When I first picked up Julie Klausner's book "I Don't Care About Your Band," what I noticed, aside from the funny, rambling subtitle ("What I Learned From Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, And Other Guys I've Dated") was the adorable red head on the cover. My boyfriend loves red heads. I get it too, they're usually fun and interesting and have freckles. And from watching Klausner's online videos and thumbing through the pages of her book, I knew she was funny and smart, too. How was she having enough problems finding a suitable mate to fill a book?
After I finished reading, Julie met me at a bar to discuss her dating follies as well as being a woman in the boy's club of comedy, and how the nerdy, sensitive, man-child is taking over the world. I didn't have a big sister growing up, and I related to her stories of dating within the comedy scene, so for me this was like having an older version of me from the future come to explain why everything was so hard, and assure me it gets easier.
In the beginning of her book, Julie mentions online dating and writes, "If I ever meet you, I'll tell you in person about the time I went on Match.com." Likely, that was one of my first questions.
"Oh, yeah, I did the online dating thing," Julie said, laughing. "I did Nerve, I did Match. On Nerve there was this one guy who, when I asked him what he did for a living, said he 'used to be in a band.' I was like, 'that is not an occupation.'"
Julie continued, "It is soul crushing; there's no question about it. But life, as I say in the high school chapter, is all about the sense of humor you have while it's happening to you."
That sums up most of Julie's book, a memoir divided into five chronological parts. Her sense of humor never fades during sometimes painful dates with crib-ster musician dads, old flames from the Internet, and fat perverts. This is due, of course, to the fact that she is a funny lady herself. If you've never seen her comedy, go to her blog (julieklausner.com) and watch "Cat News." You'll get the idea. Naturally, some of her book involves dating in what has always been considered a "boy's club."
"What I say in the book is the white, nerdy, sensitive guy is not the minority anymore," Julie said. "Between tech jobs and the creative establishment, I mean, they are the ones who feel repressed but they are actually high status."
Julie explained how the "white, nerdy, sensitive" guy, who is most in control of the comedy world, is not the nice, non-threatening person a lot of women think he is.
"There is this book 'Guyland' by Michael Kimmel [that says] how boys don't really grow up to be men anymore, they mostly become 'guys' who play video games and live in a 'frat house' type of environment for the duration of their 20's," she said. "The kind of boy's club I'm used to? It is definitely not a jock-y, frat-y kind of thing. They say 'I'm sensitive and nerdy,' but actually it's like 'You're a huge child and you're terrified of women, but you don't like sports so you think that makes you less of a misogynist."
I have to say this rang true with me, a fellow witness to the boy's club syndrome of comedy, who has often wondered why the men who seemed the nicest, smartest, and funniest didn't seem to make good boyfriends and often excluded women. The ones Julie describes in her book all seemed sensitive yet turn out to be jerks, to say the least.
"I didn't set out to make fun of anybody in any easy way," Julie said. "I tried to be understanding, as well as self-deprecating, as well as get the point across that there are some really damaged guys out there that don't know what the fuck they're doing. And I have been witness to this again, and again, and again."
Even though she's been burned before (and if you read the book, you'll know this is an understatement) Julie doesn't buy into books like "The Rules" and "He's Not That Into You" which say women shouldn't chase men, and that they shouldn't be upset if a guy doesn't call after sleeping with him early on. Julie doesn't think it's women not knowing 'the rules' but men who have no consequences for breaking them. "That 'avoid eye contact' thing [from 'The Rules'] sounds more like a dog whisperer technique," Julie said. "Like something you'd do with an aggressive dog."
Julie remarked at the amount of discourse women have on the subject of "rules" while men never seem to care about it. Julie's take? Do what makes you feel good, because in your 20's that is what it is really all about.
"Any woman I know can smell a boyfriend a mile away. Women are intuitive, they know when a guy is interested but he's not going to be there for her in that boyfriend-y way," Julie said. "But if he wants to fuck you, and he's attractive, obviously you're going to go in that direction. And for people to say 'Oh, you should have waited and he would have stayed' it's like, 'No he wouldn't have, and I wouldn't have gotten laid.' I'm still allowed to feel bad when he doesn't do what he's supposed to."
Women are really good at feeling bad, Julie and I commiserated. If a woman feels someone is mad at her, it doesn't matter whether or not the anger is valid, women still feel it. "Women feel generations of guilt on their shoulders," Julie quipped. "You can't control another human being, all you can do is put a restriction on how bad you're going to let yourself feel. But sometimes, you know, it's after the fact. Sometimes you wake up thinking 'Gee I wish I didn't eat the whole ice cream cake, but I did. So now what?"
After getting over my sudden hankering for cake, Julie and I ordered another drink (a beer for me and a diet coke for her) and got back to talking about this 'Revenge Of The Nerds' wave that was not only swarming media and culture, but ladies' hearts as well.
"I think when it comes to women who write or who fancy ourselves 'hip downtown literati', there is a certain contempt for being overly sexual, or really looking for boyfriends," Julie said. "We tend to be marginalized as some 'Sex & The City' Carrie Bradshaw chick-lit dummies who just want shoes and a ring. Like, give her a copy of a woman's magazine because she wants chocolate and goes to spin class."
