Humorist Samantha Irby shares her 'Quietly Hostile' interior Irby shares almost everything in her new book of essays, Quietly Hostile but, she says, "If I can't have a conversation with a stranger about the thing that I wrote, I won't put it in a book."

'Quietly Hostile' is Samantha Irby's survival guide (of sorts)

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Our new co-host Tonya Mosley has today's interview. It's a lot of fun. Here's Tonya to introduce it.


Author Samantha Irby has made a living writing about the stuff we all think about but rarely say out loud. From our daily biological functions to the New Year's resolutions we delude ourselves into thinking we'll keep, Irby delves into a new set of funny situations in her latest collection of essays called "Quietly Hostile." In it, she takes us through her rise as a Hollywood TV show writer, the trials of getting turned away at swanky restaurants for not dressing hip enough to almost getting a popular cable network to turn her first book into a TV show - the operative word being almost.

As a self-described high-functioning anxious and depressed person, Irby also gives us plenty to laugh about with her stories about domesticated life moving from Chicago to Kalamazoo, Mich., for love. Her new book is titled "Quietly Hostile." She's written four others, including "We Are Never Meeting In Real Life," "Meaty," "New Year, Same Trash" and "Wow, No Thank You." Irby has also written for Lindy West's show "Shrill" and was a co-producer and writer on the "Sex And The City" reboot "And Just Like That...".

Samantha Irby, welcome to FRESH AIR.

SAMANTHA IRBY: Thank you for having me. I am nervous but excited.

MOSLEY: (Laughter) Well, you know, fans of yours have watched you evolve through your writing, which started with your popular blog on MySpace. And this latest collection, "Quietly Hostile," picks up where your last book left off. Can I have you read a passage from the chapter Body Horror?

IRBY: Gladly. (Reading) In my mid to late 20s, I had one of those mid-to-late-20s epiphanies you have when you get your first twinge of sciatica or when some other age-related corporeal breakdown makes itself known to you. It triggered the crushing realization that I was not going to be young and lubricated for much longer and caused my brain to fry like a Partnership For a Drug-Free America egg. Wait a minute. My lower back aches? I should probably start paying my bills on time.

When I was a teenager, I thought 27 was the definitive full-stop age I needed to have my together [expletive] by, based - I'm pretty sure - solely on this article I'd read in a magazine that said you have until age 27 to shrink the fat cells in your body or be stuck with them forever. Imagine this world where it seemed plausible that I could be fat for the first 26 years of my life, then go on - I don't know - the Atkins diet, eat hot dogs for a year and then magically become skinny for the rest of my life. Think of how hopeful you got to be to believe something like that. I wish I still had that optimism.


MOSLEY: I think all of us have that optimism in our 20s, yeah?

IRBY: (Laughter) Yes. Yes, yes. I do wish I believed things more (laughter) or, like, believed in change. I still am, like, optimistic, you know, hopeful, cautiously hopeful. But I wish I really, like, believed I had the power to change anything (laughter).

MOSLEY: To change any and everything, including your body. Yeah.

IRBY: Yes.

MOSLEY: You also, in this book - I mean, you're very real, like that chapter. You're also fielding job offers from Hollywood while somehow making the management of your Crohn's disease and getting a prescription for an antidepressant funny. What's your barometer for too much information? Is there actually such a thing?

IRBY: Yes. I - you know, people all the time will say, like, how do you - are you afraid of what you put out there? I sat in on this, like, memoir writing class once, and this woman was, like, reading a thing she'd written, and she started crying. And I was like, oh, you should not work on that anymore. And she was like, why not? And I'm like, 'cause you clearly - like, it's painful to you. So anything that I - 'cause, like, when you put a book out into the world, you have to be prepared for people to talk to you about it until you die, right? Like, if you meet someone and they've read your book, the - you know, they'll be like, you know, on Page 72, I hated that thing you said. And then you got to talk to them about it.


