Samantha Irby, WOW, NO THANK YOU

Samantha Irby, WOW, NO THANK YOU

Zibby Owens: Hi.

Samantha Irby: Hi.

Zibby: How are you?

Samantha: I’m good. How are you doing?

Zibby: I’m good. Thank you so much for doing this interview. I’m so excited to talk to you.

Samantha: It is my pleasure. I’m excited to talk to you. I just got up, so I’m the best I’m going to be today. You get to get all the good parts of me.

Zibby: Now I feel like I know about your waking rituals and whether or not you’re going up and down stairs and your belongings and all this stuff. I feel like I’m in your morning with you.

Samantha: Yes, you are experiencing it. I forgot, though, to put all my stuff in a bag to take it up last night, so it’s still all downstairs. The ritual’s a little off.

Zibby: I do the same thing, by the way. I have my little tote bag. I have like four books in it at a time. I’m like, I’m just going to take this with me wherever I go because you never know. I need it.

Samantha: It’s true.

Zibby: My wallet, some masks, some books, gum, I don’t know, a lip gloss. What else do you have?

Samantha: I have to have like six lip balms at all times. I don’t care about hand lotion. You know how some people are like, I got to moisturizer my hands? I can’t do that because then you just get grease all over all your books and your other shit. Lip balms, I have to have like seven of them on me at all times.

Zibby: That’s smart. I got a case of lip glosses that are basically eight shades of the exact same color as a gift. There’s the tiniest gradations of pink. I’m like, whatever, they all look the same. I can’t tell them apart. I have them in every little pencil holder. Then I have a bunch just scattered in the back. You never know.

Samantha: People act like we’re nuts for being like this. Honestly, we’re just prepared.

Zibby: I think we’re efficient.

Samantha: I’m prepared for very specific instances of boredom and lip dryness.

Zibby: Totally. You never know when either of those things will hit, perhaps simultaneously. That’s good. I’m glad I caught you on a morning and now we can go from there. Your latest book, Wow, No Thank You, I laughed out loud. I so needed a good laugh, as I think everybody in the world needs right now. This was the funniest thing I’ve read in so long. Thank you for that.

Samantha: Thank you for saying that. You know, we live in hell. It’s a weird time to be putting out a book. I was like, at least people will laugh at it. Also, I didn’t get to tour, so I didn’t get response from a lot of people. I’ve just done these things where someone on a Zoom is like, it made me laugh. That has been so helpful to me. When you don’t get feedback, it’s like, oh, god.

Zibby: It’s like being a comedian on stage with a totally silent audience. You’re like, um, was that funny? I thought it was funny. Did anybody else think it was funny?

Samantha: Yes. Anytime someone’s like, listen, I was on the toilet laughing so hard I prolapsed my rectum, I’m like, thank you for telling me because I need to hear that.

Zibby: I can’t say that, but I will say that I laughed on the couch and in bed and walking around as I do while I read and all the rest. If I find any other prolapse victims, I will send them your way and tell them to send you a DM or something.

Samantha: Please do.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. The best part about your humor is you’re just mostly, not all the time, but so many things you’re talking about are things we all do every day and have to deal with, whether it’s confronting these people on Instagram who have these perfect lives and are drinking perfect drinks and have these perfect skin care routines when I’m like, oh, my gosh, I forgot to shave my legs for the last two weeks. The not wanting to get out of bed to do anything at night when suddenly I am comatose by ten o’clock, all these funny life things that you shine the light on are just so awesome.

Samantha: Thank you. People will always ask, how can you be so open with your terrible inner monologue? My inner monologue is always everything I’m doing wrong and getting wrong and saying wrong and looking wrong. I’m like, I have to say it because I have to believe that there’s someone else who feels the exact same way. You know when people are like, I’m really good at stuff? I’m just like, man, I’m not. I got to speak to people who are bad at stuff and get stuff wrong because that feeling of seeing each other, that’s how we all are going to survive, is just knowing that there’s someone else who vomited in the middle of dinner and couldn’t get up in time. Knowing that there’s at least one other person who’s making these mistakes makes you feel better.

Zibby: Especially, anyone with Crohn’s disease should just put this by their bed. Doctors should hand this out with diagnoses.

Samantha: They should.

