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Anna Drezen Okay Get Home Safe
Anna DrezenPhoto by Mindy Tucker

Anna Drezen is the comic and former Reductress editor obsessed with murder

We talk to the SNL writer about her new show Okay Get Home Safe, dog grooming, and why her favourite thing is people behaving poorly

To kick off her one-woman Fringe stand up set, American comedian Anna Drezen shows video footage of women being interviewed at serial killer Ted Bundy’s murder trial. They are simultaneously repulsed and compelled by him. The more we watch them try to pretend that they don’t sort of fancy him, the more derranged the footage becomes. This deranged paradox is at the heart of Drezen’s show, Okay Get Home Safe, which is mostly about why we’re compelled to watch true crime, but also a bit about the money she wasted on acting school and her difficulty finding a good bra.

As well as working as performing at Edinburgh Fringe, Drezen has been a dog groomer, an editor-at-large for the satirical news website Reductress – which hilariously parodies women’s magazines – and for the last few years, a writer on Saturday Night Live. Before her set in Edinburgh, we asked her to tell us more about Okay Get Home Safe, walk us through her incredible comedy writing CV and recommend the best true crime podcasts out there. 

Talk us through the inspo for Okay Get Home Safe, how would you describe it to someone who hasn’t seen it?

Anna Drezen: My show is an hour of stand up that I’ve been working on for a couple of years. Essentially it’s about my obsession with true crime. There’s a lot of danger messaging for mostly women but also other people. A lot of “be careful!” We get told a lot about danger and then we get obsessed with danger. There are entire TV channel in the States for people who are obsessed with danger. We have true crime because we like looking at scary things. I love true crime personally and listen to a lot of murder podcasts. I think it’s interesting how it’s such a big thing and I’m interested in my own obsession. People interested in their own obsession are the beating heart of Fringe. But... murder, why do we like this? 

It’s like rolling head syndrome – is that what it’s called when you drive past a car crash and you don’t want to look but you really do want to look?

Anna Drezen: If I saw a rolling head I think it would take me a really long time to figure out what it was because you never see it that way, it’s always on a person. That’s exactly it though. When we go to the aquarium we want to see the sharks, no one is looking at jellyfish! The stakes are too low. People want to see high stakes. When people tell you there’s danger out there you don’t want to sit around and wait for it, you want to face it on your own terms. Hence why I have watched hours upon hours of crimes from before when I was born.

Your show opens with footage of women obsessed with Ted Bundy. Why Bundy? 

Anna Drezen: He’s having a moment, he’s got a lot of buzz this summer. I just think it’s funny how he’s a consumer product now. People are like “what’s this obsession with Ted Bundy?” I play this video at the beginning of the show of a newscaster from 1979 from the Ted Bundy trial, basically saying, “what’s the deal with Ted Bundy? Why do women like it?” I don’t find him that interesting, but I find the obsession around him very interesting. I don’t think he’s that hot. I think he’s OK.

Anyway, what he did was so clearly awful but you’ll see in the video that there’s these women saying, “I don’t know whether he did it or not” or “I’m so scared of him but I’m here at his trial anyway”. One woman at the trial feels bad for him because he has to look at pictures of bloody pillows! It’s crazy to think how that thought process works. 

“I’ve seen so many reviews of women’s shows in this year’s Fringe of people being like, ‘well, if only she had opened up more’. Fuck off, that is so inappropriate” – Anna Drezen

You play a lot on this idea of having to mime your trauma as a comedian. Can you explain a bit more about that? 

Anna Drezen: In general, it’s the trend with live comedy and TV or film comedy. The idea of “think of the worst thing that’s ever happened to you and tell us about it.” Why is that the go-to? #MeToo is incredible but it sucks that we have to divulge these horrible things in order for someone else have some baseline empathy for us. It’s exhausting. That [sexual assault] stuff is not the most interesting stuff that I’ve experienced and I don’t feel like talking about it but people are like, “if it happened, isn’t that really what the show is about?”

I’ve seen so many reviews of women’s shows in this year’s Fringe of people being like, “well, if only she had opened up more”. Fuck off, that is so inappropriate. Who cares? No one is saying that about men’s shows. You’re allowed to just write jokes. “If only she had haemorrhaged something she hadn’t quite processed for herself on stage before me, then I would’ve liked her comedy more!” I just don’t get that. 

Agreed. I like the part in the show where you read out fake sponcon and ads as though you were on a true crime podcast. Actually, as a true crime fanatic, what is your favourite podcast?

Anna Drezen: I really like Criminal by Phoebe Judge. I also really like My Favourite Murder, which is two comedians doing murder of the week. It’s a bit like All Killa No Filla, that’s like the British My Favourite Murder

“My Favourite Murder” is a wild name.

Anna Drezen: Yeah, it’s really funny. It’s like stating facts and then doing jokes in between. It’s dealt with very well, the joke is never about the victim, it’s always about the investigation or the media coverage.

I think the point where I laughed most in your show was when you talk about that murderer who blamed his wife’s killing on an owl.

Anna Drezen: The owl theory for the Staircase Murder is my favourite thing to think about, it’s unbelievable.

Before you made comedy about danger, what were you writing about, like when you started out?

