In You'll Grow Out Of It, A Portrait Of What It Really Means To Grow Up

Image: Robyn Von Swank.
A warning: Should you ever get the chance, do not consume liquids while on the phone with Emmy Award-winning writer and self-described geek Jessi Klein. She'll surely make you laugh, and you may begin to sputter, misting your desk with water while trying to mask the distinctive and un-chill sound of gagging.

Though, it will be worth it. Because Klein — who is not only whip-smart funny on the phone but also across the pages of her new essay collection, You'll Grow Out Of It, debuting June 12 — is an American comedic treasure, and that is not a hyperbolic statement in the slightest. The 40-year-old rose through the ranks of Comedy Central, helping to develop programming like Chapelle's Show, before eventually getting Inside Amy Schumer off the ground.

Along the way, she also hammered out her own comedy career, doing stand-up, appearing on VH1 nostalgia specials, and of course writing — always writing — for work and for herself and for this new book. We spoke to Klein about the first time someone told her she was funny, why Inside Amy Schumer isn't trying to be feminist, fancy bodega chocolate, and the things she hopes never to grow out of.

There's this moment in your book where a popular girl tells you that you're funny — was that really the first time you realized you had a knack for making people laugh?
"I think [it was] the first positive feedback I had gotten from high school, in terms of that kind of magical wand [being] waved over you by somebody with social status. I liked joking around, I loved comedy, but that might’ve been a light switch moment where I was like, 'This is someone I don’t have anything in common with, who wouldn’t normally have any interest in talking to me. And yet there seems to be a tool that is working here."

I love that visual of the magic wand, anointing you with fairy dust.
"There is so much fairy dust."

Can you recall other magic wand/fairy dust moments, where someone else called out something about you that made it real?
"Wow, that is a real deep question. You mean in my life? I’m drinking my first cup of coffee! [laughs] I guess winning an Emmy is a magic wand moment, not to be a dick about it. But I feel like you’re more of a dick if you don’t appreciate [that kind of thing] for being pretty insane."

You wrote about how getting into your Spanx for the Emmy's was another kind of magic moment.
"Oh my god... There are photos on Getty where you can see my Spanx shorts sticking out just a skosh. It’s hard to notice, because it’s a black dress and they are black Spanx. But if you look real close, I noticed in the ensuing weeks that there’s a couple centimeters of just pure Spanx. It’s kind of perfect.

I promise I won’t go scrutinizing them on Getty after this.
"If you don’t, you’re not a human being."

Speaking of being human: I love the point you make in the book about how women end up convincing themselves they are cool with the scraps of things — like the bathtub becoming a female oasis, like as a woman you must love baths because it's your only private space.
"I feel like it’s sort of the same moment as when you have to pretend that you’re eating a salad that you love. You’re just like: Isn’t this the best salad?

"Not that there aren’t super delicious salads — of course there are, and I do enjoy eating them. But let’s not pretend that there isn’t something better on that menu almost all the time."

Yes! It's like eating two squares of dark chocolate at night and telling yourself it was decadent.
"Oh my god, I want to fling myself off a roof when I hear someone talking about the two squares. I used to do that when I lived by myself: I would get — what is it, Ritter? That fancy bodega brand, Ritter — and think, 'Do I love myself enough to buy myself a Ritter chocolate bar?' That’s always the question.

"And then I would be like: I’m just going to have a square. At 4 PM on the dot, I’m going to have one square. And then I would eat the square, and then I’d go back to my couch and keep getting up for square trips, and usually by the last eight squares I’d be like, 'This is a massive bunch of nonsense.' I’m like: Yeah, I’m eating an entire chocolate bar, which I think is about 90,000 calories or something ridiculous."

"I’m proud and excited for something to be considered feminist. But I also think it can be ghettoizing to have to label a piece of work that a woman has created ‘feminist’ or not."

