National Writers Series Presents Comedian and Author Samantha Irby

Comedian and New York Times bestselling author Samantha Irby is famous for her uproarious and popular blog, Bitches Gotta EatIn her debut essay collection, Meaty, Irby laughs her way through relationships, being black, and bouts with Crohn’s disease. Meaty is being republished and is the basis for a new FX series. (Audience discretion advised.)

See Samantha onstage at the Traverse City Opera House Friday, May 11. Tickets start at $15.50. The event starts at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. More details about the National Writers Series event.


I was nervous for my interview with Samantha Irby—pacing, anxious sweating, feeling like a kid inviting her to my slumber party. But we fell into conversation and it was easy. Fun, funny, friendly.

Irby’s Meaty gives an intimate account of being human, of seeking love, and aging with illness, while keeping it real throughout. This raw telling of inner thoughts and outer hijinks will have you laughing and perhaps a little uncomfortable.

How is the book tour going?

I have been traveling, and I’m a bad traveler. Don’t get me wrong, I love to fly, I’m good at airports and airplanes. It’s all the stuff that goes along with travel that I’m not good at.

Are you an efficient packer? 

Here’s a problem I’ve had my entire life which has become more acute since I’ve become an adult who has to stand in front of people and talk: What I like to wear versus what looks flattering in front of an audience are totally different things. I don’t even think I’ve yet found something that I later see in a picture and say, “That was a good choice!” No, I’m always, “Why would you wear that?” So I pack my suitcase full of clothes and from there, I’m lost. I know how to dress for travel days—no metal in my clothes so they let me on the plane—but otherwise it’s a struggle.

What’s enjoyable about being on tour? 

I have a desire to be useful. I don’t want to DO a whole lot, but if I make people laugh, or tell them about great exfoliating cream, then I’m helping.

Do you google yourself?

Never. Not once.

You’ve written extensively about enjoying the great indoors. What outdoor activities do you enjoy?

I do love a drive on these Michigan highways, and when the trees turn colors in the fall, I really enjoy looking at them, from the car. I like sitting outdoors and reading, but then I start wondering if the neighbor is watching. Then I’m convinced the neighbor is watching and judging me, so self-consciousness forces me inside.

You have written about your love of reality TV. What show would you like to be a part of?

I’d love to be in the room when they come up with the challenges for Survivor. It’s bananas, like diabolical children came up with this stuff. Being half-naked, starving, with people playing mind games on you all the time, and then you have to balance a ball on a pole, on your chin, and climb a ladder? You can’t wake me up after a good night’s sleep with a full stomach and ask me to even do a puzzle.

What’s the least amount of clothing you’re comfortable wearing in public?

I don’t even wear short-sleeved shirts! I prefer to have a lot of clothes. Even if it’s warm, I might wear a jacket, because, pockets. I don’t have things in my pockets, but I like to put my hands in pockets.

What foods do you go to great lengths to avoid?

This is a big bone of contention at home, I don’t eat—cannot stand—beets. It’s like wet apples that taste like blood. I wish I could be a carefree beet eater, but I cannot.

Also, olives, even if they’re stuffed with something delicious, like cheese. They’re just gross to me.

How is married life?

It’s weird in the functional sense of the word, to have her life directly tied to mine. I can’t just do what I want with my money. Having grown up as a deprived person, it’s important for me to have some freedom with money and stuff. It’s weird to have to consider someone else.

People usually say things like, “You’re just going to have sex with one person for the rest of your life.” Look, I’m too old and tired for sex anyway. Who cares? There are things that I would ordinarily ignore—like I got a letter from the IRS, and I would usually put that in the recycling bin—but my mistakes affect someone else now. It’s not my nature to be mature, responsible, and I’m married to someone who is a good adult. I’m asking this person to trust me, so I have to try.

You said one of the good things about being on tour was being useful. What does that mean to you? 

If I’ve made you laugh, or if I’ve given you a new TV show to watch, if I have one hour to talk to you, and I can relieve you of whatever you were thinking about then, I’ve been useful. I’m not trying to be good—I just try to be useful to counteract my failings.

If someone reads this essay about my period and it makes them laugh, or empowers them to laugh at their problems, and maybe even talk to their doctor, then I’ve done good work.


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