Ana Marie Cox, AB’94, recently had a career best. “At the White House Correspondents’ [Association] dinner after-party last weekend, I did a tequila shot with a White House official,” she e-mailed the Magazine. That “definitely goes on the highlight reel.” Cox, 32, often sounds more rock star than reporter, and her gossip-and-politics blog, Wonkette.com, reflects a similar sensibility. Nothing is off-limits, from unsubstantiated reports of extramarital affairs to Senator John Kerry’s nether regions. Sex sells, and she has Washington hooked. Since emerging as a must-read during the 2004 presidential election, her Web site, run by Gawker Media, has continued to score hits and even won a publicly-chosen Bloggie award this year.
Cox didn’t always have a fan base. After college the self-described failed journalist bounced from job to job, landing at Mother Jones, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and American Prospect along the way. In blogging she finally found her fit: “I am temperamental, opinionated, sarcastic, and don’t like to shower,” she admits. Working from home, with free rein to rib all Washingtonians, has paid off. Small salary aside, Cox has gotten television exposure and a book contract. No longer having to bite her sharp tongue is simply salt on the margarita glass.
Comedic Cox: I’ve never thought of myself as especially funny, actually. My family moved around a lot when I was a kid, and one of the many things that constant change teaches you is close observation of other people. You watch others so that you can try to fit in—or, in my case, you just mostly watch. You watch long enough and something absurd will happen, and my only skill has been to point that out to others. Most comedy isn’t making a joke; it’s showing people the humor in what’s already there.
College credits: I wrote music and movie reviews that may have had some laughs, but I think it was my “90210 Watch” column that came the closest to anything I do today. ... We did get paid to write for the Maroon, but my first significant paycheck came from—believe it or not—Hustler, for a story of mine they published in Barely Legal magazine. I wrote it because a friend of mine was interested in getting actual women (as opposed to men pretending to write as women) writing for them. I wrote under the pseudonym Ana Marie Dix.
Making it in the real world: I was an unsuccessful and unfulfilled freelancer. I had my own blog, the Antic Muse, and then I had my Lana Turner moment when Nick Denton, the publisher of Gawker, asked if I would like to get paid to blog. At the time, the idea of getting paid any amount to blog sounded good. But what I actually get paid is as close to not getting paid as one can get and still have to pay taxes.
Blog interrupted: Currently I am working on my novel, Dog Days (due out in September), which has interrupted my blogging routine. However, a typical blogging day starts at the crack of 9 a.m. I read some papers, make some jokes. It is a very hard life. Perhaps I shouldn’t be complaining about the pay.
Mockery in a purple country: During the election I could make fun of Democrats as much as [President] Bush. It’s a target-rich environment. Post-election, living under one-party rule, you never have a shortage of things to make fun of, but you can only call Bush a Nazi so many times before it loses its appeal.
Wonkette to the grave: You can take the girl out of Wonkette, but you can’t take the Wonkette out of the girl. I don’t know if I’ll always blog, but being Wonkette is like being president: you have the title for life.