Joe Mande drops his Bitchface

The Parks and Recreation writer and Twitter instigator turns stand-up into a mixtape on his return to New York.

Photograph: Robyn Von Swank
Joe Mande
Though he’s beloved in New York for his blog, Look at That Fucking Hipster, his Twitter provocations and his stint as the cohost of variety show Totally J/K, even locals can’t blame stand-up Joe Mande for relocating to L.A. for a plum writing gig with Parks and Recreation two years ago. Now, Mande’s slightly askew perspective has led to the creation of Bitchface, a stand-up album that delivers all the skits and DJ drops of a hip-hop mixtape. Before his show at the Bell House on Thursday 27, Mande talked to us about pulling off rap sketches, becoming LaCroix water’s spokesperson and missing the city.

Is L.A. home now?

I guess. The longer I’m gone, the more I romanticize what New York was. The comedy was always a lot more fun. And the food. I’ll be there for two days, and I’m going to gain seven pounds. Is Mission Chinese still full of rats?

Unfortunately. What made you want to turn your album into a mixtape?
I recorded it in May of last year, and went back to work [at Parks] in June, but there was no reason to release the album until I could go on tour. And it was good, but it sounded like a million comedy albums out there. It was sitting on my hard drive for months before I started talking to my buddy Cyrus [Ghahremani], who produced the album, about how funny it would be if we made it look and sound like a hip-hop mixtape, and had a bunch of DJ drops. I wanted it to be a stand-up comedy version of French Montana or Migos.

Hip-hop sketches are notoriously hard to pull off. How did you approach yours?
I made a list of famous skits I remembered from when I was in junior high and high school. I wanted to do an Eminem one, a [Notorious] B.I.G. one, a version of a Wu-Tang sketch. I didn’t want it to be identical, nor did I want it to be a complete parody, so it was a matter of finding this middle ground. I was hyperaware of how those skits go; that’s why I made sure to leave in us laughing at everything.

What’s your current feeling about baiting people on Twitter?
I was kind of out of control when I first started, just going after anyone. I’m still pretty impulsive, but I’m trying to be more positive. [Laughs] I’m also doing more longer-term bits. I finally purchased a million Twitter bots [computerized followers]. I sort of secreted this celebrity spokesperson role with LaCroix water.

How did that LaCroix thing come about?
I just started saying I was their unofficial spokesperson. They’ve kind of relented. It’s an impossible situation. If they try to fight it, it’s only going to make it worse. They’ve been really cool, honestly. I told them, “I’m going to put your logo all over my album.” They were very confused, and were like, “Sure, go ahead.” It’s truly dumb, I don’t know what I’m doing.

What drew you to LaCroix in the first place?

I just really like it, particularly the pamplemousse-grapefruit flavor. My boss, [writer-producer] Mike Schur, told me I should just start claiming that I was their spokesperson. I think he said that so I would stop talking about it, but I went the complete other way.

It’s so rare that an endorsement deal arises out of sheer pleasure.
No one thinks Ellen DeGeneres uses a Samsung phone in real life. But I can guarantee you that my refrigerator is always stocked with LaCroix water and I’m buying it myself, because they don’t give me any money.

What’s your favorite reaction from an outraged celebrity you’ve poked?
Six or seven months ago, I got into a back-and-forth with [conservative blogger] Michelle Malkin. She and her minions started a boycott against LaCroix water because they saw I was claiming to be their unofficial celebrity spokesperson in my bio. They started writing LaCroix: “We’ll never buy your product again because Joe Mande is your spokesperson.” I can’t imagine how confused [the LaCroix reps] were! And they have no attachment to what was going on at all, it was just collateral damage between me and the Tea Party idiots. A couple days later, LaCroix e-mailed me and said, “We support you in this.”

So, you’re at a million Twitter followers. How many bots did you buy?
Hard to tell. Way over a million, because they were getting deleted all the time. It was a real descent into madness.

What sparked your interest?
I read an article a year ago about how Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, over half of their Twitter followers are bots. I was just like, I’m going to get into the bot game hard, and I’m going to be completely open about it. That’s the thing: When you start buying bots, they follow you, but you can also see who else they follow, which is all the musicians and models and comedians who buy bots and don’t say anything. I thought it was going to take a few weeks. I never would have started it if I knew it would take a year. My life has been dominated by buying bots and claiming that I’m a seltzer spokesperson.

So what’s the price tag on a million followers?
It was about $400. A lot of money, but I would imagine people would think it would be more expensive. Especially because I lost about 600,000 with Twitter’s murderous policies.

What’s new on the List of Nothing, the collection of jokey puns you write with Noah Garfinkel?
The only one that comes to mind right now is eminent lo mein: That’s when the government can seize your Chinese food. Oh, Paz de la Huerta Pez de-la-spenser. [Pause] They’ve never gotten any better.

Joe Mande’s #Bitchface Mini World Tour comes to the Bell House Thu 27.