Talking ‘Alternative Valentines’ with Shelley Kim
Jack Riedy | Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Looking to woo that special someone while showing off your knowledge of current events? Enter “Alternative Valentines,” novelty gifts available at echochamberchamber.etsy.com. The Trump administration spoof is the work of Shelley Kim, standup comedian and Notre Dame alumnus. She is selling the cards, printed or digital, and donating all proceeds to Washington, D.C. public school classrooms. Ms. Kim spoke with The Observer about Valentine’s Days, past and present.
What was your most memorable Valentine’s Day, good or bad?
Well, I’ve been single every Valentine’s Day. I walked into a McDonald’s on Valentine’s Day, and there were a bunch of teenagers just loitering there. I thought: “What losers, spending Valentine’s at McDonald’s,” and then I accidentally walked into the men’s bathroom. I screamed and immediately left without buying anything. I don’t like Valentine’s Day.
So are your Valentines meant to take away from the romance?
I think they’re supposed to take away from the seriousness. My way of dealing with the election, like making the Mike Pence Pinterest or Steve Bannon Spotify, is to be so silly and dumb that it trivializes how bad they are. I wanted to use social media in a way that wasn’t “sign this petition or there’s blood on your hands!” I didn’t want to be angry for once.
Has it been cathartic for you to make these trivial things about powerful people?
It’s good for me to channel an older white man’s voice. Being at Notre Dame for four years, a lot of these guys just sound like my friends’ dads. It wasn’t hard to adopt that. And these are unpopular people! If I brought this concept to an actual company, it would not sell.
So where are you donating the proceeds?
The money is going to Washington, D.C. public school classrooms on donorchoose.org. I like them because teachers will post what their specific classroom needs. With Betsy DeVos’ confirmation, I thought: “I can’t just make fun of these people and not have it be productive at all.”
Is your Etsy store’s name meant to parody the idea of a liberal echo chamber?
I live in the yuppie part of Washington, D.C., so it’s almost hyper-liberal. Liberals have been characterized as smug, so I’m deliberately trying to be subtle in my criticisms. I have left-leaning views but I want to be self-aware about it. Plus, echochamber was taken, so I thought this was cute.
What is the best Valentine that you have ever received?
In seventh grade, you were too cool to get them, but this kid was giving out Bionicle cards. It just said “Shelley,” because I wasn’t special or anything, but I thought it was cool that these cards marketed to young boys still had hearts all around them.
Did you give out handmade or store-bought cards?
I always bought the cutest ones: Peanuts. Those are really classic. I have a joke about giving out “Teen Mom” Valentines in January, like, “Earlier than you thought!” I never did it because I felt weird about mocking teen pregnancy.
Do you have any Valentine’s Day memories specific to Notre Dame?
Feeling unengaged. Just kidding. South Dining hall was dope. They had a chocolate fountain, and I thought: “Hey, I’m not trying to impress anybody,” so I just went [hard].
Is your next project also political?
Betsy — as in DeVos — rhymes with Etsy, so there’s something on the docket with that. I think I lean towards the political because I live in Washington, D.C. and it just feels so relevant. Whereas, I made Coach Taylor Yelp reviews because I like that show. I can’t escape the political, but it forces me to be informed. I was cleaning my cabinets and found the Wikipedia page for Mike Pence just printed out.
Like you’re a mom who doesn’t “get” the Internet?
You know what they say: Climate change is a lie — so I’ll print out whatever I want. I don’t know, call your senators.