IRBY: So if I can't have a conversation with a stranger about the thing that I wrote, I won't put it in a book.

MOSLEY: Well, the name of the book is "Quietly Hostile." You say that's how you describe your public persona.

IRBY: Yeah.

MOSLEY: What does being quietly hostile actually look like? What does that mean?

IRBY: It looks like an outer shield of Midwestern politeness and charm. I'm very charming. Under the surface, my blood is always at a high simmer. It's not boiling, but it is - (laughter). It is bubbling a little bit.

MOSLEY: Are your teeth clenched a little bit?

IRBY: Yes. Yes (laughter).


IRBY: Yeah. It's always just, like, a constant low-grade frustration with everything but, like, keeping a nice face on it. Yeah (laughter).

MOSLEY: Yeah, with a smile. Yeah.

IRBY: Yes.

MOSLEY: Some have described your work as funny self-help. You call it more of a survival guide. What do you mean by that?

IRBY: I mean, I am in no position to truly help anyone, right? Like, I have some tools and tricks that if people want to adopt, it'll get them from Point A to Point B 'cause that's essentially, like, what I'm doing. I'm just trying to get to the next thing. I don't have any long-term goals. I don't make any plans. I just am trying to find a way to get to whatever is happening after this. You know what I mean? And so, like, help - I don't know if I'm - if I'm helpful to people, that is incredible, and I feel great about it, even if it's just to give them a laugh, right? Like, I always want to be useful. I want someone to have a lift in their day 'cause of some joke I made.

MOSLEY: I'm curious. Would you ever consider or have you ever done stand-up comedy?

IRBY: No, and I wouldn't consider it because - this I have a real answer for.

MOSLEY: (Laughter).

IRBY: Stand-up comedy, it's, like, the only medium where the audience is encouraged to be rude to the person on stage. And I can't get heckled. You know what I mean? Like, I will pass away on stage (laughter) if I get heckled. I - oh, my God. Just thinking about it, like, I'm going to break out in a cold sweat (laughter).

MOSLEY: Oh, my God. OK, well, let's not get you, like - (laughter).

IRBY: It's OK. It's OK. But storytelling, which I have done - like, Chicago has a big - used to. I don't know how big it is now - but a live lit community, which is essentially, like, storytelling. And there are all these storytelling shows. And I performed live...

MOSLEY: In front of a live audience. Yeah. Yeah.

IRBY: Mmm hmm. And I performed live for years and years. But, like, a storytelling audience is, like, prepared to cry and, like, pleasantly surprised when you make them laugh. Stand-up audiences are like, make me laugh, idiot. And I don't need that kind of (laughter) pressure.

MOSLEY: For years, as I mentioned, you had been describing yourself as a high-functioning depressed person with anxiety. But did I read that you most recently were diagnosed with OCD?

IRBY: Yes. Like, nine months ago, I was like - I mean, the pandemic really, like, broke my brain, right? Like, I didn't leave the house at all, like for two years. And I sort of, like, regressed into this, like, feral creature who all of a sudden was terrified of everything outside, right? Like in the grocery store, I'd be, like - I'd feel like people were chasing me or, like, in the car, I always thought people were trying to run me off the road. And I was like, well, I could be insane and suffer. Or I could find a psychiatrist.

So I found a psychiatrist who's, like, really great, and, like, we just, like, talked, and I described, like, the way I think and the things I think about and some of my habits. And she was like, yeah, that's OCD. And, like, you know, we had session after session, and she was like, yeah, everything you say is leading me to believe you have OCD. And so then she put me on Zoloft, and then we bumped the dose higher and higher until it started to work.

And, yeah, I am still - I didn't write about it because I feel like I'm still navigating it. I don't like to write about a thing until I have a handle on it, or I actually have something to say about it. So yeah, OCD - I thought it was just, like, hand-washing and, you know, checking the light switch a million times. But no, it's a lot of stuff that I do, like glamorous hoarding and ruminating on the same thought for two hours.