Do you think anyone ever leaves it in the fridge? Who are these people?
"Sadly, I do think there are people who leave it in the fridge, but I think the people leaving it in the fridge are not eating any of it. They’re those people."

As an industry veteran, do you get the sense that the entertainment space is improving for women in general?
"I am old, so I've been doing something related to entertainment for almost 20 years — and I’ve had some really fucked up moments. My first job in TV, I was there for maybe four weeks before an executive producer told me I needed to lose weight. It was shitty and really hard. But everyone has their own experience, and I think it slowly may be getting better.

"When you think about the shows that are on TV now — and it’s definitely better in TV than in movies — though, I think the fix on both sides is that women create shows, movies and write...and produce. There are more women writing and producing now, but it would be great if men also got with the program and helped out, which I think some do, but there’s definitely tons who don’t. All the stories of female actresses who can’t get hired, certainly the ageism — the fucking weight shit is so fucking insane."

And the age shit. Did you read about how Elizabeth Banks was told she was too old to play Spiderman's girlfriend at 28?
"Yeah, it makes you want to eat at least three squares of dark chocolate. At least a half a Ritter to cope with the fact that [this] angel, Elizabeth Banks, is being told she's is too old to play anything."

Last year, you told Vogue that you didn't think the work you were doing on Inside Amy Schumer was intentionally feminist. Can you break that down?
"I am a very proud feminist. In terms of talking about Schumer, I didn’t mean to say we weren’t writing things that are feminist — I was saying, [the sketches] are not exclusively [feminist].

"When you sit down and write your real, honest, authentic experience as a human in the world, I think you’re writing something that is feminist. Creativity-wise [though] we never sit down at Schumer and say, 'Let’s write a feminist sketch.' But by saying, 'Let’s write stuff that’s really funny to us without worrying about whether guys think it’s funny, and just trust that our experience matters, even if we’re talking about experiences that are exclusively female' — that’s a feminist act."

"I’m proud and excited for something to be considered feminist. But I also think it can be ghettoizing to have to label a piece of work that a woman has created ‘feminist’ or not."
Image: Hatchette Books.
The title of your book is You'll Grow Out Of It. What are you glad to have grown out of?
"This is even just very recently, and I have to credit Amy Schumer with a lot of this particular thing: I’ve grown out of feeling like I’m not deserving of asking for help. In terms of — I know this seems really trivial — hiring someone to help me with my hair and makeup so that I look nice, if I’m going to go have my picture taken by The New York Times.

"I used to kind of feel like... It was less about vanity than it was like, 'Uh, this isn’t important enough to do.' I think Amy is someone —even from day one on the show before she was even famous at all — she just always took what she was doing really seriously, and treated everything around her work as, 'I’m running a business.' I mean that in the most positive way. There was this idea that I’m taking myself really seriously, and I’m investing in myself.

"I think that was really hard for me to do for a long time. I felt like, 'Nothing I’m doing really matters enough to put that much into it.' I was really influenced by [Amy] in that way, in terms of just being like, 'Your work really matters and you should invest everything that you can in yourself.'"

I feel this is a uniquely female feeling, especially when it comes to work.
"Yes and I know the 'I’m worried about the makeup' thing seems really trivial, but that’s one kind of small, superficial detail that reflects the larger attitude."

And also, who gets to say that hair and makeup have to be trivial?
"Exactly! I mean, they don't. I have to say: I’m very excited that the book review that just came out in the Times. I invested in having a press photo taken of myself so that I’m like, 'Okay, this is me working really hard on putting myself into the world.' I think it took me a really long time to get there. I’m also super lucky and super privileged that I have the money to spend a bit on that, and that’s a big deal. Even when I had the money before, I didn’t have the attitude — I didn’t have the belief in myself to do it."

Last one: What do you hope never to grow out of?
"Eating a chocolate bar, and not giving a shit enough about that stuff to occasionally be like, 'Fuck it. I’m just going to eat candy like I’m seven-fucking-years-old.' Because, come on. Why not?"

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