So if Carrie is out, what type of girl is the modern-day pop culture nerd looking for? Julie echoed her book: "It's [this] mousy, 'I don't have to put make up on, I'm wearing a men's t-shirt for some reason but I look adorable in it' type of girl."
The "mousy" girl she's talking about, the kind that every guy around her seems to want, is brought up in her book as the character Pam Beesely on "The Office." She writes: "There's nothing scary about Pam because there's no mystery: she's just like the boys who like her; mousy and shy. The ultimate emo boy fantasy is to meet a nerdy, cute girl just like him, and nobody else will realize she's pretty."
So who decided Pam was the epitome of emo-boy desire? Probably the emo-boys who get writing jobs on popular NBC sitcoms. Julie expressed her discontent with this domination of culture.
"Whenever culture isn't being controlled by enough gay people or Jewish people, I always get nervous," Julie said. "I feel like the whole 'Pam' thing is a result of straight, angry nerds taking over the world, frankly. And the gays and Jews, look... We know what we're doing; we've done this for years."
Julie is right about the demographic writing most comedy shows today, "The Office" included. So if there aren't many women in the writing room, surely there should be more comediennes in front of the camera. Sadly, this is not the case.
"[Women in comedy] are everything; they're beautiful, funny, smart, they have day jobs, they like their day jobs and excel at something beyond being funny," Julie said. "If you're a woman doing stuff in a guys' world you have to have your shit together a million times over anyone else. You have to go above and beyond your contemporaries."
Julie, who used to perform more but shifted her focus to writing (and now authoring), knows the feeling of being a talented yet uncomfortable in front of the camera. "As a performer there's no question that women will always be held to the beauty standards of being on camera: being really thin and beautiful in a traditional Anglo-Saxon way, or just really thin. I mean, there are character actresses," she said. "I think people are more appreciative of women who write for themselves and are performers, but the thing is you have to look like Alicia Keys. Even Tina Fey, who I think is a genius, only got her dues after she lost weight to be on air."
It was hard to hear but I agreed with her that beauty standards for comediennes far surpass those for comedians, and "Saturday Night Live" is a testament to that. Julie, a huge SNL fan who watches even when the laughs are few and far between, has taken issue with how the show treats its female cast members, especially recently, when they fired two women mid season and replaced them with two equally talented, yet younger women.
"It really bothered me after they fired Michaela [Watkins] after they hired her mid-season. As for Casey [Wilson], they just didn't write for her," Julie said. "SNL has always been young, but I do fear that they are disparaging female comedy performers' experience over youthfulness and looks. Beauty comes in all shapes an sizes. You're going to need someone to play Barbara Walters, and Nasim is fine at it, but at the rate they're going they could do like an all-drag minstrel show."
Julie then gave more props to Tina Fey, who made the difficult choice to go with the boy's club rules and lose weight in order to get "30 Rock." "No one is smarter than Tina Fey. Not you, not me. She was the first one to say 'I'm going to be on camera' and given that opportunity, you know, she lost 30 lbs!" Julie said. "And she's smart enough to know it's bullshit but she's also smart enough to know when to fuckin' do it anyway because she wants what she wants."
Julie pointed out that while the women on SNL keep getting younger, the men stay at relatively the same age. I noted that since Darryl Hammond left the show, there is hardly a grey hair on set. Kristin Wiig, the eldest woman on SNL right now, is in almost every sketch, but as Julie pointed out, she's the only female full cast member, while the other girls are featured.
"I have no tolerance for age-ist culture, for the women who are like 'I'm turning 30! I'm going to slit my wrists,'" Julie said. "It's like give me a break! The time to slit your wrists is when you're 21! That's terrible."
Julie is definitely someone who makes me feel good about eventually turning 30, not just because she's so great, but because she has assured me that if you live your 20's like you should, your 30's are much more calm and make a lot more sense.
"It's literally like someone flips a switch. You calm down, you have different expectations, the drama isn't as interesting anymore and you don't indulge it," Julie said. "Drama for the sake of drama is not interesting anymore. At a certain point you're like 'Am I really going to just hook up at a party? I'm 29!"
After bearing witness to the myriad of contemptible suitors Klausner entertains in her 20's, I felt compelled to ask if her newfound 30's has brought her any suitable men thus far. I was pleased to hear she actuallly found someone who doesn't belong in her book.
"It's great, it's healthy. He's not a performer, I mean he's not a public figure in that way. When I met him I was cognizant that he was an adult, and that was a big deal. After the book I was like "Me. Want. Grown Up".
Julie explained that she had already found her current (adult) boyfriend when she started writing the book, so there is no need for a mushy, "fairy tale" ending. She didn't want to lead readers through her bad experiences only to dump them at the end by saying 'but I'm in love now, and always will be, so everything's fine.' How considerate! The point of her book isn't about finding Mr. Right as much as it's about getting rid of all the wrongs - Mr. or otherwise - that keep you from loving yourself the way you should.
"That's the other thing is that we all end up alone. Ultimately no one likes to think ahead but you do need to live with yourself, you don't' need to live with this guy who makes you feel bad," Julie said. "You don't need to be a willing collaborator."
Toward the end of the book, Julie relates her twenties being over, and getting rid of the things that make her feel bad, to Michelangelo's sculpting process: "Michelangelo said that he makes a sculpture out of a marble block by removing everything it's not. Pretty smart stuff from a guy who made pizza pies in Boston!"
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