Samantha Irby and I are laughing almost as soon as we get on the phone. In the depths of the coronavirus scare, we realize even asking “how are you?” becomes a loaded question. “Your knee-jerk response is like, ‘hey, how are you?’ And then it’s like, well, I fucking know how you are, you’re trapped, you’re stir-crazy, you wanna eat at a restaurant and get a real fancy coffee from some place and you can’t do anything of those things, so HOW GOOD COULD YOU EVEN BE?” she says. “This is surreal. It’s a surreal time. I won’t bother you with my low-simmering panic.”

Releasing a new book might not be easy at the moment, but Irby’s new book of essays, Wow, No Thank You, comes out today, perfect timing for anyone who needs a good laugh (read: all of us). The writer’s uproarious, honest, and personal work has earned her New York Times Bestseller cred as well as writing gigs for hulu’s Shrill and Showtime’s Work in Progress, not to mention beloved status in the literary community. Wow, No Thank You continues Irby’s reign supreme in comedic essay and memoir as she tackles with her signature misanthropic wit everything from friend dates gone awry to clubs to television to beauty rituals.

them. spoke to Irby about laughter, hand creams, success, who to cut out of your life, and more.

There is this constant stream of lightness in the book, even when you’re discussing something difficult. How did you balance those tones?

It feels frivolous to even talk about a book coming out. At least it’s not a scary book that’s a bummer, so I can be like, “Hey, if you need a laugh, here’s this thing I made!” When I decided to write another book, I went into it thinking, okay, I have beat both of the dead parent drums and I’m done with that. In general I can tend toward pessimism, but there was none of that in my own life to mine at the moment. I thought, why not put something out that really tries to make people laugh? In my blog and newsletter, I want to be the 10 minutes of sunshine you get in a day or the 10 minutes of pointing out the absurdity of the other minutes in the day, so it was a concerted effort to make this one funny. Life is so hard and bad — if I can be a person who’s like, “Okay, but look at this meme,” then that’s what I want to do and what I wanted this book to be. There’s no page you turn and a horrible thing awaits. It’s just the next stupid-ass thing that will make you laugh. Bad things happen all the time, but not everything is worth documenting, which I feel like I have learned at this stage. It would have felt less authentic to try wringing some deep emotion or, dare I say, meaning out of a low point. The book is also deeply misanthropic. It’s called “Wow, No Thank You,” so it’s about everything I don’t like [laughs], but in a way that’s funny this time. No sad parts.

When do you know an experience is worth writing about?

If it is so humiliating I can’t stop thinking about it. In the essay “Are You Familiar With My Work?” I actually asked a human being to his face if he knew who I was. I was stunned and truly dying inside. After a few days, I was like, “That shit is fucking funny.” Boom, that goes in. If I know it’s worth getting on the phone with somebody the next day about, that’s in for sure. The other thing is if I’m thinking about an idea a lot. One piece in the book is about “beauty profiles.” No one is going to ask me about my, like, creams, so how can convey to other people who might feel the same way how ridiculous it is without making any enemies — I don’t want the Glossier lady to be like, “bitch, I saw what you said” [laughs]. And then come after me. I can’t have any high profile people who hate my fucking guts — and also ensures that I am the biggest target of my criticism. The real problem is, I wish I could be a person who didn’t want to know what hand cream Selena Gomez uses. But I do! If it’s affordable, I would like to order it, have it delivered to my house, and no one has to know I bought the Selena Gomez hand cream! So it’s my shame about that. Some things I haven’t yet figured out how to put on the page or I think about a lot of things unworthy of anyone hearing about them, and those just go in my brain toilet [laughs].



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