Zibby: You can laugh. You can make light of your bowel problems. It’s okay.

Samantha: Yes. I don’t have any goals, but if I did have a goal, one of them would be to just have people talking about their poop all the time in regular conversation. We’re going to get there, maybe not in my lifetime, but society is going to evolve to that point, I hope.

Zibby: The great thing is, nobody else is really fighting for that, so you can easily get your own platform and make a dent on it, have a real impact.

Samantha: I can be a pioneer?

Zibby: You can. You can have that.

Samantha: Thank you. A hundred years from now they’re going to be like, you know, we never talked about the consistency of our stools at parties until Samantha Irby forced us to.

Zibby: Yes, let’s reduce the poop stigma. Thank you. Forget about mental illness and all these other things. Let’s just clear this one up. I wanted to read a couple passages that particularly made me laugh, which it seems awkward to read back to you.

Samantha: No, I love it so much.

Zibby: You’re in the shower, but I’m just going to do it anyway. “In the shower, I use a big block of Irish Spring, and because I am black, I was raised to always use a washcloth no matter what, so I do. I also scrub my scalp vigorously with anti-dandruff shampoo which is a thing beautiful people never have to use. Just once, I want to read one of these profiles where a slender shiny-tooth model is like, hey bitch, I have psoriasis, while aggressively slathering t-gel under her roots.” Oh, my gosh, that just totally made me laugh. Then this other one about peeing, you said — this whole paragraph is funny. Then I’ll stop reading. “We live up the street from a middle school, and children are already on their way home, for fuck’s sake, so I don’t feel bad having six Diet Cokes in a row.” This is when you wake up. “I’ll finish my water, but like, I don’t ever want to be too hydrated. All these magazines tell you how you should really be drinking your weight in water every day and all these movie stars would have you believe their skin glows because of that water bottle they’re carrying around, and I believe them. But also, why doesn’t anyone ever talk about how much peeing you will have to do? I no longer have a pelvic floor, Jennifer Aniston. I cannot just be gulping down Smartwater with reckless abandon.” Oh, my god, you’re so funny.

Samantha: Thank you. Also, that is true. Every health thing you’re supposed to do, everyone talks about the benefits or whatever, but no one ever addressed the downside. Do you know what my day would be like if I just ate raw kale and beans all day while pouring gallons of water down my throat? I would have to move into the bathroom. I will buy the lie because I need to buy the lie. We all do. We want to believe that there’s a better way. I just want to hear the side effects too. I want to know that drinking this tea will make me beautiful, but also is a diuretic. Just tell me that part too.

Zibby: Especially because you cannot use any bathrooms outside of your house anymore. Where I am, that’s it. No stores will let you in. No restaurants will let you in. The public restrooms are closed, so what are you supposed to do if you have to run a few errands a half an hour away and you’ve had a smoothie that’s made of dates and filtered water and whatever? I don’t even know. What am I supposed to do? Not have the smoothie or whatever? Stay home? No more smoothies?

Samantha: That’s true. Smoothies are a big one too because they love to tell you how many nutrients you’re getting and how you can get all your servings of vegetables for the day in this beautiful green smoothies that’s in an overexposed picture on a marble countertop. Then no one says the extra bit about, you know what all this raw spinach is going to do to you, right? They just don’t tell you. Now you truly can’t go anywhere to use the bathroom. I don’t know if people are wearing diapers.

Zibby: How’s everyone else doing? I literally thought about — I shouldn’t even say this out loud.

Samantha: Say it.

Zibby: I had to go pretty far away. I was like, should I stock my car with some baggies? How am I going to pick up my daughter, drive her to this other thing she has to do so far away? What can I put in the car? Do I need a portable something? The smoothie bottle’s not going to do it.

Samantha: I honestly don’t know what people are doing. That’s another thing people should be talking about. You drove out to the coast or whatever. Cool. I would love to see your pictures of the sand and the water. I also want to know, where did you pee during the drive? What did you do?

Zibby: It’s a complete mystery, unspoken problems of the pandemic.

Samantha: For now on, and I’ll report back, every time I see someone post a “we did a road trip” picture, I’m going to comment, tell me how you went to the bathroom. Every time I see someone who’s not in their backyard, I’m going to be like, this is beautiful, where did you pee? Then I’m going to collect the evidence and bring it to you.

