Twitter’s Megan Amram on Nightmare Hipster Comedy and Her Internet Encounter With Rosie O’Donnell
It’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention that Twitter is no longer just for reading about Kanye West’s frustration with velvet pillows that can’t be dry-cleaned. It’s now the universally-accessible arena for established and unknown comedy writers alike to show their stuff. And it’s led to huge notoriety for Megan Amram, who graduated from Harvard in 2010, moved to LA, and started a Twitter account. In just over a year, she’s amassed nearly 90,000 followers and written for the Oscars and Disney’s A.N.T. Farm.
Amram’s Tweets showcase her signature twisted, dark humor: “I’ve got some terrible news: FOX.” “I think one of my dads might be gay.” “Girls go to college to get more knowledge. Boys go to Jupiter because they’re in control of NASA, science, and their emotions.” Her unique voice is also evident on her Tumblr and in videos like her Glee audition tape and …uh, this video. I spoke to Amram last week about how Twitter is the new spec script, what it’s like to have such a huge Internet following, and why Rosie O’Donnell doesn’t approve of her Twitter picture.
When did you start Tweeting?
So I started Tweeting right after graduation. I think June 2010 I started doing it everyday seriously. That summer I started to get recognition, pretty randomly from comedians and writers and then by the time I moved here [LA] in September, I had a small circle of comedy people already built in to be friends with, I guess. It was very, very helpful. I think I take it for granted sometimes that I didn’t just move to a city and not know anybody. So that was very nice.
Was it strange hanging out with people, having only had conversations with them in 140 characters?
Yeah, because I’m someone who had a very big stigma against meeting people through the Internet. Probably because I’m very scared of everything in general, so I assume that everyone who would be on the Internet is like either a serial rapist or spam. Those are the only two types of people who can be on the Internet, rapists and spam. But yeah, once I went to the first meeting of like Twitter people I was like, “Oh, everyone else feels gross about this too, but they’re all awesome, normal, funny people. So, that’s been my experience so far, with Twitter.
When you started did you imagine that it would be a professional tool?
Not at all. I started Twitter because my friends did it already, and I didn’t want to do it at first because I was like, “Ugh, if I start doing this then I’m gonna have to think about it all the time,” which was completely true. Like there hasn’t been one day since last summer where I haven’t woken up and been like, “This again!” But yeah, I had no idea. Also because I’m stupid about the Internet. I didn’t understand Twitter, but I was just lucky enough to catch this wave of interest in young, weird people who no one knows who they are making jokes.
Well that’s a good transition: so your Twitter bio is this quote from your mom about “weird sexual anti-comedy comedy.” And it seems like that is kind of a new wave that you’re part of starting.
I’m glad that you noticed that bio because my mom is a lovely lady. That bio comes from the fact that she reads every tweet of mine and then she’ll either call her friends and be like, “This one wasn’t good,” or, “This one was great.” So my twin brother at home heard her on the phone call her friend and be like, “I don’t know what Megan is doing these days, it’s this weird website where blah blah blah.” But I mean yeah, especially in LA around the UCB theater, which a lot of these Twitter people work at or perform at or hang out, there’s this interest in like hipster-y comedy where there’s lots of pop culture references, and like weird – I keep calling it in my head “autism comedy,” which is probably very offensive. But this, like, Tim and Eric, you can’t tell if it’s supposed to be funny or not and it’s sort of nightmare-y [humor]. For me a lot of that has to do with my [Twitter profile] picture. Now there are enough real pictures or videos of me online, but at first no one could find anything about me other than that picture. And I liked it that way because it was like this weird persona I got to be.
Yeah, with the make-up and stuff, it seems like you’re almost a clown or like a nightmare clown.
I’m gonna go tattoo that somewhere. Nightmare Clown. That’s exactly what I’m gonna put. I keep thinking it looks like Jabba the Hut on his Quinceañera. Okay, so you have way too much skin and you’re celebrating your fifteenth birthday in Hispanic culture. Congratulations. But yeah, that was a stand-in picture, because I don’t understand the Internet. What is the Internet? It’s invisible and it’s open twenty-four hours? It’s a weird ghost. So I just put up this funny picture that I had taken, I guess four years ago now, and I was like, “Yeah I’ll figure out what I wanna do with my whole page once I think about it more.” And then I just sort of left everything the way it was and it’s worked out for the best.
