Geek Talk #12 – Jenny Jaffe of Project UROK

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Project UROK is an organization started by Jenny Jaffe to give people with mental disorders the resources she wish she had when she was struggling with her illness as a teenager. Jaffe, writer for CollegeHumor, MTV, and xoJane, was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as a child. Throughout her high school years, she struggled with severe depression and panic attacks and felt isolated. She started this as a beacon for people just like her to let them know that it may be hard, but they can get through it.

When I received the email about about doing this press interview, I was ecstatic. For years, I’ve wanted UzerFriendly to be the safe haven for people of all shapes and sizes to feel they can fit in. Jenny Jaffe has taken this to a whole other level with interviews and videos by Will Wheaton, Perez Hilton, and so much more. There’s even a forum for people to discuss their problems and talk about the things the enjoy. She makes it known that they’re not alone, and they never have to be. It’s an extremely admirable feat.
Q: Would you like to introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?
A: Sure thing! So I’m a writer and comedian, but most importantly for NYCC, I’m the founder for UROK. I’m on a panel tomorrow called “A Force for Good” and it’s all about the relationship mental health and pop culture and what pop culture can basically do to help create a world where’s there’s less stigma about mental illness
Q: So what made you wanna start Project UROK?
A: So I started it last year and a combination of things sort of just worked out. Mostly though, I’m creating a resource I wish had existed when I was a teenager. It started when I wrote this article on xoJane about my experience in exposure therapy for OCD and the response that I got back was from a bunch of people who I knew saying “I had no idea you were going through this. Me too!.” and I was like, “Man I could’ve spent so much less time feeling super alone if I just knew”
Q: So how has Pop Culture helped you?
A: I’m just a big pop culture geek. The places I always used to hear people talk about mental illness that didn’t feel scary to me and was relateable was in comedy and that’s how I got into comedy. And I heard of people who were in comedy who I really admired. I was like, “Man, if they’ve been through this and they can still be so funny and cool and bring so much good into the world, then maybe I can do the same thing.” I would also throw myself into different sci-fi and fantasy stuff. It just can’t be such a bad world if I can tune in and watch the adventures of this ancient space time lord. It just felt like great escape for me.
Q: So you’re a Doctor Who fan?
A: Big Doctor Who fan. My big ones are Doctor Who and Star Trek. I hate that those are the obvious ones. I’m also a big broadway geek.
Q: Favorite musical?
A: Maybe Sweeny Todd or Les Mis. Right now I’ve been listening to Hamilton for like 2 weeks straight. I host a show sometimes with my friend, Mara, where we have comedians play their favorite broadway roles.
Q: So who was your idol growing up?
A: My biggest idols are a lot of british comedians. I’ve been obsessed with Stephen Frie(?) for as long as I can remember and Maria Brandfordt(?). Tina Fey. Lucille Ball, not only because she was a comedian, but because she’s a red head and she got to do all this stuff… Stephen Colbert is someone who got me through a lot of stuff who I got to intern for later.
Q: Do you have any last words?
A: Check out Project UROK all over social media or check me out @JennyJaffe