Heather Land, A PERFECT 10

Heather Land, A PERFECT 10

Heather Land: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Zibby Owens: Oh, my gosh, I’m thrilled to have you. I’ve been really excited to do it.

Heather: Thank you. You’ve given me a reason to get up this morning and put on a bra, so I appreciate it.

Zibby: That might be the most useful thing I do for anyone all day.

Heather: It’s a reason to live.

Zibby: That’s good. Congrats on the release of your latest book, A Perfect 10. So exciting. Look your I Ain’t Doin’ It mug. Look at that.

Heather: Got to represent this morning, right?

Zibby: Yes, exactly. I think I saw that your shirts were sold out or you’re rereleasing your shirts. Aren’t you doing something with merch or something? Do you have a new T-shirt?

Heather: Yeah, we have a new 2020 I Ain’t Doin’ It. They sold out in two hours. We were like, oh, we grossly underbought. We’ve got to rethink this. We’ve got to make a new order. That’s a good problem to have.

Zibby: It’s a good problem to have. For people who aren’t as familiar with your trajectory to becoming this sensation comedian, Instagram, author, everything, can you talk a little bit about how you got started and how you ended up here?

Heather: It’s kind of a crazy, weird phenomenon, really. I had just gone through a divorce after almost fifteen years of marriage. I had been in ministry my whole life and leading worship. My ex-husband was a youth pastor. When you go through a divorce in the church world — church work is very emotional. It takes heart and soul. I just didn’t see a way to continue doing that at that point. I was really broken and needed to heal. I moved home from Colorado. I was in Colorado. I moved home to Tennessee. Moved in with my parents for about three months, me and my kids. That was great fun. Then finally got a little rent house. Got a job. A really good friend of mine gave me a job doing some administrative work for him. Then ended up creating a refinance department, essentially, for his company. He put me in charge of it. I’m like, “Listen, I can barely do simple addition. Are you sure?” He really took a gamble and gave me a good job with some stability.

In the meantime, my kids had turned me onto Snapchat. I found the ugliest filter I could find on Snapchat and was just making really stupid videos between me and a couple of my friends. They were like, “You need to put these on social media.” I said, “Absolutely not. I’m single. This is not the way to get a date.” I wouldn’t do it for the longest. Then finally, on a dare, one of them dared me — I can’t even remember what my reward was for doing it. It was evidently something really great, so I finally posted my first video to Facebook, to my personal page. People started watching it. They were messaging me saying, “We love your I ain’t doin’ it videos. Is that what they’re called?” I was like, “They’re not called anything. I don’t even know what you’re talking about, I ain’t doin’ it.” I didn’t even realize that I had said it. I had to go back and re-watch it. I was like, oh, I did say I ain’t doin’ it. People were asking me for more. I was like, okay, yeah, we’ll make some more I ain’t doin’ it videos. I made two or three more. Then Susannah Lewis, Whoa! Susannah, she reached out to me. She actually was one of my neighbors, but I never knew her at the time. She just said, “Can I post a video?” I said, “Sure. I’ve got a big girl job, so I don’t really care. You can do whatever you want.” She said, “You’re going to need to start a fan page because people will start following you.” I didn’t even understand what she was talking about. I was mortified to start a fan page. I said, “Absolutely not. People are going to think I want to be a comedian. I’ve got a real job. I’m not trying to be a comedian.” She said, “I’m telling you, you’re going to want to start that page to keep people away from your kids and all that,” so I did.

I started a fan page. I went to work that morning. It was September the 6th, 2017. I started that fan page. When I went to church that night — we still go to church on Wednesday nights in the South. I went to church that night. There were 750 followers, which I thought was amazing. She had posted her video, obviously. When I came home, there were 55,000 followers. It just kept going up and up and up. After a month, the page was at a million. I had my two cousins and a girlfriend answering thousands of messages every day. They would report back, “I’m sitting here typing at work. They’re just blowing me up on my phone. People want you to come to their churches and their events and their theaters.” I’m like, “What do they want me to do?” They wanted me to do comedy. I told my friend Tasha, I said, “I am not a comedian.” She said, “Yes, you are. You just don’t get paid for it. Do you want to try to get paid for it?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” Two weeks later, I quit my job. I sold my brand-new house that I had just built. I moved in with some friends in Nashville for about three months until I found a place, sold a bunch of T-shirts to get me by for a few months so I’d have a paycheck, and here we are. I went on tour. I’ve done a couple of tours now. It’s the weirdest life I’ve ever lived, but I just am loving it. I’m taking it in stride. I’m like, okay, whatever’s next. Let’s see.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, that’s amazing.

