20 Questions Tuesday: 209 - Cuddlah Army

This is going to be an interesting 20 Questions because it is 20 questions with someone who wants to be relatively anonymous.  This person, in many ways is one of the voices for a throng of people who are fans of the comedy podcast Walking the Room. I had the occasion to interview both Greg and Dave a while ago, but this time I am interviewing someone who is a fan, someone who has joined into a disparate community of people with oddly similar senses of humor.  The sense of humor is truly the only tie that binds this group of people, and yet… in many cases, it is a very tight community.  Walking the Room’s fans have taken to calling themselves Cuddlahs, as a direct joke against the Juggalos who are fans of the insipid lyricists, the Insane Clown Posse (“Fucking Magnets, How do they work?”)... jackasses…. talentless hack jackasses

So, this week we are talking to Cuddlah Army from the Twitters… Cuddlah Army is kind of a marshal for all things Walking the Room.  This person is a critical node in the loose network of Cuddlahs.  So without further ado…. Cuddlah Army

So, if you have read any of my interviews, you know that I typically start out with the geographic story… I was born in Oklahoma City, moved to Montgomery, Alabama, Moved up to Birmingham, Alabama, went to college in Kent, Ohio, did my grad school in Columbus, Ohio and settled down there with my wife.  Question 1: What is your geographic story? Be as vague or as precise as you want…

I mostly grew up in small towns in Oklahoma, though I did live in Anchorage, Alaska for a few years when I was very young.  I went to college in Weatherford, Oklahoma, where I met my husband.  10 years ago we moved to a small town near Charlottesville, Virginia. We love it here and consider the Shenandoah Valley our home.

There is oddly a similarity between Oklahoma and Virginia… and there is always a similarity between small towns and other small towns.

Question 2: What do you think is the biggest difference between small town Oklahoma and small town Virginia?

The obvious difference here is the scenery and the weather.  In Oklahoma, the trees are short and squatty, the wind blows constantly, and there really isn’t much in the way of natural beauty.  They have been in a drought situation for a really long time and they tend to have more fires than they did when I was a kid.  The summers are miseable, with temperatures hanging in the hundreds for weeks on end.  It’s sort of like standing in the barrel of a hair dryer.  In Virginia, we have the mountains, the weather is more temperate, and it rains.  As far as small town politics, those are very similar. Unfortunately, I see more racism here, since Virginia is really considered “The South”. Luckily, we live near a college town, so we know liberals more so than we did in Oklahoma.

The rampant overt racism I found in The South is definitely one of the reasons I do not go back there.  Even though my parents still live in Birmingham.  The place is just not safe for me and my family, and I imagine that has not changed in the past 7 years (the last time I went down there).  So, come on South, get with the times.

So, quick question about the Twitter identity…. Question 3: Why Cuddlaharmy?  You, personally, are an individual, why not CuddlahGeneral or GeneralCuddlah?

It was never meant to be about me personally.  I see the Cuddlah Army as a collective… Anyone could run it, and maybe someone else will some day.  It all started because Sean Maclean (AKA Space Ghost) and I had an idea to do a Twitter bomb to celebrate Greg Behrendt’s birthday.  We had a huge response (for it being organized at 2 a.m. the day of the event), that we tried it again for Dave Anthony’s birthday and had so much participation that we registered on TrendsMap.  The whole thing sort of overwhelmed my personal Twitter account, so I created the Cuddlah Army Account.  I’ve been supported by other Cuddlahs along the way, including Mark Klein, who does most of the art, Ronnie Schiller Johnson who helps me think of hashtags, Sean who helps with strategy, and William Bowen, who made the watercolor skull with the clown nose.

It really is amazing how this particular community arose.  So, on a personal side, Question 4: What is it about Walking the Room and specifically Greg and Dave that has hooked you into this community?

