Friday, December 2, 2016

black suede


presenter: pleasewelcome allie brosh. [applause] allie brosh: ok, soi'm going to read you the first story in the book. so if you haven'tread the book yet, you're getting a head start. let me make sure myclicker's working. when i was 10 years old, iwrote a letter to my future self and buried it in my backyard.

17 years later, iremembered that i was supposed to remember todig it up two years earlier. i looked forward togetting a nostalgic glimpse into my childhood. perhaps i would marvelat my own innocence, or see the first glimmerof my current aspirations. as it turns out, it just mademe feel real weird about myself. the letter was scrawledin green crayon on the back of the utility bill.

my 10-year-old selfhad obviously not spent much time planningout the presentation of it. most likely, i had simply beenwalking through the kitchen, and suddenly realizedit was entirely possible to write aletter to my future self. the overwhelming excitementof this realization probably cause me topanic and short circuit, making me unable to locateproper writing elements. there was no time forthat kind of thing.

i did, however, manage tofight through the haze of chaos and impulse long enough tofind a crayon stub and a paper surface to match it against. the letter begins thusly. "dear 25-year-old." note, not dear 25-year-oldme, or dear 25-year-old self. just dear 25-year-old. do you still like dogs? what is your favorite dog?

do you have a job training dogs? is murphy still alive? foreshadowing. what is your favorite food? are mom and dad still alive? i feel it's important to notethe order of those questions. obviously, dog-relatedsubjects were my chief concern. murphy was my family'sdog, followed closely by the need to know myfuture favorite food.

i feel that thedouble question marks speak to how importantthat question was. and you guys can'tsee that, but there were double questionmarks in there. only then did i pause towonder whether my parents had survived. [laughter] the letter continues with asection titled, "about me." my name is allie, andi am 10 years old.

i have blonde hairand blue eyes. my favorite dog isa german shepherd. my second favoritedog is a husky. my third favorite dogis a doberman pinscher. this is troubling for a numberof reasons, the first of which is that i apparently thoughtmy future self wouldn't be aware of myname or eye color. the second thing isthe fact that i just tacked on my favoritedog breeds at the end

there, like it was every bitas important to my identity as the other things, as ifmy past self had imagined my future self standing in theyard, above the upturned earth, clutching my letterand screaming, but what dogs did i like? how am i supposed to understandmy identity without knowing what dogs i liked when i was 10? i take a break fromwriting at that point to draw several pictures of whatappear to be german shepherds.

below the german shepherds, iwrote the three most disturbing words in the entire letter,three words that revealed more about my tenuousgrasp on reality than anything else i haveuncovered about my childhood. there at the bottomof the letter, i had taken mycrayon stub and used it to craft thefollowing sentence. "please write back." judging by the thick,purposeful lines in each letter,

i was applying a trulyimpressive amount of pressure to the crayon. the sincerity of therequest is unmistakable. when i asked my future selfwhat my favorite dog is, or whether my mom anddad were still alive, i actually expectedto get answers. and apparently, i stillexpected to be 10 years old when i got those answers. i imagine myself patientlystanding in the yard,

day after day,thinking, any time now. it's going to happen soon. i just know it. time travel is acomplex subject that i don't expect a 10-year-oldto fully understand. but this is more than justa basic misunderstanding of time travel. i'm almost definitelynot a time traveler. but in case i am, idecided to write back.

in fact, i decidedto write letters to several iterationsof my past self, because i felt there wereimportant things i could explain to myself or thingsi could warn myself about. allow me to begin with aletter to my two-year-old self. dear two-year-old, facecream is not edible. no matter how much itlooks like frosting, no matter how manytimes you try, it's always going to be facecream and never frosting.

i promise i wouldn'tlie to you about this. it's honestly nevergoing to be frosting. for the love offuck, please stop. i need those organsyou're ruining. dear four-year-old. allow me preface thisby saying that i don't know why you started eatingsalt in the first place. but regardless of theprecipitating circumstances, there you are.

as soon as you became awarethat eating huge amounts of salt is really, reallyuncomfortably salty, you should havestopped eating salt. that's the solution. the solution is notto begin eating pepper to cancel out the salt. you've found yourself in thispredicament several times now. and every time, you get trappedin this totally preventable cycle.