It’s like a stand-in for your whole comic persona.
And I can never ever change it. Well so, Rosie O’Donnell – this is a weird story. Rosie O’Donnell once told me over the Internet that I should change my profile picture. She pretty adamantly was like, “You’re a pretty girl, why are you doing this? People are gonna wanna hear you less if you have that weird picture that looks like a disabled person.”
And it was like “Ooh, sorry, ooh, I’m never gonna change it, but thank you for your input and here’s a free gift.” So that’s my “Rosie O’Donnell and I are fighting” [story], I guess.
Your serious post on 9/11 was awesome to read, especially the idea that it’s cool to be really enthusiastic and gung-ho about stuff. Do you think enthusiasm is funny?
I’m glad that you mentioned that post because it’s probably the thing right now that I’m most proud of that I’ve done just because I love to – hide is not the right word – I like to sort of play this one character and everything I’ve done so far has been pretty in line with like, a crazy person. And I wrote that piece and was really nervous about putting it online because obviously it has jokes in it, but it also is 100% genuine and something that I thought would be good coming around at that time, but I didn’t know how people were gonna react. I thought it would maybe be like, “Oh my god who does she think she is that she can not just do her Megan Amram-y stuff?” But it was an overwhelmingly positive response and I think that made me really excited that other young people are sort of on board with the same train of liking stuff? So the Glee video, I was bored and I did what I felt like doing that day and then it was really popular, so I think that’s really a testament to: if you just make stuff, even if it’s stupid or silly and even if only two people see it, it’s still good to put things out in the world. And that’s what the Internet has been so incredible for. And, for me, I’m not getting paid for like Tweeting or Tumblr-ing or whatever, but that’s what I love to do more than anything is, you know, just have what I make. No notes or censorship or anything, seen by like, thousands of people. So that’s awesome. Yeah.
Yeah, that’s really cool. Has your attitude to tweeting changed since getting so popular? I imagine it’s pretty hard to shame-delete anything, which I do a lot.
Oh my god, yeah. So first of all, I have said this in other places, but I have a twin brother who…I’m gonna start saying he’s super lame because he doesn’t have any public forum so he can’t really retaliate, so I can say whatever I want about him. He’s super lame. But he’s really funny and I test almost every tweet or blog post for him first. And he’ll be like, “that’s okay,” if it’s funny; he’ll never really say I’m funny. So that’s, you know, everyone knows that this is my psychological drive.
Still just trying to win that approval.
Still just winning approval; yeah, it’s that old chestnut. Oh but, yeah I went through a period of… I don’t even remember how many followers, but there was a couple months where I was so terrified every time I’d get like a new big wave of followers. I’d be like, “I can’t ever tweet again, it’s gonna be bad and they’re all gonna ask for their money back!” But my brain is very bad at spatial reasoning, so now I have almost 90,000 followers but I can’t really comprehend any more than like 200. I think it’s actually better now because it’s just like a wave of people in my head. No one is individualized, so…
You can just speak to a room of 200 people in their underwear.
That sounds like scary Nazi mentality. I’m getting into dangerous territory where people don’t have names or faces.
You might as well just start to weed out the weak ones and have a supergroup of followers.
Basically. Yeah, what I’m trying to tell you is I’m into eugenics. “Megan Amram, I’m into eugenics.” Please put that somewhere in this interview.
So what’s coming up next? You’re writing for the Oscars?
So I wrote for the Oscars this past year and I right now am writing for a Disney channel show called Ant Farm. And with both those things, a lot of it came from jokes on Twitter. That’s also an incredible thing for people who want to get into writing is that it’s like a new portfolio or spec script. I wrote scripts and my bosses read them, but it also was like, “Okay, you can write tons of jokes everyday, so that’s a good sign that you could be employed.” There have been people who are like, “You should stop posting on your blog and just try to get a book deal so you don’t waste all these things on not getting paid.” And it’s been so much more helpful in the long run to put things online and have everyone be able to read them because I feel like I’ve gotten rewarded for doing that kind of stuff anyway. I moved here to write in TV and perform and I’ve been able to do that very quickly and I’m very grateful for that. So I’ll just keep doing the stuff I’m doing without thinking about it.