“It’s very hard to explain to some people,” comedian, writer, and funniest person on Twitter Megan Amran tells me over the phone. She’s talking about her first book, Science… For HER!, a demented fake women’s interest magazine-cum-textbook where “Megan Amram,” described as a “fun, flirty young woman living in Los Angeles, California,” is dumped by her boyfriend Xander, gets a crippling addiction to meth, and then downward spirals into telling all you bitches about the best innovations in science (like KALE!).
It’s a high-concept parody of some of the lies that womanhood is based on according to advertising and media, and it goes into places that are disturbing and uncomfortable in the best way possible. I laughed at this book like I was watching Broad City and the late nightmare children’s show Wonder Showzen, in equal measures. It’s downright Dadaist brilliance and perhaps it’s best summed up with “Dedication (to all my besties!!!), pages and pages of “Olive (my best friend when we’re reading Sartre), Alexis (my best friend who like only wears rompers what’s up with that?),” that goes on until you die from laughter, rise back from the dead three days later like Jesus, think about life, and then laugh some more.
Some of this is because, unlike her Twitter feed which is full of one-liners, Amram luxuriated in the pace of a book. “No amount of calling back a joke is enough for me. It has to be the biggest bit ever. So for the dedication page being twenty pages long, I wanted to write one that took up a full chapter of my book.” For the book, Amram was playing around with one of her biggest obsessions, women’s magazines. “My muse was one of my best friends, Marie Claire,” she jokes, “She is a beautiful woman who I’ve never seen in person but her magazine is perfect.”
Parodying the voice of women’s magazines came naturally for Amram, who’s parlayed her homegrown Twitter success (sure, she’s a Harvard graduate who’s a comedy writer, but she came up through Hasty Pudding, not the Harvard Lampoon) to jobs as a writer on television like Kroll Show and Parks and Recreation. She had already written some pieces in that voice, and then thought, “What is the most sexist thing that Glamour could come out with?” The answer? “To me,” she says, “it was to design a text book that is literally about how women don’t understand these very simple things [Science!!!] that happen in their life.”
While Amram notes that the landscape is changing for women’s magazines (hello, Joanna Coles’ Cosmo!), “it’s still so heterosexually centered, and about finding or maintaining a boyfriend or husband. The problem I have with that — as much as I want to know why I don’t have a boyfriend — is that it’s insinuating that your life should change in order to find a boyfriend, as opposed to things you could do to make yourself happier and then you magically get a boyfriend. There’s something about the point of view that bothers me even more than the content.”
Her work as a poet (read some of her work at The Awl) also influenced the book: “The reason that I love reading and writing poetry is the reason I love reading and writing comedy. I like things that are wordplay heavy and the book is filled with manic puns and weird things to call sex. The inherent basis of both of them is the nimbleness of language and a surprise on the basic word level that you’re using.”
After talking to me in her car on the lot, Amram had to go to her job at Parks and Recreation. She couldn’t say anything about the show’s seventh and last season, although she’s thrilled that Werner Herzog is a guest star — “the funniest thing that’s happened” — and she described the vibe on set as a lovefest. Parks star Amy Poehler is a shining example of something that’s uncommon in the entertainment industry: “someone who can be successful but also just be a good person.”
The “Megan Amram” that gleefully meth-addicts (as meth is the funniest-sounding drug) her way through life may not be a “good person” by any means, but Amram, on the other hand, is a total sweetheart, and it’s hard not to root for her continued success (even if — to paraphrase the voice of Science… For Her! — she could totally stand to get a better Twitter avatar, everyone’s talking about how totally weird it is, Megan, even though I said I liked it to your face, jk jk jk jk, love you forever, bestie !!!!).