Meet My Friends is an occasional series here on on Having a Ball Having it All where I chat with women I know about how they balance their hobbies, jobs, relationships, menstrual cycles, and other the things that make them tick.
Today I’m super excited to introduce you to Meghan O’Keefe, an entertainment reporter, comedian and writer whom I met through the comedy scene in NYC.
Let’s hear how she went from being a nerdy middle schooler to being… well, a nerdy, badass and successful entertainment reporter. Also featured: Judi Dench.
Tell the nice people what you do for Decider.com (and for those who aren’t familiar, what’s the site all about?).
Oh, sure! Well, first of all, Decider.com is a website that’s all about streaming entertainment and culture. Meaning, we write with wit and enthusiasm about all your favorite shows and movies, but we always do so with an eye on streaming. Think Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Amazon Prime, YouTube, etc.
My official title is Digital Reporter/Producer. I write about three blog posts a day that range from news stories to celebrity interviews, humor pieces to op eds, critical reviews and good old fashioned click bait. I’m also in charge of our video production and I write and star in a weekly service series called Decider Streamline. I’m essentially an entertainment reporter — but in the digital age.
How did you end up doing this for a living? Is it what you thought you’d be when you grew up?
I kind of fell into it. And by “fell into it,” I mean that everything I loved, read, wrote, watched, and did in my entire life sort of led me to this path. I’ve always wanted to be a writer — and I’ve always rabidly consumed entertainment news. When I moved to New York City five years ago, my goal was to be the next Tina Fey. That didn’t happen. But while I was taking sketch and improv classes, and doing open mics every night, I also starting blogging hardcore. I started writing for a small alt comedy site called The Apiary with the goal of learning more about the scene and getting to interview comics I admired. That led to work at Splitsider and the Hairpin, which led to my tenures at HuffPost and Hello Giggles, which led to freelance work at the Observer and Guardian.
A few years ago, I really wanted to transition from being an admin moonlighting as a writer to being a full-time writer. I sort of wished this into the universe and a good pal of mine from comedy, Halle Keifer, emailed me to see if I wanted to apply for her old job at VH1.com. Ironically, the editor there, Mark Graham, had wanted to reach out me anyway because he had been lurking on my tumblr for years. He hired me there; we worked together for about a year, and then he brought me with him when he launched Decider.
I didn’t think this was what I was going to be when I grew up. I always thought I’d be a novelist or journalist or comedian or director or a kangaroo catcher. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I used to think that I could do this job when I grew up. I used to read Entertainment Weekly and Movieline and think, “That’d be a cool job,” and “I would be good at knowing all about TV and movies and having fun opinions about them.”
What advice do you have for recent college graduates looking for creatively fulfilling work?
In all seriousness, I think that it’s important to first find a job where you can cover your cost of living that doesn’t suck your soul dry. Not everyone is going to land the job of their dreams right out of college. In fact, I think no one does. You’ve got to pay your dues and you’ve also got to remember that if your destiny is to be creative, you will find a way to be so no matter what. No one’s going to tell you that you’re the next big thing in a creative field; you have to show them with your hustle. Perhaps that’s not inspiring, but it’s practical.
I feel like you’re someone who proudly wears the “nerd” label…but that growing up, it wasn’t so easy for you to embrace. What does it mean to you to be a nerd, and how/when did it become something you were comfortable (let alone proud) to call yourself?
I guess that happened in high school? Middle school was really tough for me, but I found that science fiction and fantasy were my escapes. They were the things that kept from really spiraling into darkness. So, by the time that high school rolled around, I basically knew that I loved being a nerd so much that it was worth being proud of. Well, I was still a little embarrassed, but I knew it was better to be myself than to be miserable.
Being a nerd just means that you take pleasure in more intellectual pursuits — but that you take that pleasure to an obsessive degree that seems strange to others.
What’s your version of “having it all”? What’s “it all” — and do you have it?
I think it just means you have fulfillment in work and in your personal life. It means that you have a job that makes you feel useful and that pays the rent and that you are surrounded by people who cherish you. That can mean different things to different people, though.
I think I do have it all and I also think I will never have it all. I say that because I do really like my job right now and I surround myself with wonderful people, but I’m also the kind of person who is always striving for more. I’m not happy unless I’ve learned something more or improved upon myself in a given day. So, while I’ll never be totally satisfied, that chase is what makes me happy. It’s a weird Catch 22.
Who or what makes you laugh?
I think that Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench are hilarious in A Room With A View. I don’t know why they don’t get more credit for being hilarious. I really like it when hypocrisy is acknowledged. I also like jokes about butts. I don’t know. I just like silly stuff.
You’re the youngest of, like, a thousand children. Or seven. Something like that. How do you think that affects you?
Well, I’m the youngest of four (*editor’s note: this is apparently a bit of a Rorschach test, i.e. apparently I think four is an enormous number of kids to have), but there’s a huge gap between me and the other three. I think the age gap has affected me more than being the baby. I grew up in almost a different family than my sisters, so while I always felt like we were siblings, I also felt excluded. That feeling of always being an outsider, even when you’re part of the group, sort of strikes to the core of who I am and how I see the world.
I’m going to steal from Inside the Actor’s Studio/the Proust questionnaire and ask, what profession would you LEAST like to attempt, and why?
Virgin sacrifice. I like sex and I don’t like dying.
Who are your role models?
My mom. She’s the bee’s knees and the most amazing person I know. She’s so calm and strong and kind and patient, and she’s indefatigably curious and open-minded. She makes me want to be a smarter and better person, and yet, she also is the one person on Earth who thinks I’m perfect the way I am.
Also, Eleanor of Aquitaine, because I don’t know if I would have the courage to ride a horse bare chested into battle in the middle ages.
Bonus question: If you were trapped on a desert island, and could order one meal from Seamless.com to be delivered every day, over and over again, until eternity, what would it be?
Cheese fries. But the cheese has to be real cheese and there needs to be tons of ketchup.