Everything about Olivia Munn is a moral quandary. On the one hand, she’s incredibly hot and funny. But on the other hand, I feel kind of creepy even mentioning that she’s hot, because can’t a comedienne just be funny without people leering at her? But on the third hand, there are more pictures of her in a bikini floating around the Web than pictures of her wearing clothes. If she didn’t want people drooling over her hotness, she could’ve put on some pants, right? It certainly doesn’t help that she went to Comic-Con last year dressed in the Princess Leia gold bikini from Return of the Jedi, and jumped into a huge pudding pie while wearing an “extra-sexy” (her words) French maid’s outfit on G4’s Attack of the Show! (where she’s been a co-host since 2006), and got naked for PETA to tell us why circus elephants have sad lives, and displayed her cleavage so predominately on the front cover of her new book, “Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek“ (published by St. Martin’s Press next Tuesday, July 6th), and worn the square footage of a napkin in photos for Playboy, Maxim, and FHM. If you follow her career at all, at this point you could probably sketch her midriff from memory.
Olivia Munn is Sarah Silverman with a twist. Critics like to accuse Silverman of being funny only because she’s easy on the eyes, but she rarely goes out of her way to remind us about her sex appeal. Her physical attractiveness is the subtext of her jokes, not the point. But Olivia Munn has the sexual subtlety of a gay pride parade float. And that’s not meant as a criticism. Munn may be selling herself as comedy’s nerd sexpot, but she’s smart enough to know what she’s doing. And she doesn’t give a shit if you like it. As she pointed out on her blog, anticipating negative reaction to her near-naked spread in Maxim magazine, “If you have any problems… I have two things to say to you: 1. Just don’t look. And 2. You sound like you just need a good fuck.” Zing!
During my interview with Munn, it was damn near impossible not to be charmed by her. (And it was a phone interview, I might add.) She’s instantly likable, talking a mile a minute with an enthusiasm that’s sometimes dizzying. There were hints of insecurity—she mentioned the same line from a recent Jezebel story three different times, and she was clearly unsettled by it—but she was eager to talk about the uncomfortable stuff, like the ongoing debate about her supposedly feminist-baiting sexuality. Say what you will about Munn, she’s not a bikini-wearing apologist.
Eric Spitznagel: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but apparently you’re hot.
Olivia Munn: Is that so?
That seems to be what all the blogs and magazines are saying. Does that bother you as a comic, to have your hotness be the reason people are talking about you, rather than, say, your ability to tell a joke?
I think it’s just the reality of the world we live in. I grew up in a family with a step-sister who had blonde hair and wore pretty yellow dresses everywhere, and people fucking loved her. We were the same age. We’d go to class and the teachers were nicer to her, the kids were nicer to her. Everyone is just nicer to prettier people. I had brown ratty hair and wore polyester pants. I was like the sweaty kid who comes in and is like (out of breath) “Hey, you guys wanna play?” You learn early on, people are just more interested in you if you’re aesthetically pleasing.
Does that matter when you’re in comedy? Has there ever been a comic that critics are like, “His act is brilliant, but I wish he’d show more skin?”
Hey, Tina Fey has been on the cover of Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly, and she always looks like a bombshell. And in addition to being beautiful, she’s smart and funny. It is possible in this world to be pretty and funny and successful all at the same time. People need to understand that criticizing somebody for being pretty, or for getting an opportunity because of their looks, is just ridiculous. I think it’s really sad when female bloggers bash other women and say, “Oh she’s just getting breaks because she’s pretty and she posed in Playboy, but she clearly can’t be smart too.” I hope they don’t have daughters who grow up to be smart and pretty. Because god forbid there be more women like that in the world, perpetuating that horrible stereotype.
But it’s not just about being attractive. It’s also about your career choices. You’ve been in a bikini more than the average comedian.
Somehow, we all get our way in. Maybe some of those female bloggers who write about me, maybe their way in is because they’re a narrow-minded bitch. Maybe mine is because I can tell a joke and wear a bikini. But it’s not just because I could wear a bikini. You know what I mean? What I’ve learned is to not be ashamed of anything that I have or I’ve done. I busted my ass, and it hasn’t been an easy road for me. At all. I grew up in an abusive family and I learned at a young age to have a very tough skin. And I learned that I’m never going to let anybody put me in a box. When I read stories about me and they’re like “Olivia Munn, best known for putting things in her mouth,” it’s hard not to get frustrated. Really? That’s what I’m known for? To some people that’s what I’m known for, and to other people I’m the girl who takes the homeless out for walks in the park and buys them each a 40. Every Saturday, I’m like, “Here guys, drink up.”
