The author, podcaster, and pop culture expert’s Instagram page has become a celebrity clubhouse with loyal followers (and now friends) including Pedro Pascal, Jamie Lee Curtis, and muse-turned-collaborator Sarah Michelle Gellar. Upon the launch of his new newsletter, “Shut Up Evan,” Avenue learns the secret sauce to his digital success and exactly how he became so chummy with Jennifer Coolidge.
You’re an Instagram sensation, Evan.
I was an early adopter. I saw everyone posting selfies but that never interested me. I was always more of the type putting out headlines and reacting to pop culture news.
When you were young were you always into fandom?
I come from a time before the Internet when you really had to work for it. I was part of legit fan clubs, like [for] The Mickey Mouse Club. I wasn’t allowed to stay up and watch Letterman or Jay Leno, so I would have to get a VHS and tape them to watch the next day after school. I’m a gay kid from a small town; putting my energy into the fantasy of Hollywood and celebrity was the best form of escapism.
You wrote Into Every Generation a Slayer is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts (Hachette Books, 2022), the ultimate fandom tome on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Is that your pop culture origin story?
There were a lot of parallels between Buffy the character’s journey and mine. The outsiderness she felt really resonated with me, and it became very central to my identity growing up. My bar mitzvah was Hollywood themed. I got these cutouts of [series’ star] Sarah Michelle Gellar imported from Japan.
Do you have to live your life logged into Instagram to do what you do?
I have a couple rules. When I’m at dinner or engaged in a social setting, I will not be on Instagram. I don’t want to live my life in a way where it’s impeding my ability to socialize.
You have a Lee Pace obsession.
I began as a fan, even though now his husband, Matthew, is one of my dearest friends. I loved Lee on Pushing Daisies, and then I saw a magazine spread he had done, and I was like, “Holy fuck, Lee Pace is really hot. The world needs to know.” I started captioning photos of him: “6’5” Actor Lee Pace.” That caught on. Now everyone loves Lee.
Who are your other celeb crushes?
I’ve been on the Manu Ríos train for some time. He is going to have a crossover moment because he’s in the new Pedro Almodóvar film [Strange Way of Life] with Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal, who I did a play with in the city ten years ago. That’s going to be the moment where everyone else catches on to Manu. Will Poulter is someone else I’m really into. These aren’t subversive picks by any means; they’re just people that are worth keeping an eye on.
How do you get your pop culture fix?
Random people that follow me will send me stuff, but it’s mostly through my group chats and friends that share a similar sensibility. I try and stay on the Jennifer Coolidge beat, though, that’s my tried and true.
And now she’s your pal IRL.
I remember when she first sent me a DM. I posted a screenshot. That was my bat-signal to people, like, “We’ve made contact.” Then I got her on my podcast.
Have you ever gotten in hot water with a celebrity?
You can get a lot of attention going after people online, and I once was someone that enjoyed that. But several years ago, I started to think about how much toxicity exists in our culture — especially on the Internet — and I decided I didn’t want to contribute to more of it. This is the challenge at my current juncture: I have a proximity to a lot of these people now thanks to what began as parasocial relationships. And as a result, there becomes a sort of protectiveness. I’m never going to say anything bad about someone that I’m friends with.
I bet as a young boy, you never thought you’d be getting DMs from Jamie Lee Curtis.
That happened because I wrote about my love of Jamie for British Vogue — I wrote that they should erect a statue of her — and she responded to it. The older you get, your paradigm shifts. My dreams have come true on so many levels. Meeting Sarah Michelle Gellar and becoming friends with my childhood idol was the apex for me. But you realize things when you have proximity to famous people: the sadness, the loneliness, and the misconceptions out there about what it means to be famous. Although I see the highs of fame, I see the lows, too.
You mostly riff about famous folks, but your recent engagement post got over 1,300 comments.
I am not interested in being a famous person. I like to be the arbiter; the person with my camera behind the photographer, capturing that moment between takes when famous people are not camera ready. Those are the moments I live for — seeing the realness within the gloss of celebrity. But if I get engaged, I’ll post about it. And I’ll take a selfie if my skin looks particularly good.