Ilana Michelle Rubin (@ilanasaurrrus) is a New York City–based comedian, music blogger, and host of the podcast The Bop Pod. She is a Queens native who performs all over the city and hosts numerous comedy shows in addition to performing.
This week, Ilana and I talked networking, anthropomorphic hedgehogs, and giving Whole30 a try.
What made you pursue a career in comedy?
Probably the immediate financial return. Just kidding! Humor was a huge crutch for me when I was little. I remember being very shy, and the way I would connect with anyone new was by being silly, and that part is still pretty true. I simply love goofing around! It didn’t occur to me that it could be a career until college. My school had a TV station, and my friend Andy casted me in his sketch show, which very much changed my life and how I thought about comedy. After I graduated, I interned at MTV with someone who was taking improv classes, and that’s really what snowballed it into action.
I also wondered how experiences like watching my parents jump on a luggage conveyor belt at JFK or losing my virginity in a bunk bed would come to serve me, and the path sort of naturally led to comedy.
I would say to know me is to also know that Sonic the Hedgehog was my first childhood crush. I do feel brave and comfortable saying that my first sexual feelings were for an anthropomorphic hedgehog. I just thought he was the hottest creature I had ever seen in my entire life — it didn’t matter that he was an animal and also a cartoon. So unlike most things done on the internet, I decided to do the rare thing and capitalize on the new Sonic movie’s publicity and instead make it about me. If Hollywood is reading, I should also mention that if there is a Sonic 2 in the works, I would be happy to voice Sonic’s love interest even if she doesn’t have a personality.
Do you think social media has changed your humor in any way? Has it affected the way you write jokes?
I don’t know if it’s changed my humor but as far as writing jokes, I think when Twitter really blew up I felt pressure to tweet all the time and quickly learned that’s not a productive way for me to experience life. Comedy does help me process my feelings about things I go through, but if I catch myself feeling obligated to tweet about a relationship or something, that takes the fun out of it.
It took me a while to feel okay about not wanting to tweet about everything too; I think some things don’t need to be on the internet. For a while I also found I was tricking myself into thinking sending a tweet meant I was actually doing the work needed. I would get a good response for one tweet, kick back, smoke a cigar, and announce “All in a day’s work!” to my empty log cabin (does everyone enjoy this fantasy?) but I didn’t find I was performing live as much, and that’s what I really enjoy. So now when I’m writing and think of a funny, dumb premise, I’ll make sure to physically write it down too so I can explore it and actually use it for a set. Then maybe I’ll condense that into a tweet. Other times I won’t even think about it, because literally nothing matters and if I let a tweet that gets zero likes ruin my day, I perhaps have more pressing issues that need addressing.
I will never shame anyone for any sort of choice they make for their body — that is between them and their god — but my childhood was spent going to Weight Watchers meetings, I’ve tried Whole30 in the past, and I’m just over it all. If I want pasta in January, my ass is eating pasta in January — probably multiple times, even. That said, at the time of this tweet, I had made a boy-related choice that probably wasn’t the smartest, and the idea of someone making a series of increasingly horrible decisions just because they verbally committed to doing that for one month is really funny to me. Important note: I have made several other poor decisions since the one that inspired the tweet.
You host and produce a bunch of shows in addition to doing stand-up. Which do you prefer? What do you like about each?
I don’t know if I prefer one over the other. What I love about stand-up is the autonomy and getting to do whatever I want. Love when things are about ME. If there’s something I feel really excited to talk about, I can write a bit about it and test it out immediately. A lot of my stand-up is self-deprecating and drawn from personal experience, and I just genuinely love sharing that with an audience. You just never know who in the crowd was also sexually attracted to an anthropomorphic hedgehog.
On the other hand, the majority of the shows I host are with my comedy partner/best friend Lana Schwartz (who absolutely has a book out soon called Build Your Own Romantic Comedy, please go preorder!) and it’s fun getting to work with her on those. I’m also a firm believer in collaboration and that working with others makes your own work better too. Plus, our meetings usually devolve into ridiculous Google searches, talking about the pivotal film Gotti, or how overwhelmingly handsome and funny Nicholas Braun seems, which I personally very much enjoy.
Tell us about your podcast, The Bop Pod!
Ahh! The Bop Pod is my favorite thing. It is my crush, my boyfriend, and also somehow my child. Outside of comedy, music has been another constant my entire life. Weird, I know. I would play alone in my room for hours making my Barbies do sex to Will Smith’s “Big Willie Style” and just cycle through any CD that my parents would let me have. My Barbies were probably doing sex for very long amounts of time, now that I think about it. Anyway, what was the question?
Oh yes, my podcast — so music has always been something that I’ve geeked out on. If I was too intimidated by someone, I’d try to talk to them about music instead of trying to make them laugh. I just love it so much I think about it all the time; I want to talk about it all the time. I know so many useless music-related facts, and from my friendships I knew others had similar connections to music that were unique to their own experiences. With the podcast I really try and have the guest talk about those connections and emotional attachments. We chat, we laugh, we watch music videos. As the prophet Deena from Jersey Shore once said, it’s a blast in a glass.
Sometimes I get an idea and I let it sit in my brain for years to rot and do nothing with it, and then I think about how I did nothing with it and that guilt follows me around for millennia. Thank you for asking, I do consider myself a fun person. This was an idea I had while sitting on a friend’s couch and is the fastest I’ve cashed in on a dumb idea. I will forever be a shy gal at heart. Whenever an event has a “networking” label tacked on to it, I want to run for the hills. I think if someone were to cut together a montage of me at any sort of professional event, it would show various clips like this video where I’m just visiting different small groups of people and listening to them talk about SpaceX or something while I nod along and eat charcuterie. There is usually charcuterie, and if there’s not I’ve already left.
Any other networking tips you have for us?
Clink your glass and break out into an acapella rendition of Rihanna’s “Pon de Replay.” Or you know, be kind and open and go home whenever you damn well feel like it, you’re doing great.
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