Heather: It’s been super .

Zibby: I saw on your Instagram that you met — your husband was your production manager on your tour.

Heather: Yes! We’re getting married in twenty-four days. He was my production manager on my first tour. My manager introduced me to him and said, “This is your production manager for this round.” We jumped on a bus and just fell in love pretty immediately. We’ve been inseparable ever since. Now he is really my road manager, essentially, if I can ever get back on the road because of COVID. We obviously get each other and our line of work. We love being on the road. We love traveling. It’s been awesome all the way around, just really sweet, redemptive story after going through quite a bit. It’s been a relief and a joy.

Zibby: It’s amazing. We get a sneak peek at a happy ending already.

Heather: Right, for me too. Every day, I wake up — this morning, I said, “We’re getting married in twenty-four days.” Every day is just so exciting. I’ve never lived that life. It’s very weird and wonderful. I just love it. Loving it.

Zibby: I have to say, as I was researching you and reading your book and learning about your story, I feel like there are some parallels. I also got divorced. I was forty when I got divorced, or around there. I had four kids and had to start over again. That’s actually how I ended up starting this podcast, which came out of nowhere for me. Now it’s become a whole thing. I actually got remarried a couple years ago now, but totally fell in love, my own sort of redemptive story. Anyway, when I was looking at your pictures and getting all ready for the wedding, I was thinking back to my wedding and getting bridesmaids dresses for my little girls and my boys. It can happen.

Heather: Can we have coffee off the record soon so we can talk about all that?

Zibby: Yes, please.

Heather: I would like to dig into that a little more. It’s interesting. Like I said, I did ministry my whole life. Once I went through a divorce, it opened me up to a whole new group of people that I never could relate to. Really, it’s like half of the population. I’m like, oh, wow, this is a new ballgame. People have gone through a lot when they’ve gotten divorced. I had no clue. It really does change the whole game. You start over. You have to check the divorced box on your taxes. That was a tough one for me. It is a stripping away of everything that you thought represented stability to you. Really, I feel like even though I have tapped into this new side of myself that I didn’t even know was there, I really have found who I am through divorce. It’s been such a beautiful experience on this side of it.

Zibby: I feel the same way. That’s why sometimes I feel like I want to shout it from the rooftops. I’m like, I’m me again. I had lost me for so long. I didn’t think I was coming back. Now this is just who I am. Now every day I get to talk to people and record it. It’s not just in my professional life. It’s in every area. My mom says your sparkle comes back.

Heather: You’re alive again, really. Hopefully for me, it seems like this is your story as well, that you have a partner now who lets you be you and gives you the freedom to explore who you are and all the changes of who you are. That’s really what Steven does for me. He loves me every phase. Whether I’m a comedian or not, he doesn’t care. At first, I thought, oh, gosh, he only knows me on the road. Is he still going to love me off the road? Then COVID hit. I went, okay, here we go. This is going to test the waters. We’ve had the greatest time quarantining together. We just love each other’s company. He really lets me be me. It is just so refreshing.

Zibby: That’s amazing. How is it with your kids?

Heather: Quarantine or new stepdad?

Zibby: Well, both. I mean with him, incorporating a new guy into the scene.

Heather: It’s been wonderful. They absolutely adore him. They’re thrilled about the wedding. I’m kind of like you, I’m picking out my son’s — we went and got his suit and getting my daughter’s dress. They absolutely adore him. He doesn’t have children. He’s never wanted kids, but he always potentially saw himself marrying someone with children. He loves the older age, which I know nothing about. I’m all about that baby phase. Now I’ve got a seventeen-year-old and an almost fourteen-year-old. I have no clue what to do with them, not to mention we are virtual schooling and I am the most technically challenged human being. Steven left to go send off some T-shirts. I was like, “Please don’t leave me alone with Zoom.” He looked at my phone. He said, “You don’t even have Zoom on your phone.” How have I been surviving? All to say, he is the technical guru of the family. Right now while they’re both virtual schooling, I am not parenting. I just lay around and drink coffee in my pajamas while he parents. You know what? I’m like, “Listen, it’s your turn. It’s your turn. I’m tired. I’m tapping out.” It’s really been a great partnership from my perspective anyway.