MOSLEY: Has it felt like a relief to finally have a diagnosis?

IRBY: Yes. Although I will say - so it's great to know. But, like, the best therapy for OCD is exposure therapy. And because all of the things I'm afraid of are in my own brain - right? - it's hard to expose myself - it's not like...

MOSLEY: Exposure therapy meaning...

IRBY: Meaning like...

MOSLEY: OK, so exposure therapy is like...

IRBY: ...If you have a hard time going to concerts, right? Because you're - or you have a hard time being in a crowd, exposure therapy would be like working with your psychiatrist to figure out, like, how you could go to a concert and stay there without freaking out or leaving. So my fears are like, hey; what if that guy across the street walks over here and punches me in the face? Like, there's no way to expose yourself. So I - my assignments have been to - maybe I'll publish these - to write really detailed, like, scenarios that are fear - like, that would instill fear or inspire fear in me and read those aloud multiple times a day until they sort of lose their power. And that is torture.

MOSLEY: Wow. Have you done it already - that exercise?

IRBY: Oh, yes.

MOSLEY: OK. So you've done this exercise already.

IRBY: Mmm hmm. Yeah. It's too much. I mean, it's the kind of thing where, like, the first couple times I was like, oh, maybe I don't want to be fixed because this feels horrible (laughter).


IRBY: You know, I was like, oh, this is the way to get better? Maybe I'll just be nuts, you know? But I kept doing it. I still do it. Like, every week I have to come up with a new thing that terrifies me and then read it over and over and over until - I don't know that they've lost their power. But I'm maybe number to the idea of the things that scare me now.

MOSLEY: You know, this is really interesting, too, because what you have written about for so many years is that something that was always your dream is to be able to just be in your house all the time, to never leave your house.

IRBY: (Laughter) Yeah.

MOSLEY: But the pandemic exacerbated that. I think I remember you writing something like, I love - I can't wait for there to be a time when you can wear your outside clothes - your inside clothes outside.

IRBY: (Laughter) Yes.

MOSLEY: Well, we're doing that now, right?

IRBY: Yes.

MOSLEY: We're wearing jogging pants everywhere.

IRBY: I love it.

MOSLEY: But really, that - yeah, that isolation, though, was a little too much for you.

IRBY: Yeah, it was bad. It was so bad. And I didn't - you know, as an inside person, I thought, like, I'm - I was made for quarantine, right? Like, I hate going places. I had a book come out at the beginning of the pandemic, and I didn't have to go anywhere to sell it to anyone. I could just sit in my chair and do a virtual thing and talk to people on the computer, and that felt really great. But, like, a year into that, I just was like, oh, I am - I could, like, feel myself kind of, like, shriveling up, right? I mean, it was scary enough for me to call a psychiatrist I have to pay out of pocket, so pretty terrifying (laughter).

MOSLEY: (Laughter) Let's take a break. If you're just joining us, I'm talking with author and screenwriter Samantha Irby. Samantha's new book, "Quietly Hostile," is out now. It's her fourth series of essays which follows her 2020 book "Wow, No Thank You." and her 2017 book of essays "We Are Never Meeting In Real Life." Irby was also a co-producer and writer for the "Sex And The City" reboot "And Just Like That..." We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Samantha Irby, author of the new book "Quietly Hostile," a collection of funny essays about her personal and professional life.

Sam, when you stayed in LA, you were working on the Hulu series "Shrill," which is loosely based on writer Lindy West's book "Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman." And in this episode that you wrote - it's titled "Pool," and the main character, Annie, is played by Aidy Bryant. She writes for an alt weekly paper called The Weekly Thorn. And she pitches this idea of attending a fat girl pool party to her boss Gabe, played by James Cameron Mitchell (ph). And Gabe likes to write about the obesity epidemic. So I want to play a clip from this episode that you wrote. Annie, who has been editing the calendar - she wants to write more. And so she pitches this idea of this pool party. Let's listen.


JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL: (As Gabe Parrish) All right. I've got a call in five. That means you're going to email me your pitches. That'll be all.

AIDY BRYANT: (As Annie Easton) Oh, actually, Gabe, if I could just give you a quick pitch.

MITCHELL: (As Gabe Parrish) Didn't I literally just say email the pitches?

BRYANT: (As Annie Easton) Yes. Yes.

MITCHELL: (As Gabe Parrish) But you're going to give me a pitch?

BRYANT: (As Annie Easton) Yes. Well, I heard about this pool party. And it's all about inclusivity...

MITCHELL: (As Gabe Parrish) I hate that word.

BRYANT: (As Annie Easton) ...And celebrating larger bodies. And they sent it to the calendar. But I think it could be a cool story.

MITCHELL: (As Gabe Parrish) Bodies in a pool. That's not a story, Annie.

BRYANT: (As Annie Easton) OK, but it actually is about a lot more than that. It's about people feeling comfortable in their own skin.

MITCHELL: (As Gabe Parrish) The last thing we need is everybody feeling comfortable in their own skin. That would be the '70s. My gut instinct is that it's not a good fit - great fit for the calendar. Go crazy with that.

BRYANT: (As Annie Easton) OK. And you should definitely trust your gut. But I also think that my last article is proof that my instincts might be good, too, right?

MITCHELL: (As Gabe Parrish) Annie, we got to pace ourselves. Do you remember Gutenberg's second idea after the printing press?

BRYANT: (As Annie Easton) No.

MITCHELL: (As Gabe Parrish) Exactly. The answer is no. Thank you so much. Are we good?

BRYANT: (As Annie Easton) Yeah.


MOSLEY: That was a clip from the Hulu series "Shrill," an episode that you wrote. And Annie ends up going to that pool party anyway. And she joins in. And this episode came out a few years ago. You know, Sam, there are still videos online on TikTok of people crying tears of joy while watching this.

IRBY: Really?

MOSLEY: There is, yeah, people who are saying they feel comfortable in their skin after watching that episode and seeing themselves, because we don't typically see, I guess, big-bodied people wearing swimsuits and being happy about it.

IRBY: It's true.

MOSLEY: I mean, how did you come up with this episode?

IRBY: Well, first, I didn't know about the TikToks because I watch TikToks that other people put on Instagram because I'm 43.

MOSLEY: You're not on TikTok? Yeah.

IRBY: No, I can't, you know? I can't, I can't. But (laughter) that is so nice. I - so we had a 10-episode season. And we knew that we wanted Annie to have kind of the same epiphany that Lindy had. And, like, there's no way on TV to be like, hey; watch this character flip through a lot of pictures of, like, fat women in their underwear, you know, to, like, feel better about her body, which is, like, what we did, you know? So we needed to, like, come up with a vehicle that would be, like, something that would open her eyes. And Lindy and I both had been to separate fat babe pool parties. I went to the Chunky Dunk. And there are some others. And we've been to, like, fat girl exercise classes and, you know, fat girl clothing swaps, that kind of thing.

And we just wanted, like, a catalyst through which Annie would emerge, like, feeling better about being fat. And we thought, like, a pool party would be great because then we could, like, do a thing that I don't know that has ever been done - nobody research and tell me - but, like, actual fat people in bathing suits on TV. I was like, if we get away with this, it's going to feel like a coup. So - and then I remember walking in and seeing the pool and being like, oh, my God. It looks - this is perfect. What a vision. And then, because I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop, I was like, oh, but is this room full of extras going to be, like, Hollywood fat? You know what I mean?