Anna DrezenOh god. I wrote about working as a dog groomer in college. My first jokes were about weird dogs from dog grooming. Very niche but people actually love dogs. It was like a behind-the-scenes look at dogs.

It seems like it’s tricky to pay the bills with comedy – did you have a lot of these side jobs?

Anna Drezen: Yeah. My attitude in college was that I’d do acting and comedy when I graduated and just see what took off. Comedy was a lot more fun for me and easier to do, plus people weren’t clamouring for me to be in their films and TV shows! I scammed my way onto my first comedy show. There was a barker on 34th Street - a guy promoting a comedy show - and he went to give me a flier so I said I was a comedian. He asked me if I wanted to do a set and I said sure. I did not get asked back. But yes, I was doing a lot of those side jobs while also doing stand up. I worked at the dog groomer, at a restaurant, I was a babysitter and I worked as a concierge in a hotel for four years. I was an office manager for a ticket scalper for a little while. I was also writing for a satire website called Reductress

Reductress is absolutely hilarious and incredible. How would you describe it for those who don’t know? How did you get involved? And what was it like working with them?

Anna DrezenDo people know what The Onion is here? The Onion is a fake newspaper that satirises the news and I guess you would say Reductress is a fake women’s magazine that satirises women’s media. I got involved through my friend Josh Gondelman, he’s a comic. I saw it and was instantly annoyed that I hadn’t thought of it. He told me that I could talk to them and I started with them as a writer, editor and hosted live shows. I wrote a book with them too. I really liked that it was satire for women’s experiences. It’s nice to do something that can be completely useless politically or really have a take. Pre-#MeToo, there was a comedian in New York that was banned from a few theatres for rape. He was very upset that he was kicked out so he wrote a long, angry post and it started a mini #MeToo moment. We did a full-site takeover of Reductress with stories about men and rape culture. It was refreshing to have funny women talking about this stuff that’s meant to be so unseen.

You now write on Saturday Night Live! How did that come about? 

Anna Drezen: I failed for ten years, got miserable, became an alcoholic and felt really sad all the time. I had one good thing happen (that job) and that was great. Highly recommend this can’t fail process! It happened when I was writing for Reductress and one of the head writers saw my work there. They also sort of knew me from around UCB doing stand up a little bit. He had me submit a packet of sketches.

I always wondered what the job application process is for SNL

Anna Drezen: It’s three to five sketches. A commercial parody, a political sketch and character sketch. 

Is that your full time job? 

Anna Drezen: Um, yeah… I’m there like 80 hours a week. I’m a writing supervisor so I’m in a lot of the meetings. It’s crazy, doing a show a week, you just stay so late. And this coming year will be my fourth year. I started in 2016.

How did it feel when you started working there? I’d imagine that’s the most nerve-wracking writing room you can possibly walk into on the planet.  

Anna Drezen: It was crazy. I was very overwhelmed but the good thing about being overwhelmed is that there’s a limit to how overwhelmed you can be. I hit the ceiling with that pretty soon. Soon after it felt like a new normal to be freaked out and I was able to function within that until I became less overwhelmed. I had seen every famous person in the first three days because you have to meet with the hosts and pitch them ideas to see what they’re into. We do a read through of 35 sketches and then they pick ten or so from there. 

There must be so many from the last four years but what’s a sketch that you’re proud of? 

Anna Drezen: I really had a great time with “Nephew Pageant” that I wrote with Aidy Bryant. It’s basically a Miss America but for fantastic nephews and just celebrating how good nephews they are – strengths, weakness, likes and dislikes. I have a lot of cousins and nephew culture is not being talked about as much as helping your sibling or being good at sports. 

It doesn’t get a lot of airtime. 

Anna Drezen: It really doesn’t. You just don’t hear about nephews. It was done with Kit Harrington and I didn’t even realise that that was the plot twist of Season Eight of Game of Thrones was that he was Daenerys’ nephew. I only got it a month after the show was up. We’ve been watching twins have sex for five years, I don’t know why we’re supposed to be shocked by this. 

“I’m just interested in people behaving poorly, it’s my favourite” – Anna Drezen

Have you seen anything you would recommend at Fringe? 

Anna DrezenIt’s overwhelming. But everything I’ve seen has been so good, I’m dying for a bad show. I really loved Jena Freidman’s hour, it’s called Miscarriage of Justice. She’s an American comedian and she does political comedy. It’s so well written, so smart and very biting. I loved Courtney Pauroso’s show too. I saw Laura Davis, this Australian comedian do an amazing show on a bus. There’s so many shows of women making shows for ourselves and not prioritising the hashtag male gaze, which is great.

What are you up to after Fringe?

Anna DrezenI think as Americans we have the privilege of being able to come here and work stuff out away from our industry whereas for everyone else this can be the final presentation of the piece. You can come here to see how you feel about things and work out the show to maybe then do it back in New York. I’m definitely interested in that, and those girls from the video. I just started writing a play about girls who go to see Ted Bundy. I am also working on a pilot about a cult. I’m just interested in people behaving poorly, it’s my favourite. 

See Anna Drezen: Okay Get Home Safe! at the Pleasance at Edinburgh Festival Fringe until August 25.