Sophie Santos on the power of the personal essay and crying through The Haunting of Bly Manor
Tears aren't the average reaction to The Haunting of Bly Manor, but Sophie Santos isn't your average comedian. The New Yorker has written for series like Nikki Glaser's Blind Date, currently hosts the satirical comedy show The Lesbian Agenda, and has a new memoir out Oct. 1 in which she details the plot points of her own life — like constant moves due to her dad's gig in the Army and her stint in pageantry — with hilarious aplomb. Here, to mark the arrival of The One You Want to Marry (And Other Identities I've Had), she reflects on some of the most meaningful pop culture from her own consumption.
My favorite book as a child
I used to read Love You Forever every single night with my mom. I remember begging her to read it to me before bedtime. Once I was old enough to understand what it meant, I realized that it's actually DEPRESSING as hell. I can't believe she didn't shut it down, man! [Spoiler warning!] It starts off where the mom is rocking her baby to sleep, telling her baby that she'll love him forever, and we watch as the child grows up throughout the years, but obviously so does the mom… The book ends with the adult child rocking his dying mom to sleep because she doesn't have the strength anymore. NO THANKS, BYE! P.S. Sorry for the spoilers.
The last thing I watched that made me cry
Okay, so I'm very terrified of scary things: scary movies, scary TV shows, an abandoned bicycle. I tried watching The Haunting of Bly Manor the other day because I believe it's important to support all queer female content! Like, everyone was telling me how amazing the love story was. #GothicRomance. So I gave it a shot, and within 30 minutes I had to turn it off because I was… fully crying. It was the scene where Dani goes to make herself a cup of tea in the middle of the night (AFTER THE CREEPY CHILD TELLS HER TO NOT LEAVE HER ROOM, WHICH SHOULD HAVE PUT A STOP HER MIDNIGHT STROLLING), and as she walks away, there's some sort of ominous figure watching her. This is after I had already attempted and failed to watch The Haunting of Hill House and cried during the pilot multiple times. So I'm done!!!
The first album I bought
Oh wow! I'm really having to do a deep dive into my brain to remember this one. It was probably Good Charlotte's The Young and The Hopeless, from a Sam Goody (RIP). I specifically remember listening to the album on repeat in my yellow Alba portable CD player, and then sharing the headphones with a very cute boy with swoopy hair — no, not earbuds, over-the-head headphones where I held the left side up to my ear and he held the right side up to his ear — hoping he'd really see me. Favorite tracks: "Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous" and "The Anthem."
The last concert I attended
I went to see King Princess in L.A. at the Wiltern. I was the oldest one there, and this was RIGHT before the world collapsed.
A movie that I watch over and over again
I'm gonna have to go with the 2000 classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It's a perfect comedy. Christine Baranski? Molly Shannon? Jim Carrey? Come onnnn. I've watched it so many times that I can pretty much recite every single line from the iconic motion picture. It's also my mom's favorite movie. The last time we watched it, we accidentally got too high on an edible and thought that we weren't able to understand the English language anymore when the Whos sang "Welcome Christmas." The joke was on us because the Whos were actually singing in gibberish. I can't talk about the movie without mentioning Faith Hill's beautiful rendition of "Where Are You Christmas?" and the music video that accompanied it. She was a Christmas angel. Her song playing at grocery stores is what I look forward to most during the holidays. I was deeply affected by anything Faith Hill touched. And I wanted to be with her so desperately that I could vomit.
The last thing I watched that made me laugh out loud
There's this video by comedians Joanna Bradley and Kelley Quinn called "Actresses Discuss Same-Sex Love Scene" in which they are two straight actresses in a lesbian film being interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter. And they just pretty much riff on what it was like filming a lesbian scene. It's 15 MINUTES, fully improvised, and I would have watched it for an hour. I'm going to shamelessly say that I had them on my show, The Lesbian Agenda, and I got the privilege to meet Fiona and Aisling for a sit-down interview. It's totally their bit, but I was honored to have them tell me how lesbian sex works.
The books I read that helped inform my own writing
So many! Jessi Klein's You'll Grow Out of It, Tina Fey's Bossypants, Samantha Irby's We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Isaac Oliver's Intimacy Idiot, Issa Rae's The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Marc Maron's Attempting Normal, and David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day. They all taught me different things. Tina Fey's was a masterclass in good-ass memoir writing. Samantha Irby taught me how to take risks stylistically and to f‑‑‑ing say s‑‑‑ you're too embarrassed to write about. Isaac Oliver taught me how to write about sex in a vulnerable and funny way. Jessi taught me to speak to not fitting into what society deems "normal" for women. Issa Rae taught me about being awkward and accepting it. Marc taught me how to discuss anxiety and my OCD. And David taught me that we Southerners are funny as s‑‑‑.
The last TV show I binged
Call My Agent! Okay, if you're not watching this show… YOU HAVE TO. It's hilarious. I love that the show centers on a lesbian who just gets to exist. She's complicated and f‑‑‑s up, but it has nothing to do with her being a lesbian. There's no coming-out scene because there doesn't need to be one. Camille Cottin is a dreamboat. I'm also obsessed with the actor who plays Hervé, who seems to be able to cry on command, and it's terriblement amusant. I want this show to go on and on forever.
The fictional world I'd most like to live in
I would love to somehow be an Avenger, but I have a feeling I'd be too worried all the time to save the world. Selfishly, I'd want the cool tech suit and the big house (I'm mainly thinking of Iron Man here) but would be anxious that some goblin would bust through my window in the middle of the night.
The writer I wish more people knew about
Ugh! This isn't fair because I feel like the people I'm obsessed with are now blowing up (which, YES, get that bag). But I have been a fan of Emerald Fennell's since she took over season 2 of Killing Eve. Samantha Irby was recommended to me years ago, and now she's writing for every television show (again, YES). Sue Perkins has a great memoir called Spectacles. And Phoebe Waller-Bridge (have you heard of her?) had a show on Netflix [from 2016] called Crashing. It somehow only got one season.
The tv show or movie I think everyone should watch
Call My Agent! Go. Run. Now. I know you have Netflix. Also, please let me write for the show! I don't know French, but I will learn!