I was looking for a podcast that would sort of distract me from my work, which bores me to tears.  I heard about the podcast through Patton Oswalt on Twitter, and decided to give it a listen.  I felt like I was at home from the very first episode.  I grew up with a bunch of brothers and male cousins, and they carry on in much the same way as Greg and Dave.  It gave me a way to hang out with my family once a week without having to deal with family politics.  I think the community has a shared sense of humor that sort of makes it easier for us to deal with one another.  Once you understand a person’s vibe, you can get to know them easier.  I have been able to make friends all across the US, and in Canada, Australia, England, and even Switzerland through this podcast community.  It sort of blows my mind.  Now that I’ve been able to attend a Starfish Circus, I have been fortunate enough to meet Greg and Dave.  They’re just the nicest guys.  I’m eternally grateful to them for putting this group of broken geniuses together. They were brilliant in that they created an identity for their fans, then gave them an outlet for their creativity and sadness.

I guess it is time for me to share my story of Walking the Room.  Greg Behrendt has always been a comedic idol of mine.  Well, not technically always, but after I saw him for the first time on the TVs, I was hooked into his particular brand of humor.  His bit about the abstract art and how it infuriated him until he realized it was about the frame so he punched someone (I could write the bit out from memory, but that would take too much time) is a bit that resides in my head all. the. time.  It is a bit of humor that gets me through the day.  Greg was on Never Not Funny and mentioned he was starting a podcast of his own and I was there.  Dave… I did not really know much about Dave, but I swear we could be close to the same person, if I were just a tad bit more bitter (okay, waaaaaay more bitter).  Like you said, Walking the Room was like “coming home” to a place I hadn’t lived before.

So I digitize and inventory holes in the ground for the transportation system in Ohio… Question 5: What is your dull, tear inducing vocation?

I audit physician coding, billing and documentation.  That’s a fancy way of saying I read medical records all day long and figure out what the physician should have billed, and how he/she could improve his/her notes.

Wow… Question 6: So what other podcasts do you listen to so that you can attempt to retain your sanity?

That list is ever-growing, mostly because I try to listen to podcasts by Cuddlahs whenever I can.  On the more well-known side, I listen to WTF, Superego, The Mental Illness Happy Hour, The Tobolowsky Files, The Moth, Science Friday, and This American Life.  Independent Cuddlah podcasts include Tales From the Attic (I was recently a guest), Toggle the Switch (I will be a guest in the coming weeks), and Going Postal.  I’m planning to listen to The Rigid Fist and The Midseason Replacements soon. [editor’s note:  Google these your damn selves]

I haven’t really jumped on any independent ones… Here is my list… TOFOP, Walking the Room, Never Not Funny, Nerdist, The Moth, Mental Illness Happy Hour, Sklarbro Country, The Dork Forest, You Made it Weird, The Pod F Thompkast, Big Pop Fun, Comedy Film Nerds, Smartest Man in the Universe, Doug Loves Movies, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History,  NSFW Show, Tech News Today, Fourcast, Framerate,  Talkin Toons, The Shot, Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, Weird Things, and Mysterious Universe.  I think that’s about it.  You know, not too many.  Listening to Kevin Pollak Chat show right now, and waiting for the mapping program to refresh. [editor’s note:  Google these your damn selves]

Curious minds want to know though…. Question 7: Cake or Pie? Which specific kind and why?

I generally don’t discriminate when it comes to dessert.  I like anything as long as it doesn’t have walnuts.  My favorite in the pie category would have to be something like a blueberry buckle or an apple crisp.  As for cakes, as long as it doesn’t taste factory-made I’m good.  I hate that frosting that comes in a plastic container in the store.  I’ll make my own buttercream, thank you very much.

Store bought frosting is an abomination… It should be dragged outside and beaten with a tire iron.

Question 8: So, other than podcasts, what do you do to pass your “free” time?  What does a CuddlahArmy do in an army downtime?

I have a husband and a seven year-old son who keep me pretty busy.  I love to cook, feed my friends, and walk my dog.  I’m the vice-president of my son’s school’s PTO, so right now I’m fundraising for next year.  I watch a fair amount of TV.

It is always a bit surprising when I find out that someone else who listens to Walking the Room has a family. It is surprising and somewhat uplifting.  It is nice to hear of someone who wallows in a broken sense of humor that also keeps up a “regular” lifestyle.

Question 9: So, Oklahoma and Alaska are not really known as a hotbed of comedy, where and how did you latch onto comedy?

