I read your book The Will to Whatevs, and, unlike what you promise in the beginning, I'm not smarter, funnier, or more attractive than I was when I started reading it. So I guess my first question is: What the fuck?
Umm... first of all, I'd like to apologize for tricking you. The actual question is "What the fuck?"
I'm gonna say it's your fault.
That's where the self-help genre fails! If someone is helpless, she can't help herself.
Yeah! "Sounds like you need to stop complaining and start doing something about it." I'm going to be a great self-help person. [Laughs] People are like, "I still feel bad about myself." And I'll be like, "Sounds like it's your fault!"
The Will to Whatevs is technically an advice book—but you're a comedian, so it's actually funny, unlike most self-help books, which are just ridiculous. Why write an advice book?
Because it's enjoyable or fun, I guess is a reason. I would say it was fun to write. I used to work at a hotline, and I did an advice column on my website for a long time, so it just sort of came out of the fun of doing that.
Was the advice column something that you created yourself, or did it happen organically with fans randomly contacting you for advice?
It's something I created a long time ago. The oddest part is that I get letters sometimes from people seeking advice from me, but not for the purpose of putting it on my website. They're like, "I really need to know what you think I should do in this situation."
No offense, but why the fuck would they ask a comedian for serious advice?
I don't know. [Laughs] Maybe they think I won't lie to them. Or what I say that's not true will be clearly untrue?
You lie quite often. It would be wrong of them to assume you're going to tell them the truth. While writing The Will to Whatevs, did you do any "research"? Do you have any favorite self-help books?
There was one I remember hating—it just had the worst tone in the world. It was directed at women who were, I don't know, like 34 and unsure about what to do with their lives or something. It referred to... you know how people talk about forefathers? Well, it constantly talked about forebabes. It was written in this tone that was the most unbearable thing I'd ever seen. "Our forebabes did so much for us that now we can nab a husband!" It's called, like, Right Man, Right Away, Let's Get Him Right Here... I can't remember exactly. Something to do with getting a guy in a short amount of time.
Almost all self-help books basically tell you to cut the shit and try something. Most of them just go, "Hey, you know how you're always crying? Why don't you stop doing that and join a club!" And it's true, people should do that, they'd be much happier. I have a friend who teaches psychology and philosophy, and he says that a lot of self-help books are actually as helpful as going to see a therapist. Shockingly enough, if you read a thing you already know, when you read it, it makes you try it and you feel better.
So your book could change some lives, then. Someone could read it and honestly think it will affect them for the better.
Yes! I wish now that I had put a sticker on the cover that says "This Book Might Change Your Life."
Well, I wanted to say the book in one sense inspired me—so I guess it did work. You tell the story about that young man who threw the fire in your hair and later came back to apologize. Well, I have done something to you, too, that was not so nice. I don't know if you remember this, but I wrote about an upcoming performance of yours for the paper, and I said you were "slightly homely, but charming." I sort of meant it as a compliment, but after noting it during your performance, you were apparently none too pleased.
Yes, I do remember that! [Laughs] Let me just say it this way, if you read that about yourself, would you be pleased?
Right. Well, no...
So I feel like I wasn't particularly really offended; I think it's funny that you were like, "He'll like this. This will be a good way to be described." [Laughs] But yeah, no, I'm not offended. I think it's fine. I think it's funny.
But like the man who threw the fire in your hair, I just wanted to apologize. I think you're charming.
Thank you very much. [Laughs] Don't worry about it.
Eugene Mirman reads Thurs Feb 19, University Book Store, 7 pm, free.