Before television viewers knew of her, Stevie Ryan was the infamous YouTube comedienne clocking in endless views of her laugh-out-loud parodies of the most addictive yet ridiculous reality shows on air, including Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Toddlers and Tiaras. That was the case until recently, when VH1 gave the unabashed reality show junkie a chance to nationally voice her opinions on the absurdities of American pop culture with her own sketch show, Stevie TV, which airs every Sunday at 11p.m. EST.
Complex got the chance to get to know the up-and-coming star on one of her rare days out of the writer's room and undoubtedly, yet refreshingly, got more than we anticipated. Ryan filled us in on the pressures of an Internet sensation going mainstream, her urge to poke fun at the infinite amount of celebrity nude photo leaks and why she feels the need to sanitize herself after imitating Kim Kardashian.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
What made you decide to create your own YouTube videos?
I was already living in Los Angeles, auditioning for commercials and things like that. I had really been into silent films at the time and I had a little editing system on my laptop that I had just bought. And I was like, "Whoa! I can make my own movies?! Fuck yeah!" That's all I wanted to do.
A lot of people say, "Oh you did it so you can get recognized!" And I'm like, "No, I did it because it's fulfilling me on every level just being creative." I didn't care if it was just one person watching or a million, I really enjoyed it.
How did you feel when you realized thousands of people were watching your videos?
I just remember the first time seeing a big number—we got like 900 views—on the "Little Loca" video and that's the first time it hit me that there's a lot of people watching this. That's when I thought this might be more than I expected it to be.
I feel like it's kind of happening again with this show in that same sense of watching it grow, watching the numbers the grow, watching the audience grow. It's really cool to watch things develop like that in an organic and real way instead of just being shoved down people's throats.
Speaking of Little Loca, where did that character come from?
Growing up, there were a lot of Little Locas all around me and I just thought the cholas were so beautiful and tough. I had chola friends that protected me and I just thought they were so cool. So, Little Loca always kind of existed in me and I just thought I would bring her to life after I saw YouTube.
If you're on the internet, everyone hates you no matter what. So, when I first was on YouTube, all people were doing was being assholes to me. And I was like, "You guys don't know that there are actually scarier things in the world and tougher people than you. You're just on the Internet. You're not that tough." That's when I decided to bring that Little Loca character out. It was kind of just my way of defending myself I guess against the Internet.
You parodied Pretty Wild, which was produced by New Wave Entertainment, the company you're repped by now. How did that conversation go when they reached out to you?
New Wave saw it and they contacted me and were like, "We would love to meet you and pick your brain because we just thought you did such a great job with the show and we just want to see what you're up to." So, I just met with them and we came up with the concept of the show—a female sketch comedy that's basically about being a normal female perspective on the craziness that's happening. We just thought it would be smart because there's a lot of weird things that people are doing now and a lot of weird shows. It's all kind of annoying and someone needs to point those things out, so we just thought this would be the perfect catalyst for that.
On Stevie TV, it seems like there's no topic off limits. Is there anything you wouldn't do?
I'm so sick of these women taking naked photos and making sex tapes. . . Stop being whores, you guys!
I think the only thing I would try to avoid is anything about death. A lot of people are like, "You gotta do Amy Winehouse!" which I used to do before she passed away. But I would never want to do that to her family and I would like her to rest in peace. Anything else, if it's out there, it's not off limits.
I read your Twitter feed about your thoughts on Bombshell McGee.
She came out with a sex tape and I'm so angry about it for some reason. I'm so sick of these women taking naked photos and making sex tapes!
I have to find a way to hit this one because I'm so grossed out by celebrities doing this shit and I don't know why all of a sudden it's become the norm and it's accepted. Stop being whores, you guys! I understand if you're sexual—that's a natural human feeling. But at the same time, have some fucking respect and common sense. It's so strange to me that this is the image that we're putting out there for girls and thinking it's OK. Nudity's a beautiful thing and it should be respected.
