Art by Chelsea Akpan
Story by Simone Rembert
When I began this prolonged period of self-isolation, I had a vision of achievement. I’d read 100 books or learn to do a split or something. I failed, regressing into a pubescent-like state of Vitamin D-deficiency and social media abuse. I can’t speak for her, but by all indications, Raina Morris (or as you may know her, @quakerraina) did too. Luckily, she possesses that universally funny, oft-imitated brand of intelligently-irreverent faux-ditsy humor which speaks to the general sense of existential dread felt by pretty much any person born after 1980. And with it, from her childhood bedroom in Portland, Oregon, Raina has amassed a massive Twitter following— garnering the attention of blue checks and the British press alike. Shortly after we spoke, she did her first stand-up set and is now working on writing for television. She’s one of few people for whom “viral” and “longevity” can be paired in a sentence. Talk about achievement.
A few weeks ago, I dialed Raina to talk about Zoom decorum, “Jurassic Park” and of course, John Boyega.
Simone Rembert: You’ve been a fixture on my timeline for the past three or four months. I’m curious to talk about your life before and after you blew up on Twitter. What were you doing in January?
Raina Morris: I was in college. I just finished college in May, virtually. Had my little ceremony and everything.
RM: Thank you! It was incredibly anti-climactic. My school did not have a virtual graduation. I just got my diploma in the mail. In January, I was in Boston, where I went to college. I was probably very cold and deeply, deeply tired. From the Twitter perspective, I think my tweets looked exactly the same, but the audience was just much, much smaller. My daily life then was barista-ing in the morning, going to class, and complaining a lot about both of those things.
SR: Do you think it was the Zoë Kravitz video that projected you into Twitter stardom?
RM: You know, this is something that I’ve been thinking about. It’s always things that I don’t think are that funny that pop off. But the first thing was probably the damn Zoë Kravitz video. My mom went on a walk and I was like, okay I have 20 minutes to make content without the judging eyes. (Laughs) That was pretty popular. Zoë Kravitz saw it, which made me want to die. I also feel like once you have a certain number of followers, people just follow you without really checking if they want to.
SR: The numbers speak for themselves. If 30,000 other people agree, why not?
RM: Whenever someone is like, “This is dumb!” I’m like, “yeah, you followed a dumb account!” The second big wave was that cursed John Boyega video, which again, was not that funny—
SR: I think many people would disagree with you on that one, but let’s get into that later. Did you do any comedy in college or before?
RM: I did not do any college comedy stuff. I was studying health science. A woman in STEM, thank you very much. A lot of my close friends who went to other schools were super involved in their comedy scene. I was definitely jealous of them. But I never found the comedy scene at my school. I got more involved in the comedy community as a person who loves watching. Especially in the summer, I would watch stand up at clubs a lot. I’ve always loved TV and wanted to be a TV writer. It’s been a running joke, the last couple years of college— I wasn’t going to do science, but I had to finish… Writing jokes has always been really fun for me. That’s such a boring take. (Laughs)
SR: You’re listed as an “alt comedian” on Northeastern’s notable alumni Wikipedia page. [This page has been edited since the time of this interview.] Do you think that title fits? What do you plan to do now that all these people on the internet have affirmed that you’re really funny?
RM: I think “alt comedian” is a really funny [label] because of the cohort of people who are self-identified alt comedians. They’ve been going through a tumultuous time in the past few weeks. (Laughs) That’s their business. I wouldn’t really even call myself a comedian because I haven’t done the live comedy struggle. That will always kind of worry me, that the real comedians will be like, “Who does she think she is?” ‘cause I’ve never bombed in front of like, three people. Live comedy doesn’t exist right now anyway.
SR: And it may never exist again…
RM: We may never exist again… I recently started working with a writing manager which has been really exciting. I’m trying to get into TV writing, which is what I want to do mostly. I don’t want to be a performer; I’ve never wanted to be an actor or anything. I would rather be writing. But, I guess if you have the charisma…
SR: It’s not something you choose, it chooses you.
RM: Am I an alt comedian? You know how you’re not punk if you say you’re punk? That’s my approach to that.
