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Christian Lander - Blogger and author

Christian Lander
'I had dreamt about being a comedy writer my entire life, but I saw how hard it was to make inroads into the profession and kind of buried my dreams.'

At the start of 2008, Christian Lander was a copywriter for an interactive agency. He hit upon an idea for a satirical blog about the interests of white people and started writing it in his free time to amuse himself and his friends. In just a month it had become an Internet phenomenon. Before long, he was approached by Random House to turn his blog into a book and promptly left his job to have a crack at being a full-time writer.

Stuff White People Like is a blog and a book of humorous observations about the 'white' lifestyle   such as the obsession with coffee, scarves and organic food.

What were your writing credentials before you started blogging? Did you aspire to be a comedy writer?

I had dreamt about being a comedy writer my entire life, but I saw how hard it was to make inroads into the profession and kind of buried my dreams. On the writing side I was a journalist for a while before giving it up to be an academic. Prior to the blog blowing up I was a copywriter. So I've been writing in one form or another for most of my life.

What did you do at uni?

My BA is in English and History, my MA is in Film, and I dropped out of a PhD in Film and Literature. I think it's all definitely helped me as it's made me sound smarter than I actually am.

How did the idea for the blog come about?

The idea came about from an instant messenger conversation that led to my friend and I talking about what white people were doing instead of watching The Wire. It was done as a side-project and I really only expected about five people to read it.

When did you realise the site was really taking off?

It was a strange few months where things just kept getting bigger. Each day I would think, 'This can't get any bigger', and then it did. I knew I could quit my job when I signed the book deal. I actually had to because I had a really short deadline for finishing the project (30 days).

When did Random House get in touch with you about writing a book?

I got an agent first, and Random House made the deal happen in March. I was thrilled and excited beyond belief!

Did you leave your job indefinitely?

I left indefinitely. The success of the blog/book has allowed me about a year to try to make it as a full-time writer, hopefully in comedy. If that completely fails then I'll go back to work. Probably not at the same company though.

Everyone at work was super supportive. It's a pretty amazing story and they were all great about it.

Did you just coop yourself up in a room all day and write?

No actually. This will probably sound disheartening to people who want to be writers. I just wrote what was in my head and it all came out very quickly. Most posts were written (from first word to published version) in about an hour.

How much of the project is self-mockery?

It's almost entirely self-mockery. I don't like outdoor performance gear [Stuff White People Like #87], but other than that I'm pretty guilty of all of it. But my worst one is 'knowing what's best for poor people'.

Speaking of the photos, your wife Jess is credited with many of the photos from the book   how much fun did you have on the project together?

A lot. But truthfully (and shamefully) most of the photos were just taken from our lives over the past few years.

Some comedians are quietly pleased when they offend someone: it means they're doing something right. Is this true of you?

I think offending people can be really fun if you do it with material that's not really offensive. What I mean is that it's very easy to offend someone with photos of dead children or bestiality or something deplorable. When you offend them with something that really isn't offensive, it's really fantastic.

As far as racism goes, I spent a lot of time in graduate school with people who were desperate to censor everything and label it all as racist. I think when we keep making race such a taboo it never solves anything. I grew up with friends of all kinds of races, and we generally used a lot of horribly racist slurs against each other. But it didn't matter because there was no malice behind it. We were friends first and I think sometimes people can get caught up in words and miss out on what's really important.

In a way, the issue of 'whiteness' and race issue is a distraction from the fact that Stuff White People Like is a perceptive commentary on human behaviour. Do you see it as observation comedy?

It's definitely observation comedy. Now, I've said before you don't have to be white to be white. All of this behaviour and action can be enjoyed by anyone, but the truth is that all of these activities are fundamentally branded as white in our world. So a Chinese person who enjoys farmer's markets and indie music is probably going to be accused of acting white.

What has the fame been like?

Internet fame is very strange, and fortunately it's hard to get a swelled head from Internet fame. I went to a conference in Boston called ROFL Con that brought together all the Internet famous/funny people out there and everyone was very similar in that all of us know how lucky we are and all of us started our respective projects because we thought they were funny, not because we thought they would lead to real fame.

Is there another book in this?

I don't think so, but we'll see.

What sort of work would you like to do after this project runs its course?

Comedy writing for television or hosting a talk show. That's pretty much it really.

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