you've done more thanenough experimenting to come to the conclusionthat pepper is not the opposite of saltall by yourself. but somehow, you seem toremain stubbornly unaware of this fact. to reiterate, no matterhow much pepper you eat, it won't undo theludicrous amount of salt you ate before it. the only thing you'reaccomplishing by eating pepper

is making your mouth tastelike pepper and salt. similarly, switchingback to salt again won't cancelout the burning from the pepper you ate tocancel out the original salt. how is this sodifficult to understand? you can stop wheneveryou want to do. as a side note, youreally need to start learning from your mistakes. believe me, i knowwhat happens when

you discover electricfences next year. and you could do without thatseventh jolt of electricity. dear five-year-old. what the fuck is wrong with you? normal children don't havedead imaginary friends. normal children don'tpick open every single one of their chickenpox scabs and then stand naked and bleedingin the darkened doorway to their bedroom untilsomeone walks past and asks

what they are doing. furthermore, normal childrendon't respond by saying, i wanted to know what allmy blood would look like. normal children also don'twatch their parents sleep from the corner of their room. mom was really scarred by "theexorcist" when she was younger, and she doesn't know how tocope with your increasingly creepy behavior. please stop.

please, please stop. dear six-year-old. you're having an absurdlydifficult time learning the letter r. youpractice all the time, and you have mastered everyother letter in the alphabet, both uppercase and lowercase. but for reasons beyondmy comprehension, r just destroys you. look at this.

how does that happen? how do you messsomething up that badly? the first one is understandable. but what's going onwith that middle one? have did that extraprotrusion get there? and look at the tinyone on the right. that one has four protrusions. i'm not an experton protrusions, but that's way too many.

i think if you took sometime to relax and really look at the letter r, you'dsee that it's not nearly as complicated as you're making it. dear seven-year-old. look at the otherchildren around you. do you see how they'rewearing clothing? that's because they'reseven years old, and they've allrealized that it's no longer appropriate to taketheir clothes off in public.

but you haven'trealized that, have you? people have tried toexplain it to you. your teachers have tried. your parents have tried. even the other studentshave expressed discomfort with your persistent andinexplicable nakedness. but you just don't stop. why do you want tobe naked so badly? do you even know why?

are you overtaken byforces beyond your control that make you do this? regardless, clothingis a reality that you need to accept. there are no loopholes to this. you can't take yourclothes off and hide in the corner hopingno one notices. you can't trick theteachers into letting you be naked by buryingyourself in the sandbox.

your clothes are ina pile next to you. they know. dear 10-year-old. wow, you really like dogs. in fact, you like dogsso much, that i'm not even sure it'semotionally healthy. it might be normalto love dogs a lot, or to be reallyinterested in dogs. but you go way, way past that.

normal children don'twalk around pretending to be a dog nearly as muchas you do, for example. you're 10. it makes people wonder aboutyour developmental progress when you growl and bark at them. an even more concerningissue is the obstacle course. fine, you want to train yourdog to run through an obstacle course. that's pretty normal.

what isn't normal ismaking your mother time you as you crawl throughthe course on all fours over and over again. you're making mom thinkthat she did something wrong to make you this way. now that we've gottenthat out of the way, allow me answer your questions. yes, but not as much as you do. i've developed a healthyrelationship with dogs.

i don't know. this may cause asurprise to you, but knowing exactly whereeach dog breed ranks on my list of favoritesisn't the pressing issue that it used to be. no. i can't even train myown dogs, let alone the dogs of other people. of course not.

i don't knowwhether you're being optimistic are youactually don't understand that dogs won't live to be 25. but you really set yourselfup for a lot of disappointment there. nachos. which is fortunate,because in the future, you're dysfunctional and youdon't take care of yourself. so you end up eatinga whole lot of nachos.

actually, you turnout to be batman, so we had to have them putdown for storyline purposes. dear 13-year-old. i think everyone was relievedwhen you started to grow out of your unhealthyobsession with dogs. unfortunately, now youthink you're a wizard. i know this because i foundyour collection of spells. tell me, how does mixingdijon mustard with sand, and then eating it,makes someone love you?

first of all, i thoughtthat your extensive early experiences with ingestingnonfood substances would put you off ofattempting something like this. secondly, no one isgoing to love you until you stop doing things liketrying to make them love you by eating mustard sand. dear other iterationsof my past self. thank you for notbeing so goddamn weird that i felt i hadto address you personally

in a letter from the future. i commend you. the end. so, questions i guess, now? audience: hi. allie brosh: hi. audience: what's yourwriting process like? allie brosh: oh boy. ok.

so i start out with a reallyspecific but vague sense of what i want thepost to feel like and what i want it to read like. the problem withthat is that it's sort of likelooking at something out of your peripheral vision. you can't really focus on it. and so you have to juststeer closer to it. and you know whenit's really wrong.

