A Conversation with Lane Moore

The writer and comedian sounds off on the angst of Tinder and the comfort of a favorite song.

Lane Moore

Lane Moore is that rare performer who’s as impressive onstage—whether hosting her iconic show, Tinder Live, or charismatically fronting the band It Was Romance—as she is on the page, as a former writer for The Onion and an award-winning sex and relationships editor for Cosmopolitan. But her story has had its obstacles, from being her own parent and living in her car as a teenager, to moving to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming a triple-threat and inhabiting her identity as a queer person. Through it all, Lane’s looked to movies, TV, and music as the family and support systems she never had.

A must-read for anyone who tries to have deep conversations in a roomful of people who would rather you not, How to Be Alone speaks to those who desperately want to feel less isolated, embrace the beacon of their own independence, or fall somewhere in the beautifully flawed in-between.

Recently, Lane spoke with Read It Forward’s Jesse Aylen, digging into the upshot of having too many feelings, the wellspring of optimism that is Anne of Green Gables, and why Tinder Live should be playing football stadiums.

Read It Forward: For people who haven’t yet read How to Be Alone, can you talk a little bit about it, and what brought you to write it?

Lane Moore: It’s so hard to do that because I feel like it’s a song. There are things that I’m going to think it’s about, there are things the reader is going to think it’s about, and we’re probably both right—but it’s really a book for people who don’t have the perfect family, the perfect friend group, this perfect support system we’re all supposed to have and that everybody on social media often pretends they have. I’ve been alone pretty much my whole life in a way that I can never quite describe to people, and two years ago I started writing about spending the holidays alone and not having that perfect dynamic. Basically, this is the book that I wish someone had written and given to me way sooner. It would have saved me a lot of pain and loneliness.

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RIF: You’re a comic, a writer, and a performer, and they all seem to call on disparate personality traits and skill sets. I’d love to hear you talk about how you bridge them, and how they feed your soul in different ways.

LM: I love that question because they really do. When I was a kid, I was very clear about it, and my mom had told me that from a very early age, every single year, I would be like, “I want to be an actress, writer, and singer.” That’s the way I articulated it at a very young age, and actor was never just actor. I wanted to be Lucille Ball.

RIF: Right. Triple-threat.

LM: What was I, a child in 1961? I guess my point is that I always wanted to do it all. I was always directing plays for the kids in the neighborhood, and I would often write songs. It’s really funny to me that all these years later, I write the songs in my band and direct our music videos, and I had a web series where I wrote and directed it and starred in it with other people.

RIF: You’re becoming Diana Ross, Lucille Ball, and a host of other people all at once.

LM: I just added people that I wanted to be. But I remember getting told so many times in my life, “Which one are you going to choose? Who are you? Which one?” Feeling that rigidity, I really do liken it to being queer because it feels like people are asking the same thing of me. “Well, which gender do you like more?” And I’m like, “What’s wrong with you?” These can be different expressions. There’s an overall fluidity to me as a person, to me as an artist, to me as somebody who loves people.

I had a therapist once who told me that comedy is the highest form of intelligent survival, which is absolutely wonderful, and really comforting—that you can survive painful traumatic things, and using humor as a coping mechanism is the most intelligent form of coping. That’s so cool because that’s absolutely what’s kept me going in that way. The overarching thing is that I love words. I hope anybody who reads this book sees that’s very clear. I love when a sentence just flows. I know poetry gets a bad rap, but I think all writing can be poetic. There are all five senses in words when you’re writing.

With music, I met a psychic years ago, and one of the things she said was that music is my sanity: “You will do that for the rest of your life because that’s what makes you feel okay in the world,” and it’s really true. All day, every day, I’m singing. I’m trying to hit notes that I can’t hit yet, and I’ve been like this my entire life.

RIF: It seems like you’re dedicated to stretching and growing and pushing yourself in varied ways.

LM: I just have so much to say, so much that’s inside of me, and I feel things very deeply. I’ve always had way too many feelings, and for a long time really couldn’t express them. I’m always looking for the one way that’s going to make people understand who I am, what I’m going through, where I’ve been, and maybe at the root, I’m also trying to understand my own feelings a little bit better. That happens all the time with writing, but especially writing songs and music.

It’s almost like a channeling, and it’s helped me. I’ve definitely used my own songs at times for comfort. So now, when I feel this feeling that I feel like no one understands, this is a way to comfort myself, and then in turn, the beautiful thing is other people will tell you, “That song comforts me when I feel that feeling.”

RIF: You spoke really eloquently about your love of writing and the written word, and on that touchstone, I’d be curious to hear if there any other memoirists or writers who’ve inspired you during your process.

