In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
The other week, actor Dylan Gelula tweeted a teary-eyed video message to her followers, apologizing for sharing a photo of a Trader Joe’s marquee that read, “Let’s give them pumpkin to taste about.” And while one might actually take offense to a marketing pun so crude and nonsensical, Gelula’s pleas for mercy were, of course, a well-acted joke. “My mom told me I have to add a tweet that says, ‘I’m just kidding guys!’” Gelula confessed, but the bit was just another example of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star’s drolly incisive sense of humor about the internet and what it means to be a “public figure” in today’s world.
And while Gelula’s dry and self-effacing social media presence may lead you to believe she doesn’t take much seriously, the actor has been building quite a serious career for herself. Since her breakout role in Kimmy Schmidt, Gelula’s been popping up in an impressive roster of independent films, including the Sundance Award-winning First Girl I Loved, Andrew Bujalski’s cathartic Support The Girls, and the riotous Her Smell from Alex Ross Perry. Next up, she co-stars in the charming college comedy Shithouse from first-time writer-director-star Cooper Raiff. Although Shithouse’s big SXSW premiere was canceled due to COVID-19 (along with the rest of the festival), it still claimed the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature in its virtual competition, and now it’s finally coming to select theaters and VOD services via IFC Films.
Shithouse’s October 16 release date provided The A.V. Club with the opportunity to log onto Zoom with Gelula for 11 Questions. Predictably, Gelula’s answers—and, in one case, her refusal to answer—our random questions were hilarious and sharply observed, chastising pet Instagram accounts that post in the first-person, praising the sexiness of Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show, and calling into question the legacy of our suspiciously prolific founding father, Benjamin Franklin.
The A.V. Club: So, for 11 Questions, we’re going to ask you the same list of questions we’ve asked everyone who’s done the feature this year. It is very random, but that’s by design.
Dylan Gelula: Okay, I’m going to leave! [Laughs.]
AVC: Well, this is on Zoom—I can’t stop you from leaving the chat.
Dylan Gelula: You know how amusement park rides, when they have a water feature? That smell. It’s like gasoline and vanilla.
The A.V. Club: Like pool chlorine sort of, right?
DG: Oh, yeah, I’m just describing what chlorine smells like. I’m realizing it’s literally chlorine. I’ve broken the notes of chlorine down.
AVC: I’m getting hints of gasoline.
DG: Yeah, and vanilla’s in there apparently.
AVC: I think that’s maybe true? There’s something nice about it—comforting in a nostalgic way, at least. Did you grow up around water parks?
DG: No! I mean, I love that smell. But I think it’s not a water park. It’s amusement park rides that have water involved in a small amount, right? There’s maybe like a pool on the ride, but you crash down into it at the end. That smell. [Laughs.] The candle is not going to be very popular.
DG: Okay, I really was a really big Leonard Cohen person—I guess I still am. But his first couple albums I really liked a lot. And then I got all his books of poetry and all his novels. And I was going to get a Leonard Cohen tattoo when I turned 18, which didn’t happen. You know, I was thinking about this the other day, how, when I was a teenager, I would be like, “Oh, I found this Japanese psych garage band!” And now I’m just listening to Akon.
AVC: Wow, I think I’m the flip of that. Certainly listened to some Akon in high school.
DG: Yeah, I’ve had a real, like, decline of cognitive ability.
AVC: But back to Leonard Cohen: Did you have friends who were listening to his stuff too? Or was it very much your own thing?
DG: Well, I didn’t have any friends. [Laughs.] Leonard Cohen was my friend—he was just for me. And he was a very depressed man in Montreal.
DG: I have my own conspiracy theory. I’m from Philadelphia, and I think it’s been built in me for a long time: I don’t think that Benjamin Franklin invented all that shit. I don’t think it makes any sense that one guy—who is just riddled with syphilis—invented the library and the zoo and bifocals and a musical instrument and a post office. It doesn’t make any sense! So I think he had power in the patent. Oh yeah, and they found skeletons in his basement. So!
AVC: I think we all learn a lot about Ben Franklin growing up, but it seems he is treated like a god in Philly.
DG: Yeah, he really is. I’m saying, it doesn’t—the facts aren’t there. That’s my conspiracy theory. If you stop to think about it, it doesn’t make any sense. That’s all I’m saying.
DG: Ben Franklin’s not real! So, yeah, number one, Ben Franklin did not exist. But also, I don’t know, I was raised to view [politics] from a healthy skeptical angle. My mom was always like, “You’ve got to vote because it matters who’s on the Supreme Court, but other than that, it’s all kabuki theater.” And she is right!
DG: Has anybody said an undertaker? Is that fun?
AVC: Do you know one?
DG: No, but I’m saying, in this scenario, I just work at a funeral home, and I need some help with my shit.
AVC: Oh sure. In this world, why else would you possibly need to bury a body?
DG: I mean, that’s the most logical reason why I would need help. And, well, they can help me probably. [Undertakers] actually are the right answer to this question.
AVC: Congrats! You win the interview.
DG: [Laughs.] This is the game we’re playing, and I deserve a prize.
DG: Right, okay. I’m honestly going to pass on this question because I don’t think that actors should be allowed to participate in Halloween. I think that it should be punishable for an actor to be like, “I get to dress up in a costume and you’re all going to take pictures of me!” You know what I’m saying? Like, what do you mean? That’s what you do all year—like, “I’m a builder!” No, you’re not.