Zibby: And PS, everybody on Instagram is suddenly on vacation. I missed the memo that this is the week we’re all supposed to find the nearest lake and grab a canoe and row our hearts out. Everybody’s somewhere right now.

Samantha: I know. I have seen so much of it. I try not to be judgmental, mostly because I don’t care what anyone does as long as they don’t bother me or talk to me. There is that part of me that’s like, I’ve been in my dining room since March. Where are you? Why do you feel safe there? Who are you breathing on? We’re going to be locked up forever because you couldn’t just be inside.

Zibby: I know. I’m like, am I overreacting here?

Samantha: No.

Zibby: I have been in my house here. I feel very fortunate. I’m very lucky. I love my house. But I have slept here every night since March 12th, which is the longest I’ve basically been anywhere in a long time since my parents got divorced when I was fourteen when I started moving houses. I’ve never been so stationary ever. I don’t begrudge anybody. I’m just like, everybody is in Montana. I don’t feel safe moving anywhere, but I’m probably just anxiety.

Samantha: Neither do I. If I had to get on a plane, I would have an emotional breakdown. I just wouldn’t do the thing. Am I going to wear a gas mask and a hazmat suit? I know I would catch it. I don’t have good luck. I know I’m going to catch it. Then all you hear on the news is how black people get it and die immediately. I’m like, I’m going to get it and then I’m immediately going to die. I haven’t cussed out all the people who need cussing out yet. There’s no circumstance under which I would fly right now. But then I love that other people feel confident. I don’t know where this confidence comes from. I hope they remain lucky. My feed is all like, look at us in our meadow. I’m like, a meadow? You live in the South Side of Chicago. Where are you? Bitch, where did you go?

Zibby: Crazy times. It’s insane. You also wrote in such a funny way about writing. I love self-referential meta-ness in different books. You said about your writing — I am sorry to only quote from the beginning. I have things all throughout, not to make you think I only read a chapter.

Samantha: Oh, please.

Zibby: Not that you were thinking that, but anyway, I’ll just put everything in my head out into this podcast. You say, “My work, I occasionally write jokes on the internet for free because I am the last person on earth who still has a blog. Sometimes I have freelance projects, but there’s nothing right now. No one is going to pay me to write another book about nothing for at least the next two years. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything new or exciting to say online and absolutely zero paying scams, so my heart sinks as it dawns on me that I have gotten up and gotten dressed just to read what other people are saying on Twitter. This is the glamorous life of a writer.”

Samantha: Clearly, I read a lot of profile. I read one about you. I love to see what people do and their schedules and their whole thing. I love that. I love seeing productive people. I really love when writers are like, yes, I get up, I have a dedicated forty-minute reading time. Then I move to this other chair, and I do two hours of writing. I’m like, in what world? People are putting on real clothes and shoes to sit down and dedicate time to their writing. I truly stare at the wall for ten hours a day. Then I’m like, oh, do I have a deadline? Then I cram everything in. Then I don’t do anything for the next two weeks. Again, I’m only critical because I’m extremely jealous. People believe that everyone has — I did this interview. The woman afterward asked me to send her a picture of my writing space. Then I just sent her a picture of my lap because that’s where I put the computer. I was like, this is where the tumors are going to be from the laptop on my legs every day. She was disappointed that I didn’t have a beautiful space with flowers. I don’t know what writer led you to believe this fantasy life, but most of us are disgusting in our pajamas writing on the couch and eating.

Zibby: That would’ve been time to bring in the poop stigma issue as well. You could have shown the toilet in the writing space. You missed an opportunity there. I think next time, things to consider perhaps.

Samantha: Come to my house and basically any room with a chair in it has been a place where I have written something. I have a desk, but it’s covered with nail polishes, oh, my god, and this thing I bought off Instagram that’s a leg massager. I didn’t realize how big and clunky it was going to be. Then my wife was like, get that out of here. Now it’s just on my desk. There’s no glamour over here at all.

Zibby: Yet you’re producing best-selling books all the time. This is just your way.

Samantha: Yes. I want people to believe, because it’s true, that you can be a garbage person who doesn’t have a dedicated writing space and write a book that people will like.

Zibby: What’s the secret? You’re really good.

