With her second book, Ginny Hogan proves that she is the most hilarious mathematician of her generation.
“I’m More Datable Than a Plate of Refried Beans and Other Romantic Observations” applies scientific methods to analyze Hogan’s love misadventures – with comedic results. The book chronicles the life of single, “indefinite partner” and then single again, including “overly thoughtful” essays, nonsensical satires (What Kind of Dating App Would God Invent he, and who would she be matched with?) and stand-up-style elements, including a breakup checklist and quizzes (is this dialogue from a couple’s argument or an ad for pads?).
The data scientist-turned-comedian got her start in San Francisco, though she now lives in Los Angeles and often performs in New York, and has published humorous articles in The New Yorker and McSweeney’s. Her debut book, 2019’s “Toxic Femininity in the Workplace,” addressed the sexism of the tech industry, while Hogan’s current book shares her humor found in dating, breakups, and all the sexy moments in between.
Hogan recently spoke with The Chronicle about Zoom from New York, where she was visiting family.
Q: After graduating from Stanford, you worked in technology. Why did you go from there to comedy?
A: I worked briefly at Facebook, then at two tech startups in San Francisco. At my last tech job, I had a lull month where I wasn’t sure what to work on, so I signed up for a stand-up comedy class. I wasn’t a big fan of stand-up at first, but the improv class started too late in the evening.
I became completely addicted to stand-up in a month. Even a week, honestly. I started doing it every night. In 2017, I left the technician position. I started freelancing and never went back to tech.
Q: What got you hooked on stand-up that first week?
A: In stand-up, the emphasis was on making your jokes as short as possible. I studied mathematics and I was a programmer. It was so cool – I had jokes that felt like I wrote lines of code. In programming, you will sometimes refactor your code, where if the same thing is repeated, you remove it and make it a separate function. I would do that with my jokes.
Also, I was very shy. When I told people I was doing stand-up, I think they thought I would be really uncomfortable on stage. And I was. I’m always. It’s part of my character.
It’s extremely addictive to have a large group of people laughing at your jokes. People say viral tweets are addictive, but that’s nothing compared to live performances.
Q: Going from working in tech to doing stand-up – I imagine that’s going from a misogynistic culture to a new misogynistic culture. Would you qualify publishing as another misogynistic culture?
A: The writing I do outside of stand-up feels like one of the most inclusive spaces I’ve worked in. My editor on this book is a woman. My agent is a woman. The editor I work with at The New Yorker is a woman. I like this.
Even though the tech industry is very misogynistic, I find stand-up comedy to be more so. It’s more toxic in general. There is no monitoring. There is no HR or anything.
I would probably rather date technicians than comedians. There’s something so antagonistic about dating. You basically enter into a negotiation early on to see who is going to give up what.
Q: Is dating in San Francisco, dating in LA or dating in New York different, and how?
A: San Francisco is one of the best places to date as a straight woman. He has many men. And there’s something about that, I think because people are very professionally motivated, people are more serious about finding a relationship.
LA is a difficult city to visit because it is so spread out. My first few months in LA, I dated someone who I was pretty lukewarm to because he lived nearby. Literally everyone was saying, “Don’t break up with him. You will never find anyone else within walking distance.
I don’t consider New York to be a great city for dating.
Q: What is your position now on dating?
A: I’m against normalizing the assumption that everyone wants a long-term relationship. When you catch up with friends, they ask you if you are in a relationship. If you’re single, you need a reason to be single. I don’t think it should be treated as a standard goal for everyone.
Q: With all the success you’ve had with material in your personal life, do you struggle with intrusive questions and maintaining boundaries?
A: People assume familiarity, and that can make me feel uncomfortable. If someone sends me a long message about a personal issue, I think they feel close to me. But I don’t know who they are, and I don’t know how to respond in a way that validates their problem. I don’t want them to feel invisible.
Another challenge is when people take my words to mind as the truth. In the book, the essays at the beginning of each section are true. But a lot of my Twitter isn’t true. When I tell jokes or do stand-up, I don’t think I’m presenting it as the truth. But people sometimes try to decipher too much of the truth.
Q: Are you tired of dating jokes?
A: I’m still so interested in dating. Romance plays a role in so many stories.
I’m more datable than a plate of refried beans and other romantic observations
By Ginny Hogan
(Books of chronicles; 240 pages; $22.95)
Ginny Hogan in conversation with Natasha Vinik: In person. 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4. Free, but registration required. Fabulosa Books, 489 Castro St., SF www.eventbrite.com