Zibby: My husband is the same. He didn’t have kids of his own. He just walked into our situation and embraced it. Now he cuts all the kids’ hair. He does all the cooking.

Heather: I need to meet this guy.

Zibby: He buys a lot of their clothes, like the coolest this and that, and things that I just don’t know. He’s up on all of it. It’s such a gift.

Heather: A gift, yes. Zero to four, man, he deserves more than a pat on the back. Good for him for embracing it. That’s so wonderful. I love that.

Zibby: Before we even got together, I was like, “Okay, just don’t even kiss me because I have four kids. I’m not having any more kids. You could go meet some pretty young thing and have lots of babies and have your life. Just let me walk down the beach the other way.”

Heather: You are so funny. I said the same thing to Steven. I said, “Listen, you don’t have to sign up for this. This is a lot. I’ve got baggage. I’ve got kids. I’ve got a lot of history. Save yourself. Run.” He just wouldn’t. Every day that he stayed, I think it made me love him so much more, you know? You do know. You get it.

Zibby: I totally get it. It’s funny because I don’t often meet people in the same life stage situation hardly ever. I’m trying to think if I know anybody. Anyway, it’s nice.

Heather: I want to interview you. I want to ask you more questions. We need to continue this at a later date, for sure.

Zibby: Yes, I would love to. I would really love to. Oh, my gosh. By the way, I read in your book that you grew up with a payphone in your house. I thought that was one of the most memorable details I’ve read lately.

Heather: Yes. It’s one of my most memorable details of my life. It’s turned out to be a great memory, actually. At the time, it was not. Obviously, you read my mom lived only thirty minutes from her family, but it was still long distance. She was running up that phone bill. My dad was not having any more of it. He told her if she didn’t quit, he was putting in a payphone. He stuck to his word. We had a little bowl of dimes sitting on top of it. We’d have to stick a dime in there every time we wanted to talk. Then the chord was maybe a foot and a half, so you weren’t going anywhere. Everybody was listening to your convo right there in the hall. It was — wow. I don’t even know what to say about it. It was scary, not fun.

Zibby: You said in your book that you were always the kid from the very beginning who would try to entertain the grown-ups. As an only child, that would be your thing, making people laugh or entertaining them. That’s who you are. Is that just how it was?

Heather: Mostly, I entertained them with my hairbrush. I would sing. That was my gig as a kid. Whenever anybody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wanted to be a singer. That’s all I cared about. My parents kind of pawned me off as the singing entertainment. I was petrified every time, but I always loved it. I always did it. That’s where it started. Always growing up, I was the one who always tried to get a joke in under the radar. Sarcasm really got me through life. I touched on it just a little bit in this new book because I’m honestly trying to just test the waters with it. I talked a little bit about growing up with an addictive parent in the house. I think sarcasm really helped me muddle through that, unknowingly. I didn’t even realize that was a coping mechanism that’s now turned into a career. I do think that’s what it was. It was just a way to cope. I’ve always been, interestingly, very melancholy. I cry a lot. I also am super sarcastic and optimistic at the same time. It’s quite the conundrum, quite the split personality. The comedy side just helped me through life. It still does every day.

Zibby: That’s what they say. You just have to have a sense of humor.

Heather: You got to laugh or you’ll cry. That’s what we say in the South.

Zibby: That’s a better expression.

Heather: You got to laugh or you’ll cry.

Zibby: So tell me about how the writing entered into your life. You started the viral videos. Things started blowing up. Then when did this become a writing thing?