Samantha: You have to have deep unrelenting anxiety and mental illness, a tragic comic childhood, and be willing to say whatever to make people laugh. Then you just have to have a comfortable chair to sit in and type on your computer. That’s it.

Zibby: Great. People with tragic comic childhoods are jumping up and down right now. They’re ready to get started.

Samantha: It’s true. I do a lot of, hey, drop in on my writing class kind of thing. So many people are just waiting to get the perfect typewriter or the perfect cute office space. I’m like, it’s never going to happen. Get that out of your mind. Just write wherever. If the toilet is where it has to be, then just write there. I would like to disabuse everyone of the notion that you have to be good or smart or have all your shit together to write.

Zibby: You are ridiculously smart, and you are good. I don’t know about having your shit together. That’s for you to decide.

Samantha: It’s not. That was two truths and a lie, or two something.

Zibby: Tell me more about being a stepmom. You say, “I jump away from children the way most people jump back from a hot stove,” which is not usually the best way to go into parenthood, but that’s okay. What has that been like for you, especially recently with all this stuff going on?

Samantha: About that quote specifically, I joke that my childhood was bad, but it was really bad. I think as an adult, one of the resentments that I have about my childhood is my mom was forty when I was born. It’s like, girl, you could’ve helped me out. My biggest fear with being around a child is that something I would say or do to them would resonate for the rest of their lives and thirty years from now they’ll be like, you know what, Sam really messed me up, and then hate me and write about me in their books or whatever. I always tread lightly around children. I’m like, what horrible example am I setting? Stepparenting, my approach is very, you have a mom and a dad. They’re going to decide the vaccine schedule and whether or not you eat gluten. They’re going to decide all those things and guide your education.

I’ll show you some cool stuff. If you want to watch a David Fincher movie or whatever, I’ll sit and watch it with you. I’ll buy you stuff. But please do not ask me for any life advice you can trace back to me in the future when you inevitably fail. I just don’t want to be responsible for any of the mistakes. You know how stepparents will come in and have to show their authority? I don’t do any of that. For a while, I don’t even think the kids knew what my last name was. I was so guarded with them. I don’t think there’s anything that I know that would help guide these kids better than anything their parents are telling them. I’m just the fun one. We do fun stuff. We watch movies. Their mom isn’t really into technology, so I’m the one who’s like, here an iPad for Christmas. I want a guarantee that when I’m old they’ll take care of me and think about all the stuff I did for them and not think about how they hated all of my weird rules.

Zibby: So it’s just a kind of bribery relationship at this point.

Samantha: Yes.

Zibby: Which is fine.

Samantha: I wouldn’t do that if they were my own children. My dad was in the military. We had rules like you can’t whistle in the house, all kinds of nonsense. I am afraid I’d be that kind of parent where I’d be like, you’re awake and not scrubbing something? Not in my house. It’s good that I don’t have my own kids. With other people’s kids, I’m like, a pile of money? Sure, take it. Will you love me if I give it to you? Great, here you go.

Zibby: Although, I feel like sometimes people who have really strict parents or people who have had childhoods where a lot of things happened that they haven’t been happy with end up being completely opposite types of parents from the examples. It’s just the ability not to model, but to go the opposite direction.

Samantha: If you look back and you’re like, oh, man, I really hated my dad, I don’t want to be like my dad — I never wanted my own children. One, because my body just started falling apart early enough that I was like, grow a child in here? Absolutely not. Can you imagine what kind of gremlin I would give birth to, all these diseases and problems? No, I wouldn’t do that to a kid. I never had that urge or desire ever. I never thought, I want to be someone’s mom. When my friends started having babies, I do enjoy dipping in, giving the kid the noisy toy that they love.

Zibby: Oh, dear. Oh, no. Now you have gone on another list of people. In my mind, I can’t even with people who give noisy gifts. No.

Samantha: I try to give the good gift. I always loved when my friends had kids or became parents because then they would get super responsible. You could go to their house and they’d always have good food and stuff. I have benefited from other people being parents. It’s too much work and stress and responsibility. I know myself better than that. I can barely keep these cats alive. A human? When there was school, I would sit at the table with them while they’re doing their homework. I was just like, am I illiterate? I don’t understand anything you guys are talking about. How do you know how to do this? They look at me like, good thing we have a mom. Our neighbors are math professors. I was like, you better go over there. I don’t even know how to add anymore. I just am like, fractions? No. As a stepmom, you get to be like, I don’t understand fractions, and then just walk away, which is perfect for me.