Wait, you’re known for putting things in your mouth? What does that mean?
I put maybe three things in my mouth on Attack of the Show, as a joke. One time they wanted me to lick an iPhone, and I was like, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it my way.” Because it was funnier. I think it’s always funny when somebody thinks you’re going to do something super sexy and then you don’t. That same blogger who said I’m known for putting things in my mouth, she was quoted in a profile about me in the New York Times, and she said something like, “Olivia is saying to men, ‘I’ll wear a French maid outfit and laugh at all of your jokes.’” Bitch, when did I ever say I laugh at everyone’s jokes?
It’s a difficult balance. You’re trying to sell your sense of humor, but you’re also selling your sexuality. And those two things sometimes don’t exist comfortably together. Look at the cover of your book, Suck It, Wonder Woman.
I hate that title, by the way. I battled with the publisher for a long time about it. I just don’t understand it. I wish it could be called Grapes of Wrath. Because everybody liked that title, and it just sounds smart.
You described it on your blog as a “David Sedaris-type book.” But David Sedaris never posed in a Speedo for one of his book covers. Did you just think, “You know what would give this book more credibility? My boobs.”
I was at the photo shoot for the cover, and I’ve never done this before, but I just shut it down. I was crying. I knew what the publishers wanted. I’m not stupid. But I wanted to compromise. I told them I’d bring the Wonder Woman outfit to the shoot, but I do not want to be on the cover dressed like Wonder Woman. So I’m at a studio in LA, and the photographer keeps calling the publishers in New York, and she’s telling me what they want. “O.K., less tie. Open the shirt a little more. They want more cleavage.” Finally I was like “No!” I know they’ve done book stuff for a long time, and they know what they’re doing. But I was like, “What do you guys think is going to happen? Are you literally going to gang-bang me, throw me down, dress me in the Wonder Woman outfit and be like, ‘Now smile, Olivia. Smile!’” It was just too much. I wish I had pushed harder against it.
You can’t be too surprised that the publisher was expecting some cleavage. It’s not completely out of character for you. You did once jump into a pie dressed like a sexy French maid.
In hindsight, that was a terrible, terrible idea. And admittedly, it was my stupid-ass idea to jump into a pie. But it got taken too far. Before I did it, the [Attack of the Show] producer was like, “O.K., so you get up on the platform and you’re going to take off your bathrobe, and I want you to take it off reeeeeeally slow. Give the crowd a chance to eat it up. Everything is reeeeeeally slow.” And I’m looking at him like, “You’re seriously going to tell me how to strip, you motherfucker?” I was really, really offended. I just said, “no, I’m not doing that.” And he’s like, “Well what are you going to do?” And I said, “I’m just going to jump into the goddamn pie!” The whole thing was stressful, ‘cause everyone was there in the studio. I saw the president of my network standing on a speaker in the back, leaning over to get pictures. I was like, what the fuck? The president? This is ridiculous.
When you were hired by the Daily Show as a correspondent, was there a clause in your contract that read “Must wear a Princess Leia metal bikini or skimpy French maid costume at all times?”
(Laughs.) No. Jon [Stewart] doesn’t even know about the Leia stuff.
Are you sure? He has an Internet connection, right?
They didn’t search for that kind of stuff at all. A friend of Jon’s just showed him a video that I was in, and said, “Hey, check out this girl. Isn’t she funny?” And then Jon saw it and he was like, “Yeah. She’s really good and I like her and she’d be good on the show.” Jon Stewart is one of the best guys anyone will ever work for. I sit there in the writers’ room and I just listen. I try to take it all in. He knows what he’s doing.
There’s been some criticism lately that the Daily Show doesn’t hire enough women. Do you think that’s fair?
