketch is great because that’s how I make money to buy my dog’s food and stand-up is great because you don’t need to like organize with other people. You can just go to a bar at four in the afternoon, pay eight dollars, and get up there for five minutes and work something out. They’re all great.
Q. Are people born funny or can it be learned?
A: I think people can learn it as long as they’re hurt terribly at an early age and then sort of repeatedly disappointed. I think anyone can be funny as long as things go wrong. Just a little bit.
But, I don’t know there are a lot of different people who are funny for different reasons like I think there are people who are funny because they thoughtfully write a thing… And then there are people who are big and loud and funny and unafraid, it just depends on what kind of funny you are.
Q: What kind of funny are you?
A: Amazing. The best. Perfect. A legend. That’s like my style, being the best.
Q: Do you have any plugs?
A. Oh my god. All of you follow me on Twitter. Hurry, I need young fans. No, yeah I guess Twitter, @annadrezen. If you’re on Instagram and want to see 100 pictures of my dog, I’m @annadrezen on Instagram.
Haruka Kosugi is an asst. news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.