If you were a wolf, pretending to be a human being, obviously your first move is to set-up a Twitter account. That’s what all Real Humans do right? Well, at least that’s the premise behind Dan Sheehan’s long running NOT A WOLF account, which is now being published as a longform book. With your help, of course.
Sheehan is a comedian and writer, originally from the Chicago area, who runs stand-up shows, dating blogs, and of course is absolutely not a wolf pretending to be a human being. Featured at outlets like Playboy, McSweeney’s and The Onion, Sheehan has established himself as a discenable and versatile comedic voice on the page. Via a campaign on Unbound, you can now help make his book-length material a reality. The fully illustrated novel is also a Choose Your Own Wolfventure-style branching story, which we’ve sampled and found delightly human. Absolutely no sharp teeth tearing into flesh here. Just a normal person-story.
We talked to Sheehan about hiding in plain sight and taking a dumb joke as far as it can possibly go. Also, separately, maybe we spoke to a wolf. It is difficult to tell.
Paste: So. You’re not a wolf. It’s strange because you seem very wolf-like. But I suppose I have to assume you’re being honest.
NOT A WOLF: HAHA YEAH I GET THAT ONE ALOT, I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT MY HONESTY IS ONLY EXCEEDED BY MY ABILITY TO DIAL A ROTARY PHONE OR UNDERSTAND AND DISCUSS TV’S THE WIRE.
Paste: I still have concerns that you are, indeed, a wolf.
NOT A WOLF: DISAPPOINTING BUT ALSO UNFORTUNATELY PRETTY COMMON. PERHAPS YOU COULD RELAX YOUR CONCERNS A BIT WITH A GLASS OF RED WINE, MAYBE BRING A HAM TO THE WOODS, I’M JUST THROWING OUT IDEAS.
Paste: Dan, a human and not wolf, who are you and what do you do?
Dan Sheehan: I’m a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles by way of Chicago. Aside from Twitter stuff, I do stand-up, write essays and short stories, contribute to The Onion, and run a storytelling show and podcast called We Still Like You.
Paste: Why should people give you their money? After all, this seems like a book for wolves and you are, clearly, not a wolf.
Sheehan: Totally fair question! While a story about a wolf pretending to be a man might seem kind of niche, I think people will find it more relatable than they’re expecting. It’s a comedy but it’s also about living in a society that feels like it’s barely holding itself together, which I think is something a lot of us feel right now. It’s for anybody that’s worked too hard for a corporation that pretends to care about them, anybody that’s trying to date but exhausted with trying to explain themselves to someone new, or anybody that just sometimes wonders why we pretend that any of this makes sense. I think the reason people like the account is because, despite substantial effort to pretend otherwise, life is chaotic and there’s a lot of humor in chaos. Plus, there’ll be at least a couple jokes about eating ham in public. So I guess if any of that hits home, consider pre-ordering! This is my first time crowdfunding anything and I’m learning that asking people for money puts a lot of stress on my polite Midwestern heart.
Paste: Any nice words you want to say about your illustrator, Sage Coffey?
Sheehan: So many! Sage and I have been pals for years, they do live art at the We Still Like You in Chicago a lot! This is our first time working together on a project of this size but we have some other ideas we’re fleshing out so I’m sure it won’t be the last. They’re truly one of my favorite artists and the two of us have always had a really easy time bouncing ideas off of each other. They’re so so good and everybody should check out their work
Paste: Did you find it surprising when your Not A Wolf account got such a huge following? Is it… Are you the kind of person who laughed at Twitter parody accounts that wound up getting books (or TV shows, in the case of Shit My Dad Says) and does that put you in a strange spot since you’re making a book based on your Twitter account? Or, is this all totally okay because you’re not a hack?
Sheehan: Oh definitely. I came up with the character years ago and started tweeting as the wolf mostly just for the entertainment of some friends who were in on the joke. I can’t really pinpoint what brought it from an inside joke to 150000 followers other than my friends being extraordinarily cool about sharing it around.
