JULIE KLAUSNER: Cat fancier, writer and creator of the hugely popular podcast, How Was Your Week
Location: New York City
Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your story?
I live in New York City, and I make a living as a writer of all sorts of things, but mostly television and occasionally books and articles. I love cats dearly. And dogs. I love animals, in general, and always have. They make me feel a very deep joy that isn’t a super-frequent occurrence in my life. I can laugh from my gut at an animal video when I feel unreachable otherwise.
How many cats do you own and what are their names?
I have one tuxedo cat, and his name is Jimmy Jazz. Before Jimmy, I lived with my beloved Smiley Muffin for 12 years. She was my heart. I miss her very dearly.
Anyone who listens to your podcast knows you’re a cat lover. Even your website’s filled with cats. What’s your personal history with felines?
I’ve always loved cats, but I didn’t grow up with them because my mom and brother claim to be allergic. But the very same month I moved into my own place after college, I got a cat. And she was the source of endless fascination and entertainment — just watching her, enjoying her personality and proclivities. Dare I say, she was my muse.
Cats are beyond “cute” to me. They have a pompousness, a high-status inflection of “I’m better than you,” that truly makes me laugh. Because, in reality, they’re pretty dumb – they have half the frontal lobe intelligence of dogs, but they act like they’re smarter than humans. They get away with murder because they’re soft, essentially. Their faces are naturally set in this disapproving expression, and then they’ll do something ridiculous — like fall off a chair or collect pieces of garbage to hide behind your couch. The disparity between their intelligence and their affectation is just so deeply funny to me – so much unfounded confidence. They are also wonderful pets that you never have to take outside in order to facilitate their going to the bathroom, and that’s ideal for writers and lazy people who aren’t crazy about leaving the apartment when it’s raining. And there’s nothing quite like a purring cat curled up to you. It really does melt your heart like a hot knife through butter.
How did you first hear about the Internet Cat Video Festival?
I can’t remember exactly when I heard about it, but it started popping up on my social media feeds, and I remember reading about it and thinking “I have to be a part of this.”
Both cat videos and the online brand you have established have proved to be far from fleeting phenomena. What’s the future for this type of cultural production?
It sounds cynical to say “more of the same,” but I mean it in the best possible way. Cats doing stuff will never not be fascinating to people who live with pet cats and who love cats (and there are a lot of us) – the more ordinary the scenario, the better. We like to see cats acting dumb and we always will. It’s hilarious and it’s adorable, and I’m not completely sure why. I guess there are people who collect photos of babies being silly; maybe it’s similar, only cats never grow up into adult humans.
This is a question we get all of the time, so we’re going to spin it back to you. Are cat videos art?
I think it depends on the cat video and the context. Whenever you show something in a museum, the meaning changes. But I don’t think intention matters when it comes to art. Whether you clicked “record” on your phone to amuse your boyfriend, or you set the stage to make a masterpiece, the good stuff rises to the top like cream.
You’ve produced a brand new video with Funny or Die that will premiere at this year’s festival: What can you tell us about it?
Well, I’m not a standup, so I always feel like I have to over-compensate whenever I go into live performances or hosting gigs — like I have to prepare a Powerpoint presentation, or a song and dance number to provide a good justification for why the hell I got the job.
So, I had this idea for a video [about the life of a cat video creator] and collaborated with Funny or Die, as well as with my pals Alex Scordelis and Jake Fogelnest, to make it. I got to work with a professional cat actor and his handler, and that was truly fascinating. Because pro cats are still cats. They won’t listen to you, even if they’re trained. They’re less skittish around people, I guess. But at one point, he was supposed to walk alongside me on a leash, and he was having NONE of that. It was completely cool, though – I picked him up and we had a lovely moment. But, yes. The moral of the story is: Cats are cats.
What are you working on now, cat-related or otherwise?
I’m writing for season three of [Funny or Die TV series] Billy on the Street and working on a couple of TV projects I hope to sell, plus a play I wrote and am rewriting. I do my podcast, How Was Your Week, every Friday [you can subscribe on iTunes!].
I’m also preparing for the next How Was Your Week Live at The Bell House, October 30, and another run of my cabaret show at Joe’s Pub the week before Thanksgiving.
What are your favorite cat videos?
Any parting thoughts on the Internet Cat Video Festival and other such offline celebrations of cat video culture?
I’m all for it. It’s so fun and funny and positive. Anything that brings people together over cat videos – I’m in favor.
Related event information:
Internet Cat Video Festival 2013 will take place August 28, 7 p.m. in the Minnesota State Fairgrounds Grandstand. Tickets are $10. Find details: http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2013/internet-cat-video-festival-2