Brendan Francis Newnam: Each week you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer them this time around is comedy writer Jessi Klein She’s the Emmy and Peabody award-winning head writer and executive producer of “Inside Amy Schumer.” She’s also written for “Saturday Night Live” and “Transparent.”
In her new memoir, “You’ll Grow Out of It,” she details the absurdities of being a modern woman, from the judgment that accompanies opting not to do “natural” childbirth, to her own obsession with Gwyneth Paltrow. And Jessi, it’s great to have you on our show!
Jessi Klein: It’s so nice to be here. I love listening to a list of my accomplishments.
Rico Gagliano: So, we thought a good way, maybe, to give people insight to your point of view would be to have you describe your relationship to two stores, which feature prominently in your book: Victoria’s Secret and Anthropologie.
Jessi Klein: Well, Victoria’s Secret, I have always described going into that store as like walking into someone else’s vagina.
Rico Gagliano: [Laughs.] Oh, my gosh.
Jessi Klein: It’s just trying so hard to let you know that, “This is ladies stuff!” It’s very pink.
Rico Gagliano: Anthropologie’s also pretty feminine, though.
Brendan Francis Newnam: There are still frills.
Jessi Klein: There are some frills but…
Brendan Francis Newnam: There aren’t thong baskets at Anthropologie.
Rico Gagliano: No, that’s for sure.
Jessi Klein: No, there is not a thong basket. Sounds like a terrible insult: “Shut up, you thong basket!”
Anthropologie, to me, feels like a very warm, safe space. And — as I describe in the book — every Anthropologie looks like the manger where Zooey Deschanel was born. Just a very adorable and adorkable, twee, precious space. And I say that with lots of love for Zooey Deschanel, whose acting I enjoy and whose music I like.
Brendan Francis Newnam: But in that essay, you kind of don’t like how much you like Anthropologie.
Jessi Klein: Oh, I hate how much I love Anthropologie.
Brendan Francis Newnam: In this book, there’s this fraught relationship with femininity.
Jessi Klein: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a lot of women’s relationship to femininity. I think there is this sense of, “Oh, God, I’m supposed to do that? That seems unpleasant and uncomfortable…” Or painful, if we’re talking about waxing your body. There’s a lot processes.
And so, part of you is like, “Ugh, that sucks. I don’t want to do that!” And I’m a feminist, but I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that also is as susceptible to the illusion of it and the potential glamour and reward of it as anybody.
Rico Gagliano: We wanted to ask you about that. So, “Inside Amy Schumer,” hugely popular show. It’s become almost more than a sketch show. Some of the bits become these viral social media phenomena that people use to bolster a certain brand of feminism. But your job is, firstly, to make funny things and give a chuckle. So, to what extent is the political and the social message on your mind when you’re writing?
Jessi Klein: Well, I think, in a way, what’s leading is honesty. That leads good comedy and leads good art — honesty and vulnerability. And kind of trying to share some specific shade or angle to a truth that feels underrepresented on television.
Rico Gagliano: But are you, like, walking down the street, and you’re like, “There’s a truth or an injustice! How do I represent that?”
Jessi Klein: Yeah, very much so [laughs]. You know, like the sketch “Last Fuckable Day…” you’ll bleep it.
Rico Gagliano: We will. But we should tell people about this sketch. It’s a bunch of very famous comedic actresses: Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus… and they’re kind of helping Amy Schumer celebrate the day that the media is no longer regarding her as young and sexy.
Jessi Klein: And, you know, that came out of, like, flipping the pages of an US Weekly, and talking about images of women in that magazine, and trying to figure out if there was this sort of Malcolm Gladwell-ish tipping point, an exact moment that that happens.
And, yeah, I have to give a lot of credit to the women who were in that sketch because they all improvised such funny lines. And Tina was the one who improvised the line, as she’s kind of describing this phenomenon, she’s saying, “You know how Sally Field was Tom Hanks’s girlfriend in one movie, and then, like, four seconds later, she played his mom in ‘Forrest Gump’?”
So, I think little, tiny personal moments are political.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. Well, with your work in this book, you have clearly proven yourself worthy of giving advice. Let’s ask you some etiquette questions.
Jessi Klein: All right.
Baffled by a blanket hog
Brendan Francis Newnam: The first one comes from Katie in Florida.
Jessi Klein: Katie in Florida.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And Katie… are you going to be like Flavor Flav and…?
Jessi Klein: Wait, how am I like Flavor Flav?
Brendan Francis Newnam: You’re just going, “Katie! Florida!” Like, my yo man. I like it.
Jessi Klein: Well, I’m just trying to repeat and know the facts of the question: Katie, Florida.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Katie in Florida.
Jessi Klein: What else?
Brendan Francis Newnam: “My husband is a wonderful person and a nighttime blanket stealer.”
Rico Gagliano: Oh.
Brendan Francis Newnam: “Most nights, I’ll wake up and find him clutching about 80 percent of the bedding. He doesn’t realize that he’s doing it, but how do I make this stop?”
Jessi Klein: Well, Katie in Florida, I will say this. I feel you, except I’m more like your husband, and I am the blanket thief. I need an entire blanket to myself. I need to have some between my knees to help my back, and then I also need to be fully burrito-ed into that blanket. The solution, I feel like you could go to Target and get two blankets.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Aren’t you sacrificing cuddling, though, with double blankets?
Rico Gagliano: Oh, good point. You can’t be under the same blanket that way.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Two burritos next to each other, they don’t really touch.