I was worried that I would go in to say hello - and there's nothing wrong with a size six, but that is not a fat person or a size eight even. (Laughter) And I was just, like, holding my breath like, oh, please. And then Lindy and I walked in to say hi to all the extras. And there were just all these big, glorious bodies being treated well. I don't want to divorce them from, like, being people, but it's the bodies you notice first. And they were, like, making custom swimsuits for people. And hair and makeup was happening. And it was just, like, this beautiful dream. And I was like, I cannot believe that we get to do this. Now, no one has let anyone do this since (laughter). So this might be our, like, one unicorn fat-naked-people episode. But, I mean, it was a dream. Like, I still am, like, in disbelief that we got to do it with no pushback.

MOSLEY: Let's take a break. If you're just joining us, I'm talking with author and screenwriter Samantha Irby. Samantha's new book, "Quietly Hostile," is out now. It's her fourth series of essays which follows her 2020 book "Wow, No Thank You" and her 2017 book of essays "We Are Never Meeting In Real Life." Irby was also a co-producer and writer for the "Sex And The City" reboot "And Just Like That..." We'll be right back. I'm Tonya Mosley. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Samantha Irby, author of the new book "Quietly Hostile," a collection of funny essays about her personal and professional life.

So, Sam, there's a chapter in your book about the question people who have chosen not to have children often get, and that's, don't you wish you had a kid? And your response is, do I wish I could sit idly by and witness all the things I hate about myself in a person? How do you respond to that question in real life? And does it actually bother you for people to still ask you that?

IRBY: It doesn't bother me because it gives me a chance to do a bit. I always love the opportunity to do a bit (laughter). And that is what I say to people, especially people who know me. I'm like, OK, my body's a wreck. I am mentally unwell. What part of - like, what part of you wishes that I was a person who had a kid? It's so weird how people will ask you something like - that's, like, deeply personal - right? - just reflexively. Like, hey; aren't you sad you didn't have a kid? First of all, what if I am sad? Are you going to help me pick up these pieces of myself you just shattered on the floor for your amusement? No, you're probably not.

But also, it's just like, I have - I didn't have a good childhood, and I am a person who was like, oh, I don't ever want to subject anyone to the life I could provide for them, right? 'Cause it wouldn't be great, like, before now, right? If I had a kid during my childbearing years, that kid would have suffered, and my life would have been hard. And I lived that as a kid, so I don't want to do that to another child. So no, I...

MOSLEY: Your parents were both quite a bit older when they had you.

IRBY: Yeah, they were 40 and 50. My mom had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis four or five years before she got pregnant with me. And her OB was like, don't have a baby. And, like, everyone in her life was like, don't have a baby. But she wanted to have a baby 'cause she'd had my sisters when she was really young and was finally in a position - she had a house. She had a husband. She was finally in a position to, like, do it the right way. And I - that lasted for a few years, and then everything fell apart. And it was like, hey, Mom. I'm here now, but your OB was right (laughter). I should be in, like, the shadow realm somewhere, like, floating around. But I don't know how to look a kid in the face and be like, yes, I willingly brought you into this Earth - brought you onto this Earth, like, knowing what I know about myself and about the world. Good luck, you know?

MOSLEY: There's a chapter from your first book, "Meaty," that you talk in great detail about your mother. Her name was Grace. And you break up your life in two categories - before she got really sick and then after. There was something that happened when you were about 9 years old that really accelerated her decline. What happened at that age?

IRBY: She was in a car accident. She was not wearing her seatbelt. And she kind of, like, flew across the front seat and hit her head on the rearview mirror, and a blood clot formed in her brain, unbeknownst to her. She didn't go to the hospital. And then one day I was home from school, and she was sitting on the side of the bed just, like, drooling and, like, more incoherent than usual. And I don't - it took me a minute to - like, I thought she was just, like, gathering herself. You know, I was a little kid. And she didn't seem to be, like, actively in distress. But eventually, I went and got the neighbor, who was like, uh, let's call an ambulance. And it turned out she had a blood clot in her brain. And when they took it out, her multiple sclerosis came out of remission, like, in a big way. She went downhill very fast.

