Comedy Q&A with Claudia Oshry, “Girl With No Job”January 9, 2019 11:53 am Grant Walters
The Instagram star brings her virtual comedy to the live stage at the Columbus Funny Bone on Thursday
I am the complete opposite of a social media influencer.
I gleefully post clichéd pictures of plane wing sunsets and our dogs on a whim, ineffectively hashtagged and heavily Insta-filtered with vivid shades of ‘Juno’ (sometimes Hefe, if I’m feeling fancy). My ‘like’ hearts pop up in single digits, and I’m relentlessly followed by overseas spam accounts trying to sell me bracelets.
But, if you’re as savvy, enterprising, and dedicated to digital media as Claudia Oshry, you can develop your fledgling socials into a global phenomenon. The creative mind behind the massively popular Instagram account, @girlwithnojob, Oshry, 24, is a former New York University student who has amassed an audience of 3 million followers on the platform. What initially began as a Tumblr blog that chronicled the day-to-day misery of, and the fallout from, a bad fashion internship she held while at NYU, Oshry’s “Girl With No Job” identity quickly became a misnomer as her audience boomed and demanded her full-time attention.
Oshry also hosts and produces the entertainment news show, The Morning Toast, alongside her sister Jackie, which is streamed live on YouTube and Facebook weekday mornings. She was nominated for a 2016 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Social Media Star and the 2016 Shorty Awards’ Instagrammer of the Year, and also was named on Vogue’s 2015 “Best 15 Instagram Accounts,” and Tech Insider‘s “2015 Top 50 People on the Internet.”
Oshry is now taking her omnipresence one step further by turning her virtual comedy into a live show as she embarks on her Dirty Jeans Tour, a nod to her one-line Instagram account bio. Her faithful online followers are showing up in real life, too, filling up and selling out comedy clubs nationally — including her one-night engagement in Columbus on Thursday at The Funny Bone.
You have this wildly successful career built around social media that’s really almost empiric. How did you then translate that into a live comedy show with which you’re now touring the country and selling out venues?
“People have been telling me forever, ‘Oh, you’re so funny, you should do stand-up!’ And to be honest, the thought of doing stand-up for the first time in front of people and the possibility of them not laughing was enough to make me never do it. And it scared me a lot, honestly, and I’m not afraid of a lot. But, just the concept of being so vulnerable at something I’m brand new at was not something I was interested in. I put it off for a really long time, but I’ve been doing “Girl With No Job” for so long, and we’ve been doing so many different things with it like the morning show and the podcast. And I’m really open to [that] because you never know what’s going to work.
This is such a new, unprecedented industry, and I want to be the first person to do something that no-one else is doing. In the back of my mind, I knew for a while that this had to eventually be a live show, and that I was just going to have to do it, and it was a year ago that I decided to. It was the scariest day of my life. I couldn’t eat — which was a big deal for me — sleep…anything. And then I did it once and I was hooked, and each time I get a little less freaked out about it. Now I’m just so comfortable doing it that I can’t believe I waited so long.”
You’ve talked about millennials making up the lion’s share of your audience. There are a lot of opinions in the comedy industry about how younger generations are impacting and influencing it, and I’m wondering what you’ve learned about them as you’ve created your show?
“That’s a really interesting question, because one of the things that made me so nervous about starting this was that I know that my followers aren’t necessarily fans of comedy. They don’t go out on the weekend and go to different stand-up shows, you know? I mean, they love Amy Schumer, but she’s at a level now where everyone loves Amy Schumer. So, that kind of intimidated me in branding this as a stand-up show, because these aren’t typical comedy fans. And what I think surprised me the most is their openness to it. It’s a comedy show, but it’s very pop culture-based, which is really at the center of what I do. So, if you’re a millennial and you watch The Bachelor, or you watch Bravo, or you have any semblance of an idea of what goes on in pop culture, you’ll understand my show, and you’ll get all the jokes and references. If you’ve seen Mean Girls, you’ll get half the show.”