Having my career start on Twitter has definitely been weird as someone that grew up wanting to be a writer. When you study writing and read about your favorite authors, you start to imagine your career taking shape in a certain way and it typically doesn’t include a social media account about a wolf pretending to be a man. But I feel like a valuable lesson I’ve picked up is that there’s no use waiting for the perfect platform. I didn’t graduate from a prestigious creative writing program or come from a background where I had tons of contacts in the publishing world. Nobody was going to publish anything of mine unless they’d heard of me and social media, for all its ills, has always been a decent way to expose your work to a whole lot of people.
When the account had its first huge burst in followers, I was approached with the offer to make what would’ve essentially amounted to a book of my tweets with some bonus content which never felt right to me since all of that is available for free, online, and in its intended medium. I waited for the right fit because if the account ever became anything other than a Twitter account, I wanted it to be good. The book is a way of taking the part of my career that people are most familiar with and turning it into the type of work I’ve been trying to do for years. I see the popularity this thing has gained as a chance to make something funny, heartfelt and unique. I think people are really going to enjoy it and I’m excited to get to do work I’m proud of on a larger scale. Unless everyone hates it in which case this was all an incredible ironic prank that I planned.
Paste: What have you learned about comedy from doing this account? What can you pass on to other people?
Sheehan: 150000 people is a huge crowd to have access to every day and the feedback they give is immediate. If I say something stupid, it’s out there in the world. I’ve learned how to accept when I’m out of my depth or I’ve misspoken, how to stand my ground when an opinion isn’t incredibly popular, and how to figure out which one of those to do and when. I’ve also learned that paying attention too closely to your social media numbers will drive you insane.
As for what I’d pass on to others, I guess I’d tell people not to try making things with the express purpose of going viral. If you want to go viral, buy a goofy looking cat. If you want to feel creatively satisfied or at least challenged, don’t worry so much about numbers. The wolf account started as a way to blow off steam. It was something I’d post on because I was frustrated with how my career was going otherwise and it felt like a space where only my friends were watching. The project you think is too weird or personal is probably the one you should be working on more.
Paste: Tell me about We Still Like You and what that show has meant for you and the community.
Sheehan: That show is truly one of my favorite things in the world. It’s a live comedic storytelling show some friends and I founded in Chicago back in 2014. Basically, performers tell stories about the things that make them feel ashamed and the audience forgives them. And we’re talking about the real deal. That deep, cringe-inducing shame that keeps you up at night. And we have performers share it live on stage so that the audience can raise their drinks and toast “We still like you!” at the end. Everybody fucks up and the show is about how confronting your shame and understanding it helps you become a better person. Self improvement is a process and it’s one that’s easier with friends. There’s no shortage of storytelling shows out there but I truly believe we’ve created an environment at these shows that’s really hard to find anywhere else. We’re trying to fight shame and loneliness with empathy and PBR. As someone that’s always been very neurotic, it’s nice to have gotten to work with some of my best friends to make something that makes people feel a little more comfortable in their own skin. I guess in that way it shares some common DNA with NOT A WOLF. The live shows are in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, and Louisville but the podcast is everywhere and free.
Paste: You’ve run a blog called I Suck At Tinder for a while now. Do you still suck at Tinder?
Sheehan: I had to delete the app! LA Tinder is actual hell. I meet the people I date now the old fashioned way: by convincing them not to jump off the back of the Titanic, romancing them away from Billy Zane, and ultimately drowning in the Atlantic Ocean.
Paste: What advice do you have—I know this sounds ridiculous—but for a large badger who is attempting to pretend to be a pop-culture writer who is human? He’s been pulling it off for a while now but he’s worrying that his employers and wife are beginning to suspect. What are next steps here?
Sheehan: I may not be the best person to answer this but-
NOT A WOLF: OH HELL YEAH THE FIRST THING YOU WANT TO DO IS FIND A BACKPACK BIG ENOUGH TO HOLD A DAY’S WORTH OF ROTISSERIE CHICKENS AND A TRENCH COAT THAT HIDES MOST SMELLS
Brock Wilbur is a writer and comedian from Los Angeles who lives with his wife Vivian Kane and their cat, Cat. He is the co-author (with Nathan Rabin) of the forthcoming book Postal for the Boss Fight Books series.