comedian gaby dunn is the unlikely financial guru of the youtube generation
Which would you rather answer: What is your favorite sexual position or how much money is in your bank account?
On Just Between Us, her advice and comedy show on YouTube, comedian Gaby Dunn questions the queerness of a crush and pushes the rules of polyamorous relationships. "Here are all the rules of polyamory you've ever told me or nosy strangers," says best friend Allison Raskin, who hands her a numbered list. "And here I was thinking I could just fuck whoever I wanted, whenever I wanted," Gaby retorts. In addition to the weekly sketches, which are posted online every Thursday, Gaby and Allison also field questions—such as "How do I accept my small boobs" and "How do I find a husband on Tinder"—from their more than 700,000 subscribers. "People always give this advice about if you want to get into a serious relationship hold off about sexual stuff," Gaby says in one video, "but everyone I've been in a serious relationship with, I've had sex with them before we were in a relationship." Though most of what she does is done with humor, there is also earnestness to her work. Gaby is outspoken about her sexuality, and critical of companies that take advantage of their creative employees. She also tackles financial taboos on her highly regarded Bad With Money podcast on Panoply. In the first episode, for example, Gaby asks strangers in a coffee shop two questions: "What is your favorite sexual position?" and "How much money is in your bank account?" Most people answer the first with ease, but are silent in response to the second. "I realized money might be more of an embarrassing subject than sex," Gaby tells i-D in the following interview, "and so I wanted to lean into that." In asking the uncomfortable questions and speaking out about her experiences, Gaby has become an unlikely financial guru for young creatives. Here's how.
When did you first realize you wanted to do comedy?
I was 18-years-old and a freshman in college. I always loved stand-up specials on TV and religiously watched SNL and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart but I didn't think of comedy as being any different than acting. I thought actors were comedians and vice versa, and I knew I didn't want to be an actor so I never thought to pursue it. Then, at school, I saw kids performing in improv or sketch comedy troupes and I went to my first open mic for stand up and saw that the people doing comedy weren't necessarily into acting. They just liked comedy and it was its own thing. So I auditioned for a sketch troupe and shockingly I got in. That changed everything. But it was four years of me in the writers' room. I didn't get on stage until my senior year after I'd already started doing stand up. It was a slow process to realize I didn't have to just be a writer. I could also perform my own stuff.
How did you meet [best friend and comedy partner] Allison, and how did Just Between Us begin?
We met at an open mic and started hanging out all the time. We decided to do a project together, either a web series or a podcast, and since she'd done web series before we decided to find something we could shoot easily and shoot a lot of in a day and hence the couch show was born!
How did you decide on the characters you each would play, and, what real parts of you was it important to maintain? How important was it that your character be bisexual?
Oh, they're based on our real personalities. I never wanted to do something that wasn't authentic or based in reality because I know online, people really connect with real people making videos. My character identifies as bisexual, as do I in real life. It wasn't such a conscious decision. I just wanted to be myself and portray the real life of a real bisexual person living in the world without all the melodrama of coming out or "choosing" that is usually shown in media.
You recently wrote an article about your past jobs at Buzzfeed and Thought Catalog, and the experience with signing away your rights. But, for example, if you're 22 and don't have any experience, is there an alternative? What can young people do to protect themselves and still gain experience?
I think they can take the job, they just have to be careful and be on the lookout for the next thing. They can't get complacent or think the company is going to protect them. They should keep doing projects on their own on the side, even if it has to be in secret, and they should keep in mind that the job might only last a couple years, if they're lucky. It's not a matter of not taking the gig, because obviously people need health insurance and money to live. It's just a matter of doing so with your eyes and ears open.
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
Oh! I'd probably kiss a lot more of the girls who hung out in my room during college. Does that count?
Why did you start the Bad With Money podcast? What's your biggest takeaway from it so far?
I started it because I noticed no one wanted to talk about their problems with money but everyone wanted to talk about sex, which is arguably a more taboo topic. I realized money might be more of an embarrassing subject than sex, and so I wanted to lean into that. My biggest takeaway is that no one really knows what they're doing. Everyone is guessing. But that doesn't mean you should bury your head in the sand. You have to face the difficulty of finances, and ask what you think might be stupid questions. You can't be afraid to look dumb because in the end, it only hurts you. And open your mail, for God's sake.
What's your best piece of bad advice
It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be done.
Text Zio Baritaux
Portrait CJ Johnson