I’ve always found that the best way to get through the trials of life is to laugh my way through it.  I once knew a wise elderly woman who said, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.”  I remember loving Bill Cosby as a kid, then later finding Saturday Night Live (Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, etc.)  The first R-rated movie I ever went to was “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”.  One of my brothers took me to see Eddie Murphy in “Raw”.  I think that’s what hooked me.

It is amazing how laughing will sometimes hold off weeping.  Simply amazing.  

So, I tend to cook more around the household because of how much I enjoy watching my kids eat something I prepared (seriously is there much better in parenting than knowing that you are sustaining your kids on a primary level?)  and I tend to rely heavily recipe books from books done by “The Editors of Cooks Illustrated.”  Question 10: For your cooking, do you rely on recipes, if so, do you use family recipes or do you rely on books/the internet and such… or do you just wing it and throw some stuff together?

I don’t usually use recipes, and when I do I tend to combine two or three recipes together.  I do follow the Cooks Illustrated stuff to the T however, at least the first time.  I’m not very creative outside of the kitchen, so food tends to be my canvas, so to speak.

Food is a wonderful milieu within which to work, and if one is truly gifted in that space, one’s family is super happy about that.

Question 11: Can you bake?  Baking and cooking are significantly different skills.
Unfortunately, I am not a baker.  I hope to rectify that one day.

I cannot bake to save my life.  I have trouble even with the just add eggs and oil baking.

Luckily though, where food is concerned: where I am weak, my wife is strong…

This next question is not judgmental, or at least it is not intended to be judgemental, because in many ways the questions is very much one I ask myself everyday when I am getting ready to go to my unfulfilling work… Question 12: It sounds to me like the medical records billing auditing job you do is not necessarily what you would love to be doing.  What do you want to be doing?

That’s a great question.  I have no idea.  I’ve found that I’m good at organizing people, changing processes, and doing big picture type things.  I also hate politics and prefer to be the one in charge.  I do this now because I can do it from home and it gives me more time to be home with my son and available to help out at school, etc.  Someday I’ll need to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  I have this fantasy that one day I’ll win the lottery and open a cooking school for kids.  Stay tuned.

It really is tough trying to determine what an appropriate career can be.  When you throw in the demands of a family on top of wanting your vocation to be fulfilling the difficulty of finding a worthwhile pursuit becomes even that much greater.

Ah, but is unlucky Question 13: Do you ascribe to any particular superstitions or have any specific rituals?

Not really.  I’m a lot more scientific than that.  I once took the Meyers-Briggs test and I was so far over on the “thinking” side of things my employees called me “Spock”.  I am a big believer in karma, however.

I don’t have many rituals anymore.  Basically I have a couple of mental calming rituals, but that is about all that is left of my superstitions and rituals.

I have been interested in this question for you in particular because in many ways you are more of a personality that is unassociated with a person and not recognized exactly as a person. Question 14: Fill in the blanks: “I find that I am mostly _________.”  ”Other people find that I am __________.”

Okay, I asked a dear friend of mine who has known be since 1986.  Here was her answer, and I agree completely:

Some people think I’m a control freak/ I think I’m conscientious.
Some people think I’m self-sufficient/ I think I’m self-sufficient because I surround myself with the right people.

Brilliant answers… I like the similarity of the answers which creates a sense of consistency and the discrepancy that indicates your individuality.  Digging it.  Digging it something fierce.

So I have adopted my Mother-in-law’s age-old adage of “Don’t let the fuckers get you down.”  Question 15: Do you have any family sayings, mottos, credos?  If so, where did it originate?

My husband’s grandmother always said, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.”  We spend a lot of time laughing whenever life gets hard to make it more tolerable.

Well I hope you are capable of laughing when things are good too.  It would be sad if you could only laugh when times were hard… and you laugh all the time.

Here we are at Sweet 16.  Question 16: As an avid consumer of online entertainment, how do you see the online content changing the overall landscape of the comedy “scene?”