LM: So, so many. A really big book for me was Wasted by Marya Hornbacher. People don’t talk about it enough. I remember looking on Goodreads one day and seeing it was mostly positive reviews, but some negative. and just thinking, “You’re wrong. I’m so ferociously defending how brilliant that book is.” The lesson for me there was that no matter how perfect and beautiful something might be to one person, there’s always going to be someone who says “I don’t care,” and that’s got to be okay. I looked up Anne of Green Gables one day, and someone had put one star, and I was like, “What world are we living in? It sold like 900 million copies. Whatever.”

RIF: When it really deserves 10,000 stars.

LM: Exactly. I found it really young, but again it was that kindred feeling, this writer loves words. When she would quote Anne Sexton, or she would quote these other poets and writers and authors, you’re just like, “Oh, that is the perfect quote for this chapter. You used this wisely.” When I did that in this book, it was absolutely inspired by that. The way I interpret it, she ended up giving me a reading lesson in the best possible way. If she’d just written out “Read these books,” I maybe wouldn’t have responded.

RIF: How did you go about choosing your own chapter-opening quotes?

LM: I loved doing that because I did something that was very me—they were almost entirely song lyrics. What I wanted to do, because this is my shit, is make the reader a mixtape that went along with the book. I thought it was such a cool concept. This is music you can have while you’re reading chapters, and in some cases, the songs were songs that I was listening to at that point in my life that gave me some sort of comfort. It really is a companion piece that I’m giving readers, which I’m really excited about.

RIF: I know you’ve also written prolifically and hilariously for The Onion, and I’d love to hear what you love about satire overall. Do you think there’s power in satire?

LM: Yeah, I absolutely do. I write about this in the book, but as a kid in junior high, I was writing my own Onion-style newspaper even though I didn’t know yet what The Onion was. I’m not trying to be like, “I invented that,” but I was drawn to satire. It was a newspaper about my friends and school, and it was very goofy. I would pass it out at the lunch table.

I also really love channeling. My favorite satire articles to write were similar to my favorite characters to play—they’re people who are nothing like me, but I feel like I understand them on a deep level. I loved writing from the perspective of frat guys or sorority girls because I’m not them. I’ve never been them, but man, do I feel like I can write in that voice because I so closely and carefully and curiously observed them for so much of my life. So, that’s a beautiful, weird outlet for me.

RIF: Can you talk about Tinder Live and how it came about? Do you think you’ve cracked the code of Tinder?

LM: Oh, man. I’ve not got the code of Tinder. I don’t think there’s a code to crack. As infuriating as it is to think about, some people just get lucky and find their soulmate there, and some people don’t. They find their soulmate in another place hopefully. At this point, though, I do think I’m angstier than I’ve ever been if I try to online date, because all I see are the stupid things people do. I’ve been using it lately, personally, and I’ll go through these periods where I try to act like I can do it for work and do it personally and it won’t affect me. That’s not true because I have no patience now. On the show, it’s fine because I can mine how frustrating it is for comedy, and everyone feels great, but at home using it myself, I’m still in the same boat that so many people are where I’m just like, you’re not furthering the conversation.

RIF: You just want to shake them and say, “Try harder. Be better.”

LM: “I started a conversation with you. Why can’t you keep it going?” I wonder how other writers or people who really love words and conversation feel on Tinder, if they have more rage than most, because I think it’s really frustrating. It really is so much, “hey, ‘sup. LOL.”

RIF: Emoji, emoji, emoji.

LM: Then I get frustrated that they’re not automatically my Gilmore Girls level of quippy. I created Tinder Live years ago, the first time I got on Tinder and immediately got my camera, recording me and my roommates going on Tinder together, and then in that same night was like, “This needs to be a comedy show.” I worked on what the comedy show would look like, what the segments would be, and pitched it that night, and it was a sold out show pretty much immediately after. Now it’s taken off in the way it deserves to, because it brings people joy, and it’s so fun and funny. Every show is improvised, so it’s always different. Every time I do the show at a college or a music venue, I’m like, “To be honest, this show should be performing at stadiums.” Why not? It’s so good. I’m ready. Let’s do it.

RIF: It’s Jumbotron-worthy. So, are there books or authors you’ve turned to through tumultuous times in your life?

LM: If I’m having a hard time, that’s not the first thing I think of because when I read a book I want to really dive into the world. It’s also been tough because while writing this book, I wasn’t doing a ton of in-depth reading of other books. I didn’t want to get too lost in other worlds. If I’m really having a rough time, I’ll more so retreat into music because it’s passive.

