Hi lovelies! This week in the Local Ladies series; I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan MacKay, a YouTuber and comedian in Toronto. You might recognize Megan from her Ray Rice Inspired Makeup Tutorial, a satirical beauty video that has over 2 million views, and rightfully so because of it’s important message about domestic abuse. I am so happy to have Megan as a part of this series, and I hope you enjoy this interview as part of September’s Local Ladies series.
K: You are very vocal about being a feminist, which is AWESOME. Who are your biggest female role models?
M: On the comedy side, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler got me into pursuing comedy as a career. I remember the exact moment I saw them both on the update desk and it finally clicked that I could do what they do for a living if I tried hard enough. Melissa McCarthy is such a goddess of comedy, and it was such a relief to me to see someone who looked like me doing what I wanted to do and just killing it. Obviously Elizabeth Banks, for reasons I’ll get into in the next question. I love Lindy West’s column in the Guardian, and I read Jezebel literally every day.
K: Can you tell us a bit more about WhoHaha and your involvement with that? And also about #UntrollTheInternet?
WhoHaha is basically a Funny or Die style site that hosts 100% videos created by and/or featuring female comedians. I started working with them when I got a random email in January asking if I wanted to collaborate with one of my personal heroes, Elizabeth Banks. I basically peed my pants and said yes right away, because it’s Elizabeth freakin’ Banks. I just think she’s friggin brilliant, both in front of and behind the camera. Her work with WhoHaha is revolutionizing the internet for female comedians right now. I saw Pitch Perfect SO MANY TIMES in theatres, and I literally cried when it was announced that PP2 had the highest grossing opening for a first-time female director because I was so weirdly proud of this person that, at that point, I’d never met. I’ve never told her any of this because I don’t want her to think that I’m a psychopath, but it’s all true, and now she’s never going to want to speak to me again. Guh. Career suicide.
#UnTrollTheInternet is obviously more of a bummer story because it starts with some internet strangers threatening to murder me. Womp womp. I posted a video about political correctness and how, contrary to popular belief, it’s *not* rotting comedy from the inside out. Some people took issue with this, and the video got picked up by some ‘callout’ channels – youtubers who exclusively make videos calling out other youtubers they disagree with, usually feminists and POC. Part of the deal with this subgroup is that they send their subscribers to your channel to comment bomb the video in question. I can and will gladly handle legitimate criticism, but these comments were rape threats, death threats, abusive language, and other stuff like that. One commenter posted a recipe for cooking me. As these comments flooded in over the course of the week, I started to wonder why the hell this part of internet culture was considered acceptable. There’s so much good online, and it felt like we were letting a very small group of hateful people dictate the conversation simply because they were louder and angrier than us. So I created Untroll the Internet as a means of sharing some of the goodness online with the goal of, if not drowning out the hate completely, at least offering an alternative.
K: In this series, I’m talking a lot about self-care and how taking time for yourself is important no matter what kind of work you do. What are some of your self-care rituals to help you avoid getting overworked?
M: It doesn’t always happen, but I definitely try to unplug and stop working once I’ve hit about 8 hours of work in a given day. I LOVE what I do to the extent that I’ll accidentally slip into “work mode” when I’m off the clock, but I get burnt out if I don’t carve out time for myself on a regular basis. I have a dog so I try to take her on long walks after I clock out to decompress after sitting in front of a screen all day. I discovered Lush bath bombs last year and now I’m addicted to bathing in sparkly neon water. Oh, and sometimes I just turn off my phone for half a day. BLISS.
K: There is a very clear gender gap in the comedy industry. What steps can we take to resolve this? And what has your experience as a female comedian been like?
M: Studying comedy is what actually brought me to feminism! I was doing a sketch show and all of the girls got together and realized that our coach gave notes differently for the girls than he did for the boys. The boy’s scenes were all critiqued constructively and deemed to be “making progress,” but the girl’s scenes were either “shit” or they got no feedback at all. It really messed me up and actually made me question whether I should be doing comedy. Fortunately shortly after that experience I went to Chicago to do the Second City’s Comedy Studies program and had literally the best coaches and instructors of my life. This is so cheeseball but I really feel like that program rebuilt me from the ground up and made me a more authentic performer and person. I feel so lucky to have done it, honestly.
In terms of resolving the problem, there’s been a tremendous groundswell movement of women in comedy standing up for themselves and for their space as performers and as people. There’s a lot of value in joining forces with other funny women and male allies – chances are they’ve experienced working with a Comedy Asshole and can support you through it. And don’t be afraid to step back from the community for a short break if you need it – live comedy is kinda like a cult, and when you’re in the thick of it you feel like missing even one show will put you on the outs with everyone. Stepping back and experiencing life outside of comedians talking about comedy will keep you sane and sometimes even make you funnier.
K: Has there ever been a moment when you are working on a video and thought “this is too much, too controversial”? Is there a topic that you feel very strongly against joking about?
M: I’m extremely against comedy that ‘punches down.’ I don’t like jokes that purposefully attack oppressed groups of people – it’s cruel, plain and simple. That being said, I think you can still joke about risque topics through comedy that ‘punches up’ – attacking a system of oppression rather than the people it oppresses. It’s a really nuanced skill but I think it’s an important one to learn if you choose to do comedy, especially social commentary and satire, professionally.
K: Last but not least, what do you have to say to all the women out there who are afraid to start creating videos, or afraid to pursue a career in comedy?
M: DO IT!! It’s intimidating to start any new creative pursuit, but it’s always, always worth it. If you try it and end up not liking it, you’re then free to move on and try something else you’ve always been curious about. Be a shameless dabbler. Try everything once and if you hit on something you love, keep doing it!
Isn’t she amazing? Thank you so much to Megan for being a part of this serious and taking the time to answer these questions. I really respect people who use their platform to make a difference and express their opinions, and Megan does that. If you enjoyed this interview, share it with a friend!
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