@AyoEdebiri on Everyday Absurdity and Cool Teens

Ayo Edebiri is a Boston-born, Brooklyn-based comedian and writer. She wasn’t good enough for the Celtics but is making this comedy thing work. She’s in the sketch group Lo-Fi and currently works at The Rundown on BET.

This week, Edebiri talked to me about finding absurdity in everyday events and how she got into comedy, among other things!.

The way women hide our periods from the world is funny, but the way we hide it from each other is even funnier to me–we all know what’s happening. I ripped open a big ol’ pad in a bathroom and it made this enormous noise and I felt weird, which was so absurd, and then I guess I wondered what could make it more absurd. It made me laugh a lot, which was probably weirder for the women around me than the actual noise of the pad. What are you gonna do?

What are some other absurd, everyday things you find funny?

Honestly most people, most of the time! Everyone in the world is an absolute freak and I love it. New York is so close physically and sometimes emotionally that it’s hard not to notice weird human behaviors (and anyone who chooses to live in this place is probably a little crazy anyways). Sometimes it’s just like, I think I have to find things funny or I will cry! (I mean that to be funny!)

I saw these cool ass teens swinging on the subway poles one day–like really swinging–but they looked cool, and sounded cool, and talked about smoking weed and I was just like…I can’t even do that now! I’m so anxious all of the time and it’s worse because I look like an honest to God teenager. Teens are incredible. That’s my platform.

How did you first get into comedy?

In 8th grade, I took a mandatory drama class and ended up with a teacher who was actually a pretty big improviser in Boston. She was so cool and open and lose and was constantly encouraging us to do comedy (which I hated with all my anxious heart). One class, she made us all do an original character. I grew up with Christian parents and basic cable, so I did this crazy church lady because that’s all I knew. And after class she was like “There’s an improv club. It’s no pressure, but you might be good at this.” And I was. I fell in love with improv but like the good, repressed, immigrant child I am, I bottled that energy up and used it to fuel this idea of doctor for like eight years. And then my senior year in high school I so bravely and dramatically told my parents I wanted to do comedy and they literally did not care.

I think most men are deeply basic and uninteresting and that is fascinating to me. Especially if they have the audacity to rag on women for being basic. Like, what do you do with your time but also why? How are you gonna ask every woman in this office for her hot take on the weather? What is that? Also why are you congratulating yourself for telling me I’m funny? Stop that! Relax.

Do you ever take a tweet and develop it into something longer, like for standup?

I don’t do it often. I feel like my brain kind of compartmentalizes what’s a tweet, and what’s a joke I’d want to explore on stage. My tweets tend to be more topical and reactionary because a phone lends itself to that? But for standup, I tend to be more interested in storytelling. I guess there are Twitter threads, though and a lot of good ones tell great stories. I’m realizing now that I separate things in my head in a weird way that’s a little bit invalid. Maybe I should take tweets and develop them into standup bits? Karen, this is a good idea. Hrm!

I love this email. It is the greatest email I have ever received. It is the greatest email I will ever receive.

Are there any recurring topics that you regularly (or like to) joke about?

Probably? There are definitely evergreen things that I’ll always find funny. But in general, whenever I fall in love with something or find it funny, I obsess. I’ll continue obsessing until my friends are like…”Hello, please stop joking about this thing! We’re not laughing anymore!” So then I’ll find a new thing to joke about. I have good friends.

Karen Chee is a is a writer/performer who contributes regularly to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s.

@AyoEdebiri on Everyday Absurdity and Cool Teens