Author Samantha Irby Wants To Put Normal On TV

Samantha Irby
Photo by Eva Blue
Samantha Irby
Photo by Eva Blue

Author Samantha Irby Wants To Put Normal On TV

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Samantha Irby released her third book, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, this year, but it’s her first collection of essays that is being turned into a TV show. Last year, FX bought the rights to Meaty, Irby’s first collection of essays. Now Irby, who grew up in Evanston and lived in Chicago, is working with Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson and Inside Amy Schumer’s Jessi Klein to write for television for the first time.

For Irby, almost everything is on the table when it comes to her work — whether it’s body image, severe digestive issues, or applying for The Bachelorette. Irby recently sat down with Nerdette host Tricia Bobeda. Here are highlights from the interview.

On writing about her insecurities:

Samantha Irby: I have just now started writing — and even this kinda scares me a little bit — about how I feel about my weight and myself and my depression. Those things were always hard to talk about because I didn’t have a good way to articulate how I felt.

It’s also really hard to write about something you don’t like about yourself, or something you are struggling with, and then not resolve it. Lots of times when people are talking about the spectrum of their depression and anxiety, or talking about reconciling their bodies, you get to the end and they’ve made peace with it. I have not, and I am also not actively trying to solve any of these problems. I’m just sort of working through them.

On her writing goals:

Irby: I always think that my work should be useful in some way. The biggest way is just to make people laugh. I feel like that is useful. If you can sit on the toilet and read something I’ve written and laugh, or you are on your commute or whatever, then it’s worth it to me to keep doing it.

Especially my blog — which is free and I don’t have ads on it, I don’t make any money from it — it’s just a thing that I like to do because I feel like it. People like it, and it provides them with something. With the book, which people are actually paying for, it’s really key to me that it be useful and it be good.

On turning her first book, Meaty, into a TV pilot:

Irby: We just finished a first draft of the pilot. We talked to FX, and we got notes, so now we are working on a second draft. TV takes a long time.

But working with people and getting their perspectives, especially people who have done it before, is such an amazing experience. With this book, it was my first real experience being edited and having a piece that I had written be a collaborative work. So for the show, I will write something that I think is funny and then I send it to them.

And then just hearing, almost in real time, what someone thinks about something you’ve written and what they see in it that you didn’t see is an incredible experience. I have zero ego about any of it because what do I know? It has been very cool, and I am so excited.

There is a lot of diarrhea written in the first episode. That’s my thing. And there are things I want to do on TV that I feel will be so cool, like just having black and brown people, and also there’s no romance in the first episode.

And I also want to represent all the people with irritable bowel diseases, and talk about what it’s like and have it shown on TV: what’s it like when you have a sort of silent disease that everyone makes fun of and thinks is hilarious? But also when you’re dealing with it, everyone is like “ew!”

That’s my dream: To have a funny show with three women executive producers and writers. But then also to have black people being normal. Things we haven’t seen before. Because I don’t feel like some black exception. I am just a normal person. All my friends are just like me, and I feel like we should be represented on TV.

Also, I want poop to be on TV. And not in a slapstick kind of way.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.