I don’t understand that at all. What do they want? Do they want a funnier show, or just more vaginas on the show? Is that their main concern? You love the show, but you just wish there was more pussy? I did an interview for Hollywoodlife.com and this woman was asking me questions like (in a high-pitched ditzy voice) “I just want to, um… ask you… when you got the… the job at the Daily Show… how did that feel as a woman?” And I was like, “Well, as a human being, I was really excited.”
Is it true that you won Jon Stewart’s heart by making a Holocaust joke?
I don’t know if I won his heart, but I definitely threw him off a little. He said something about being Jewish, and I was like, “Oh by the way, the Holocaust. Did it really happen?”
But that’s just my sense of humor. Obviously I’m joking. It’s like, when I read that line in Jezebel about me, “She’s best known for putting stuff in her mouth,” I wanted to respond with, “Yeah, stuff like executive producers’ dicks.”
I have a dark sense of humor. So Jon is like, “You don’t believe in the Holocaust? I could show you some pictures right now.” And I’m like, “Yeah, it looks real, but maybe it’s just good Photoshop.”
The timing is hilarious. Helen Thomas tells the Jewish people to get the hell out of Israel and she gets canned. You make a Holocaust denial joke and you get hired by one of the most prestigious comedy shows on TV. How does that happen?
(Laughs.) Here’s the difference. The difference is I believe the Holocaust happened. I would never work for the White House and make that joke, which is why I’ll never run for politics. I have a lot of gay friends. I’ve had black boyfriends, white boyfriends, Jewish boyfriends, Mexican boyfriends. I am not made for the White House. I’m too multi-ethnic for anyone. I had a black boyfriend, and people were like, “Oh, so you like black guys?” Uh no, I just like cute guys. So now if I’m eating an orange, somebody is going to be like “You eat oranges every day now?”
Or you wear a bikini a few dozen times and the media is like, “Oh, I guess that’s all she does.”
You’re just saying that because you’re a man. You’re a man trying to oppress me! Wait, is that why my publicist told me to put on a bikini before I called you? I said, “He’s not going to see me or anything.” But she was like, “Eric just wants to know that you’re wearing one.”
That’s entirely true.
“Just put on your lip gloss and be pretty, Olivia.” (Giggles in a little girl voice.) O.K., sure! Whatever it takes to make him like me!
We’re all trying to be professionals here.
That’s right. We’re all just trying to make it. Some of us need to make it on our knees, and some of us do it with blood, sweat and tears. But I prefer my knees. They’re already calloused, so what the hell.
You know those female bloggers you were talking about earlier? I’m pretty sure some of them will read this and not get that you’re being ironic.
I’ve been in three girl fights in my life, and they first thing they do is try and claw your face. They want to claw your fucking eyes out. That’s sometimes what I feel when these girls write and blog about me. I never thought I’d say this, but the pen can be mightier than the sword. I mean come on, we’re all trying to make it in this world. I haven’t slept in forever, I’ve been doing so much work. Just let me do my thing. If you find it funny, that’s awesome. And if you don’t, I get it, that’s totally cool. Just change the motherfucking channel. If you see me on the Daily Show and you don’t like it, just delete that shit from your TiVo and move on. Or maybe go make your own show. And if it gets really wildly successful, don’t put me on it.
Comic-Con‘s in a few weeks. After all the hoopla about you showing up in a Princess Leia bikini last year, are you going to try and top yourself? Or go the opposite direction and wear something more subdued?
I’m going to give the judgmental lady bloggers what they want. I’m just going to come out buck-ass naked.
That’s one way to go. I think most people are expecting you to dress like Wonder Woman.
They are? Why?
Because of your book. It’s got Wonder Woman in the title. Might be a nice tie-in.
No, I’m not doing that anymore. I’m doing the nude thing. I’ll be like, “Hey girls, so I wrote this book. And it’s from my heart and soul. Oh also, is your husband here? I want to give him a hug.”
Well at least that won’t be controversial.
Bring your daughters around, I’m going to be a shining example of how you can have success and a book and be the stupidest person you’ve ever met! Come watch! They can be like, “Honey, see that lady over there? I know that people are taking her picture, and they really seem to like her. And yes, that thing she just said was pretty funny and people are laughing. And O.K., she wrote a book and got it published. But see how she’s wearing lip gloss? You don’t want to be anything like her! Stupid naked bitch.”
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in VanityFair.com