Kathleen Hanna is best known as the lead singer for Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, and her latest project The Julie Ruin, but recently she took an entirely different kind of gig voicing the lead character—who happens to be a puppet—in a short by director Ian Samuels called “Myrna the Monster.”
Myrna isn’t so much a monster as someone who doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, desperately wants to, and can’t really understand what the problem is. She’s the type of character that probably all of us are familiar with–just in this case she’s a slightly (and somehow adorably) grotesque space alien who only lives in Los Angeles because she was kidnapped by an astronoaut from her home on the moon.
Samuels calls Myrna his “alter ego.” “I came to L.A. six years ago,” he tells EW by phone from L.A., “and went through a transition that a lot of people I think blame on Mercury in retrograde, but I figure it’s more about being in your early 20’s. You know, you have to start thinking about your career, your social life changing, and relationships…I just sort of felt like a little bit like an alien here, and that’s sort of how Myrna was born.”
Life in L.A. is tough on Myrna. She’s clumsy and anxious, so most of her interactions with other people are generally disasters, aside from her friend Shelly, who takes the four-foot-tall platypus-billed creature completely at face value.
“I think just that [Myrna]’s so awkward and she seems kind of like, you know she really wants to be a part of things but doesn’t really know how,” Hanna says. She also says she can relate deeply to Myrna on that level. “I’ve always been a person who like, I make friends by doing projects. If I need friends, I start a basketball team or a band, some kind of project that involves other people. I don’t really know how to just straight-up make a friend, you know what I mean? I’ve always felt socially awkward.”
What helps “Myrna the Monster” to transcend the limitations of squirm comedy—and what, along with Hanna’s infectiously charming voice acting, makes you forget Myrna’s a Muppet-style puppet instead of a relatable person—is her humble but profound tenacity. Even when she gets shot down by a cute boy or accidentally starts a fire in a laundromat dryer or ends up inside a dumpster, she never stops striving.
That perseverance leads to the most humiliating and hilarious moments in the film comes where watch her work her ass off to prepare for her first Hollywood audition only to meet abject disappointment. It becomes apparent that that the movie she’s trying out for, Step Up: Raw, isn’t what she expected when she (and the audience) are suddenly confronted by her co-star’s partially erect penis. Samuels says it’s based, at least metaphorically, on his real-life experiences.
“I’ve just had so many experiences where I’ve really been looking forward to something, and you know, there’s a naveté that you have when you’re in your mid-20’s, and you think something really important is going to happen and you get really excited for it, and then you show up and it’s like, basically, you know… just a dick in the room. You work yourself up to something that’s sort of a letdown. And this is an extreme situation for her, and it was just for the joke, but the feeling of it is definitely something you constantly have. Especially in Los Angeles, when everybody is so encouraging, and you have to sort of at some point understand for yourself when something is actually real, or if it’s just gonna be a dick in the room.”