Jessi Klein, Inside Amy Schumer head writer and author of You’ll Grow Out of It, spent a good 15 minutes talking about Jon Hamm (all things Hamm, really) as well as Justin Trudeau’s butt with fellow comedian Phoebe Robinson at a LOFT event on Monday. Klein was there to celebrate her new comedy series with the clothing brand, Robinson was moderating (I’m using last names to pretend like the three of us are on the same basketball team) and I was there for a quick interview with Jessi.
When did you know you were funny?
My best friend growing up was funny, cool and really pretty. I was very ugly-duckling, so I was like, ‘I think I’m kind of the sidekick here, and my thing is the funniness.” I was really feeling my sidekick role in junior high, like, “She reals them in and I hit them with the zinger.
How do you come up with story ideas for what to write?
I am, by nature, a ruminator. I’m just enough of a narcissist that I’m very attuned to the minutia of my feelings at all times. Also, as someone who does stand-up, you’re always listening for when something feels a little uncomfortable in some way. I’m constantly aware of when something strikes me and I try to write it down. The smaller it is, the more you should write it down.
How has motherhood changed your sense of humor?
I don’t think it’s changed my sense of humor, but motherhood has changed a lot. It’s very hard. It changes your emotional landscape. You’re exhausted. There are things I don’t care about as much anymore — things that I may have been sensitive about before, like in terms of my appearance or my weight or whatever, that I’m now like…I don’t know how you write this: [she held up two middle fingers and then literally said, “she held up two middle fingers.”] But yeah, there are things that I’m just more willing to laugh about, where I’m suddenly like, “I don’t care anymore.” I’ve let go of a bunch of things.
There’s so much talk these days about feminism, and with it, all of the shoulds and should not’s about how women are “supposed to” speak. You have a pretty self-deprecating sense of humor. Do you ever think about self-deprecation as it relates to these so-called rules?
I do. I do think about it. I try not to say anything where, if someone else heard it, it would make them feel bad. There’s always someone heavier than you and there’s always someone smaller than you. It’s that thing where a bunch of women are sitting around the room saying, “I feel so fat.” And there’s someone sitting there who’s bigger than you. I’ve been the person who’s smaller, and I’ve been the person who’s bigger. If someone takes my joke and turns it in on themselves, that’s not what I want to do. If it’s self-deprecation in a way that’s like, this is why humor exists — to lighten this load, then I think being self-deprecating is really funny and good.
How do you find that comedic balance between being funny, not censoring yourself and not offending anyone?
I want to always try to publicly present with the ethics that I feel personally. If you say something someone finds objectionable, you need to listen. This can be listening and, “You know what, we have a disagreement and I stand by my opinion,” and it can also mean, “You know what? I adjust my opinion. I was wrong.”
What’s your go-to advice for writers?
When I see writers who I look up to talk about how much self-doubt they experienced, I find it really reassuring. It gives me permission to think, “Oh! Just because I feel self-doubt doesn’t meant I’m not supposed to be writing. Just because I hate what I’m writing does not mean that what I’m writing should be hated.”
Cheryl Strayed is one of my favorite writers. I just watched a video someone sent me where she talks about that same feeling of hating it all, wondering, “Am I worthy of doing this?” And I was like, but she’s amazing.
A key part of writing is if, at some point, you feel like, “I’m terrible and I’m awful,” you should know that every writer feels like that.
Do you think about what you wear while doing stand up? There’s such a funny cliché about how comedians dress, but I feel like that’s dated.
I never thought about what I wore, and there was a moment where I realized, “Oh, everyone’s thinking about it!” I was not a particularly great dresser in my late twenties. I like talking but I’m uncomfortable with people looking at me. I was kind of an erase-myself person.
I remember Amy’s first half-hour special was running the night before I taped mine. She looks gorgeous in hers. I was dressed very badly, and I remember thinking, “Shit!” I was late to the game.
Now, I just want to be comfortable.
Photos provided by Ann Inc..