Sexy molecules! Comedian Megan Amram talks 'Science... for Her!' (Q&A)

"Parks and Recreation" writer Megan Amram offers up a "raunchy, crazy" textbook full of carbon dating, physics as nail art and kale.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
5 min read

Actress Ellen Page has something to say about comedian Megan Amram's new book, "Science... for Her!" Quoted on the back cover, Page says, "This book was fun and informative, and just the right size for my tiny lady hands! Most books cause my hands to bruise and chafe!"

"Science... for Her!" is the unholy lovechild of a science textbook and a particularly raunchy issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. It's a combination of satire and commentary on gender issues interspersed with graphics explaining physics through nail art and what famous women scientists look like without makeup. Released Tuesday, the book is currently the No. 1 best seller in the gender-studies category on Amazon. That's an unusual feat for a comedy book.

Science... for Her! cover
The book cover for "Science... for Her!" Simon & Schuster

Amram has made a career out of crafting jokes for her 440,000 Twitter followers, along with writing for television series including the Amy Poehler-led sitcom "Parks and Recreation." She adopts an extreme persona as the book's narrator, channeling a woman who has overdosed on Glamour magazine and drowned in gender stereotypes. "I think it's pretty clear that whoever is writing this book is literally an insane person," she tells Crave. There's also kale. Lots of kale.

Amram took time out ahead of her book tour to speak to Crave about the origins of the book, her own love of science and how she tackles touchy subjects through comedy.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?
Amram: I wanted to write a comedy book that was more an artifact, a little more high concept and had an aesthetic to it, but I didn't really know what I wanted to do. After reading through some short comedy pieces I had written for the Internet, I realized I had been making fun of Cosmo-type magazines without even trying to. I thought, this could be a really fun-looking comedy book.

I wanted to make the satire about the sexism I saw in those things. I thought the natural conclusion would be writing a textbook that implies that women don't understand literally anything about their day-to-day life.

Q: There's a good dose of actual science in the book. How much research did you have to do?
Amram: Thank you! I really thought it would be funnier if it did attempt to teach something at a certain level, at about a ninth-grade level. I did have to buy textbooks and refresh and to also model my organization of the book after. It is split up into real science chunks like biology, chemistry and physics.

I would find myself, like a real nerd, reading the textbook and falling into reading it for fun because I loved math and science when I was in school. Every time I would catch myself zoning off and reading about electrons, I would bully myself in my head and say, "You're such a nerd. Get back to your work."

Q: Do you have a favorite science subject?
Amram: I have always been super into medicine and when I was a really little kid, I wanted to be a pharmacologist. When I was 5, that was the first thing I wanted to be, probably because I memorized that word. My mom and my twin brother are both doctors and I love talking to them about medicine. I'm just very squeamish. I think I would be a good doctor if I could not faint.

Q: Have you ever had anyone tell you you couldn't be good at science or math because you're female?
Amram: I have not and I think that's unbelievably special that I haven't. Partially, it's because I grew up with a single mother who completely raised my brother and I by herself and she was a doctor. It was so normal for me that women would be doctors, but also that you could do whatever you wanted to do and be successful enough at it that you could support your family. That was a very big gift that she gave to me and my brother.

Q: I handed the book off to my husband and he read it for a bit. He handed it back to me and said, "I don't get it."
Amram: I appreciate his honesty. That is the kind of book that I knew I was going to write. I wanted to write in such a strong character, and it's a very raunchy, crazy book. I knew that some people are not going to get it and I hope that the people who do get it are really going to like it.

Q: Do you expect men to read the book? What would you like them to get out of it?
Amram: I totally expect them to. They can think of it as "Science... for Her for Him." They can really see into the brain of an average woman and how much we hate our best friends and how much we do to keep us at our lowest weight possible, all these secrets that men might not know.

Q: The book has references to subjects that are usually off-limits in comedy, like date-rape, blood diamonds and self-immolating monks. How do you know how far to push your comedy?
Amram: I did think a very long time about this. As raunchy and weird as some of my writing can be, I have truly never wanted to make fun of anyone. I wanted to make sure that all my so-called offensive things that I talk about were 100 percent in the satire of the world of the book and also were making fun of the perpetrators of the crimes and not the victims.

I truly believe that what I wrote in the book is supporting the victims. This is a book that I consider to have a very strongly feminist bent. I think it would be irresponsible to write it without mentioning that fact that sexual crimes and assault are something that every woman thinks about all the time. I think a lot of men don't realize how pervasive that feeling is.

Q: You have a huge Twitter following. What kind of role has Twitter played in your career?
Amram: Twitter has played the biggest role. I really was hired for my first job in television based in a big part on the strength of my Twitter feed. It helps you practice writing all the time and responding to the world through jokes and that's really great for writing a longer thing like a book or a TV show.

Q: Is the limitation on the length of your tweets helpful?
Amram: I really like it because I naturally think in short chunks like that. In my book, there are a ton of jokes per page. It's just how I write and it's probably been influenced by writing tweets so much.

Q: What would you like women to get out of the book?
Amram: There's so much. First of all, how to find a boyfriend. To know that you have the power in your own hand to affect the world in a great way, whether that means learning to drive a little better so you don't crash into as many pedestrians or if it means some really fun sex tips that will help you make a baby with an ovum. I can't give away the whole book.

Q: Do you actually like kale?
Amram: I love kale. That's completely sincere.