As Twitter and web videos become more pervasive, new non-traditional comedy stars are emerging, building a noticeable following. In the case of recently-turned 18-year-old Shelby Fero, she has taken advantage of the groundswell in comedy on the Internet. She’s built up a presence with her Twitter feed (55,500+ followers at the time of this post), Cracked articles, and videos on website Hello Giggles. And she’s even gained a celebrity following; count Patton Oswalt as one of her fans. Whilst juggling all of that and majoring in screenwriting at USC’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts, we managed to get a few minutes to chat with Fero, so we can find out a little more about this burgeoning comedy powerhouse.
A lot of people call you a Twitter prodigy, myself included. How do you feel about that?
I have no problem with it. Anytime someone uses the word ‘prodigy’ to describe me, I’m not going to fight them. I don’t mind. I was just talking to someone recently about this and it’s just sort of the way that like Derrick Comedy came up. They were ‘YouTube people’ then were given a chance and went on to prove that they could write long form and perform on screen. That’s how I feel about my life. That’s fine. You can like me on Twitter and give me a chance on Twitter, but I hope you also recognize that I do write articles. I do stand-up. I do improv. I do screenwriting.
Still, you have a celebrity following. A lot of comics that are trying to build their online presence would kill for a following that you have– Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins. Norm Macdonald, even, at the National Lampoon Twitter Awards gave you a shout out.
Did he really?
Well, he followed me, then unfollowed me, then followed me again. So, I have no idea what he felt about me. Not that I hyper-consciously notice who unfollows me, but I did notice one day he unfollowed me and I figured that he only follows like 10 people and I tweet a lot. Still, it’s very exciting and anytime [it happens] it’s like, ‘Oh my god, great!’ I hope this person is following me because I’m making them laugh and they’re enjoying what I’m doing, but I also like it because I really like the thought that Twitter lets you connect with people personally. So it’s not like, ‘Oh, I get to connect with Patton Oswalt. I hope he gives me a job.’ It’s like, ‘I like Patton Oswalt. I hope he’ll just talk to me for a little bit.’
That’s good to hear. I think you’re taking it in stride, which I appreciate. You don’t resort to namedropping.
Oh, I can drop names, though. Uhh, Chris Park. That’s a name.
Yep. That’s a name.
Amy. That’s another one. Actually, that might be all that I can think of right now.
That’s some pretty good name-dropping.
Those are some names.
You’re one of the few people I’ve noticed on Twitter that have developed a voice through tweeting, which is really hard for people that are even good at stand-up. For instance, Megan Amram is very absurdist in her tweets and you’re very self-deprecating and it works. How did you decide that’s what you wanted to do with tweeting?
It definitely took me awhile to sort of hone it, I think, but I think that I’ve always been a sort of self-deprecating person. I’ve always thought that that wasn’t necessarily the funniest thing because sometimes, self-deprecating humor is painful and, sometimes, it’s really funny to have a ridiculous one-liner or quote or fake something, but that’s very much how I think and I started tweeting very heavily senior year when almost all my best friends had graduated. I was really done with high school and I was sort of miserable in class and I think it just sorta came out like that.
What was the timeline of your writing? Did you do Twitter then write for Cracked…?
I did Cracked first for awhile before I got on Twitter.
Cool. How did you get on Cracked?
They actually have an open thing where anyone can submit articles. It’s like a workshop type thing. So, I did that and at the tail-end of my junior year. Then they just let me plug something at the end, so I said, follow me on Twitter, but I didn’t really use it. Then, I slowly started using Twitter more. Those Cracked people have been so good to me. I’ve sold them a sketch. I haven’t written an article for them in a long time, but they did Crash Test [Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel's live UCB show] with me a few weeks ago that we wrote together. They’re great people.
So in the progression of things, it went Cracked, Twitter, then Hello Giggles?
Are you a main contributor now?
No, I just post there occasionally. I know Sophia [Rossi] and Molly [McAleer] and so they asked me if I wanted to write. So, I’ll just throw some up every now and then.
Your interview videos for them are really funny.
Yeah, they let me do the videos, which are real fun. Every time they get a chance to, they’ll just ask if I want to do it. If I have a ‘good idea,’ I’ll say yes.
Meaning not planning out questions?
I’ll say, ‘So I’m gonna go in completely unprepared, what do you think?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, OK.’
That’s good to hear as a lot of interviews I read sound very rote when they go, ‘So, how did you get your start in comedy?’
Exactly. I just figure that if I have five minutes with David Arquette, there’s no way in hell I’m going to ask him, ‘How were the Scream movies?’ I’m going to make a complete ass of myself.
