Going Natural: Carly Brooke’s Featured Creatures
Carly Brooke is the creator and proprietor of The Featured Creature, a website which highlights some of the world’s lesser-known and stranger animals. Just about every day you can visit and see something new there, ranging from the eyebrow-raisingly bizarre to the throat-lumpingly cute. Carly, a self-described nature obsessive, agreed to take some time to tell us a little bit about herself and what she’s up to. And for those of you who could care less and believe the only good animals are the ones that come marinated in Hoisin sauce, luckily she is also in no way at all painful to look at.
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that I’m a huge fan of Ms Brooke’s. I’ve found The Featured Creature to be an invaluable resource in my neverending search for disconcerting wildlife — an obsession of my own that’s led to many of the articles I’ve done for Cracked over the last couple years. I got to know her a little bit recently, and we even collaborated on an article of our own. Anyway, enough with my yapping, here’s Carly.
[Thanks to Alexis Morgan Photography for the images.]
Man Cave Daily: Tell us about yourself. Were you raised by apes? I heard the reality of that isn’t as great as the media makes it out to be.
Carly Brooke: Sadly, I wasn’t raised by apes. I say sadly because wow would that have been an incredible experience! Okay, okay, maybe I wouldn’t want to have been raised by apes, but hanging out enough to where we trusted each other on a “family level” would be so cool. But anyways, instead of hailing from the Congo I grew up in a small beach town in Massachusetts where nothing particularly exciting ever happens. My dad’s a dentist and my mom has her own PR firm and I have two younger sisters. I moved to Los Angeles to attend college at UCLA and never went back — because I definitely don’t want to be monkeying around with cold weather anymore.
MCD: Coming to Southern California must have been a dream come true, what with all the rattlesnakes, tarantulas and scorpions right there in your backyard. Not to mention all the potential cougar maulings. Have you always been obsessed with animals?
CB: Obsessed is putting it mildly. One of my favorite memories is when my family went to Key West for a vacation. Instead of building sandcastles with my sister, I opted to catch lizards (Brown Anoles, I learned later on in life). And not to brag or anything, but damn was I good at catching those guys. I got hooked on learning about animals after that. Owned about every kind of animal it was legal to own in my tiny town: hedgehogs, lizards, geckos, turtles — both soft and hard-shelled — frogs; you name it I had it. I don’t particularly advocate owning “exotic” creatures anymore, but that’s another story…
MCD: Exactly. Nobody wants to be on the news because a chimp gnawed your face off. How many varmints do you share your home with right now?
CB: Currently I live in a one-bedroom apartment in L.A. so space is limited. I have my two kitty roommates and that’s it. Really though, I prefer to see animals in their natural environment and wouldn’t want to keep any locked up in my house, no matter how decked out the enclosure would be!
MCD: Do you have any formal training in zoology, biology, husbandry or whatever?
CB: Nope, nothing formal. I went to UCLA for psychology with the idea of being a lawyer and came out thinking I’d like to venture off the map a bit before heading down that route (if I really wanted to go, law school would always be there). Since I was always so fascinated with animals I decided it might be fun to start up a website dedicated to showcasing some of the more unusual and less widely known species. That’s when The Featured Creature was born and it’s been a wild ride ever since. I literally spend hours each day researching, writing, and learning about animals, though, so I do feel like I’ve almost home-schooled myself on the subject!
MCD: What’s your proudest moment from your work on it?
CB: This is tough. There have been so many fantastic moments — from being asked to write as a guest blogger on the Huffington Post to meeting wonderful people — I’ve really enjoyed every second of working on TFC. However, there is one moment that stands out and that’s when I received a special message from one of my readers. It was from a mother whose son suffers from autism. She spoke of what an impact my site has had on him and told me how he “lights up” when he sees my posts. Every night they sit and read about the animals I post and he just eats it up. It meant a lot to me that my site was so cherished by this family and that she took the time to tell me as such.
MCD: Thanks for completely eliminating any chance of me making a joke here. Anyways, what’s your favorite animal of the moment?
CB: Three words: Namaqua. Rain. Frog. If you haven’t heard about this absolutely adorable amphib by now then you’re truly missing out. Not only is it a cute, round little blob of a frog but the sound it makes to defend itself literally sounds like a squeaky toy. It cracks me up that this is supposed to be frightening. They spend the dry season in the Namaqua desert underground and only come up to breed during the rainy season so you have to be on your game if you want to find one.
MCD: What animals, if any, creep you right the hell out? You’re not one of those weirdos who likes spiders, are you?
CB: I have to admit, I’m still a little iffy on spiders. Some of them don’t scare me at all — in fact, they’re cute to the point where I want to cuddle them. Jumping spiders are harmless and fluffy, with big eyes that look at you all like, “Hi friend!” so those are cool. But then of course there are those ones with big, black, spindly legs that I’ll find in my closets every once in a while that will scare the hell out of me. So yeah, it’s a love-hate thing.
MCD: Honestly, what animal could we probably do without? I mean, do we really need all those fish? And would anyone really notice if all of a sudden there weren’t any more armadillos?
CB: Um…I would notice!! All animals are essential; each has its unique place in the food chain that keeps the world working. That being said… if mosquitoes weren’t entirely necessary (like keeping bats around, oh man do I LOVE bats) then those could go for me. That’s mainly because I’m very, very allergic to their bites. While a normal person would just get an itchy red bump, I get a huge red mass that tries to take over my entire body — and I’m barely exaggerating here. One time I had to bandage my entire arm so that I would stop from scratching a single bite that ended up creeping from my elbow to my wrist. Sorry mosquitoes, I’m really not a fan.
MCD: Don’t worry about it. We don’t have a large pro-malaria readership here. So do you have any aspirations to become the next Animal Planet sensation? There seems to be a definite lack of female representation over there.
CB: That’s the dream! I would absolutely LOVE to have a show one day (Carly had a video pitch all set to go for that new Jobs That Bite show, but the job went to some snowboarder doofus.) I want to be able to actually interact with the creatures I write about on a daily basis. Trekking into the jungles of Borneo on the hunt for leaf-mimicking katydids, diving along the Great Barrier Reef in search of the infamously poisonous blue ring octopus, and combing beaches for bizarre nudibranchs would make for the best life ever. And you’re right — there are no females on TV doing this sort of thing! Where are they? Women can get just as down and dirty as men. Well, at least I know I can!
MCD: Where else can we go to get more Carly?
CB: You can catch all my crazy creature antics on The Featured Creature, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is next on my social media to-do list. I have tons of videos in the works, so stay tuned for those! You can also reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So there you have it. We’d understand her not being able to host her own show due to her having a voice like Chris Tucker doing a Fran Drescher impression. Or if she always had to face towards her left to hide a tire-sized goiter or something. However, our research has yielded no such anomalies.