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The Chosen Ones: An Interview With Paige Dylan

The screenwriter and unlikely Dylan relative talks about wanting to convert to Judaism, her favorite Jewish holiday, and why she hates social media

Periel Aschenbrand
October 21, 2016
Illustration by Tablet; Photo by Jeremy Chan/Getty Images
Illustration by Tablet; Photo by Jeremy Chan/Getty Images
Illustration by Tablet; Photo by Jeremy Chan/Getty Images
Illustration by Tablet; Photo by Jeremy Chan/Getty Images

The Chosen Ones is a weekly column by author and comedian Periel Aschenbrand, who interviews Jews doing fabulous things.

If you’re not familiar with Paige Dylan, then good. That’s exactly what she wants.

The screenwriter, most known for her film I Smile Back, which she co-wrote with Amy Koppelman and which starred Sarah Silverman, is based on Koppelman’s book of the same title. It premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and Silverman’s performance—her character suffers from depression and addiction—garnered rave reviews.

Paige is not on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, so I have no idea how she is so up on the latest GIFs and memes, but there is literally nothing better than getting a slew of messages from her that consist solely of the most obscene creations from the underbelly of the Internet. Her sense of humor is dark and bawdy and if you think about it, this makes a good deal of sense because she is the only woman in a house of five boys—her husband and their four sons.

She’s sassy and brassy and funny and smart, and while she’s one of the most fun people in the world to communicate with over text message, she’s not necessarily that interested in having you know that much about her. In fact, when I requested an interview, she tried to pawn me off on her husband, Jakob Dylan (yes that Jakob Dylan)—claiming he was “much more interesting” than she is.

While she’s not technically Jewish, she may as well be: When she got married, she actually wanted to convert. According to her, Jakob’s reaction was: “Come on.”

Periel Aschenbrand: You were basically a child bride.

Paige Dylan: I was 23 when I got married and twenty four when we had our first kid. I never got to finish college because I got married and I waited until our littlest one was in kindergarten before I went back.

PA: What did you study?

PD: Psychology and literature.

PA: You wanted to be a psychologist?

PD: No, I never wanted to be a psychologist. I just wanted to have one leg up.

PA: Where did you go?

PD: It was an all-girl Catholic school.

PA: That’s not very good for my column. Where did you meet Jakob?

PD: At Canter’s Deli (in Los Angeles).

PA: That’s much better. Where did you grow up?

PD: Orange County.

PA: You’re a valley girl?

PD: No, worse. Orange County is like the Republican HQ of the nation. There were almost no Jews in Orange County but the handful that were, were all my best friends. Nobody really made any mention of being Jewish but I remember always hating going to my friend Allyson’s house because they never let me have milk with my dinner.

PA: That’s funny. Your sense of humor is pretty Jewish.

PD: I’m probably the most crass of all of my friends. Also, my dad was an orthodontist and my mom was a very good tennis player. That’s at least a little Jewish!

PA: True. All true.

PD: I played tennis in high school, I was actually a competitive tennis player and played in the championship for two years in high school, but then I quit.

PA: I played volleyball and soccer in high school, but I was stoned the whole time. We actually used to get stoned with one of the coaches. Anyway, why are you so anti-social media?

PD: It’s so narcissistic. It’s like a silly attempt to make your life look spectacular. I dabbled with Instagram for a minute and then this woman I know posted a picture of her kitchen counter with all these vegetables in different colors, laid out like a rainbow, and she wrote ‘Just making dinner for the fam. Happy Monday!’

PA: And that was it, for you, huh?

PD: Yeah. It’s like people don’t know each other, it’s so one dimensional, it’s not real communication. My oldest son was actually disappointed in me.

PA: How old are your kids?

PD: 22, 18, 16, and 9.

PA: You were almost the age of your oldest son when you got married!

PD: Pretty much.

PA: Tell me about your wedding.

PD: We got married in the Malibu mountains, on a ranch, which is still the most beautiful place in the world.

PA: You were so young! Wait. Were you pregnant!?

Paige Dylan cutting up her wedding glove. (Image courtesy of Paige Dylan)
Paige Dylan cutting up her wedding glove. (Image courtesy of Paige Dylan)

PD: Kinda.