SR: Could you detail The John Boyega Incident? Do you think you learned anything from it? Was there some sort of lesson in there?
RM: You’re Gen Z, we see eye to eye. I’ve seen what the internet can do. I wasn’t really surprised by anything. I posted the infamous video of me pitching myself with all I have to offer, which is nothing, to John Boyega. I think it’s, objectively, a fine-haha-chuckle kind of video. Then, I went to sleep. What happened while the U.K. was awake is where I get lost in the narrative. What I understand is that a fake John Boyega account responded to it and everyone thought it was real. And then, real John Boyega responded to the fake account. So, the British version of “The Shade Room”— this is my favorite part of the whole thing— “The Shade Borough,” the storied media outlet—
SR: Are you serious? That’s not just a joke you made up, it’s actually called “The Shade Borough?”
RM: It’s a real thing. They started posting about me. Which was the best thing that ever happened to me, until a bunch of people who thought my video was real and sincere and hated my guts, all started offering their opinion. Of course, that’s how the internet works. And the people who follow “The Shade Borough” were really a delight. (Laughs) Again, nothing surprising. I have a friend who is British-Nigerian, and he was like, “you’re the only thing that’s happening on British-Nigerian Twitter right now.” The British press is famously really intense, so I did feel a bit like Meghan Markle.
SR: And famously hates Black people and John Boyega himself.
RM: Such a nice combination of things they were prepared to pop off on. I literally got a DM from The Daily Mail that was like, “Can we post your video?” I remember what you did to Diana…
SR: It will not be forgotten. If there were another celebrity to whom you’d proposed marriage, do you think it would’ve gone better?
RM: Hm. Personally, I think that there was nothing wrong with my initial proposal. I think it was honest and simple. If I ever took that approach again, I would choose a celebrity that does not have fans that want to marry them. It seems like John Boyega, specifically, is the most eligible bachelor.
SR: So you need a hump-and-dump. Or, someone whose fans aren’t sexually attracted to them at all.
RM: Exactly. An uggo who is unpopular. A C-Lister with a weird face. I was Icarus and I need to fly a little closer to home.
SR: You’re on Cameo—what’s that like? Do you get a lot of requests? Are they weird? Is it a stable source of income?
RM: It’s absolutely not a stable source of income. I’ve only been on it a month, but I haven’t made that much money. It’s pretty fun. It feels incredibly intimate. I have gotten some very weird requests. A couple days ago, this person DM’d me on Twitter and bought a Cameo simply to tell me to check my DM from them. I think people think I’m an industry plant. They were pitching a movie idea, starring me. What do you want me to do with this? Am I writing it? The guy’s like, “I want you to be in it, I’m co-writing it.” Who’s going to make this? I don’t know if you think I’m incredibly connected and in the position to create this project for us but I live at my mom’s house and I’m replying to your DM right now. A couple of other requests are like “Raina, say you’re in love with _____ but don’t say you were paid to say it.” Truly, mostly a thrill. Not at all a source of income. More like one more thing to fill my time.
SR: It must be a nice ego boost to know that there are people who genuinely need a supposedly unscripted declaration of your love for them to get through the day.
RM: It’s so dark, Simone. Then again, who are we but tools to boost each other’s egos?
SR: Especially now. Do you feel the internet is healthy for you under present circumstances?
RM: That is a question I’ve been asking myself pretty consistently. I’m having a really hard time of remembering what my baseline level of feeling happy and sane is. I definitely should be spending less time on my phone.
SR: Do you have TikTok?
RM: I’ve not been making TikToks, but I do watch them. And that takes up hours and hours. It could take up your whole day. But sometimes you learn from a TikTok, you never know.
SR: That’s true! Those videos where it’s a kid in a high school bathroom listing off fun facts.
RM: I found this account where it’s this man in a rural place— I don’t know where. He makes huge quantities of heavily seasoned meat. His skillet is the size of a car. Cooking two sheep at once. He’s in the most magical place, somewhere in the mountains. He shouts his instructions. It’s so peaceful to me. I also lust after him, because he’s so able.