It's time for someone to come out and say these things for all of the people that are thinking it. This is the thing I've been ranting at all day, so you just caught me at one of my heated moments. [Laughs.]
Are you a fan of the people you parody?
I never really dislike anyone, to be honest. I do shows I see something I like about. Usually after I have to get to know a character, I end up liking them, like Ke$ha. We have a Ke$ha parody and I never really cared for her before we wrote it. After listening to her songs and reading about her, I actually liked Ke$ha. I think some of her songs are really funny and I have a new respect for her, which is different because I didn't think I would be a fan.
So, it does change you in some ways on that and it makes you like people even more. I love Mob Wives, but I got such a great response from our Mob Wives parody from Renee and Drita and I love them even more!
Do you get feedback from any other people you parody?
We have a Jerseylicious parody, as well, because Tracy from Jerseylicious actually wrote to me and was like, "Hey people tell me I look like you all the time. Would you guys please parody Jerseylicious? I want you to play me." I was like, "Yeah, of course!"
I never really walk away not liking a person after I play them, except maybe the Kardashians. I just don't care ever about them, no matter what.
Why not the Kardashians?
I feel like a dirty whore playing them and I feel like I have to like sanitize my vagina and stuff. I just don't like playing Kim Kardashian. I mean, I don't mind playing her. I don't walk away liking her, I guess. I just feel gross after.
When you're not playing a character, what 's the real Stevie like?
I don't even know. This is who I am and I don't know how to describe that person. I'm just a mixture of all these fucked-up people I play. I'm a hot mess and that's it. I don't really care about myself in that way because I'm never in my own world. To me, Stevie Ryan is just like this boring person. I like leaving Stevie to go to other places. [Laughs.]
Do you write your own skits or have original material?
We had an original clip in the first episode called "Katrina," which is an original character I created a few years ago online. I have some original characters that will be making appearances throughout the season. I'm a writer on the show and there are a few other writers that are amazing. If I didn't write a sketch, I was so involved in it. That's what I did for months—sit with these writers and make them learn my voice. I have the coolest job in the world.
What would you say to actors who got their start the more traditional way who claim that it's so easy and unfair that people get discovered on YouTube?
Honestly, I disagree. I think that it's easier to be discovered and it's easier to show your talent. I think that they think it's unfair because they didn't have the option. I'd be bitter about it too if I didn't have that resource available to me at the time.
People want to throw you into the category of not being legit just because you're making it online and I think that that's bullshit.
I think that with auditions, you're stuck with this group of people and you have to find one person out of them. Whereas with the Internet, anyone can showcase themselves and talent is what rises to the top at the end of the day. I appreciate it because I know it would've taken me a lot longer to do what I'm doing without YouTube.
As far as anyone who is just trying to get somewhere—keep going and never give up. If you keep doing what you love to do, you will get there, whether it's the traditional way or online.
Would you say there's more pressure since you were discovered online to prove yourself?
Oh, totally! People think that because you're creating content online, you're not an actual valid person in the world. Whether or not you can act shouldn't depend on whether or not you do it online. People want to throw you into the category of not being legit just because you're making it online and I think that that's bullshit.
There's a lot of crap online that makes no sense. I completely agree, but to an extent. I don't like that people think that people on the Internet aren't real, which is fine because it makes me want to prove them wrong twice as much.
What would you do if people start parodying you?
Oh, people already parody me online! I'd be stoked and I would not be surprised. I'd be like, "Cool. Awesome. Let's try to get it in the show."
Do you watch it?
Well, I haven't lately. But when people used to parody my characters and me in general, I used to watch 'em all. I think it's awesome and hilarious. Hey, if I can dish it out, you down well bet I'm gonna take it. People can parody me because I don't take myself seriously. I'm just a human being and I'm just as weird as the rest of us. There's more than enough there to parody me with, anyways.