Meg Stalter Skipped Straight from the Internet to “Hacks”

Pre-pandemic, what was your life like? Can you describe what you were doing, the state of your career, of your life, where you were living? What was going on?

I had just moved to New York six or seven months before the pandemic. I was having the time of my life on different shows every night, and I was, like, “Oh, this is the dream. This is the New York dream.” I think that’s when I first started getting any traction online. I do remember, right before the pandemic, my first couple of videos that had ever gone—not viral, but a lot of people were watching, more than normal for me. I think one video was—it was, like, the woman in the movie who almost hooks up with the lead before he goes off to find his real true love, or something like that.

I remember that one.

And I was, like, “Oh, my God, wow, I’m really doing it. I’m in New York and I’m doing these shows at night, and people are watching my stuff online.” Then I think the real attention came with the pandemic. It really changed everything, and [I] was not focusing on trying to get people to see it, to be honest. I just was doing these really crazy themed Instagram Lives overnight, because I was so alone, and I was, like, “This is a fun way to feel connected.” Or even posting stuff, I’m, like, “Oh, this is like a creative outlet, because we can’t perform live right now,” and it was really scary and sad for me. I was just trying to stay afloat. I was just trying not to lose my mind. It was so scary, but then things were happening for me, too, online.

It’s this weird combination of a horrible moment for the world slash good time for Meg’s career. I want to look at one of the videos that really went viral during the pandemic. “Hi, gay” was from June of 2021. It was a video for Pride Month.

That video, I literally was rushing out the door. It was Pride Month, and I’ve just seen so many ads from places that would never normally do a Pride thing. It just was, like, something clicked—where it was, like, “God, that would be so funny.”

It’s obviously a great satire of how companies co-opt the language of Pride to sell products during June. To me, what’s so funny about it is that it’s more than that. You see this character who is just so unused to being on camera just trying and failing to be presentable and pull this off.

The whole thing, I’m reading off the computer, so all of what I said was written. I normally like to improv with the videos, but that one, I was, like, “It’d be funny if it looks scripted and looks like I’m reading off a script.” I think what I’m drawn to, when people-watching or getting inspired to do a character, is people that are really fully themselves out loud. They’re different than everyone else, but they are so themselves that it doesn’t matter what other people think of them.

Well, there’s something about your characters that represent the breadth of American idiocy. There’s this one video I love where you play a woman in her car who has just been to Starbucks and is outraged.

Yeah.

Of course, we all have followed these people who get outraged about the “war on Christmas,” or whatever. In a way, online culture has made everyone a kind of on-camera performer. You do really capture the sense that so many people are performing for the camera nowadays who just aren’t up for it. You can see them trying and failing. It’s like we’re all performers now.

Everyone feels this pressure. Everybody wants to be famous or go viral. It’s fun to make fun of and to explore, like, “Why do people feel that way? Why do people feel the pressure to do that?” That’s what’s so funny about these front-facing video characters, because, like that video, a lot of people thought that was real. That’s what’s so funny.

Really?

Yes, I think my favorite characters to watch are people that feel real, even if they’re bonkers. They just feel, like, “Oh, well, I know that woman.” Like that church woman, even though she was saying crazy things about the Starbucks employee and celebrating Halloween, she’s so real.

What kind of things were people saying on Twitter who thought it was real?

People were upset with her, this character, and saying, “Wow, I don’t think a Christian should be yelling at a barista” or, like, “You’re not the real kind of Christian.” Or “I don’t think God would like that.” The other thing is I really liked the low quality of the videos because it almost feels like the person’s even more real—because it’s like they filmed it themselves. The fun thing is you can prank people if they don’t follow you. There’s so much of that content now online that you can put yours up and people think you’re serious, and that’s really a part of the joke for me.

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