MOSLEY: And you - I mean, the name of that chapter is My Mother, My Daughter. You refer to your mother as your baby at that time. And you had to split yourself into two people - this happy, smiley, well-adjusted kid who needed to make friends, who needed to be well-adjusted and do really well in school, and then also your mother's caretaker and friend and nurturer at night. And this was, of course, very traumatic for you.

IRBY: Yeah. I mean, at the time, you know, it's just - you got to do what you got to do, right? Like, I just have to do my homework and go to school, and I have to help my mom. But then when you look back on it as an adult, I just am like - I mean, this is not a popular thing to say, but I do get, like, very frustrated because that's a foreseeable problem that my parents never set anything up to deal with, right? There was no, like, help-mom-get-into-assisted-living fund. You know what I mean? It was just like, oh, we made all these decisions, then everything fell apart, and now we're ill-equipped to deal with them. Good luck, Samantha.

MOSLEY: Your mother died when you were 18. Actually, both of your parents died when you were 18. So you never really got to know them outside of that child-parent relationship. In "Meaty," you write that you miss the idea of your mother, but you aren't really sure that you'd actually like her as an adult. What did you mean by that?

IRBY: I mean that I don't know either of my parents as people. Like, I know them as my parents, but, I mean, at least old-school Black parents, in my case, they weren't the type to, like - they didn't, like, tell me their business. You know what I mean? There was no, like, Susie at work is really getting on my nerves. You know what I mean? Like, we didn't have, like, conversations about their feelings or their friends or what was happening. And unfortunately, it has turned me into an adult who's kind of like that. Like, if a kid is around when I'm trying to gossip, I'm like, you better go get the Nintendo, brother.


IRBY: I have some rumors to spread. But we never got to the point where we could talk to each other like people, like they were very much, like, child in a child's place. I mean, my dad was 50, and he had fought in Korea, right? Like, he was just, like, a hardened, old alcoholic. And so it wasn't like they were having heart to hearts with me. Like, I don't know much about them as people.

MOSLEY: You lived in Chicago for most of your adult life, and then you moved to Kalamazoo, Mich., to live with your wife and stepchildren. You're not a biological parent, but you are a stepparent. What is it like being a stepparent?

IRBY: Well, the way I do it, it's the best. I don't try to parent those kids. I don't - I mean, I'll tell them, like, wash that plate. But I don't have to like, discipline them. I don't have to check the homework. I don't have to do any of the stuff that makes you hate your mom. And I can do the stuff that, like, your cool aunt would do - right? - like buy you things your mom won't buy you. And so - and that is the way that works best for me, kind of a - it's not hands off 'cause I talk to them all the time, but, like, I'm not making their health decisions. Like, they have two very capable parents. They do not need me to play that role. So I'm just kind of, like, amusing, but also, I'll tell you to pick your stuff up. And I can drive you places (laughter). It's, like, very seamless. Like, it works.

MOSLEY: OK, let's take a little break. If you're just joining us, I'm talking with author and screenwriter Samantha Irby. Samantha's new book, "Quietly Hostile," is out now. It's her fourth in a series of essays. In addition to being a writer, Irby is also a co-producer and writer for the "Sex And The City" reboot, "And Just Like That..." We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Samantha Irby, author of the new book "Quietly Hostile," a collection of funny essays about her personal and professional life.

OK. One of my favorite chapters in your latest book, "Quietly Hostile," is the chapter "How To Look Cool In Front Of Teens." I probably did the most uncool thing and read it to my teen.

IRBY: (Laughter).

MOSLEY: So - but I just thought it was, like, really funny. So I would love for you to read just a little bit of it.

IRBY: (Reading) Do not try to engage or bond with them over anything young people like. Never earnestly ask for their opinions on literally anything you enjoy. Do not mention their body ever in any capacity and try not to notice that they even have a body. Let them drive your car.

MOSLEY: How did you learn this? Was it through - you know, through experience with your stepchildren?

