The LAist Interview: Heather Havrilesky

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Critics rarely make proclamations in mainstream print publications such as "we're all sucking on the same pop cultural crack pipe," or emphatically proclaim unbridled anticipation of indulging in a "foul, foul show." That's why LAist is grateful that Heather Havrilesky, the Salon.com television critic, is here to tell us what stinks and what's good, and she does it with prodigious and hilarious frankness.

This tell-it-like-it-is approach has attracted a loyal readership who gladly fork over the annual $35 Salon.com subscription fee in order to get regular access to Heather's "I Like to Watch" column and other articles. She also writes the Rabbit Blog.

1. Age and Occupation:

34, writer

2. How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and what neighborhood do you live in?

I've lived in LA for seven years, most of that time in Los Feliz. Right now I live on the border of Eagle Rock and Highland Park.

3. Where are you from?

Durham, North Carolina. Spent the first 21 years of my life there, then moved to San Francisco for five years, then to LA.

4. Is writing for an online magazine best suited to your style?

Salon is definitely a great place for me. I've considered jobs at other places, but at Salon I have so much freedom. They really trust their writers and have a lot of enthusiasm for eclectic voices. In fact, there are times when I write something mildly obscene or just stupid silly, and I think, "I can't believe my editor didn't cut that." I mean, maybe someone should reel me in a little more.

5. Since your job requires watching endless hours of television, what do you do to relax after a typical workday?

I watch TV.

6. What purpose does writing the Rabbit Blog serve for you?

Well, as free as I am at Salon, I still find myself wanting to spiral off into an abyss of total idiocy, self-indulgent meandering, extreme self-deprecation, repugnant delusions of grandeur, pointless goofiness, spitty outbursts, and gratuitous maliciousness. I also like to hand out bad advice, and hurl bratty insults at our current president. Doesn't my blog sound enriching and informative?

7. Living in Los Angeles means that you must come into frequent contact with people who work in television. If you socialize with TV writers and other professionals, is there any concern about potential conflict of interest issues? If so, how do you avoid them?

I have a few friends in TV, but I'm not a big industry schmoozer. I can't really imagine altering my opinion to pander to someone I knew on staff somewhere. Then again, the beginning of my career was sort of a trial by fire; I wrote a cartoon for a website called Suck.com for five years. We were owned by Wired magazine, and would often be charged with insulting the work of people who sat a few feet away. It helps to have a sociopathic streak, I guess.

8. Television and film commentators sometimes harbor aspirations to generate pop culture rather than exclusively critique it. Are you ever tempted to go to the "other side"?

I actually hate the idea that commentators or critics "harbor aspirations" like it's some dirty secret that we might do anything but comment on other people's creations. Besides, is it really some big honor to create pop culture, given the garbage that's out there? Sure, I'm in awe of the writers of "Six Feet Under," but I feel a little sorry for the guy who has to write dialogue for "One Tree Hill."

9. What's your preferred mode of transportation?

I enjoy driving my luxury SUV very fast while screaming obscenities out the window at people on bicycles.

10. How often do you ride the MTA subway or light rail?

I rode the subway once. I found it wildly inconvenient to be so close to other human beings without being able to roll up my power windows or blast Chingy out of my 1500-watt speakers.

11. What's your favorite movie or TV show that's based in LA?

Uh, "Pimp My Ride." Look, isn't almost everything based in LA? Does LA really require this kind of boosterism? I love it here.

12. Other than "Lost," are there any other new shows this season you think highly of, or don't think highly of but enjoy?

I love "America's Next Top Model." Scoff all you want, but if you haven't witnessed the glory that is "ANTM" first hand, you don't have a long, slender, stiletto'ed leg to stand on.

13. Any thoughts on the Election Day broadcasts? Which network did you stay tuned to?

Once things started to look really bad, I tuned in to the Cuervo Gold channel, big time.

14. Did you think the "Hollywood community" made a difference in the election, or did its efforts only serve to expand the divide between Middle America and the supposed "liberal elite"?

Uh, that second part. Yeah, that.

15. Other than regular doses of the "Daily Show," what other pop culture sources will help us make it through the next frightening four years?

No pop culture is strong enough to keep us safe from the horrors that lie ahead. Personally, I plan to stay in a DayQuil-fueled haze for the next four years. If I don't mistake Bush for Howdy Doody every time he comes on my TV screen, that means I'm not high enough.

16. It's 9:30 pm on a Thursday. Where are you coming from and where are you going?

I'm coming from the kitchen with a plate of nachos, going to the TV room for the second half of "The Apprentice."

17. What is the "center" of LA to you?

Casa Bianca Pizza Pie in Eagle Rock.

18. If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where/ which would you choose?

I really like my house a lot.

19. What is the city's greatest secret?

I think the people of LA are its biggest secret. You have to live here for about two or three years before you realize that, if you look hard enough, you'll find lots of people who are generous and down to earth and smart and fun and who just make sense to you. But in the beginning, newbies tend to wind up at some awful club that makes them think, "Who are these mutants and what the hell am I doing in this scary, scary city?"

20. Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?

I don't understand the question. What conflict?

Just kidding. I tend to avoid bars that aren't within stumbling distance, which basically means that the only bar I go to is The Chalet. If I go to parties with a hankering for drink, I announce my intention to overstay my welcome. When I throw parties, I instruct guests to bring their sleeping bags, just in case. There are also these things called "taxis," but that's just hearsay.

21. Describe your best LA dining experience.

I walked into a place called Joe's in Venice, and the rest is just one, long, orgasmic blur. It's by far the best restaurant I've been to in LA, which is filled with tons of overpriced, shitty restaurants which otherwise sane people strongly recommend.

22. Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of hurricanes and long winters?

Yes! I vastly prefer crumbling high rises to felled trees and icy cold feet!

23. Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?

Sweet Jesus. How about in a catatonic state which shuts out even the vaguest whiff of reality?