I went in to my interview with Gaby Dunn nervous. I hadn’t seriously interviewed anyone—much less someone I fangirled over—in over a year. I went in to my interview planning to talk to Gaby Dunn about Feminism and Double Standards and Issues (all of which I am very passionate about, as is Dunn), but somehow we ended up talking about making dreams realities and following the writers of Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” on Twitter. I’m not worried, though. Dunn ended our interview with “Talk to you soon!” and although I’m not planning to head out west in the near future, it’s nice to know your humanspirations are only an email away, and if you need to ask a burning question about women in comedy, well, you can. Maybe not now, but sometime.
All’s this to say is that I’ve followed Dunn’s work for a few years now. A journalism major in college, she founded and conducted “100 Interviews,” a series of—you guessed it— 100 interviews with “a porn actor,” “a horror make-up artist,” “someone who left someone else at the altar,” and more. She interned at the Daily Show, has written for basically everyone on the World Wide Web, and studied improv at People’s Improv Theater and sketch at Upright Citizen’s Brigade. Now, Dunn’s living in Los Angeles, pursuing comedy, filming a pilot, and writing for The Daily Dot. She also has a super cute dog.
Gaby Dunn: What are you trying to write about?
Emily Perper: Well, for this in particular, I was really interested because I just saw your video that you posted a little while ago about the double standard in comedy with regards to women in comedy, which I thought was really interesting —
GD: Oh, thanks.
EP: Because I don’t think it’s addressed as much as it needs to be with what’s been going on, and with the diversity issues that have been brought up lately on “SNL,” it’s kind of like, I’d like to talk to someone about this. Things have gotten better, but there’s still a long way to go.
So I just had some basic questions for you, just about your interest in comedy—and I know you’re also a journalist, and that’s something I admire. I mean, I love your “100 Interviews” thing—
GD: Oh, thank you.
EP: —I was a big fan of that. When did you first realize you were interested in comedy?
GD: In middle school, I started. I had a TV in my room, and I started watching “Comedy Central Presents” on Friday nights. My family were sort-of-religious-Jewish, so I wasn’t really allowed to go out on Friday nights because it’s Shabbat. But you’re not even supposed to watch TV, but I was allowed to do that. I went to a religious school, too, so me and this other girl who was also home alone on Fridays would be on the phone with each other watching “Comedy Central Presents.” We just loved all the comics, and we would quote them to each other, we would tell jokes and stuff.
EP: Who were some of your favorites—your favorite comics? Do you remember?
GD: In middle school, I was super into Mike Birbiglia, Maria Bamford, and Mitch Hedberg. Demetri Martin was a big one. Those might have been the big ones that I knew. Actually, four years ago, I was 21, I saw Mike Birbiglia in a bar, and I was really excited. I was like, “Oh, my gosh! I’ve loved you since I was a little girl!” and he was like, “Uhhh … I hope someone never says that to me again!” [Laughs.]
When I was a little girl, it never occurred to me how people became a comedian. I didn’t know how they did it. I didn’t know anything about clubs, I didn’t know anything about open mics, nothing. Like, “I guess you’re funny, and they put you on TV!” literally, until when I got to college, and then, “Oh! This is how you do it!”
I auditioned for a sketch troupe, and I got in, and that ended up being my extracurricular all four years. I ended up being vice-president of the troupe my senior year, running an open mic with the president of the troupe—we ran an open mic every semester—so it just started, all of a sudden, “Oh, this might be a thing that we could do.”
EP: What college did you go to?
GD: Emerson, in Boston. Everyone in entertainment went to Emerson. [Laughs] Literally, out here so far, either Emerson or Judaism have opened doors.
EP: Nice! The Judaism aspect—I plan to play that up as I continue to network. [Laughs]
GD: It’s insane how much it works. It’s like a terrible stereotype, but it’s caused so much.
EP: Who would you say your greatest comedic influences are? You love sketch obviously, but early influences were stand-up, and now you’re doing stand-up.