The Samantha Irby Interview
If you'd like to know my thoughts on last night's Idol, go here.
I've known today's interviewee for a while now. We attended the same high school, although I didn't really start hanging out with her until the last few years, thanks in part to the miracle of Facebook but also because I realized that she's one of Chicago's funniest, most honest bloggers and if I'm smart I'll stay on her radar so she'll let me carry her dry cleaning or something when she gets ultra-famous (it also helps that she's just a generally awesome person.) By day she works at an animal hospital and will give you a talking-to if your cat is too obese, but in her free time she runs the searingly open blog bitchesgottaeat, performs at readings around town (including the upcoming Literary Death Match, which I am co-juding), and hosts the weekly radio show Sunday Sermon on WNUR.
So you've been settling in as host of your own radio show. What have you learned along the way thus far in your experience in terms of what works and what doesn't?
Well I am 100% averse to criticism of any kind, so the only feedback I've had so far has been positive. Probably because most people already know I'm a raging egomaniac who refuses to listen to suggestion, especially if it isn't from a credible source. I'm sensitive and totally conceited, which pretty much means I'm an insufferable primadonna. I approach writing the show the same way I do my blog: I try to make myself laugh. I write down things that irritate me or experiences that I've had, the more excruciatingly painful and embarrassing the better, and I write about them in a way that makes them hilarious to me. The radio is weird because there's no audience to feed off of, so I really do just read it to myself and hope people are laughing along.
Do you have any radio shows or podcasts that you use as inspiration?
I'm pretty insecure and threatened by other people's talent, so I avoid listening to anything that might make me feel bad about myself. The only podcasts I listen to are ESPN's pardon the interruption and NPR's the moth, but neither of them ever talks about vomiting during intercourse or trying to set up a date with a midget, so I guess I just reaffirmed that I have a big old giant head full of ARROGANT.
How'd you get the gig?
Casting couch, basically. Producer Kate, the hot little nymph who fiddles the knobs during my show, is a senior at Northwestern and the general manager of WNUR, the radio station. And she also happens to be friends with some friends of mine. Our eyes met across a crowded room during a New Year's Eve party this past December and it was totally love at first sight. I told her about my blog, she Facebooked me and told me she'd spent the week following the party obsessively reading it, and we became BFFs. A couple months later she told me to pitch a show. I did, they fell into my sexy trap, and now I rule the airwaves. (for 1/2 an hour on Sunday nights on a pretty obscure station no one really listens to. Pffft.)
What have been some of your favorite live reading experiences?
I loved doing your show, Funny Ha-Ha, despite the fact that I was terrified I was going to fall off that stupid stage when I was done. But that old lady laughing at my dick jokes made it all worth it. And I love love LOVE reading at the Sunday Night Sex Show. It's home to me and has the best literary hipster crowd on the planet. So great.
What's your first book going to be about?
Did you know I wrote a novel? Well, I never quite finished it, but it's mostly written. I'm too chickenshit to show it to anyone, though. It follows the adolescence and adulthood of a set of female twins, one of whom is a genius at math and terrible at everything else. It's funny and it's kind of anti-chick lit. It's a shame I'll never show it to anyone with a valid opinion.
What are you reading right now, book-wise?
I feel the same way about books as I do about interpersonal romantic relationships: the more I can keep going at one time, the better. And since I haven't had real sex in sixteen months, I have been reading a TON. Right now I'm reading the new one by the dude who wrote Devil in the White City. It's about Hitler's Germany. I'm also reading the second book in the Stieg Larsson trilogy, The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno (LOVE HIM), and I just finished a Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. OOH and I've been reading this book of people's totally eff'd up love letters. That shit is brilliant.
Aside from Facebook, where do you waste most of your time online?
GOSSIP BLOGS. Dlisted.com, idontlikeyouinthatway.com, crunktastical.net, and gofugyourself.com are my main jams. And I love a good relationship blog, currently obsessed with blackgirlsareeasy.blogspot.com and shmittenkitten.com. And I could live on televisionwithoutpity.com; what a dummy, watching TV then reading about those same TV shows on the internet. LAME.
Has there ever been anything you've put about yourself on your blog that you wished you'd hadn't?
NOTHING. I write constantly about really painful things: dead parents, horrible rejection, being depressed, drinking too much, wearing adult diapers in public, and I wouldn't take any of it back. That's why people like it so much, because I don't keep anything to myself. Sharing is caring.
On that note, you get a lot of interesting reader interaction. Have you altered the way at all in which you interact with your fans from when you first started?
Nope. Every week on the show and on Facebook I invite people to wherever I'm going to be. I tell total strangers to meet me out for tacos and shit. No one ever shows up, but I still extend the invitation. I encourage emails, phone calls, WHATEVS. What, I can't turn off my Internet porn for five minutes to answer an email from some little lover who takes the time to read my stupid blog? Of course I can!
For readers tempted to stalk you, what's something they should know about real-life Sam that's different from BGE Sam?