Heather: I think it was actually a few weeks before I even posted a video, I really felt in my heart — I’ll never forget where I was. I was sitting in my bedroom in my house. I was writing on my computer, just like a little blog entry except that I had no blog. I thought, you know what, I think I’m going to start a blog. I remember texting a friend and telling her that. I feel like I’m supposed to start a blog. I don’t know why, but I’m just going to throw it out there and see what sticks to the wall. Started a little WordPress free blog spot and started just posting a few random entries. Once the videos went viral, I got approached by some literary agents. I didn’t even know what a literary agent was. I read the emails. I was like, I don’t really know what this means. A friend of mine was like, “They’re wanting to try to get you a book deal.” I’m like, “A book deal?” I was just so new to all of it. I thought, well, okay. I’ve got a blog. I know how to communicate. Let’s give it a go. As you can see from my writing, it is very conversational. There is nothing fancy about it. It is exactly like I would sit here and talk to you. I think it works for a humor book and for comedy. It’s relatable. It’s pretty dumbed down. Anybody with a third-grade reading level can snatch it up and get through it in a day. It’s pretty simple. That’s how it started.

Zibby: You are playing the book down tremendously. By the way, being able to take what’s in your head and get it on the page is not something that everybody can do. That is actually a skill.

Heather: You’re so sweet. You know what? Sometimes I think, and I’ve said this to Steven, I’ve said, “I think I just need to go write my thoughts down because I’m better on paper.” If I can write you a letter and tell you how I feel, it will come out so much more accurately and eloquently than if I try to muddle through the millions of thoughts in my brain. For some reason, it’s almost a better means of communication. Too bad I can’t put tape over my mouth and just put a pen in my hand.

Zibby: My husband Kyle is finally like, “You cannot email me anymore. Stop emailing me these paragraph-long things.”

Heather: Can’t get through them.

Zibby: I’d be like, “Here’s how I feel.” He’s like, “I’m sitting right –” He’d be on the couch. It’s so much easier to say it right and get it down.

Heather: And delete. You can delete before it’s out there for everybody, before you can not take it back. That’s the beauty of it. You get it.

Zibby: He’s like, “I don’t even have time to read all these.” After a while, I’m writing him books.

Heather: Put them in your memoir.

Zibby: Exactly. Got to save those. Dig them up somewhere.

Heather: That’s right, girl.

Zibby: Then how did you find the whole experience? Tell me about the first book versus the second book. How was it with the book out there, your whole life out there, your kids, people responding to it, and all of that?

Heather: It’s interesting. The first book, I had this well of blog entries to draw from. I knew that I wanted it to be just an essay book, standalone chapters. You don’t have to read it in order, simple stories. The first one, I think there was so much momentum behind — I was on tour. I would watch Steven. He’s on the stage working during the day. Of course, I don’t go on until the night. I would sit up in the balcony at whatever venue we were at and I would just write. It was a really fun, easy experience for me. Like I said, I think the momentum of the time kept me going, kept the juices flowing. The second one, if I’m being totally honest, the first thought that came into my head was, I don’t know how in the world I’m going to write a second book. I have nothing to say. I’m so tired. I did pinch-hit a little bit with this book. One of my best friends — if I was having a bridal party, she would be my maid of honor. She is throwing me a bridal lunch and doing the whole thing. We’re not having a wedding party. Anyway, she’s a great writer. Her name is Heather Leonard. She’s in Mississippi. I asked her to help me with this book. We kind of tag teamed it. She did most of the heavy lifting with my stories. We talked through it and rewrote and had fun girl weekends where we got together and wrote. It was really nice to have a little bit of help from somebody on the outside that was pulling things out of me.

The book is very similar in style. It’s another essay book. It’s standalone chapters about nonsense and just more stories of growing up Southern. I do write a whole chapter about Steven and how we met. I write, like I said at the beginning of our convo, a little bit about growing up in addiction. That is something I really do want to write more about and talk more about. I’m trying to ride that fine line of being a comedian and telling my story but without embarrassing or disrespecting anyone. That’s definitely not in my heart to do. I’ve really tried to find the balance. I wrote a little bit about it, which was just me tiptoeing in to see how I felt and to see how it was received. It’s nothing too deep, but I do want to get that part of the story out there because I think people will relate. It’s honest. It’s real. A lot of people go through it, people that we don’t even realize. I want to give people the freedom to share that part of their story. That’s why I wrote about it. My kids, when it comes to writing or comedy or anything that I do, they just think I’m an idiot. They are completely unimpressed with me. My son constantly says, “I cannot believe you make a living doing this.” It is baffling to him, and to me too. They’re not impressed. I wrote in the first book, I dedicated it to them or I wrote in the acknowledgments to them. They don’t care. They’re like, “That’s sweet. Thanks.” They just want to go be with their friends, for me to buy them a skateboard so they can skate, give them money to go shop. Typical teenage life, unimpressed with mom, which is awesome. I wouldn’t have it any other way, really.