Jessi Klein: One person’s burrito-ed, the other’s… it’s like a burrito and then there’s — the second blanket envelops both of them.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Like a Taco Bell creation.
Jessi Klein: Yes, like, exactly! I think marriage is hard enough, and there are fights that need to end in screaming, and this is one that if there’s a blanket purchased, that’s a solve. I say second blanket.
Rico Gagliano: Here’s my question, though: if the guy’s a blanket thief, and he’s not aware that he’s doing it, how do we know he’s not just going to take your blanket as well as his own?
Jessi Klein: That’s a real dark view of the world. I don’t know where that pessimism’s coming from.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And I don’t know where it would end. So, let’s wish Katie the best. Go to Target.
Jessi Klein: By the way, here’s a little more wisdom. Two words: three blankets.
Kids might be the best. Excuse. Ever.
Rico Gagliano: All right. Here’s something from Anne in D.C. Anne writes: “As a childless adult, is it OK to RSVP ‘no’ to a child’s birthday party if the weather forecast says it’s too nice to be locked inside with screaming kids? What if I just send a nice gift instead?”
Jessi Klein: Oh, my God, yes, it’s OK to not go! And I will tell you why. As someone who now has a kid, having that kid is a free pass for the rest of my life to get out of going to anything I don’t want to go to. “Oh, I can’t go! No babysitter.”
And so, I’m going to play that card on you a bunch. So, you’re allowed to play any card you want with whatever excuses can be cooked up in your childless existence.
Rico Gagliano: That’s great, children as cards to be played.
Jessi Klein: Very much so.
What do you do if your Tinder match gets sick on your date?
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, so our next question comes from Brian. We don’t know where Brian’s from.
Jessi Klein: Brian from nowhere.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Brian via our site. So, Brian writes: “What’s the appropriate response when your Tinder date gets violently ill at an expensive sushi restaurant?” Wow.
Jessi Klein: OK, I see this very clearly. The appropriate response is to marry that person. Because here’s the thing: that person is so embarrassed, so vulnerable, that they are kind of beholden to you now. For the rest of your life, you’ll always have a little thing on them. There’s always going to be a deficit, and that’s kind of the perfect person to marry. Because you always want to be a little ahead. Is that the worst? I’m just telling you what feels true.
Rico Gagliano: But in what way did they owe you for taking them to a restaurant that made them violently ill?
Jessi Klein: Oh, are we blaming the… I thought it might just be a reaction.
Brendan Francis Newnam: When I read this, I was thinking Brian’s like, “Wait a second. It’s just a Tinder date. Am I all of a sudden committed by mistake because she got sick over the tuna roll? And so now, like, I can take her to the hospital, but do I have to, like, follow up? And will she get the wrong idea? And then, do I call her parents?”
Jessi Klein: The plot thins.
Rico Gagliano: The plot sickens.
Jessi Klein: The plot sickens — ooh!
Rico Gagliano: You’re welcome.
Jessi Klein: I feel like even going to eat a dinner on a Tinder date feels pretty advanced for Tinder.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Commitment? That means commitment?
Jessi Klein: Yeah, when you go on a… I don’t know. Are you single?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes. Look at my hair.
Jessi Klein: So, you go on a date… yeah, no woman’s taking care of you! [Laughs.] Or a man, I don’t want to judge. But, yeah, you go on a date, and you agree to go to drinks because a dinner could be hours. You have to agree to drinks first.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, Brian, if you brought her to dinner, you’re pretty much beholden to this person.
Rico Gagliano: You did this to yourself, man.
Jessi Klein: No! I am saying that — marry them because it will work out.
Brendan Francis Newnam: OK. Congratulations, Brian.
Finding out if you’re a costume match made in heaven?
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, last question. This one comes from Laura in Chicago.
Jessi Klein: Laura! Chicago! Sorry, I forgot that was my thing.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, sorry. All right.
Jessi Klein: My Flavor Flav.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Laura writes: “I’m going to a costume-optional party with my boyfriend. I have this great idea for a costume duo that I think would be a huge hit. Deep down, I know he isn’t really the dressing-up type, but he’ll probably do it to humor me if I ask. Should I twist his arm?”
Jessi Klein: [Exhales deeply in shock.] A cold wind just blew through the studio. Ugh, you’ve got to be real careful about who you’re asking to get in the second half of that horse costume.
I feel like doing a cutesy matched Halloween costume means you are engaged or almost engaged, or married.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, whether you know it or not.
Jessi Klein: Anything short of that, I would just say — and that sounds sexist to be like, don’t scare him off! But this could go with either gender. I think you’ve got to just let it be, if he’s not a costume dude.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, seriously. It also depends a little bit on the costume, right? I mean, if it’s… I’m trying to…
Jessi Klein: “We’ll dress up as a bride and a groom!” Is that the matching costume?!?
Brendan Francis Newnam: I know. That’s what I was going to say. I think, in a way, I’m going the other way because I feel like Laura should have this conversation because the other person needs to know that he may marry someone who wants to go in cutesy costumes to events together.
Jessi Klein: Oh. I think that a marriage can work between a costume person and a non-costume person.
Brendan Francis Newnam: OK. Jessi Klein from New York…
Jessi Klein: Jessi Klein! New York!
Brendan Francis Newnam: Thanks for telling our audience how to behave.
Jessi Klein: Thank you for thinking I’m someone who knows anything.