With all of that being said, you’re more than an online personality, as you’ve already said. Let’s talk about your stand-up, sketch and improv.
I’ve been trying to do stand-up. I’ve done Magic Bag [DC Pierson's stand-up show in LA] a few times. I’ve done some other open mics. I’m actually not as into stand-up as I know that I probably will be in awhile because I don’t think I have enough to say right now in stand-up, but I’m on USC’s improv team. I really like that. I got to read a story at Hello Giggles storytelling show [at UCB]. I’m writing for Punk’d right now. That’s coming back.
Wait a minute. Punk’d is scripted?
Oh, I’m just “punk’ing” you. It’s totally made up.
That’s good to hear, but you want to get into stand-up?
I think that I will probably get more into it, just sort of naturally, I’ll either get more into or phase it out.
That’s usually what happens. That’s what happened to me. I can’t look back now, though. I’m doing an open mic right after this.
Oh no. See, I think some people get really bitten by the stand-up bug. That’s never happened. I like sketch and I like improv and I like acting, but, for some reason, stand-up is still like… I know my stuff’s not that good, so…
I wouldn’t really worry about that, Shelby. I know a lot of people worry about that. A lot of comics that were great in their town that they came from, when they come here they worry about that. LA is so big and the comedy scene has so many comics and performers, even if you have a bad set, most people forget about it.
It’s true. It’s more that I feel bad subjecting you to this terrible material. You should not have to listen to this.
Well, if you’re going to stand-up, you have to bomb. There’s no way of getting around it.
I wish I could be in a place that I know I’ll be in five years from now with my stand-up. You know what I mean? Five years of just working out and stuff; I wish I was there right now.
A lot of people would probably say that you’re on the forefront of comedy right now. What do you think is the future of comedy?
I think… well, I don’t know if it’s come and gone a little bit, but I think sketch is going to come back so much harder than ever. I think Upright Citizens Brigade was way too early before its time. I tell all the other kids in my class that are all worried about getting internships at Paramount or Fox Studios, ‘Why don’t you get an internship at Funny or Die or Cracked?’ They’re super nice. They’ll let you go on shoots. You’re basically making 20 movies in two months instead of one movie in two months. Learning how to do sketch or web videos is so helpful. Nick Kroll’s new show is coming out that I’m pretty sure is going to be like Summer Heights High vignettes type thing. I personally like sketch shows. I still watch Saturday Night Live because it’s OK to have 10 terrible sketches, if you have one that’s amazing. That’s the whole point. I think Twitter will be around for a few more years. I don’t see why it wouldn’t. It doesn’t seem to becoming uncool.
I don’t think so.
But that’s definitely not… I hope that’s not the future. It’s great for short things and ideas.
At the same time, Rob Delaney surpasses club owners and tours because of his online following. Several other comics that have a huge number of Twitter followers, they’ll just tweet that they’re performing somewhere and sell out the place while it’s only a fraction of that following.
Sure, but I think that’s how it always was. Like, Paul F. Tompkins even before he was on Twitter, if you saw online somewhere that a Paul F. Tompkins show was happening; he’d get 500 people to show up just because he always had a group that liked him.
What would you like the future of comedy to be?
I don’t know. It’s interesting. Because I’m a woman, so I’m obligated to talk about girls in comedy, I guess. I hope comedy becomes even more gender neutral. I hope in sketches in stuff, there will be girls who just play ‘a girl’ and not play a role that has any jokes about them being a girl. You know what I mean?
Yep. There are plenty of flyers around for comedy that promote, ‘featuring an all female cast…’ Why is that a thing?
Yeah, exactly. What happened to Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion? That was basically a girl buddy coming of age film. It was basically, the female Superbad, kind of. How did that get made back then and nothing else has been? And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making a joke about having a vagina. Dudes make jokes about having a dick all the time, but if someone does, it’s like ‘oh, of course they’re playing up the woman card.’ No, like they’re playing up the person card. They’re a human being.
Absolutely. It’s the same argument when comics talk about doing airplane material…
Yeah, I was on an airplane…
…and a crazy thing happened to me…
Why wouldn’t I tell this story?
To me, no matter what you do, stand-up, sketch, improv, blogging, tweeting, if you’re sincere in what you do, that means more than anything else.
Exactly. Pete Holmes has a bit just about when he’s driving that he’s sure someone is in the back of the car, which is something that literally happens to everyone in the world. And, it was the funniest thing, I’ve heard in my life. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, that experience… how old?’ He’s talking about it in a new and amazing way.