you don't know when it's right. so most of thewriting a post process is just steeringit closer to what this arbitrary, weird mentalimage i have in my head is. i also have a foldersystem on my desktop. i have the idea farm. and that's where there's justlike one-word, random ideas. sometimes i don'teven remember what i was thinkingwhen i wrote them.

but i revisit thatfolder periodically and try to see if there'sany new perspective that i have on one of those things. and if there is anew perspective-- like maybe a new angle,something that can actually steer it toward being anactual story with structure-- i move it to anotherfolder, which is-- what's that one called. i think it's post-holding area.

and that's where i startactually working on it legitimately. and then once itstarts taking shape, to the point where ifeel like i can maybe start adding drawings,i move it to the folder called "look atthis, motherfucker." and that's to getme to look at it. because i won't otherwise. and then once it'sin that folder,

i know that it's serious and ineed to take it very seriously and start drawing pictures. does that answer your question? all right. as someone who hashad dead fish before, i can say that ireally appreciated that particular comic. and i think it waswidely recognized as something that was very humanand an interesting, different

perspective onthe subject than i think many other peoplehad ever seen before. and i think that was reallycourageous and great. allie brosh: thank you. audience: thank youfor writing that. and as a follow up question,what's your favorite dog? allie brosh: my favorite dog? oh boy. a wolf.

is there a technicalterm for the hair piece that your character wears? is it a ponytail? allie brosh: ok. that's-- i sort of have cometo think of it as a shark fin a little bit. it did start out as hair. and then i got sort of annoyeddrawing hair for myself, and so i just did thislittle triangle thing.

and now it's a shark fin. i just wanted tosay, first of all, that i don't know if it's thesame post that guy was talking about, but i really,really loved the post about allie trying to kill thefish, then she would spare it. yeah, that was my favorite. i was cracking up for ages. but anyways, i wantedto ask, you always seem to have this wealth ofideas that you write about.

and i was wondering howyou prevent yourself from hitting blogger's block? allie brosh: well, i feel like ithought that i was out of ideas pretty much like three weeksafter i started my blog. and i don't know. i just keep going backto it and keep trying. like i said, i write downin may ideas farm thing, i just will write down. even if i think something'sa horrible idea,

i'll write it downanyway if it's a word that maybe is intriguing. and i've had stuff where i comeback to it three years later. and it's like, finally. ok, now i can dosomething with this. whereas before, i maybehadn't had the experience yet that would allow me to turnthat actually into a story. there are some stories thatare you had to be there stories, until i figure outwhat the little ironies are,

what the little inconsistenciesare in the story to draw out to makeit actually funny and read like there'sa structure to it. audience: thank you. allie brosh: you're welcome. allie brosh: oh, hi. i like your cone. that's good. audience: so your drawings havethis amazing like-- they're

deformed in these weirdways that are also, they seem to get acrossthe emotion more than if it was just like anormal looking person. i'm wondering, doyou know beforehand how you're going to deforma face that it looks so proud and so twisted, or doyou try like a million times? allie brosh: i do haveto try a million times. like what i wassaying before, where i have this really vaguebut very specific thing.

if that makes sense. it's a specific sense. but the image inmy head is vague. and i have to do quite afew drafts of my drawings to get it to look somewhatclose to what i'm imagining. and so sometimes,it's actually good that i don't know whati'm doing, because i'll draw something andi'll be like, oh hey, i wouldn't havethought of drawing

that face if i didn'tjust take a stab at it. but yeah, it definitelytakes a really long time to get the face just right. sometimes the people,the eye, if you move it even likehalf a millimeter, it makes a huge differencein the facial expression. and you wouldn'tthink that something like that would makesuch a big difference. but i guess maybejust to me it does.

audience: well, they're awesome. thank you. audience: did you intentionallyhit on the artistic style and keep it consistentintentionally, or is this just thething that came out? allie brosh: this isthe thing that came out. it's been an evolution. when i first starteddrawing my character, it was just like a circle headwith a triangle body thing.

and since then, thereare things like edits i've made to it that have slowlymade it what it is today, which is sort of like thisfish-tadpole-bird thing, i don't know what. all the shapes that ifind funny, i guess. i think your work is reallyrelatable to a ton of people, because of how genuine it feels. you're part of a generationof authors like jenny lawson and matt [? eiman ?] thatyou just read their stuff

and you feel so muchlike this is something that could have happened to me. or i remember somethingthat happened me now that exactly is like that. i wonder though,since you're also a great comedian,how much of what you write over the lastfour or five years, do you feel detached from it? or do you truly feellike you're doing

something autobiographical? like, do look backat things you wrote and you're like, no, that'sexactly how i feel now. or do you feel like youiterate over, again and again, to make it more ofa polished product? allie brosh: i definitelyspend a lot of time polishing. i think that my job asa writer or a comedian is to take whateverthing is in my head and figure out howto translate it most

faithfully intoother people's hands. and so, that involves a lotof very specific word choices. so most of the editing processis just getting the word choices down exactlyright to-- it can be the subtleties and shadesthat i'm trying to get across. as far as how i feellooking back on stories, i think i do put myselfin my head-- like, say when i'm a kid-- i writefrom my perspective as a kid. so my mom is very much thevillain from my perspective.

