Mindy Furano’s matchless wit, creative spontaneity, and cultural awareness is inimitable and variegated – she’s basically one of our favorite people. If you’re not following her on Twitter and Vine, you’re misusing the internet and I don’t have time for this. In addition to being wildly clever and brilliantly adept at making playlists (this intro is verging on hagiography, but everything I’m saying is true) Furano is also a straight up good person. In wanting to catch up with one of my comedic heroes, I called up Mindy in Ontario and had a conversation about joke writing, her rad web series, and the awfulness of True Detective season 2.
Rob Patrick: In your opinion, what makes something funny?
Mindy Furano: Absurd humor, I guess. Something that takes you away from reality. But there also has to be a relatable aspect. And maybe some dark comedy without it being offensive.
I always feel like you make great cultural observations and super funny self-referential humor. It’s a combination that works really well. How has Twitter affected your process of writing material?
Sometimes I’m scatterbrained, so Twitter has helped me be more concise. I’m getting to the point quicker, getting to the punchline quicker. In that respect it has helped with my writing. Also, it’s great because of the connections that I’ve made. It can be really great as long as you avoid the drama part of it. Essentially, it really depends on how you use the website. But Twitter really has helped me a lot.
Yeah, I feel like, in regards to the drama part, Twitter can be a wasteland of weirdo dudes.
How can people be better with mentions and DMs? Do you think it will ever be better? I feel like nobody has the rationale to discern what’s okay and what’s not. There’s no moral compass on Twitter most of the time.
[laughs] I feel like there’s no moral compass a lot of time in life. I think that Twitter is just a vessel for that behavior to get out into the world, but I don’t see it as the cause. The thing about Twitter is that there is an anonymity that people can hide behind. They have profiles with weird cartoons and weird names. But if someone is in person, they are probably thinking some of those things, but they aren’t saying them. As much as Twitter seems like the worst place in the world, it really is just the world that is terrible. We’re just seeing the more honest side of everyone because people don’t have to have the social etiquette that is required of them in public. I don’t know that Twitter will get better, but people do get called out. They’re even tracking down accounts when threats are being made. I think people are learning that “oh no, I might have to own up to this.” Maybe that will prevent them from showing their shittiness more, but I don’t know if it will make them less shitty as people. I do think it has opened up a little bit of awareness when it comes to how women are treated, so that’s good. It opens things up for everyone, the same with the LGBT community. In the 90s there wasn’t this forum for communication. Twitter can make people more aware, but it definitely wont make them better. Sorry. God, that was a really sad ending. So, you know, in the end we’re all doomed [laughs].
[laughs] So, yeah, that’s the end of the interview. We can leave it right there. What do you dread more: waking up in the morning and seeing a terrible Twitter mention or someone riffing on your jokes?
[laughs] I think getting a terrible mention. Just for my own well being. The awful mentions would be much worse. If someone riffs, I don’t care. I was ridiculous when I first started Twitter. I used to talk to Andy Dick, and I said “oh my God, I have an audience.” After that I would always try to slip into jokes. I learned when people do it to me that they are just having fun. They aren’t trying to be malicious or say that my joke was wrong. Even if it’s a guy, I don’t necessarily think they’re mainsplaining. It’s a social media app, so you’re supposed to be social: I try not to analyze it. But if I’m in an off mood that might change [laughs]
I get irritated by people riffing on my updates. I obviously have far fewer followers than you have – I have like 20o and they’re all spam bots and restaurants – but I still get agitated.
[laughs] You’ll get there. When I had, like, 80 followers there would be one person who would do it to me all of the time. It’s like, “I don’t do this for you; shut up.”
Yeah if someone riffs on something I’ll just sigh and star the comment.
[laughs] Yeah, exactly. This star represents me closing the door.
Every heart someone sees is just a sigh: that’s what it represents
[laughs] Oh my God that’s hilarious. They should add the sigh. It would start so much drama.
A ton of amazing people follow you. Amber Tozer, Aimee Mann, Rad Milk, Bridey Elliott, Nikki Glaser. This is stressing me out just reading off these names. When Tweeting, do you ever feel additional pressure because of this audience?
No, I should. I used to actually feel more pressure before I had so many followers. But that’s because I didn’t know anyone. Now they know who I am, they understand when I’m doing something in character. And I’ve been pretty open because I’ve written in blogs. Before that, it was just me having a crazy persona. I think that people get the gist of who I am now. And because of that, I’m less nervous. If they don’t get it they wouldn’t have followed, you know what I mean? I don’t post anything offensive, anyway, I don’t think. But being in LA and working in that kind of world made the nervousness go away. So, yeah, ironically it was worse before.
It’s probably better to be less hyper-aware.
Yeah, because you don’t want to be tweeting for someone else. I used to try to think of things that someone would find funny when I got a new follower, and now I’m like “no, that’s ridiculous.” You cant be pandering to everybody. I don’t even think about it half of the time. Actually I probably should think a little more about it. Sometimes I’ll tweet like ten things about a movie, and see that Michael McKean is online and say to myself “yeah I don’t think he wants to see that many posts about a Disney movie.” [laughs]
I know we’re talking about Twitter a lot, but is Weird Twitter dead, and why do people hate it so much?
