If you’ve ever scrolled through TikTok hoping for a laugh, you’ve probably come across Kyle Prue. The witty multihyphenate has witnessed his casual social media hobby take on a life of its own due to his deadpan snark and his hit series, “how to piss off men.” Long before TikTok, Kyle became an established author via his breakout series of fantasy novels, Feud Trilogy, albeit as an unintended consequence of parental wrath. “When I was 16 years old, my parents took away our internet and cell phones and televisions, because they wanted us to become creative. My brother just hacked the Wifi, but I didn’t know how to do that,” he says. “So I started writing this book to pass the time and then the next school year came around and I used it to get extra credit in English class. Eventually, my professor told me, ‘Hey, this is something really interesting. We should maybe see if we can try to get this published.’ So I spent the next two years querying people and trying to meet with people. All of a sudden it was coming out when I was 18. Then it was a free book deal. I had to write the next two books and all those are out now. Now I’m hoping to do more solo projects.” Asked who in his family would be trained as an assassin like the titular character Neil, Kyle doesn’t hesitate. “It’s definitely my mom. She’s very practical. She’s very cold. She’s a business woman. She just gets stuff done. If I were told that she had been some sort of Russian sleeper agent for the last 50 years, I’d be like, ‘Right. Oh yeah, of course.’”
He’s endlessly fascinated by the creative world building potential of the fantasy genre, potential that is only exponentially increased by the enrichment of his ever diversifying background. “I have a lot of different things that I’m interested in. I’ve always been interested in writing. I’ve always been a writer, but I’ve also spent many years going to acting school. I did a lot of years doing stand up and a lot of years doing improv and I think all those things kind of feed into each other. Improv helps with writing more than anything else I’ve ever done because eventually you’re writing scenes and you’re kind of just doing both sides of an improv conversation. And so I think when it comes to creating a complex world, I tend to rely on all the different aspects of my training. For example, the acting training helps me develop characters and my interest in art and design helps me with history and architecture and stuff like that.” Even his readers could sense a shift. “It’s interesting too, because I had the first book come out, which was The Sparks. Right after that, I started working in standup and I started doing improv. When the next two books came out, I remember the majority of the reviews that I was getting, people were asking, ‘Why is this so much funnier than the first one? There’s so much more humor in it.’ I think it was just because I finally had those tools in my toolkit.”
When it comes to comedy, Kyle celebrates subtlety. “I think the way comedy is moving, and it has been moving in the last couple of years is, is into quiet comedy, I think in the early 2000s, we had many, many years of very loud comedy and the idea that everything had to be sort of over the top and zany, but now you can kind of see with shows like Succession or Letterkenny that sometimes the funniest possible stuff is stuff that is very, very subtle and that you have to search for. Because of stuff like TikTok and because of the fact that we all have the internet, everybody’s comedic IQ is advancing very quickly. And so it’s sort of become the era of quiet comedy. A big thing for me when I write characters is that I don’t want them to ever know that they’re funny. I don’t want them to ever know that they are telling a joke. The greatest comedy comes from a character being unaware. Within TikTok as well, that’s a big part of it – telling jokes as if you don’t know that you’re telling a joke. People are smart now and they know how to catch up.” He embraces the simple premise of dropping a zany person into the mundane. “Sometimes, you’ll see writers who are sacrificing their story to make a joke but when the humor is deeply laid out within the comedy of a certain character, I think it works a lot better. One of my screenwriting professors in college told us that the best way to get comedy is not by putting a normal person in various sane situations, it’s by putting a very strange person in a very normal situation and watching them trying to act normal. That’s where a lot of my interest in it comes from.” TikTok has provided him an avenue for him and his audience to discover each other. “The nice thing about TikTok is that there’s an algorithm and it is for whatever reason the greatest algorithm ever invented. It just continually brings you new talent that is sort of handcrafted to the way that you like to laugh. Oftentimes when people tell me, ‘Oh, I see your TikTok, I’m a fan of your stuff,’ it’s kind of because I can depend on the TikTok algorithm to find people who are interested in that sort of quiet comedy.”
Unsurprisingly, the premise for “how to piss off men“ originated from teasing men with an exceptionally silly hypothetical – the humor of which was promptly lost on them. “Originally, my roommate and I were talking about how it’s funny to tell dudes that they look like the kind of guys who, when they sleep, make this goofy snoring noise. We were just telling that to some dudes who we knew. I started to notice how viscerally upset it was making them, and it is a deeply sort of cartoonish premise. I went home and I started sort of talking to one of my writing partners about it. We cornered this idea that there’s something about men in general where they tie their masculine identity to certain structures. And it’s easy to attack these structures without attacking a person specifically. For some reason it really makes people very upset. When you say, ‘Oh, crypto, oh yeah. It’s like Kohl’s cash.’ There’s a lot of men who have tied their identities to the idea of earning money or being financial pioneers. That’s how they define themselves as men. Just by picking at that little structure, you release all this institutional anger. I’s been a very interesting social experiment to see how people are reacting to this series.”
