Some people are just doing life right. They are true to themselves, create for the sake of creating, write meaningful words, promote smiles, and are the real inspirations for younger people who want to do life right as well. Molly McAleer is a leader in this group of people that we adore, the people that make us smile and are this generations “I want to grow up and be like…” pact. You might know her better as “Molls”, or as the co-founder of HelloGiggles with Zooey Deschanel and Sophia Rossi, or as a writer (now story editor) for the mega hit “2 Broke Girls“, or as the Internet sensation she’s become. She has a legit following on Twitter and one of the most popular Tumblr blogs in Molls She Wrote. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to keep you from the super fun conversation we had with Molls. Enjoy it, and then proceed to become an instant fan of the all around delight, Molly McAleer.
Serial Optimist: First date style, what’s your go to topic of conversation when things start to get a little…quiet?
Molly McAleer: I usually ask an emasculating question to test their sense of humor. That’s almost definitely one of the reasons why I’m single.
SO: What were you like at the age of 18? What things were you into, what music were you listening to, what was your style, and what did you want to be in life?
Molly: I was always into upkeep. I’d get my hair done a lot and worked at a salon specifically to get free hair color and cuts. 18 was my senior year, so I worked my schedule so that my two Monday and Friday free blocks were next to each other and I’d walk off campus and get manicures. I went to this lady Noelle and she was the first person who gave me nail art. I loved her, she called me Barbie.
Music-wise, I listened to a lot of local and SoCal punk bands, radio rap and oldies. I spent most weekends going to concerts on Lansdowne.
I definitely didn’t think I’d end up in LA. I think I hoped I’d do something in entertainment but didn’t think it was attainable, so my plan was to study political science, go to law school, work in local politics before becoming the governor of Massachusetts, then transition into talk radio after my retirement. It’s pretty crazy that I thought that was more possible than what I’m doing now.
SO: Funny how things work out the way they’re supposed to! This is probably a question you’ve answered numerous times, but tell me about the initial conversation or hang out between you, Zooey and Sophia that sparked the idea for HelloGiggles.
Molly: There really wasn’t a “moment”– Sophia mentioned starting a FunnyOrDie for women to me, then we registered the name HelloGiggles. Then she met Zooey in a workout class, introduced the two of us, and then from there we kind of figured out that we all wanted to do it together. It was mainly over email and a couple of lunches.
SO: I remember when starting Serial Optimist, I had a solid idea of what it was going to be, but then it organically kind of turned into what it is now over time, with a more direct theme regarding content. Has that happened with HelloGiggles or did you see it being what it is currently?
Molly: Originally the idea was in-house and user generated video content, but we started from the ground up and video is expensive and laborious. We turned to the other thing we love and the thing that I knew best, which was curating interesting voices online. The only thing we knew we wanted to be that we still are is a positive online space for creative women.
SO: How did your writing career start? What would you consider your first big break?
Molly: The first time I got paid to create was at HBO’s short-lived website ThisJustIn.com. A lot of people came out of that– Bashir and Diallo who people probably know from Jimmy Fallon, Jeff Rosenthal from It’s The Reel, Eric Spiegelman of Old Jews Telling Jokes. It was a great group.
My “big break” was when my boss at Defamer, Mark Graham, let me make daily videos that he posted on the site. It was supposed to be a vehicle for announcing events going on in LA that night, but I kinda turned it into my own thing. I find it comforting when someone says they recognize me as the Defamer Video Girl. That feels like home to me.
Molly McAleer is Charming
SO: I’ve had a lot of conversations on the term “writer”. It seems like it can be applied in many ways these days. I also used to hate the term “blogger”, but now I don’t mind it, because as with anything, some shit is legit, some isn’t, some things are for certain people, some things aren’t. What are your thoughts on today’s online writers and the quality of content that is being put out?
Molly: I definitely had bad self-esteem when I was “just” a blogger. I felt like, “Why would I call myself a writer? Should I be embarrassed to think I’m good enough to deserve that title?”
Looking back, that was insane. I’m a writer because I’ve always been one. I’ve never been able to stop that urge to put pen to paper or fingers to keys. That’s what makes you a writer, not your credits.
And I think the Internet is the best thing to happen to creatives, ever. It’s a place where you can work your shit out or do something you’re really proud of. Either way, it’s an amazing opportunity for new voices to be heard and it encourages people to figure out (most of the time with the help of brutal commenters) whether they have a skill they want to make something more of, or whether it’s something they want to do as a hobby because they love it.
And “quality” is a subjective word. Some people love things because they’re “beautifully written”; some people love things because they’re well researched, and some, like me, just like reading things that are honest.
SO: I recently interviewed Lesley Arfin, and she brought up a great point: “One thing I don’t believe in is writing for free. Just like the screenwriters guild, I wish there was a union for print and web writers. It lowers the standard of information when a site or magazine doesn’t have to pay a writer. Why would someone hire me for $100 per post when someone else will do it for free? Sure, they’ll do a shittier job, but it will be gone in 15 minutes anyway. It’s all for advertising and “hits.” There’s a union for everyone else, why not us?” What are your thoughts on that?
