If you don’t recognise Megan Amram’s name immediately, perhaps you’ve seen her face floating around your Twitter timeline.
Amram is one of the funniest women on Twitter, a writer for NBC’s “Parks & Recreation,” and the author of a new book called “Science…For Her!” — a satirical textbook-like piece of work in the vein of Stephen Colbert’s “I Am America And So Can You.”
Amram, a Harvard grad whose resume includes writing gigs for “Billy On The Street” and Funny Or Die videos with Nick Offerman, talked to Business Insider about writing for an insanely popular television show, dreams of a second book, and, of course, what happens when her humour offends someone on Twitter.
Why do we “drive” on a “parkway” but “park” at a “strip club”?
— Megan Amram (@meganamram) April 9, 2012
Business Insider: Do you remember your first crazy viral tweet? What did it feel like to know you had done something that resonated with so many users?
Megan Amram: I think it was “Why do we ‘drive’ on a ‘parkway’ but ‘park’ at a ‘strip club’?” Rob Delaney was such a wonderful early supporter and still has remained so supportive. He retweeted a bunch of my early tweets which gave them a lot of exposure. It felt so incredible! I had no idea strangers would ever want to read my dumb jokes!
BI: Tell us the story behind your Twitter avatar. Will you ever change it?
MA: First of all, I will never, ever, ever change it! It’s completely undoctored. My dear friend Natalie took it sophomore year of college when we were taking “glamor shots” in her house. Natalie deserves all the credit for the amazing composition.
BI: You push the line a LOT with your humour — how do you know you’re not taking it too far? Do you ever consult anyone else with your jokes before you tweet them?
MA: I think very long and hard about every possibly offensive joke I want to make. I really hate mean humour and would hate to make anyone reading my jokes feel truly bad. I like to think that I only make fun of either 1) very broad things about the human condition (like dying) or 2) the perpetrators of violence or assault, not the victims. For example, my book deals a lot with sexual assault of women in a satirical way, which I guess could be considered “rape” jokes, but it seems obvious to me that I’m making fun of the institution of violence towards women, not the victims of it.
I’m one of those girls that can eat whatever she wants and not get married!!
— Megan Amram (@meganamram) November 13, 2014
BI: Have any of your jokes ever completely backfired? Which ones? How did you remedy?
MA: Yes definitely, I think I probably make more swastika jokes than the general population. My remedy is more more more!!!
BI: How did you get started writing for “Parks & Rec”?
MA: The Parks show runner and creator Mike Schur knew of me from my internet writing, but we’d never met in person. He called me in for an interview based on what he’d read of me online, and I guess I wasn’t too crazy to be hired! Or I was ironically hired and it’s a She’s All That-style prank! Oh god!!
BI: What has been the biggest takeaway from writing for “Parks & Rec”? What was the biggest surprise about writing for a show?
MA: I can’t even count the number of things I learned from writing “Parks & Rec.” Mostly because I am a dumb woman who is bad at maths. I honestly feel like I wrote with the funniest, sharpest, smartest people who exist in Hollywood. It taught me to have such high standards for the quality of show I want to make. That you should only aim for the funniest, smartest, kindest stories and jokes that you can write. That writing in a talented group pushes you to be more creative and sharp than you ever would have been otherwise.
BI: What awards shows have you been to? What has been your favourite? Why?
MA: I’ve written for and attended a few. I guess the Emmys, since I got pretty drunk beforehand and ate a pretzel off the floor like a true trash-person? I’m a princess!!!
BI: Who is your dream date?
MA: Stephen Sondheim.
BI: Name five of the funniest women you know OR don’t know!
MA: I can’t stop at five: all the female actors on Parks, of course, but the six women I wrote with at Parks are all so inspiring: Aisha Muharrar, Jen Statsky, Emma Fletcher, Rachna Fruchbom, and Ali Rushfield. They are so incredible.
BI: What’s your next book going to be about?
MA: I really want to write Grammar…For She!
BI: What line from “Parks & Rec” are you most proud of?
MA: It’s not the most memorable of lines I’ve written but I think the bit I think is funniest to me is when, in my episode “Animal Control,” Harris and Brett (the stoner animal control idiots) are showing Leslie around and Brett shows that they have taped a dead bird to the wall to use as a whistle like the one in the Flintstones opening. It sums up my sense of humour pretty well — outdated references and dead animals.
BI: If you could give one piece of advice to young women writers, what would it be?
MA: Support other women! We are taught to be competitive with other women, to vie with them for the “girl spot” in a group or job. Anything that helps an individual woman is good for all of us! Love and support your friends!