Despite the negative connotation of the word, I love that I might have blog stalkers. I am in love with the idea that someone would like the silly shit I write enough to show up on my doorstep, but only if he was incredibly handsome and bearing flowers. He doesn't even really have to be all that handsome, just bring me a present and don't make me late for work. I'm nicer in real life than most people expect. And a lot more SAD. Somehow people come away with the idea that I'm some sort of comedy robot, and when they meet me in real life they're caught off guard when I'm depressed or having a bad day. I don't just walk around all day with one-liners shooting out of my asshole. Okay okay okay. Ninety percent of the time I DO. But sometimes I need a goddamned break.
Are you able to pinpoint when or why you went from just blogging to being aware people were really reading what you write?
The first time I read at the sex show I read a piece called "Fat Fuck" about this personal trainer I used to hang out with who used to beat off while force-feeding me. I posted it in my blog, which had been up for several months at that point, and things just exploded. I started doing more readings, getting more readers, I started a Facebook fanpage, and it's just been growing from there. Although I am still neither wealthy or getting regularly laid, so there's obviously some work left to be done.
Let's get some girl power up in here: who are some women whose work (or just general being) you're into right now?
The girl who writes Shmitten Kitten is a goddamned GENIUS. Anna something-or-other. I adore her. I'm also really digging Tune-Yards, this British woman who makes quirky music that I like to jam to. And while I find Chelsea Handler irritating as shit on television, her books are hilaaaaaaarious. But I mostly like regular broads. Robyn Pennacchia who hosts the sex show, Mary Hamilton and Lindsay Hunter who host the Quickies reading series, YOU. I like local women who are doing smart and funny stuff. Those are my real heroes.
Dayjob question: based on your experiences, what are some breeds of dogs you'd advise people never to purchase?
First off, broke people shouldn't get dogs, no matter WHAT the breed. You're not doing that poor dog any favors by bringing it home to a person who can't afford to care for it. Dogs cost money, even the free ones. That said, I'm going to remain on my high horse for a minute and say that if you require a specific breed, unless you are a professional dog fancier who plans to show that dog, you should probably try to get one through a rescue organization. There are so many homeless dogs, help your shitty karma and adopt one. THAT SAID, steer clear of: all smushed-face breeds, so many health issues; all bulldog breeds, SO MANY HEALTH ISSUES; pointers, vizslas, border collies, salukis, and weimaraners if you're lazy; labs if you're a slob who doesn't put anything away; chows, shiba inus, schipperkes, malinois, shar peis, chihuahuas, and akitas if you don't want your fucking face unexpectedly ripped off; shepherds if you hate cleaning up incessant diarrhea; dachsunds if you can't afford multiple back surgeries; toy breeds if you're clumsy and might accidentally step on your dog and crush it. As a matter of fact, just don't get a fucking dog.
How formed do you feel by where you're from? Do you think you'd be the same Sam Irby if you'd been raised in Westchester NY or San Francisco or Portland?
If, in San Francisco, I grew up fat and poor and miserable, the answer is 100% YES. I'm not sure that I've been shaped by my community surroundings as much as I've become who I am because my childhood was terrible and I wore a size 18 in the third goddamned grade. I'm exaggerating, but not by much. Growing up in Evanston is ridiculous amazing, even for the broke kids in the free lunch program, because we had really good public schools with access to art and music. But I'm funny because I'm miserable, so throw a two parent household above the poverty line and a normal waistband into the equation and the answer would probably be no.
The next few questions come from friends/fans of yours. "How do you keep from being locked into hampering group labels without alienating the groups to which you refused to conform?"
So the subtext of this question is "How can you talk like a white girl and still make black people laugh," right? OKAY THEN. I've never really thought about it before, but I think the reason I don't paint myself into a corner is because most of my main themes are pretty universal: being terrible at sex, trying to date shitty assholes who are mean to me, what I like on television, getting drunk all the time, and crapping my pants occasionally. People of all races have desperately tried to win the affections of someone who hated them the minute he pulled out or have been cheated on. I always find it more surprising that men relate to my work, as all I do is write about how stupid they are and how the world would be better if we eliminated 99% of them. Seriously though, isn't comedy one of the few things that could truly be post-racial?
"Does she have any tips for kids (or adults) who, like herself, find themselves too smart for their comical equivalents and yet too comical for their intellectual equivalents?"
GET USED TO BEING ANGRY ALL THE TIME. God, I think everyone is so dumb. Mostly because they open their mouths to confirm it CONSTANTLY. Bitches are always saying the stupidest shit. OUT LOUD. It's astounding. I try to listen more than I speak, talk trash about everyone in my head, laugh at them when their backs are turned, and console my desperately lonely heart with the excuse that the real reason I'm alone is because my towering intellect and superior comedic timing eliminates most humans from being deserving of my company. Um...so try that.
"Mr. P wants to know, what former White Sox catcher would she most want to see in a Playgirl pictorial and why?"
First of all, I love that goddamned Mr. P. Second, baseball players are pretty fruity to me, so let's pretend he asked which basketball player I would most like to see in my bed tonight and why. The answer is Dwight Howard, because that dude has arms like honeybaked hams and I would like to chew on them. Make it happen, universe.
How does it feel to be the 283rd person interviewed for Zulkey.com?
Super exciting, because I don't think I could find 283 people to give free drugs away to, let alone interview them on my blog. You're doing big thangs, lovergrrrrrrrrl. Proud of your hot ass. Feel free to change anything that sounds dumb. seriously.