Zibby: How else would you stay humble?

Heather: Absolutely.

Zibby: How did you monetize the comedy? Was it going on the road and selling tickets? Not to dive into your personal finances here.

Heather: It’s a totally fair question. Doing live events, that’s the way. I have no money anymore because I haven’t been on the road in a year. I’ve done one show this year. It was on Valentine’s Day. That’s what has brought in the money. Merch helps a little bit. It helps just monthly, pay the bills. I’m very grateful for that. Very ready to get back on the road not just because that’s my livelihood, but I really love the people. Every time I get on the stage, I feel like I’m in somebody’s living room. It’s scary, but it’s so fun. The relationship that I’m able to somehow develop between me and the people overrides the nerves. Writing a set is very daunting. I don’t know about you, but my creative process is weird. Everybody’s is different. I have a friend who’s a songwriter. He tells me you have to schedule in creativity. You have to schedule it. I try to do it. I try to do it his way, but it doesn’t work for me. I’ll go to writing sessions. I still write songs. I’ve got some buddies that I write with. If I’m not feeling it, nothing comes out of it every time. The minute that I’m feeling inspiration, and eventually I always do feel it, I’ll just say, I got to go. I got to go write. I’ll get in the car or I’ll get in the bathtub. Those are my two best places to think and write. It’s the weirdest thing. It just comes out. The process is super weird. The payoff is being in front of people and doing the live comedy. Man, it’s quite the thrill for me.

Zibby: You’re bringing a laptop into the tub?

Heather: I’ve just got my notes out on my phone.

Zibby: Oh, the phone. Okay.

Heather: Yeah, I’ve just got my phone out.

Zibby: I’m thinking, this is a very risky writing habit here.

Heather: I do have one of those long things that goes across my tub and I can set my computer on it. I’m super scared. I’m better with just my phone. That’s how it goes for me.

Zibby: Do you have any advice to aspiring authors now having written two books and all the sets you do and everything else?

Heather: Oh, lord. First of all, I am not one to be giving advice. Let’s just throw out that disclaimer. Since you asked, this is my advice. Be honest. Be authentic. I just feel like that’s what people want to hear. They want something they can relate to. I’ve been in church my whole life. I’ve sat through a million and one sermons. I’ve fallen asleep in probably three quarters of those. The minute somebody starts talking about something they went through or a personal story from their own life, I perk up. I think we all do. That’s my advice. Start with the real thing, whatever it is. Tap into how you know what you know. Is it because of an experience? Yes. So write about that. Let me know how you went through that thing and how you got through that divorce and how you got through that addiction. People are sick of fake. I’m so sick of that. I have no room for it. Be honest. Push through the non-creative moments. Don’t quit. It’s pretty simple from my perspective anyway.

Zibby: Love it. Heather, thank you. Thank you for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I really would love to keep talking.

Heather: I know. Me too. Call me back. Call me on my cell phone. Where are you? I don’t even know where you are.

Zibby: I’m in New York. Where are you?

Heather: It’s my favorite city. Hey, I’ll come to you.

Zibby: Great.

Heather: I’ll come to you. We’ll have coffee. Can we go to Chelsea Market? It’s my favorite place in New York.

Zibby: Is it still open? I wonder if it’s open now.

Heather: I’m sure it’s not. Once COVID’s over, I’ll come to you.

Zibby: I would love it. Let’s do it.

Heather: That sounds great.

Zibby: Where are you? You’re in Nashville?

Heather: Tennessee, Nashville.

Zibby: I’ve never been there. It’s the top of my list.

Heather: Okay, well, you come to me too.

Zibby: I would love to come there.

Heather: That sounds great. Thank you so much. I’ve enjoyed it.

Zibby: Bye.

Heather: Bye.

Heather Land, A PERFECT 10