Mike Ross (@MCRossIsNotAPun) on Raccoons, US History, and Minnesotan Moms

mike-rossMike Ross (@MCRossIsNotaPun) is a soon-to-be-published writer of comedy and young adult fiction living in New York City. You can currently find him on Twitter, and you can soon find him on Scholastic Book Fair bookshelves by having a child and sending it to public school.

This has been my pinned tweet for years now because it really says everything you need to know about me in one go. I love conflating real life with TV, any and all US history jokes, and unrequited gay love. Also huge: since I wrote it, I found out that, in fact, there’s a lot of real historical evidence that LEWIS was in stupid crazy sad love with CLARK, who was a perfect friend to him but absolutely oblivious the entire two years they spent together and probably into Sacajawea anyway, who was WAY too busy keeping them alive to worry about ANY of this. I fully intend to make this a real show. I don’t think any narrative could ever resonate with my gay experience more than this true story of being surrounded by well-meaning straight idiots and smart straight women.

This is important to me for a few reasons. For one, it’s always a relief to remember I can make jokes without using pop culture/deep-cut young-adult literature references as a crutch. Please ignore that the Old Testament is sort of the ultimate YA literature reference. The SECOND reason this is important to me is: all woodland animals are so, so funny to me, but raccoons are the funniest. I could crank out 500 words right now on how raccoons are an insane funhouse mirror of humanity, but instead I’ll just say the second funniest woodland animal is a bear who has wandered into an inappropriate setting. Thank you.

You’re so good at writing jokes using source materials, like history or fiction. Are there specific topics or genres that you enjoy more?

“Good at writing jokes using source materials” is an incredibly kind way to say “a filthy thief.” But in all honesty, if it’s something you or I read between the ages of 8 or 18, e.g. a Scholastic Book Fair book or a bolded term in an APUSH textbook, there’s a strong chance I think it’s really funny. There’s something I love about the idea that we all have this shared collective knowledge base and sometimes it’s really profound, like most of To Kill a Mockingbird, and sometimes it’s insanely dumb, like Scout’s giant ham costume in To Kill a Mockingbird, and regardless of which it is, there’s a good chance everyone you know is drawing on it to process their adult experiences.

For this column I really wanted to find a good tweet that showed I am politically engaged, but most of my political “jokes” are just white-knuckled teeth-clenched rage, so while this punchline is not as sharp as it could be, and also makes no logical sense, I think it is a chill compromise, and also is a fun experiment in how jokes that make no logical sense can still get a good reaction if they are phrased enough like jokes. Also noteworthy in that I made this tweet after going on a few dates with one bisexual rower and in the replies, you can see that it actually led directly to a date with another rower, both of whom were gentlemen outside of my normal political spectrum. If any young conservative bisexual rowers are reading this: third time’s the charm?

This is both hilarious and smart commentary. How often do you engage with politics?

I am constantly engaged with politics the same way Wile E. Coyote is constantly engaged with Road Runner. Technically I could walk away at any time but instead I let it consume me and kill me and like the one good thing that might occasionally come out of it is sometimes I might hold up a funny sign that says “OH, BROTHER” in a new and novel way, and someone retweets it, and then I am crushed by an anvil. As far as actually engaging with other people politically, I am trapped on a gay trash island, so unless I move home to Minnesota or down to Staten Island, my main political contribution is calling my Republican representative back in Minnesota and huffing at him like I can still vote in his district, which I do, frequently. My mom’s my political hero — she’s still in Minnesota, where she participates in the League of Women Voters and has gotten an entire book club of Minnesotan moms to read and discuss Ta-Nehisi Coates. In my dreams, I become a firefighter on Staten Island, earn their trust, and then start that revolutionary book club. Also I wind up dating one of the firefighters, and that firefighter turns out to be Bruce Springsteen’s youngest son, who is, this isn’t even a joke, a firefighter in real life. That’s how I want to make a difference.

To end on a sillier note: this is me really hitting my stride by making a deep cut YA-lit reference that is also about a (technically) woodland animal. Also, to be clear, there is absolutely a for real mouse in my apartment. My comedy comes from a place of truth.

What are some of your biggest comedy influences?

In rough chronological order: Dad started playing Eddie Izzard in the car the moment I got out of elementary school, which was foundational for teaching me you should just talk about whatever the hell you want and if you have enough love for it, the audience will feel that love, too (also in the British Esoteric Humor Corner: Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett). Bo Burnham doesn’t even get a blurb because I feel like anything I’d say would be so obvious to anyone who has even just seen my dumb face. And Live by Tig Notaro completely changed my idea of what comedy could be and was literally the reason I first ever went onstage and told jokes, so big thank you to her. Oh! And Sideways Stories from Wayside School. That’s it. That’s the list.

 

Karen Chee is a is a writer/performer who contributes regularly to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s.

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