Comedy writer Aisha Muharrar is not only an accomplished sitcom scribe and producer (her credits include Parks and Recreation and Sit Down, Shut Up), but she’s also an unabashed bookworm on a mission to bring YA titles and authors to curious readers/future writers of the universe via her web series “Book Report” on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, a site for teenage girls. We caught up with Aisha on her favorite literary humorists, the author she’d most like to book-stalk, and the lesser-known YA books you need to read (even as an adult).
How did you get involved with Smart Girls? Where did the idea for Book Report come from?
I’ve been a fan of Smart Girls for some time. I found out about it while working on Parks and Recreation with Amy Poehler. She and [cofounder] Meredith Walker are the best. I love their mission. One day while I was working on a different project with Amy, I told her about this book I thought she absolutely had to read. I was quickly describing it, trying to convince her of its merits, and she said, “This should be a show!” People say stuff like “this should be a show!” all the time. But it’s Amy Poehler, so she actually made it happen!
What’s the best YA series or book that people don’t know about?
I love this collection of stories called If This is Love, I’ll Take Spaghetti by Ellen Conford. I read it when I was in middle school. A few years ago, I tracked down the book and reread it. It holds up. Also, what a great title!
I also love the “Alice” series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. People remember Beezus and Ramona or the Judy Blume characters, but I don’t hear too many people talking about Alice.
Who are the comedy writers or the books that influenced you as a young person?
Through the Looking-Glass is my favorite book. I was eight the first time I read it and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s absurd style greatly influenced me. I loved that he made up words and worlds. Dr. Seuss for the same reason.
Later in life, the writers who inspired me were Lorrie Moore, Kurt Vonnegut, Patricia Marx, George Saunders, all the Simpsons writers. Basically every TV writer in the ‘90s inspired me. If I wasn’t reading, I was watching TV.
Who is the funniest person in your life and why?
My mom. She once told me, “I’m even funnier than you realize,” which is weird and cryptic, but also incredibly funny.
Whose bookshelf would you secretly like to peruse?
Lorrie Moore. But it wouldn’t be in secret! Ideally, I’d meet her, we’d get to know each other, and she’d be so taken by me that she’d invite me over to check our her bookshelf. We’d just be at that point in our friendship that she’d feel comfortable letting me do that.
I thought secretly looking through someone’s bookshelf sounded weird, but my version actually sounds way weirder. I’m describing a long con just to check out what Lorrie Moore’s reading.
Do you have a mentor? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My friends act as mentors all the time. It’s probably a case of the blind leading the blind, but sometimes it helps to get advice from someone who’s currently in a similar situation. The best advice is, “Don’t worry. It’ll be okay.” It’s very vague and might even be totally wrong in some situations, but if it’s said by a good friend, it’s the most soothing, comforting, and best thing to say.