Allie Brosh is sipping an IPA and taking the occasional bite of a cheeseburger as she gives a detailed treatise as to why she'll never be a real, actual adult, even though she's 25 years old. She says the pressures of real-world responsibilities like grocery shopping and replying to e-mail eventually give her reason to rebel, setting aside important tasks in favor of Internet surfing for days at a time. But if you read Brosh's outrageously popular blog, Hyperbole and a Half, you probably already knew this because she outlined it in one of her posts, complete with a diagram and the purposely goofy paintbrush illustrations that have become the hallmark of her style.
Then, mostly out of nowhere, Brosh holds up her slender left hand and says, "Did I tell you we got engaged?"
Her fiancé, Duncan, grins as the two tell the story of their engagement a few nights prior at a restaurant in Bend. That story - which is so appallingly romantic that to repeat it here would shame men everywhere - probably won't make it onto the blog, but pretty much everything else about Brosh is up there, including the time she shaved her head (and then won a dog show) and the time she tried to run in an NCAA track meet with a 104-degree fever and subsequently passed out... then somehow ended up in a Spanish-only grocery store. She even wrote a post about how much she hated moving boxes with her "T-rex arms" when she and Duncan moved to Bend this fall.
Last April, Hyperbole and a Half's popularity exploded, surging from 700 hits a day to now raking in more than half a million daily visitors. Now, Allie is, as she says "Internet famous," and what began as a blog to dispense the daily absurdity that is her life is now turning into a career that could lead to opportunities far beyond the Internet. She's thinking about writing a book or maybe heading into stand-up comedy, but says nothing's for sure. The jump in Hyperbole and a Half's popularity came after the blog was highlighted on the social news site, Reddit, expanding Brosh's audience from her circle of friends and a few loyal fans to millions of regular readers.
"People would leave a couple of comments and I remember I was really excited when I had eight comments. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, eight whole people are reading what I'm writing,'" says Brosh.
Brosh's posts are all accompanied by the seemingly amateur - yet calculatedly so - graphics, which always depict her as a childlike stick figure in a pink dress. She also draws an excellent unicorn.
"I know it looks crude, but it's a very purposeful crudeness. Sometimes I'll redraw something 10 times," she says.
Brosh grew up outside of the small north Idaho town of Sandpoint in the even smaller town of Sagle with parents who dissuaded her from watching television or playing video games, leaving her to entertain herself in the surrounding forests and mountains - something she rarely struggled with thanks to her rampant ADD ("I was a demon child," she recalls). Thanks to the outrageous circumstances she'd end up in as a child - and still, to a lesser degree, as an adult - Brosh is never at a loss for material.
"I had all this whole forest available to me and no passive entertainment to distract me and a boatload of impulsivity, so I would get myself into all of these situations with really no forethought," she says.
A runner in high school, Brosh earned a scholarship to run track and cross country at the University of Montana, where she bounced between majors, eventually settling on biology while also finding athletic success. She ran in the NCAA cross country national championships and also competed against some of the country's most elite distance runners during the track and field season. When she and Duncan (who was also an accomplished runner at Montana) were offered jobs at a lab in the tiny Montana town of Hamilton after graduating in 2009, Brosh realized she wasn't done running and turned down the gig. While Duncan worked in the lab researching leukemia, Brosh was running races and living off the winnings - until she injured her Achilles tendon. Living in Hamilton and unable to run, Brosh devoted more time to writing the ridiculous stories with which she'd been regaling Facebook friends, eventually leading to the creation of Hyperbole and a Half.
She spent much of last winter hammering away on posts, but not seeing much return while the couple lived humbly, to say the least.
"We couldn't even afford heat. We had our living room cordoned off with blankets and had a space heater and at one point we had an inch of ice on our bedroom window," says Brosh.
When she talks about that winter - a situation that might cause some to sigh sympathetically - she's upbeat. She laughs as she recalls being "burritoed up in blankets" on the couch working on blog posts and smiles as she tells the story because, as far as I can tell, the petite and bubbly young woman is a master of making light of life's speed bumps. And that's what has made her blog so successful; the fact that she's writing cerebral and comically advanced commentaries on her own life and contemporary society, but without a shred of cynicism.
At any given time, Brosh has a story to rival anything anyone else in the room might be able to provide, but she tells these weird, yet always hilarious, tales matter-of-factly - like others might recall their day at the office. She wants people to listen when she, for example, recalls drifting for hours in an out-of-gas boat with high-school friends before rowing to shore and being "rescued" by meth heads, but she asks a lot of questions about other people. She's a storyteller, but she also makes you want to tell stories, even if you've never, like her, owned a mentally challenged dog or shaved your head to impress a boy.
But her most engaging story is how a 25 year old suddenly became one of the Internet's most buzzed-about comedy bloggers in a matter of six months, even if she's slightly reluctant about getting all the attention.
"I've never wanted to be in the spotlight or anything. That's the one thing I've appreciated about my work just being online," says Brosh. "It's pretty anonymous. I've never been recognized out in public and I like that separation."