clearly, from thereader's perspective, she's just being a good momand doing what she needs to do. but yeah, so from myperspective as a kid, she was being meanand evil, and i think that answers the question. i feel like i'm rambling. audience: no, that's great. thanks audience: so iimagine these days,

with the book coming out and allthat, you're on the road a lot and a lot of changes. how are simple dog and helperdog dealing with your absence? allie brosh: they're good. we have them stayingwith a vet tech at our veterinaryhospital, and she's great. she's been sending us picturesof them just to say, hey, they're doing good. but yeah, they'redoing very well.

they've adjustedto life in bend. the simple dog knows how togo up and down the stairs now. she still sort ofsidewinds though. like when she'sgoing down, she'll do like this weird thing. audience: so i think a lot ofpeople related to your comic about the alot. allie brosh: a lot of people. audience: i waswondering if-- i find

that i have certaintypographical mistakes that i make, especially when i'mtyping quickly, that bother me. and i was wonderingwhether a lot was a thing that you use to helpcorrect yourself, or whether there are othermistakes like that you're trying to fight? allie brosh: so a lot wasnever really a problem for me. the thing that i have problemswith are double letters. when spelling a word,i'm great at spelling,

except for if there's adouble letter in there. if there's two l's ortwo t's, i'm fucked. i don't know howto spell the word. so i've been tryingto memorize which ones have the double letters. audience: so, he beat meto it, but the alot post was really amazing. audience: but i waswondering if-- i don't know how to pronounce it--spaghatta nadle is coming back

at all? allie brosh: people reallylike that goddamn noodle. i think, eventually, hewill have to come back. enough people really like him. and if i get drunkor really tired, sometimes i'm just really inthe mood for spaghatta nadle. yeah. audience: so what madeyou start drawing this? did it start with the blog?

did you just drawthings like this and tell stories aboutyourself in the past? allie brosh: yeah. i mean, i've alwayswritten stories just as a means to entertain myself. i used to try to writebooks when i was a kid. they were mostly about guysfighting things and just going on adventures wherethey fight more things. so yeah, i guess i wasprocrastinating when i actually

started my blog. i was supposed to bestudying for a physics final for college. and i eventuallydid study for it, but at this particularpoint, i didn't want to. and i started towrite stuff online. and i think themy style evolved-- i've been thinking alot about this lately, actually-- it's probablya result, sorry.

i got like 45 minutesof sleep last night, so i'm a littlescrambled in the brain. it's a result ofme subconsciously trying to reproduce the feelof stand up comedy on the page. i watch a lot ofstand up comedy. and when i firststarted just trying to write without thepictures, i was sort of bothered by the fact that thereweren't facial expressions, or weren't any ofthose non-verbal cues

that you can get fromwatching a stand up comedian. and so once i startedexperimenting with pictures, it felt really naturalto have this thing that you can interspersewith the text to give maybe like aword list interaction. or you could say1,000 things at once, which is really helpfulfor comedic timing. so that's how that happened. how do you remember, ormake up, all the details

about when you were a kid? allie brosh: my memorystarts pretty young. i have all right memoriesof most of the early stuff. so if i write stories ofwhen i'm like four and five, the memories area little spotty. i have to talk tomy mom about some of the more storylinerelevant details, about like, for example, in thepost about the cake, meeting the entire cake.

i remember everythingabout that, except for i don't actuallyknow how i got into the room with the cake. i remember eating it. i remember throwing itup all over the place. but i don't rememberhow i got in there. so with stuff like that, wherei really don't remember-- and it's not a majorlike, it's something like i got into theroom with the cake.

so i just need to find away to get to that point. and i figured the mostlogical explanation, knowing my grandparents'house, was the window. so there's a little bit of that. and sometimes i'll trim stuffdown for like streamlining it for storyline purposes,so it's not confusing. or, say like, oh,well i was here with this person, thisperson, and this person. i'll just like, i was here.

but yeah, they're-- you wereasking about my memories. i'm really sorry, you guys. i knew i was going tocrash at some point today. i woke up and i was sosurprised like, oh man, i don't feel like as bad asi thought i would feel. and now, it's all startingto come back to me. it's catching up. so yeah, hang in there with me. i'm sorry.