SR: Exuding ability. Procuring the meat, lifting the meat, cooking the meat…
RM: At the end of the videos, he shouts something and then takes a big bite. I love him so much. I don’t know how I’m doing wellness-wise, probably not great. I’ve been finding great pleasure in FaceTiming people though, which was not the case before the pandemic.
SR: Do you feel the same way about Zooming people?
RM: Zooms are hard because you want it to feel like a group hang but you can never talk to just one person. Everything you say is for everyone. And that might be just because I’m shady. (Laughs) Most of my communication is significant eye contact and you simply can’t have that on a Zoom call. They don’t know you’re looking at them. My college friends have been doing a little happy hour which has been cute. I’ve been loving a long FaceTime. Just one person, we just sit. It’s so nice. Watching someone brush their teeth, God, that’s so nice.
SR: What are some of your favorite movies and TV shows?
RM: That is such a hard question.
SR: One of the worst questions, actually. I’m terribly sorry.
RM: I’ll just say what I’ve been watching recently, because that seems less stressful. I just started watching “Arrested Development” for the first time. It’s something people have been telling me to watch for a thousand years and I didn’t, because everyone was telling me to. Again, you’re not punk if you say you’re punk. It’s really fucking good! Really funny. But, I’ve been feeling really celebrity-averse lately. I feel like every other day I wake up and find out someone I admired said something shitty in 2009. Pop culture has just been a little much for me lately. I’m wary of praising anything.
SR: I think that’s a good ideology to have though. I recently saw a meme about how America’s identity is really just the worship of popular culture and its figures. We’re coming to this point of reckoning because we’re realizing we can’t worship them like deities because they’re all people who’ve made mistakes, some of them egregious and unforgivable. I think you’re speaking to something that’s being felt a lot in this moment.
RM: I feel like there’s two cool camps to be in and I have no idea where I fall in this spectrum. There are the people who are like, “If someone said one fucked up thing, they’re done, they’re fucked, there’s no space for them!” And then those who are like, “Whoa, cancel culture’s crazy!” I feel crazy listening to any sort of discourse right now. I don’t know what my opinion is on anything.
SR: I can’t think of a word that isn’t “gray area” or “blurred line” but it just feels the discourse is so binary.
RM: I just know that I’m not a thought leader, so I feel pretty comfortable not sharing my stance on that. I watched “The Mummy” the other day and literally every second of it is so offensive that I almost relaxed into it.
SR: Brendan Fraser was so hot too. That probably helped.
RM: He was so goddamn beefy. I mean I just can’t believe how wide his neck was. Good for him.
SR: Do you have any projects lined up for the coming months?
RM: Right now, I’m really just hunkered down trying to get good at writing. The biggest thing that I’m proud of right now is the Jurassic Park Twitter account.
SR: Are you a big “Jurassic Park” fan?
RM: My sweet little secret is that I’ve never seen any of the Jurassic Park movies. I think that’s what I bring to the table in terms of content for that page. There’s twelve of us writing. A few of us really cherish, love and know a lot about the Jurassic Park movies and dinosaurs. Then there’s me, I’m tweeting for the girlies who didn’t know that a pterodactyl is not a dinosaur.
SR: It’s not?
RM: I found that out because I got cyber bullied on the Jurassic Park account for calling it a dinosaur.
SR: Then what the fuck is it?
RM: It’s a pterosaur. Isn’t that the worst thing you’ve ever heard?
SR: Ew. Why is there even a distinction?
RM: I don’t know. At this point, what brings me peace is my lack of knowledge. I’ve been saying whatever I want. It’s beautiful.
SR: This account is golden.
RM: It brings me so much joy because while there’s no way to really tell who wrote what, sometimes there’s a banger, and I’m like, we’re doing something beautiful here. And fundamentally unhelpful.
SR: A couple of years ago, there was an account from the perspective of the character Tim— the young boy terrorized by the dinosaurs.
RM: That’s a character? Oh no!
SR: This account, every three or four months, would tweet out something like, “I can’t fall asleep without remembering what the velociraptors did.”
RM: What I’ve gathered about this movie is that it’s fucking terrifying.