IRBY: Oh, yeah. Everything in there is based on an interaction that I've had with them. Like, I don't - you know how there are, like, adults who don't care, like, what teens say or that teens are cool, and they're not. That's not me, right? So when the friends are over for the sleepover, I'm not, like, putting on a show. But I do want them to be like, oh, your stepmom - she has tattoos. She's cool. (Laughter) That's actually important to me. I don't read reviews of my work, but I definitely listen to reviews of my outfits from 14-year-olds.


IRBY: But yeah, just trial and error of seeing, like, what makes them light up versus what makes them, like, grunt and walk past me.

MOSLEY: One thing that you do just by virtue of sharing your life is normalizing being bisexual. When did you understand yourself to be bisexual? And did you ever have conflict around it, like having to make a choice?

IRBY: Well, no conflict because - and excuse the callousness of this, but it's real. Dead parents - you can do whatever you want. Truly, I have done whatever I wanted because, like, there's no one who's going to tell me. Honestly, I didn't have the kind of parents who could be like, oh, you've brought shame to our family. But if they tried it, you know, I don't have to deal. I don't have to deal with that. So I can just do whatever. I think early on, I sort of, like, knew I had - I would go with whomever expressed interest in me, right? Like, I knew that from an early age, that if a woman came up to me and was like, I'm interested, I'd be like, I'm interested back. And same thing with a man. So it wasn't even like - I didn't have to, like, come out or anything like that. It was just like, oh, I'm dating this person now. And now I'm dating this person. I have gotten some pushback from queers who are like, you never write about the women you dated. And, I mean, I have a policy of not making fun of women. And honestly, there's nothing...

MOSLEY: But you make fun of men.

IRBY: Yes.


IRBY: I mean, not to turn this into misandry today, but come on. Of course. They can take it. I also have never had a woman pull the kind of stuff men pull, right? It's like, I guess I could write about that lady I calmly watched TV with until it was like, man, this commute to your house takes too long. Let's stop seeing each other. But, like, that's...

MOSLEY: They don't give you funny material.

IRBY: No 'cause they're, like, nice and not damaging. But, like, men are like bulls in China shops - at least the ones I have dated, let me not all-men - and have, like, given me, like, fodder or hurt me in ways that I've spun into comedy.

MOSLEY: Followers of yours don't just know that you have Crohn's disease. You mentioned it a while ago. You have Crohn's disease, but they also know from your writing in great detail what it is like to live with it. Can you briefly explain what it is and why it's important for you to write about it with such specificity?

IRBY: Little anecdote - earlier today, before I came to the studio, I was - I don't know - watching some sports thing on ESPN, and there was an ad for a medication for Crohn's disease featuring a young dude, like early 20s, on a roller coaster, talking about how this medication helped his Crohn's. And maybe it did, but that is doing a disservice to what Crohn's is actually like. I want to see somebody sweating on the toilet while, like, about to pass out, and I want to see the medication that brought them back from that. I feel like bathroom stuff is so - the way we are about bathroom stuff as a society is bonkers because it literally is a thing we all do. Why do we have to act like it's a shameful secret thing that we're slipping off to do and, like, lying and saying we got to make a phone call, (laughter) you know what I mean? If I can free up even one person to just announce to a dinner party, I will be gone, it will be longer than a minute, see you when I get back, don't send out a search party, then my work on Earth is complete.

MOSLEY: Samantha Irby, thank you so much for this conversation.

IRBY: Thank you for letting me...

MOSLEY: What a way to end (laughter).

IRBY: ...Desecrate the NPR airwaves. Tonya, this was amazing (laughter).

GROSS: Samantha Irby spoke with FRESH AIR's co-host Tonya Mosley. Irby's new book is called "Quietly Hostile." After we take a short break, TV critic David Bianculli will review a new Netflix documentary series hosted by Barack Obama called "Working: What We Do All Day." This is FRESH AIR.


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