what would you saydistinguishes you from your characternamed allie, if anything? allie brosh: i think thatmy character is actually a more accuraterepresentation of me, like how i really, really am. it's like inside. inside that, that's what i am. i'm this weird, absurd thing. and yeah, like wheni talk to myself,

the voice inside my headis very much this thing. me, i'm just yeah. i relate more to the character. audience: thanks. allie brosh: ilove your costume. audience: what costume? allie brosh: oh. [laughter and applause] audience: thank you for coming.

i was hoping you couldtalk a little bit about how early you get feedback on posts,how polished you like things to be before you getit, who you go to. allie brosh: i pretty much justtalk to my husband about it. he's the only one in likethe inner, inner post circle. because i start todoubt myself when i'm hammering throughstuff that never sounds funny inthe very beginning. because i'm stumbling overit, and i'm like oh, well,

there's this part. and it'll be reallyfunny, you'll see. like, once i draw thepicture, once i draw the eyes, you'll see it'llbe really funny. but just imagine this. and you don't getthe whole picture. so i do just read it to duncan. i guess i share with my editorand my agent sometimes too. but most of it justgoes on in my own head.

i leave it for a few days ifi'm really stuck, and come back and read it and think like, hey. is this any betterthan i thought it was? or maybe i missed something? maybe i think it's horrible now? audience: do you evertalk to your husband to get ideas to get you unstuck? allie brosh: yeah, yeah. we'll go on walks, theselike long, nighttime walks,

and just like hammerout post ideas. and we'll pick a topic, likeidentity, and say like, well. what's importantfor your identity? and he'll say to me what'simportant for his identity, and then we'lljust talk about it. and it's good,because we just have an interesting conversation,and maybe an idea will spring from that. audience: thank you very much.

audience: we also have30% of our offices on a hangout view this. and so if anyone on the hangoutwants to ask a question, just unmute in betweenquestions, and ask away. and i think we have timefor five more minutes. i'd like to ask a question. allie brosh: where is it? audience: i'm thedisembodied voice. allie brosh: i can see me.

i can't see anybody-- audience: i, really, really,really love your blog. and thank god you'rewriting it to me. i used to have to pet rats. and i adored them. and i want to havethem again soon. but i'd like to know a bitmore about your pet rats. allie brosh: they're wonderful. i rescue them, actually.

we adopt themfrom-- so, you guys have maybe seen the "hoarders"episode with the rats. we adopted somefrom that situation. they took them outof the house and were trying to get them homes. so we have, i think, seven now. and our oldest two rats arejust the sweetest two rats in the world. there's pizzo, whois my favorite thing

in the entire universe. she's roughly potato-shapedand very soft. and she's very affectionate. and then there's charlie,who-- charlie's very special. she never really settled down. she's sort of twitchy andweird about everything. but i love her to death. and i could gothrough all of them, but i think that wouldn'tleave very much time

for other questions. audience: but how do theyget along with helper dog? allie brosh: the dogsleave them alone. they know that therat cage is special, and they shouldn't goover there and bug them. audience: i was going toask if you've ever done or wanted to do anyspoken forms of comedy, like improv, standup, et cetera? allie brosh: i actuallywould love to do stand up.

i don't know if i havethe stage presence for it. it terrifies me. but i love stand up comedy. and maybe one of these daysi'll take a crack at it. audience: you should. all kinds of people withterrible stage presence do it. audience: so whendid you first realize that some of your charactersand their expressions left your blog andwere used for memes

and other forms ofentertainment on the internet? and did that changeyour writing at all? allie brosh: it didn'tchange my writing. i noticed it when peoplelike my facebook friends would post it on my wall, andbe like, did you see this? no, i did not. i think one of thefirst ones i saw was somebody using iton a coffee shop sign, with the chalk drawings.

and that was pretty cool. and i see peoplewill make their own, and post alot memes to my wall. hey, i see it all the time. i'm always getting emailsfrom people being like, did you see thisone and this one? audience: as an artistand a copyright holder, how do you feel about that? allie brosh: i like that theinternet is having fun with it.

it's fine when people arejust using it as a meme. having fun with it, trying tobe funny, that's totally fine. it's less fine when they areusing it to sell something or to like support a reallyshitty point of view. so those times really bother me. but the other times, i'mtotally fine with it, when people are just havingfun and trying to be funny. presenter: i think that'sall we have time for. thank you so much.

allie is going to besigning books at the back. so if you want your book signed,please make an orderly line towards the back of the room. thank you so much for coming.

No comments:

Post a Comment