AVC: I can’t argue with that point.
DG: I’m just saying, if you’re already somebody who shows up to work and someone else is like, “Here’s your costume. You’re a monster,” then what are you doing on Halloween? I reject it completely.
DG: It’s hard for me to imagine living in a place because I like it. [Laughs.] Like, choosing where to live based on what I like. I think I would live in Philadelphia, honestly. I just think about my friend from high school, and she has a house that’s three stories and has a backyard—for what I pay for a tiny apartment in Los Angeles. The scenery there is nice, and you get to walk everywhere, and you have a happy, healthy quality of life. That’s interesting to me. Especially while it’s still 100 degrees in Los Angeles. [Laughs.] I hate it here so much. Every day is a nightmare.
AVC: And I mean, Philadelphia’s close to New York. You could conceivably live there and still act in NYC.
DG: It’s like an hour and a half to New York. Oh, it’s the best. That’s where I would live my life if my life were better.
AVC: I know it’s close enough that it’s kind of got its own comedy scene since comics can just take the train out and do a show there for the weekend.
DG: Yeah, there’s Good Good Comedy Theatre—that’s what it’s called. It’s the big comedy theater.
AVC: Oh, right, I know of Good Good—
DG: Oh god, what if you just thought I was saying “good” twice?
AVC: The theater’s that good.
DG: What if I was just like, “Can you explain it to me right now?” [Laughs.]
AVC: That’s when I’m like, “Okay, my turn to leave the interview!”
DG: Yeah! We should each have an eject button. But I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not—I don’t remember my childhood. [Laughs.] And you can’t print that! I guess the earliest thing I can remember is that there’s a sex scene in Caddyshack that I watched a bunch of times, over and over. That and I’d been exposed to The Rocky Horror Picture Show too early. And Tim Curry is really sexy in that. Regardless of who you are, you have to recognize Tim Curry in that movie. I really don’t know the answer though, that’s just something related to the question.
AVC: That’s a great answer. There’s a lot you can learn from Rocky Horror.
DG: I was like, “They are very sexy. I don’t know what’s going on.” But [watching Rocky Horror], you’re going to figure it out, I think. You’re going to put two and two together.
DG: Not the Ben Franklin thing, because I actually believe it. I don’t think that’s petty—that’s just really interesting. I think it’s worth opening a case. I feel like people shouldn’t—look, if you’re going to make an Instagram for your dog, you can’t do it in first-person. When they’re like, “My mom took me for a walk today.” No, you wrote that. Just say, like, “This is my dog on a walk.” I really hate that.
AVC: So, what do you think it takes for people to get to that point? Can you even imagine why that’s something people would want to do?
DG: It’s like a horror movie that you would do that to your dog.
AVC: Do you have a dog? Or any other pets?
DG: No, I don’t. I’m not emotionally mature enough.
AVC: Okay, but—first-person dog posts aside—if you had a dog, could you imagine being tempted to set up an Instagram account for it?
DG: Oh, I would farm my dog for content and post photos of it all the time for my own validation. But I would say, “This is the dog.” I wouldn’t say—you know how they’ll even say like, “Oh, this dog hates Trump.” I think that’s so humiliating. No it doesn’t! What do you mean?
DG: I’m going to give a sincere answer, and I’m going to do it by category. The movie: My Dinner With Andre. I’ve watched it a million times. Books: I’ve read, like, 15 from Anne Carson—that’s sincere. That genuinely comforts me. And, finally, I’ll just keep watching Nathan For You and 30 Rock forever. Even though they’re both off the air, they both bring me a lot of comfort, and I can drop into any episode of them and watch them and feel good.
AVC: 30 Rock especially feels like something that—once you’ve seen it all—you can put it on, barely pay attention, and still get the thrill of the jokes because there are just so many. It’s rapid-fire.
DG: Right. There’s always a joke you don’t remember hearing, no matter what episode it is or how many times you’ve seen it. It’s so dense with jokes that it’s just such a delight to continue to watch forever and then die.
AVC: That’s also true of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
DG: God, yeah. But I was on that show so I can’t. If I wasn’t on it, I would watch it like 30 Rock. If somebody could edit me out, then I could watch it.
DG: If it was in a couple weeks, I would want to know so I can make arrangements. I’d want a heads-up. But if it was a year or more, then I’d want to just keep being on Twitter and wasting my time.
AVC: So, if it was a week out, what do you mean by arrangements? Do you have a bucket list?
DG: Yeah, I have to go visit all my enemies. I would get everyone to apologize to me.
Bonus 12th question from Chris Redd: Would you rather be able to hear really well and not see or see really well and not hear?
DG: Okay, I think “see really well and not hear.” I just feel like there’s more options, right? People can sign to you, and you can watch things with subtitles, and you could go to the art museum. I guess blind people can still go to the art museum—I’m going to, um, kill myself.
AVC: You wouldn’t be able to hear Leonard Cohen, unfortunately.
DG: I couldn’t hear Leonard Cohen, but I could see his gorgeous pictures of himself. And some of the drawings he made during his time on Mount Baldy as a monk.
AVC: So now is your opportunity to come up with a question for whoever does 11 Questions next.
DG: I’ve been grinding my teeth at night. Do you know how to stop doing that? Do you know any remedies for jaw pain?