Bloggers get a bad rap, especially in comedy, where the image of a blogger is that of some too-woke ghoul, attending stand-up shows just so they can go home and blog about the bad words people said. I have no idea if these people really exist, since it seems much simpler and efficient to tweet about such things, but the irony of this image is, for a while, blogs like Videogum, Best Week Ever, and Vulture were platforms used by comedians and funny writers who either didn’t want to write for television or didn’t have opportunities yet to do so. At least to young Gen-Xers and old millennials, this was the golden age of bloggers. Blogging is still around, like here and maybe some Substacks and newsletters, but are bloggers, people whose only goal in life is writing six to 12 dumb things a day? I am asking honestly. I am too old to really know.
Kelly Conaboy — who worked at Videogum, Gawker, the Hairpin, and the Cut and contributed everywhere else — was a product of this period of blogging and, to many, was one of its funniest, most charming voices. On Vulture’s Good One podcast, Conaboy talks about arguably her most beloved post, “Do Men Enter Bathtubs on Hands and Knees So Their Balls Hit the Water Last?,” how she adapted her blogging style to her first book, The Particulars of Peter; and more. You can read some excerpts from the transcript or listen to the full episode below. Tune in to Good One every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.
On the End (for Now) of Blogging
Part of it is that the places don’t exist anymore: Hairpin, Videogum, Gawker, none of them exist. Vulture still exists. I think the people in charge realized, “Well, this is not making me the amount of money that I could be making,” if it’s just someone writing about Meghan Markle or whatever. And then, Twitter is sort of a huge killer of anything good in general, and also in terms of blogging. If people didn’t have this outlet for their stupid little jokes, they might be more inclined to put them in a blog post.
On Getting Sources to Talk About Their Balls
It was sort of surprising how, the men I talked to, how willing they were to talk to me about their balls. I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising, but they were just very game to either tell me that they do or do not try to put their balls in last when they get in the bathtub. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. For other stories, people know when you’re trying to make fun of them. When you ask your friend, “Hey, I’m doing this story about what men could possibly be carrying around in their stupid backpacks,” you know, they’re not going to be like, “Oh, well, let me get mine out and check.” In my experience, most people have been pretty game to share with me.
On Adapting Her Blogging Style to a Book
It felt different, only because I was psyching myself out. I’m very precious with jokes and punctuation and the way things are phrased, but I’m also not, in that I will write a story and it’ll basically be what it is. I’m not a big reviser. But that was terrifying when thinking of a book, because it was like, Okay, so I’m going to write this and it’s going to be what it is, in a book? That seemed impossible, and it was really hard to start because of that, because I was thinking, Well, as soon as I start, I’m going to write the book, and that’s going to be what the book is. And it led to me producing some of the worst writing that I’ve ever produced. Then I did revise a lot, which was different, because I would write this horrible thing and then come back and be like, Well, this can’t be the book. It’s terrible. So it did lead to more revising. If I did write another book, the takeaway would be what everybody who writes a book says: to not be afraid to write a terrible thing because you’re going to, and then you can fix it.
I do a lot of the same tricks [as an author and as a blogger], which is: Have a dumb idea and reach out to an expert about, like, why specifically can dogs not talk or whatever. There’s a part where I change the lyrics to a Bruce Springsteen song to be about Peter, which is very bloggy. There are a lot of blogging elements. The main distinction is that there’s so much personal stuff too, and there’s a very faint through-line story through all the essays. I would say it’s very bloggy, which is surprising. It’s surprising that a book can be as bloggy as this is, and that I was just allowed to do it. I have the full chapters, but then I have the little half chapters, which are just blog posts, basically. And they were blog posts that I had ideas for and then just was told that, “No, you can’t write this.”
Before I wrote it, I was trying to decide if I should read a lot of books or if I should read no books. I bought all the dog books that there are, and then I decided that I probably shouldn’t read them because I was worried about unintentionally stealing something. But I read a bunch of Samantha Irby’s writing, and hers is very present and very active and entertaining that way, which made me more confident, like, Okay, this is a thing that can exist.
On the Future of Blogging
I think Substack is people realizing, again, that they want to read people writing in their own voices about the little things that are interesting to them, which I hope will evolve into people saying, “Hey, what if a bunch of these writers were in the same place and you only have to pay one membership fee?” That is my hope. There are newsletters that I really love. Edith Zimmerman and Allie Jones have great newsletters, and I’m always so happy to see them in my mailbox. But I wish instead I could work at a website with Allie Jones and Edith Zimmerman, and we could all sort of talk together and come up with stories. I think it might happen. It might come back.
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