In the four years since the Appeal has launched (my god! Four years!) I believe the staffer I’ve been asked about the most is Ramona Emerson. Question #1 is “where did you find her?” The answer, of course, is Craigslist. No, not “casual encounters”: Ramona was in our first “class” of interns (a group that also includes Jezebel’s Katie Baker, among others).
After her internship with us, she eventually settled into a column called “Things San Franciscans Like,” which I recall fondly because it was really really funny, and also because it attracted some truly virulent commenters who either didn’t get the joke or who did get it, thought it wasn’t funny, and made it their mission to explain in detail exactly how unfunny they thought it was. (Thanks for the pageviews, suckers!)
Question #2 I get is “what happened to her?” The short answer is that she moved to New York about two years ago, where she’s written for The Huffington Post, The Daily, and, most recently, the New York Observer.
As you can see from the clip above (may be NSFW if you’re listening without headphones), she’s recently been doing standup comedy. So what’s all that about? I IMed with Ramona to find that out.
Ramona: hello eve
me: How are you?
Ramona: I’m goood. how are you?
Is this the interview? I think it’s going well.
me: New Media! That’s how it goes.
After you took SF by storm with Things San Franciscans Like, you left! For New York
Which, tell me what was behind that.
Ramona: hahaha this is so weird
me: Bitch, you want to get famous, you gotta learn how to talk to “media”
Ramona: okok. I wanted to “write” and it seemed like New York was the place for that.
Also I’ve always wanted to live in New York and was a little bit tired of the N Judah
me: But now I see you doing standup. Which involves writing, as I understand it. But were you thinking about going into that when you moved? You did a little here, am I imagining that?
me: How was that?
Ramona: it was interesting. It was their “ladies night” so it was only female comedians. Which is not something I’ve seen (in New York), but I found to be a nice way to start
me: So you went from “Ladies Night” at the Laundromat to performing at what looks like a for real venue, if that Seinfelsesque brick wall behind you in any indication.
Ramona: yes, the Broadway Comedy Club is a real venue, but they do open mics just like everyone else.
(The video above) wasn’t an open mic, though, it was a show that was a culmination of a standup class that I took. Which everyone thinks is very LAME (to take a standup class), but which I found to be great.
me: I am fascinated that you took a class. I think you are an undercover motivated person.
You pose all “uhhh I don’t care” but beneath the facade lurks an ambitious creature.
Ramona: you think I’m not outwardly motivated?!
me: I think you are cool, and it’s hard to reconcile cool with ambition.
Ramona: hmmm maaaybe. But I took the class because it was hard to motivate myself to go to open mics on my own since I am pretty terrified of getting on stage. With the class you were forced to write every week and get up at least once a week.
me: REALLY. I would not have guessed from watching that video that you were scared at all. Did the class cure you or something?
Ramona: No I was really nervous, but by the time I did the show less so since I had practiced that exact set many times. But I do get very nervous before I get up. Once I’m up I do love it though. love. it.
me: Does your “process” (ugh barf) for writing a standup set differ from when you write for online (I’m not counting the more “standard” writing you’ve done for The Daily and HuffPo)?
Ramona: you have to work on it in the same way. I do sit down and write stuff for standup. It doesn’t just come to me on the street, but unlike other internet writing you can’t “finish” it until you actually try it out on stage and then you have to work on it some more. For example that joke about “middle dick” was something that I’ve been working on for a year on and off.
me: Are you shooting for making standup — or any kind of performancy thing — a part of your career? Or is it just something you’re trying out?
Ramona: I would definitely like to do comedy writing in some capacity as a career. I’m not sure I have the dedication to be a standup comedian like for money though. Those people work incredibly hard.
me: Right? I mean, it’s not coal mining or teaching school, but standup seems like such a grueling profession for an oft-dubious reward. Do you listen to the Nerdist Writer’s podcast?
Ramona: I don’t!
me: Oh dude you gotta. Laura Hooper Beck turned me on to it. It’s typically a panel of several writers, some showrunners, some staff. A lot of comedy people. But it’s really made me think differently about writing.
Ramona: in what sense?
me: I guess though I have watched TV all my life (my Gladwell 10,000 hours!) I never really thought about beats and act breaks. And though I do think that the whole “act break” thing is maybe a dying breed, now that we are watching TV so differently, I think it’s really applicable to some of the kind of writing I do or edit. There is a lot of longform reporting that could benefit from thinking about act breaks and beats.
And it’s fun! It doesn’t feel like “Professional Development.”
me: Yeah that’s a tough sell to a lot of people, I’d wager.
Ramona: oh no it’s amazing.
Now this is just a commercial for podcasts. Which honestly, we don’t want podcasts to get too powerful
me: It’s weird, they went away then they came back
That Chris Hardwick, I kind of feel like he revived them singlehandedly.
Ramona: that’s the Nerdist guy?
I love how they all go on each other’s podcasts and talk about their own podcasts
me: Which is totally different than how we all go on each others’ websites and talk about our writing.
Ramona: THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO ANYONE
me: that’s right, we’re making history today.
Ramona: hahahaha. The Gchat heard round the world.
me: So what would be your dream job?
Ramona: OH! to be a popstar. I’ve always thought that would be the best job
In reality I don’t know. I love standup because I like to talk about whatever I want and not answer to anyone. (shhhh)
me: What else are you doing to pay the bills these days?
Ramona: working at a restaurant!
me: Are you writing for any sites?
Ramona: I wrote something for the Observer about that show Girls.
me: I liked that piece!
Ramona: thanks! I love that show. Do you?
me: I have been saving it! I watched the first episode, because it was on YouTube. But I don’t have HBO and I try not to steal, because I am an amazing person.
But then Comcast fucked up my bill and gave me a free 6 months of HBO for the hassle.
So Tivo has caught every episode and there it sits.
Ramona: saving for what??
me: Since started to I get flu shots I just don’t get sick the way I used to, which is how I really get on top of TV.
Ramona: oh I never get flu shots. I think it’s good to get the flu (so you can watch tv).
Also, using your friend’s uncle’s HBOgo password is not STEALING
me: I was using a friend’s HBOgo for True Blood last year, but one day it stopped working and I felt awkward about asking.
Like, did they lose all their money and have to cancel HBO? Or did they just change their Comcast password?
me: So are you going to perform again any time soon, do you think?
Ramona: Yes! well, I’m doing some open mics this week. I’m not really sure those are “performances” but I’m not really at the point where I should be doing a lot of performances I don’t think!
me: Do you miss SF at all?
Ramona: Yes, I do. I think of it fondly.
I really want to come visit, especially when everyone is Instagramming pictures of lovely weather.
But now it’s going to be summer here and HORRIBLE there. ooh a little weather jealousy coming out
me: It’s really nice here today! But it is there too, if Wendy Williams‘ remarks today are any indication.
Ramona: It’s overcast here in Bushwick. But Tuesday was 80.
me: Well, I hope you do come visit. It would be fun to have you here, and we have open mics, too!
You could “tour.” HA HA
me: You could see if “middle dick” plays differently on the West Coast.
Ramona: I did it once at Brainwash actually. They liked it!
It was when I was visiting. I had tried it in NY and nothing.
Brainwash actually laughed. Them’s my people.