Abbi Jacobson and Chris Gethard both have new books out this Fall and they came by BookExpo 2018 to talk about their work. The pair have known each other for a long time (Chris used to be Abbi’s improv teacher and was also on her show Broad City) and talked a lot about how much they get each other’s books.
“I’m kind of the target audience for your book” Chris joked.
Obviously they weren’t only writing for people with their own TV shows or their best friends. Here are the best takeaways from Abbi and Chris’s conversation.
So what is Chris Gethard’s new book Lose Well about?
Chris Gethard: A big part of my book is that idea that a lot of times people have dreams and instead of going for the dreams they try to not fail along the way and convince themselves that not losing is somehow winning. And I kinda feel like anytime I approach an endeavor creatively or in life I want to either win really big or I want it to be just a complete shit show, a train wreck, and there’s no middle ground.
Creative people, you get so scared of looking bad you convince yourself the middle ground is ok and then you’re 8, 9,10 years in and you turn around and say why did I just waste a decade of my life? … You have to let [failure] be an option.
Abbi Jacobson: Something you start your book off with that I really believe in too was something your therapist said to you, and I had such a similar thing.
CG: She told me the words, “give yourself no other options.” And that kind of became the impetus for the rest of my life. I was like sounds like you’re telling me to go fail. And she said yeah you’ll know you can’t do [comedy] and then you’ll go do something else and you’ll be happier. I was like I remain unconvinced but let’s try it. And I had $2000 in a bank account and I decided I’m not accepting money for anything that’s not comedy and if I ever have to break into that $2000 I’ll know that it doesn’t work for me.
These are both people who enough people have heard of to warrant their own panel at the rockstar event that is BookExpo. So how does one go about writing on struggle as people who are doing pretty well for themselves now?
CG: Who wants to hear the sad tales of someone who’s like it’s really hard to be in T.V.? How do you write about that in a universal way?
AJ: I like to think that I’m pretty grounded but I actually had to check myself throughout this. There’s actually a whole essay that I cut that’s called don’t be douchebag because I’m constantly afraid I’m a douchebag in the entertainment industry. So it was something that was kinda a through line, I’m trying to find myself out while I have a TV show.
Both are also in agreement that one should devote a whole chapter to fear.
AJ: There’s another essay in the beginning where I try to say well whats the worst that can happen from this book and I get to go over all the big fears that people will think this is terrible and that I’m a douchebag. Big fucking douchebag.
CG: I have a similar chapter that’s just all my fears about how poorly this might go.
The other big theme for Abbi’s book is that you should be tearing down walls instead of putting them up. Even when you’re already in the public eye.
CG: I think part of Broad City, why people love it so much, is that you and Ilana come off as kind of real deal people and that’s why it’s become such a hit. And I think the book has done a great job in doing that. One of the things that I think is really incredible about Abbi’s books is that when you watch Broad City you feel like you really know Abbi and Ilana, but those are characters named Abbi and Ilana that you spearhead in a writer’s room and I think this book is such an amazing turn because as I read it I said oh this is Abbi who I’ve known for years and you’re letting readers see that. It is still the person they love from TV but also a person that doesn’t wind up in a 22 minute-long wacky circumstance for their pleasure, it’s also the real human being and that I thought was really incredible .
AJ: Thank you. Something I’ve been thinking about as I approach it coming out, with this more than Broad City more than any script, or anything that I’ve written, was something that I was like I have to write this. And it’s partially because I wanted to express that I’m not just that character.
CG: You did such a fine job, there’s a fantastic chapter about your experience dealing with people who sell crystals and what not and this sounds like a thing that can absolutely be an episode of your show but is also couched within a lot of other stuff – well this a well-rounded human being. I particularly think a lot of people who love your show are gonna feel very refreshed and are gonna think about how they’re a real human being as well.
AJ: I am feeling so much like I wanna be more private because I’m exposing so much on the show and people kinda think they know everything about me and now I’m really saying much more, and they already think they know me and they already come up to me like Abbi! And I have to question whether its possible I went to high school with them for 5minutes…I might as well write about who i actually am and what I’m actually going through. Yeah it’s all ongoing over here even if the book’s done.
They shouldn’t be categorized as self-help books, Abbi said later but both of the writer/actors on the stage agree each other’s books will help you get out and learn how to deal with failure sand hopefully even achieve success.
AJ: I have a question for you, your book, more than any other is for your fans its like their textbook the podcast does it your show does it…
CG: I have along running thing of trying to get non-confident people to go for it. This more than anything is if you feel like no on believes in you, fuck that- believe in yourself, let’s go, shut up!
AJ: Yeah (you’re) speaking directly to the reader in this very inspirational way. Have you been wanting to do that for a while?
CG: People are like well how did you do it because you don’t have what it takes, people really say things like that! You’re shittier than I am how did you do it? And they don’t think it’s mean and they’re fans of mine they don’t understand it’s horrifically insulting they really wanna know how you do it. I really wanted to put it all in one place.
CG: You’re probably gonna feel horrible if you go for your dreams you’re probably gonna feel really bad and it probably won’t actually come true but I bet the act of doing it and the course of going through that process will actually release so many demons and allow you to stand up to the people who you feel like are doubting you in the first place and will let you land someplace so far away from where you think you have to be. Anyway you won’t get where you want to go but you’ll get so far away from this stifled place.
AJ: The failures I’ve had have been so essential to who I am now. My whole book is about personal failures.
Maybe, if you’re trying to learn and fail you should above all else have a good support system.
CG: I think its clear I love your book.
AJ: I think it’s very clear that I love your book.
Abbi Jacobson’s new book I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities and Other Stuff will be released by Virago Press Ltd. Oct. 30th 2018.
Chris Gethard’s new book Lose Well will be released by Harper Collins Oct. 16th 2018.