Zibby: That’s nice. Although, I have to say it’s not fair because they kind of changed the whole math system on us. What’s that about, new math? I don’t know what was wrong with the old math, but now I can’t help my daughter. I’m like, whatever, you’re on your own. I’ll teach it to you my way. This is how you’ll understand it better. She’s like, “No, that’s not the way they taught. What are you doing? It’s so confusing.” I’m like, I’m out. That’s it. I can’t.

Samantha: I did long division by hand in front of these kids. They looked at me like I was from the sixteenth century. They were just like, “What is that? What are you doing?” I was like, “Dividing.” They’re like, no. They looked at me like, oh, you poor thing. You think that’s math. I’m like, get out of here. I know what I’m doing.

Zibby: So funny, oh, my gosh. So what new stuff can I look forward to getting from you? What are you going to write? What are you working on in your little deadline times? What’s next? Do you have another book coming?

Samantha: Because of the nature of what I do, it’s always like, there could be another book because I just write about the dumb stuff I think about. My agent was on vacation last week. Another person on vacation.

Zibby: Right? Everybody.

Samantha: I was like, “Let’s talk about another book.” We’re going to talk about it. It’ll be more of the same kind of thing, being mentally ill and overthinking everything, you know, the stuff I always do. I had two cool jobs that I don’t know how things are going to pan out because of the pandemic. I wrote on a couple of TV shows. One is Work in Progress, which is on Showtime. Then I was writing on Tuca & Bertie which will be on Adult Swim now. With TV production, I don’t know when those are going to get made. Eventually, they’ll be out in the future. I don’t think I’ve told anyone this, so you’re getting the scoop. A million years ago I wrote a pilot for my own show based on my first book, Meaty. We were at FX. Then we ended up at Comedy Central. Then things were just taking forever. We did get a pilot order. Sometime when we’re all vaccinated and can be in the open, we’re going to shoot a pilot. Whether or not anyone will ever see it, I don’t know, but we are going to shoot a pilot. Then hopefully they’ll let me make the show. Let me tell you, it’s just twenty-five straight minutes of poop and vomit jokes, if you’re into that. I always have a few things happening that I never have any details on. I’m like, I did this thing and eventually maybe you can see it. I’ll do another book in a couple years.

Zibby: I can’t wait.

Samantha: Maybe I’ll write about how to do new math.

Zibby: Perfect, how to do a podcast interview.

Samantha: This was great. Your setup is very beautiful.

Zibby: Thank you.

Samantha: This was great.

Zibby: Do you have any parting advice to aspiring authors? Last question.

Samantha: Yes, this is one thing I am good and certain about. One, write all the time. I know it feels passé or whatever, but start a blog or a newsletter or something that just gets you writing all the time. Don’t put any pressure on yourself. My biggest piece of advice is to understand that your writing is not going to pay you right out the gate. Maybe you’re brilliant. I mean, of course you are, but maybe you’re brilliant enough to get a million dollars on your first book that you ever write. I blogged on the internet for ten years. No one gave me money for anything. I had to work at an animal hospital. It just doesn’t happen, really, that way for anyone, that you just blow up right out of the gate. I would say don’t be afraid to work in obscurity for a long time until you make it. Keep writing all the time.

Zibby: I love it. I’m going to take my little tote bag and I’m going to head in the other room. You’re going to get all your belongings together and go on with your day. I’ll think of you as I shuffle back and forth.

Samantha: Please do. Zibby, this was so great. Thank you for having me. You are a delight.

Zibby: You too.

Samantha: That makes me sound a thousand years old. I want to be like, bitch, you’re cool as hell, but I don’t know if —

Zibby: — That was much better. I will take that. I might make that an Instagram post.

Samantha: It’s true. You are cool as hell.

Zibby: Thank you.

Samantha: You’re welcome.

Zibby: You too.

Samantha: Have a good day.

Zibby: You too. Bye, Sam.

Samantha: Bye.

Samantha Irby, WOW, NO THANK YOU