PA: Ha! What did you wear?

PD: You wanna see a pic? My friend just sent this to me. I had daisies in my hair. I was like, nine. I was cutting my glove in this picture! Anyway, I was studying and living on my own when Jakob and I met. I had no interest in getting married or having kids—and I had a boyfriend. I was studying for finals when my girlfriend called me and asked me to go Canter’s. I saw Jakob’s profile and immediately knew: That’s the man I’m going to marry. I spent the entire rest of the evening trying to get his attention. We were in the Kibitz Room. As I got up to leave, I felt a tap on my shoulder. He told me his name was Jake.

PA: Why?

PD: He didn’t ever want to say Jakob, he thought it was too Jewy. He felt like his name was really heavy.

PA: And how did you find out who is father was? I mean, that must have been such a fucking trip.

PD: I don’t remember.

PA: You don’t remember finding out your boyfriend’s father was Bob Dylan!?

PD: Jakob never actually told me. I was 21 years old and we were together for like six months and he still never told me. It wasn’t until I saw a picture in his house of his favorite dog and I recognized the man in the background. But I didn’t tell him I figured it out because obviously he didn’t want me to know.

PA: Crazy.

PD: It’s more just like a fun fact. Anyway, I gave Jakob my number and he had to muster up the balls to call me.

PA: How long did it take him?

PD: Ten days.

PA: And you guys have lived in California ever since, right?

PD: I’ve been trying to get him to move to New York for twenty years and I finally gave up.

PA: Tell me about Jewishness.

PD: I have a half-breed army. And we always light the menorah. I like the sense of community. Jakob has had tough experiences with aggressive rabbis wanting money.

PA: That’s charming.

PD: I tried to convert. But Jakob wasn’t into it. Judaism never turned him off as much as it was the elitism that he wasn’t into. I wanted to raise my kids with a religion, I thought it was important.

PA: Why?

PD: For the same reason I don’t like social media. I’m a fan of organized religion. I think it gives a purpose and a bond. I finally talked Jakob into letting us send one of the kids to Hebrew preschool and he was like our little Jewish star.

PA: You’re pretty Jewish for a shiksa.

PD: Jakob’s sister is Orthodox, whenever I come over, all the kids scream, “The non Jew is here!”

PA: That’s really funny. What else do you do that’s Jewish mother-y? Do you cook?

PD: I cook every night. I have a shit-ton of children and we sit down and eat dinner every night.

PA: That’s so nice. How come you didn’t want me to interview you?

PD: Because there are so many interesting people in the world.

PA: Yeah. And you’re one of them.

PD: You just like me.

PA: That’s true. But it’s my column, so I get to decide who’s interesting or not. What’s your favorite drink?

PD: Jalapeno guava margaritas at Lucky Strike. Not the bowling alley.

PA: How do you eat your eggs?

PD: I prefer them hardboiled. I eat a lot of eggs.

PA: How do you drink your coffee?

PD: I’ve recently discovered I could take or leave it. And I do not like iced coffee, it bums my groove.

PA: Do you have a favorite Jewish holiday? Other than lighting the menorah, do you celebrate Jewish holidays?

PD: We are willing participants in the Jewish Holidays. I like any of them that don’t involve fasting and Passover is my favorite.

PA: I’m going to assume you didn’t have a bat mitzvah. What kind of shampoo do you use?

PD: Whatever is in my shower. Jakob gets bummed that I never buy shampoo, but he has much nicer hair than I do.

PA: Lox or gefilte fish?

PD: Lox!

PA: What do you think of gefilte fish?

PD: I don’t.

PA: Five things in your bag right now?

PD: The Fountainhead, red lipstick, my sunglasses, a homemade perfume, and my thyroid medication.

PA: Who makes your sunglasses?

PD: Schwood.

PA: What’s your favorite pair of shoes?

PD: These Nike hightops I’m wearing. I stepped in dogshit, though, so I might have to throw them out.

Periel Aschenbrand, a comedian at heart, is the author of On My Kneesand The Only Bush I Trust Is My Own.