Creating the videos has led Kyle to ponder why exactly a certain subset of men is so fragile and lacking any sense of irony or self-awareness.”I’ve never really had much of an issue with masculinity because I’ve never been a super masculine person,” he admits. “But when you are a man who loves being a man, you put yourself in a box and then you put femininity in a box, and then you put masculinity on top of femininity because you think, ‘Oh, this is better.’ This is better for whatever reason they think it is, but they don’t realize that they have still put themselves in a box. In reality, it is something that’s hurting them more than helping them. I think it just pokes at something that is very deeply buried and a lot of people don’t want to see that exposed.” He occasionally recognizes those flashes of compulsory masculinity within himself. “I experience this sometimes being a man, a male identifying person, whenever someone says something to me and I feel this unnatural institutional anger, it’s always a good place for me to realize where the work needs to begin. This girl had said that I looked like I couldn’t beat a goose in a fight. That was like the first thing that I talked about in the series, something that had made me so mad. And examining that anger from a less emotional standpoint, the question had to become, “Why do I need to feel physically intimidating in any way, because it’s not something that I need or is even good for anybody or society. So why is that part of my masculine identity?” While he may not be punching any waterfowl in the near future, the moment did catalyze a spirit of broader reflection. “I think being a man in general, I have had the experience of having to dismantle a lot of weird puzzle boxes that I was given when I was a kid about what it means to be a man. It is one of the most complex issues. It takes years and years and years to undo those knots. It’s tough sometimes because the series has put me in contact with a lot of people who haven’t begun to do any of that work at all. I don’t think they’ll ever be interested in doing that work. I think it’s easier for those people to relate to me if I can put out these videos where I say, ‘Very much it upset me when I thought to myself, could I beat the goose in a fight, or when [someone posted] that my feet were a size four. These are things that show that I am not immune to the things that you are going through, probably on a greater level.”
As you might expect, the series has accomplished exactly what it says on the tin, with the overreaction from the unamused being so extreme that Kyle has received death threats. However, he points out that these videos have simultaneously generated a lot of good. “I love it when women tell me that they have used this to get out of negative altercations at bars. I like when some guy won’t leave them alone and then they say, ‘Crypto is like Kohl’s cash.’ And then the guy is so upset that he has to leave. I enjoy that a lot. I also enjoy it when I get responses from men who tell me, “I’m six videos in on this series. I’ve made it all the way here. And this is the first one that finally got me. This is the first one that made me upset.’ I think that’s a fun one too, because I like the idea that there are a lot of dudes sort of testing themselves against this series.” With men being such consistent suppliers of shenanigans, Kyle doubts he will ever be hurting for content. “The way that I do the series, because I don’t want to body shame anybody, or I don’t want to get problematic in any way at all, is I start by taking a look at a structure, so, you know, starting by noticing that a lot of these men are defining their masculinity based on how physically impressive they are. Asking themselves, ‘How muscular am I? So that’s how I got to, ‘Do you have a friend who knows a good gym?’ I picked that structure and then next week I’ll take a look at my list of structures and then I’ll use those to find something else and luckily or unluckily, luckily for me and unluckily for society as a whole, there is no shortage of structures that men have decided to latch onto to define themselves as men in general.” His videos are emblematic of what will hopefully be a more optimistic future in terms of gender roles and the perceived artificial boundaries we limit ourselves by operating within. “This series has struck on a certain cultural moment. I think men are trying to free themselves from masculinity a bit, or some men are. I’m very interested to see how the next 10 years go and whether or not we’re all gonna realize that this whole putting ourselves in a box thing is very dangerous and makes it hard for men to talk about mental health and makes it hard to grow and ask for help. Or are we just going to dig ourselves deeper into the box and fight geese all day?”
In spite of his online popularity, Kyle has no intentions of becoming a content creator or monetizing his videos. “I constantly make jokes about doing this for clout or being a pick me, but I think on a certain level, if I decided, yup, I’m making money off of the masculinity gender crisis by selling toothpaste or power tools, I think it might be a not so great taste in people’s mouths.” He is perfectly content sticking to writing and acting, particularly excited to star in his upcoming miniseries, Rabbit, alongside Ken Davitian. “The miniseries is based on TaskRabbit, which is an app where you can hire someone to do anything you want. You can hire someone to come and build a bookshelf, or you can hire someone to come and help you cook dinner. The show is about a task rabbit who only takes on tasks that are embarrassing or illegal. It’s five episodes and it’s about five different tasks that he has to take on. It’s been really interesting because my character is super, super socially awkward and super disconnected from humanity. So all these people that he’s meeting, he’s seeing all the darkest and ugliest sides of them with no way to relate to them. That’s the narrative through line that we have throughout the show – this dude just desperately trying to relate to these weirdos who hire him.” No matter what task he is given, Kyle will always excel. Keep an eye out for Rabbit as well as Kyle’s upcoming book of poetry!
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Kyle Prue Tells You How To Piss Off Men. Photo Credit: Gregory Wallace.