Molly: I’ve been a big fan of Lesley’s long before I knew her in real life, so I understand how her opinion is valid for her and the writers who are on her playing field (meaning, they are well known for their writing, specifically online.) I know that at this point in my life, if I was asked to write something for free, it’d either be for HelloGiggles or because I’m super passionate about the subject matter and the money’s not as relevant as my desire to have my thoughts heard.
My overall opinion on this is based on the email I’ve gotten over and over again through the years, even before starting HelloGiggles. “How can I get my foot in the door? How can I get exposure?”
For most unknowns, the answer is a platform like The Awl or HelloGiggles. That’s what gives you the chance to make a name for yourself, to have people see your work and associate your name with something they enjoyed. Then you get paid and make the decision to never not get paid.
SO: Where do you think your career would be if you didn’t have online publications? How much do you feel like online media has helped your career? Did you always see yourself as a writer, or writing for television, or writing a book….
Molly: I’m from a family of writers, but it never occurred to me to just write a book or something.
Online writing isn’t responsible for my career, but it’s what allowed me to dream. I’ve been blogging since I was eleven years old, but it wasn’t until kind of recently that I figured out I could write offline, too.
I guess I’d be back in Boston working in local politics and radio. I don’t think I would have figured out anything if it weren’t for the Internet.
SO: Speaking of writing for television, lets talk “2 Broke Girls”. You’re a story editor for the show, and the show is crazy big time popular. What’s the writers room like?
Molly: We’re all really close. I mean, some days it’s like having nine roommates and everyone’s sick of seeing each other’s faces and hearing each other’s voices, but for the most part, we’re a real family. I think we all believe in what we’re doing there, too. That helps.
SO: Did you and the staff (or the suits) have any major changes you wanted to make going into season 2?
Molly: Um, I wish I could offer you some drama, but there is none. The network and studio, as far as I can see, believe in our show runner and the staff. We have some great stories this season, but none of them were developed as a response to criticism or notes– we just found fun things that we loved and that we wanted to see our girls do.
SO: It has to be great writing for Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs; their chemistry is off the charts. Does any improv happen on the show or is it pretty strict to the script?
Molly: Yes, Kat and Beth are a dream team. There’s no one else on television right now that I’d want to write for more. They’re incredible.
And script is the script. There’s no improv on our show. The writers punch up jokes all week long and again when we’re in front of the audience, but everything is written. All of our actors make great comedic choices, though. That’s where even the writers get a fun treat.
SO: If you had to pick one, what’s your favorite episode to date?
Molly: I absolutely cannot. I couldn’t even pick a favorite moment. There are at least two jokes in each episode that I know will be stuck in my head for the next twenty years because I love them so much.
SO: What online publications do you think are really doing it right? What do you have bookmarked, what are you checking daily, what publication do you feel puts out consistent solid content?
Molly: Grantland, AV Club, Rookie– I think that’s some of the highest quality writing online for sure. As for my personal tastes, I really like sensitive 20-somethings. That’s the “Reality Bites”/”Singles” fan in me. I’m drawn to Thought Catalog the most. Not everything’s a slam dunk, but I usually find one or two things a week there that make me thing, “Damn, I wish I’d written my version of that first.”
SO: It’s the fall season, all our favorite comedies and shows are back. What are a few of your favorite shows? What are your MUST DVR shows?
SO: What band are you really into at the moment?
SO: What things make you giggle daily?
Molly: Big Boy on Power 106 makes me giggle myself stupid on the way to work every day.
SO: What is your perfect LA day?
Molly: I used to hate Sundays, but these days I’m all about them. I wake up at ten or eleven, walk my dog, drink a large iced Americano, hit up the Melrose/Fairfax trading post and hunt for treasures, hang out with my dog again for a few hours, then a big wine-fueled dinner with the friends I’m most comfortable with, preferably in a place where we can watch the sunset.
SO: Love it. What do you think it takes to be a good writer?
Molly: Desire, passion, practice.
SO: What are a few songs that instantly make you start dancing?
Molly: There was a good four years where I had all of Girl Talk’s albums on repeat all of the time. It wakes up my soul. Like, it opens a place in my brain I keep shut most of the day.
SO: His albums are timeless, def a great way to get going. What do you consider inspirations in life?
Molly: Conversations, observations, solitude, acts of humanity.
SO: You have one book to recommend to an up and coming writer, what direction do you send them?
Molly: I think “Letters to a Young Poet” is something anyone who has even the slightest inkling they want to write should read. I read it when I first moved to LA and there are passages in that book that I think of daily.
SO: I think I know the answer to this, but optimist, pessimist, or realist, and why?
Molly: I’m a cocktail of all three. It depends on the time of day you get me. I wake up everyday as an optimist, though.