Weird Twitter was fun at first because everyone said “we can be funny and strange and mock things.” There was excitement and freedom. But now people can hide behind those same handles and be a dick, and it’s not funny when that happens. You don’t have to be vulnerable, because your name and picture isn’t attached to you. It started out funny, but it has gotten bad. Not everyone is terrible, though. I feel like @dogboner is a great guy in real life. He’s a good person, so I would never be offended by stuff he would say. But I don’t know who some of these other people are. And because of that, I cant tell if they’re truly being malicious, you know?
Do you think that some of them do it, begrudgingly, because they built up a brand for themselves that they cant escape?
No, I agree. I feel like people think if they have followers that they have to keep it up. I think that’s why I’m less stressed out, because I don’t have any brand. I find that if I’m happy about something, I’ll share it. And if I’m sad about something, I’ll share it. But otherwise I don’t give a shit. I don’t check my unfollows like I used to – that used to stress me out. But yeah I think that a lot of people aren’t even into what they’re doing, they just think “oh people will think this is funny” and so they go with it.
[laughs] It’s just a stressful purgatory.
[laughs] Oh my God this is the saddest interview about social media.
I was dying because Twitter recommended that you follow Dane Cook and Kathy Griffin. Did you ever end up taking their advice?
No, I didn’t. I have nothing against them, but I think Kathy Griffin is kind of hacky. The last thing I saw about her was something on television about plastic surgery, and that she offended the troops? It was two things that just did not interest me. I just thought it was hilarious that she was paired with Dane Cook who I cant stand. I felt like someone had planned it.
[laughs] Yeah, I thought it was hilarious. If you were called to be on @midnight, would you go? And if so, who would you want to play against?
I love all of the people there. I would write for them, but I don’t know if I would go on the show. I don’t think I’m enough of a recognized name. I don’t think that people would trust that I could sustain an entire episode [laughs]. But I would love to play against Maria Bamford. Actually I wouldn’t even want to play against her, I just want to listen to her and laugh. And the other person would be Andy Kindler, because I love him and he’s the sweetest person in the world. So those two.
You worked with the awesome Mary Kobayashi on Book Club. What was the genesis of that project?
Mary and I always think of different things to do, but we’re never in the same place. We talked about – because we were roommates when we were in LA – doing a web series. And then our friend, Zandy Hartig, who’s an actress, came up with the idea of Book Club, because she has been in so many of them. She said that many of the times people would just drink, and it would never be about an actual book. Mary and I jumped on it. We sat down and it was just done. I think normally we have someone rein us in, but because we have each other it got a little bit dark – but not in a mean way. I find that Mary and I work very well. But Zandy gets credit for the idea, because we laughed when she said her book club was very non-book. She wanted us to write it, so we were honored and ran with it. It was more of a pilot because we didn’t know if it was going to be picked up. But now it seems to be getting good feedback, and we have a better focus for the next episode. For the first one we were just jumping around with ideas. I think we know where we want to go with it now. It looks like we’re going to do it again, but I wont say 100%, because if I say that it wont happen [laughs]. But once we do start the other ones we will have more of a momentum. Once something gets picked up you have to be scheduled. But as for right now, we just put it out to see the feedback. That’s why there’s no immediate follow up. We figured if it doesn’t continue it will just be a fun short that we did.
Speaking of books, I’ve been ridiculously impressed by the size of that copy of Paradise Lost that you own. It’s like 38 stories high.
[laughs] Oh you saw that. I always assume nobody watches anything that I don’t promote. Yeah, that was my grandma’s book. It looks like it’s a thousand dollars. I always said that I wanted to read Paradise Lost, Infinite Jest, all of the books that everyone says “oh, it’s so long; it’s like a journey.” But I cant even get through the easy books that I own. I’m an extremist: I’m either not reading at all or I want to read Paradise Lost [laughs]. But, yeah, I haven’t read it yet.
Horrible segue, but HBO said they aren’t making another season of True Detective. Are you upset about this or no?
I didn’t even watch season two.
I don’t think anyone did.
I’m surprised; I didn’t even know it was still going. I had to pause to remember what it was. The first season was a little ridiculous but good. But then the second season came out and I was like “okay, I don’t have any desire to watch this anymore.” But in short, I don’t care.
[laughs] Season two was Colin Farrell in a booth. And then an establishing shot of a city. Over and over, every episode.
That reminds me of his movie “Phone Booth”. He should do like…what do you call it?
Like a one-man show or something? [laughs]
[laughs] Yeah just him with a booth. I feel like he has planned this for a long time.
It’s like a really bad long-con for no reason.
[laughs] Yeah, I think it is. Oh my God.
Okay, so I love your Vines. Using a 90s catchphrase to break the ice is my favorite. To you, what makes a good Vine?
I think it’s the same with Twitter. When I have an idea, it sort of narrows down what does and doesn’t work. With the 90s one, it made me laugh thinking about contrasted emotions. You start with one emotion and then quickly change to the next. I don’t get too much into the creative process. For that one, I just liked the idea of someone desperately trying to relate, and then breaking down halfway through. Especially since nostalgia of the 90s seems to be everywhere right now.
Finally, what projects can we look forward to in the next six months?
I put in a Sundance workshop submission. Sundance Lab is picking ten people to work through a web series with you, and help develop it, which is insane. But the pressure is that they are picking ten people. But even if I don’t get it, this will be a good process to help me finish something by a time limit – or a due date. It really helps to have a timeline, or there’s no incentive. You’ll just end up going out or dicking around on the computer. There’s also something else, but I’m not allowed to talk about it because it might not happen yet [laughs]
Mindy, thanks for taking time out for this rad interview.
Thank you too!