As your social media presence has evolved over the years, what’s been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
“I think the number one thing I’ve learned is not to stay stagnant, because all of these social networking apps, and just digital [media] in general, move so fast. If you’re, you know, successful on YouTube, you need to branch out. You need to figure out what’s next. I was on Instagram very early on, and then I got on Snapchat really early – and [it] really helped catapult my success on Instagram, ironically now that I’m not even on Snapchat anymore. It’s just about staying ahead of the curve. I have a younger sister, and I’m always saying to her, ‘What are your friends talking about? What are they doing?’ I have this need to know everything before everyone else does, because that’s really how you can find success in digital is to be the first to do something, not the last.”
I was able to watch an episode of The Morning Toast today, which you host with your sister, Jackie, and the two of you seem to be really in sync. What’s it been like to turn the work you’ve been doing into a family business?
“It’s amazing. I’ve never worked so closely with someone, and I think it’s for the best that we’re related because I’m so comfortable – and so is she – sharing stuff. It can be awkward, those workplace communications. If someone does something you don’t like, it’s just awkward, and then you have to put together an email with all these fake buzzwords. If I do something Jackie doesn’t like, she’s like, ‘Yo, you messed up.’ And, I’m, like, ‘Okay, I feel that,’ you know? The open communication is amazing. I’m a very family-oriented person, so getting to spend most of the day, every day, with my sister is the best.”
When you see people using Instagram, especially as they’re trying to create a presence that’s designed to promote something they’re doing, what are some of the mistakes they make that you might advise them to stop doing or change?
“When I see someone who’s trying to build an audience, and they’re doing it in a really inauthentic way. I can’t explain it in any other way. Users on social media know everything and they see everything, so if you’re being fake or just putting up a front, people see right through that. Even an average social media user is a professional, you know? And we live in this world where social media is so integrated in everyday life, so if you’re not authentic, or if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons…kids these days will say ‘Oh, I’ll make a YouTube account and I won’t have to get a job, and then I can be rich and famous.’ And that’s just so not how it works. If you come from that place and those kinds of intentions, people are going to see through it in a second.
Some of the best influencers I know fell into digital by accident, and that’s the best because they never intended to move to L.A. and afford a $10 million mansion, but they can just do that now – and good for them!”
When you meet your followers in real life, what are the things they talk about with you in terms of how they’ve connected with you and your content?
“Every interaction is so amazing and so special, and I feel so lucky to be able to meet people from the internet. I always say that I feel like the relationship I have with them is like a prison pen-pal relationship, because I speak to them, but we never meet. And then when we do get that chance, it’s so epic. I just let them talk and I sit and stare, because they have so much prepared. And most of the time…when I was in Miami a couple of weeks ago, it was two sisters and they said, ‘You know, we’ve had this kind of strained relationship, and we watch The Morning Toast and your stories and posts on Instagram, and it really brought so much closer.’ And they were crying when they said it to me, and I couldn’t handle it! Nobody’s ever said something that nice to me. And as someone who comes from a place of being so close with my sisters, I knew exactly what they were talking about. That was really special.
I know people really love my Instagram and the show, and it means a lot them. But, to hear it verbalized in a way where [they] cried – I was crying. We were a mess!”
For all of the people who are going to attend this show and have sold out the venue, what sort of mindset do you hope they’ll bring with them as they take their seats to see you perform?
“I would say the one thing to keep in mind – and this sort of applies to everything I do, but especially the live show – is that I really am aiming for the show to be a form of escapism for a lot of people. I know there’s a ton of crap that goes on in the world that’s really dark, and it’s hard to escape that sometimes even in some people’s personal lives. It’s just tough. Being alive is hard. So, for that 90 minutes, I want you to forget about all of that, and just be happy and laugh, and be surrounded by people who get you and understand you.”
What are your hopes for how we might use social media in the future? How would you like to see it evolve?
“I hope, actually, that social media can continue evolving in a way that allows for more in-real-life experiences. And that’s really on the backs of creators – people that I follow that do similar things to what I do, I love seeing how they interact with their fans, or how they take this experience offline and meet in person. It’s on us to do that, but I hope that we can move in the way of, ‘Let’s get off our phones every now and then and hang out, and talk to someone and make eye contact with one another.’”