Hmmm… well, I’m no expert, but I think we’ve all noticed some changes.  Comedians are developing a fan base through podcasts and social networking.  This is great because they can find people who truly “get” them, much like Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony are doing.  I think the approach Louis C.K. is taking is exciting.  I’m not sure if that model would work for just anyone, but he has definitely hit upon something.  I think we as fans are getting a lot of “free” content in the form of podcasts and tweets.  It will be interesting to see if they can make a living with live performances.  They have to find their fan base and then we as fans have to support them like crazy to make it work.

If anyone can find 2000 supporters willing to pay $40/year for their entertainment… one can make a pretty nice living (as long as you have NO overhead expenses).  I wish I could find 100 people willing to pay $20 a year for this crap I put out just so I can help out with the mortgage more (Donate at the bottom left!).  I know that if they could make it happen, I would be more than willing to make a micro-payment for ever episode of WTR, and then buy merch on top of that.  It will really be interesting to see how a Bo Burnham or some other rising comedic star makes this new landscape work.

Since I try to veer away from typical interview questions, there are often some “elephant in the living room” types of things out there or simply questions people wish I had asked, but did not know I should.  Therefore many people I ask questions hate this question, but here it goes… Question 17: Is there anything that you can think of that I should have asked you?

No… I mean, we made it clear that I’m female, right?  A lot of Cuddlahs assume I’m a guy for some reason.

The only clearer we could have made it would have been with pictures, but I ain’t running that kind of blog.

It is time to turn the tables a little bit, Question 18: Any questions you want to ask me?

How did you fare in the power outages?

We actually fared pretty well on the whole.  We lost power at about 5:30 pm on Friday the 29th and then our power was restored on Tuesday evening around 7 pm.  Luckily we got to miss the most vicious of the hot temperatures.  The issue was that for whatever reason our wireless router of 6 years went ka-put-ski. Most likely from age and nearly constant use, so we were unable to be a fully operational house until Thursday evening at about 9 pm.  Since then it has been blisteringly hot and our poor air conditioner has been getting a work out, but as of Saturday night when I am writing this answer, there are still a few people I know who are still without power.  It was really a nasty nasty wind storm.

Question 19:  What are you taking from this 20 Questions that you did not bring with you?

Ummm… that you are an incredibly patient man. [editor’s note: these 20 questions were answered over the course of 12 1/2 weeks]

You are very nice.  It is kind of like herding cats getting these things done.  Since they are email conversations, they can easily get dropped by the people I am questioning.  The people I ask questions have jobs, I have a job.  It is easy for these to be put on the back burner.  No worries.  When I start these I expect them to take a long time.

Question 20: So what is next for you? Be as clear or vague as you want and be as philosophical or concrete as you want.

What’s next… let’s see, I’m baking a chicken later today.  I don’t really have a lot of plans.  Cuddlah Army does what ever is needed, so that role will continue to evolve or devolve.  For me personally, I’m just really into watching my kid grow and change and become his own person. I want to be around him as much as possible so I can continue to enjoy that. As far as my career goes, I’m hoping someday I’ll have the guts to make a change, but that isn’t happening any time soon.  My family is my #1 priority. 

If we were Juggalos we would be chanting Fam-Muh-Lee right now, but we ain’t Juggalos.  We are Cuddlahs, and we are Army.

This was fun.  I am glad to have gotten a peek behind the curtain.

Please follow CuddlahArmy on the twitters.  and take a listen to her as a guest on the podcasts Tales from the Attic and Toggle the Switch.  Of course to get much more humor by listening to 2 guys expound upon why they aren’t popular, listen to Walking the Room.  It is one of the best podcasts out there because it just is.

To recap:
We are merely borrowing the house we are in right now
The buyers purchased it on Friday
We get kicked out on the 24th
We close on our new house this friday
We are not taking possession of that property until the afternoon of the 30th
We have a gap
And we will be uncomfortable during that gap
And probably stinky
I have a conference call this morning that is supposed to last for 2.5 hours
I will fight the urge to shoot myself and others
It will be a tough battle
But I will perservere
First thing Q said to her teacher upon entering her preschool today
“Crystal, Crystal, I went to Tucson and saw a Gila Monster”
Have a great weekend