I wish I had more books that I felt offered sustained comfort. I’m hoping that’s what this book will be for other people because that’s the kind of book I wanted. I could re-read Anne of Green Gables if I’m having a hard time, but there’s a part of me that could get wrapped up in how she had such a hard life, and then she found this wonderful family, and that hasn’t happened to me and whatever, it’s fine. She has Gilbert Blythe, and I don’t have a Gilbert Blythe. If I’m sad, I can retreat into all the ways this story isn’t my story. Do you know what I mean?

RIF: Completely.

LM: There are so many books that are positive and sweeping and romantic, and they ignore or don’t heavily acknowledge great amounts of pain as well. That’s great when that’s what you need, but sometimes it can make me feel bad. You look at most romantic comedies, and it’s like, their family’s not that awful. They’re just wacky. Their friends are amazing. Everything’s perfect, and then there’s this love story. For me, I want both, man. I want a love story. I want that romance while also acknowledging that life is painful and lonely and sometimes really hard, and yeah, you can be pursuing a relationship with this person and be in a lot of pain.

RIF: They’re not mutually exclusive.

LM: Right. I think I wanted that Goldilocks book. You can acknowledge and hold space for the part of you that really wants connection, and the part of you that’s really terrified of people or has been disappointed.

RIF: You talk in the book about the kaleidoscopic value of friendship in all forms, whether online, in real life, or a tiny moment in a subway car where you catch someone’s eye and they’re a flicker of a friend. I’d love to hear if you’ve found a kinship with other comedians and writers.

LM: For sure. When I was a kid—and I think I talk about this in the book as well—I remember watching all these TV shows I loved and thinking, “Maybe when I grow up, I’ll be friends with people like the people who write for Conan and the people on UCB and Strangers with Candy,” or even just people who love the same stuff. We’ll have that kind of kinship because I definitely didn’t have that growing up with people who loved the things that I loved.

Every now and again, there’s a flashbulb moment backstage at Tinder Live, and I’m there with a bunch of comedians I love, and we’re talking about all the things you would assume groups of comedians would talk about. We’re talking about our depression meds, and about really painful past stuff. We’re also talking about really silly hilarious stuff, and there are moments where the world freezes, and I just think, “I did it. I’m an adult, and friends with a bunch of weirdos who have seen some shit. We all have the same sense of humor. We’re making each other laugh, and we all did this professionally. How fucking cool is this?” It’s incredibly powerful.

RIF: Given the touring you’ve done with your band and all the Tinder Live shows, do you have any outlandish moments worth sharing?

LM: Oh, totally. The other night was maybe my favorite Tinder Live moment thus far, which is tough because that’s a long list. I was at the University of New Hampshire, and it’s one of my favorite places to play. The kids who go there are so smart and funny and cool and weird, and I want to be best friends with all of them.

One of the kids came up on screen, and he was like, “Oh my god, that’s me.” I asked, “Can I look in your profile? Is that okay?” I read it line by line, and it’s this rap he wrote. It ends with, “I’m with the girl in the photos. I’m just here for Tinder Live,” and everyone lost their shit. He’d made this profile specifically for Tinder Live. He came up afterward and wanted to take a photo with me. I love my job. I love my show so much. What fucking magic. Everyone just felt amazing afterward. What other comedy show allows for shit like this?

RIF: That’s amazing. In the book, a standout line for me was toward the end, when you’re talking about your dog, Lights, and you say, “A reminder to take care of her is a reminder to take care of myself.” You were honest and fully upfront about that need for self-care. I’d love to hear what you hope people will take away from reading How To Be Alone.

LM: I never really read a story where I felt like there was somebody else out there, and I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t broken, and there wasn’t anything wrong with me. So, I really want this book to be something people read and they think, “I have thought that. I have felt that way. Even if none of my friends get me, even if my family doesn’t understand me, this girl gets me. This person understands. This person has been there. I’m okay.” That’s what I want to be for those people.

Author Photo: Amber Marlow

LANE MOORE is an award-winning comedian, writer, actor, and musician. The New York Times called her comedy show Tinder Live “ingenious.” Her comedy and her band, It Was Romance, have been praised everywhere from Pitchfork to Vogue, and her writing has appeared everywhere from The New Yorker to The Onion. She is the former sex and relationships editor at Cosmopolitan, where she received a GLAAD Award for her groundbreaking work expanding the magazine’s queer coverage. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog-child, Lights. You can follow Lane at @HelloLaneMoore on Instagram and Twitter or visit LaneMoore.org.

About Jesse Aylen

JESSE AYLEN is a New York City-based freelance writer, editor, and digital content consultant. When not immersing himself in scads of memoirs and essays, he’s likely tinkering with his website, www.aylenwrites.com.

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