Samantha Irby doesn’t want to be “regular famous, just Chicago famous.” The bawdy blogger and now advice columnist says she wants to be known around town, but not so well-known that she’s watched whenever she goes out.
“I don’t want people to know what I search for on Google or what I buy at the grocery store,” she says. “I still want to be able to shoplift if I need to.”
Irby, 31, and I sit across from each other at a Lincoln Park coffee shop, a number of train stops from her Rogers Park apartment. And sure enough, about an hour into the interview, a woman approaches to introduce herself and her nine-month-old baby. She tells Irby she saw her at one of the many readings the writer does around town: “I just love what you do.” And Irby replies humbly and sweetly, smiling and cooing at the woman’s daughter. Readers of Irby’s gutbusting blog may find irony here, given that one of her more infamous posts is titled “FUCK YOUR STUPID BABY.”
The all-caps is one of the many weapons in the arsenal of Irby, a formidably funny writer who started bitches gotta eat in 2009 after abandoning her MySpace blog—copping to the fact that she blogged on MySpace is the only instance during a two-hour conversation that elicits genuine embarrassment. Another of those weapons is profanity, used as either a blunt instrument or a precision blade, depending on the target.
Her candor in style and subject matter—mostly sex, dating and the general lousiness of men—has earned her a cult following both online and on the city’s live reading scene. That honesty mixed with self-deprecating humor is what propels readers—Irby estimates that she has a few hundred unique visitors a day—through longer-than-average blog posts that open up about her dating history, struggles with Crohn’s disease, weight loss and whatever she’s angry about on any given day. Sometimes they all run together, as in one post about her improving health: “the only thing that has really changed in the last year…is that i haven’t been messing around with any goddamned DUDES. celebacy cured my shit disease. alert the new england journal of medicine.”
“I feel like women are made to feel insecure by so many things,” Irby says. “You know, I watched Sex and the City, and I was like, ‘I don’t have that much money, and I don’t walk out the door and trip over awesome dudes.’ So I talk about all the dumb things I’ve done and the times I’ve shit myself and all the things that get me enraged.”
Irby recently dove headfirst into giving direct advice with the new blog, irby + ian, teaming up with writer Ian Belknap, the beloved misanthropic monologuist and Write Club host. The two answer unsolicited questions, berating someone along the way.
“Ian is mean,” Irby says. “He’s mean to everyone. But I’m never mean to women. My idea of female empowerment is making dudes feel bad because their balls stink.”
Though frank about sex in her writing, Irby says the blog has done little to improve her sex life.
“I’m hoping this article gets me laid,” she says. “If you’re a funny dude, it doesn’t matter what you say and people still want to swing off your nuts. I get up and say, you know, ‘diarrhea and African pee,’ and dudes will be like, ‘You’re funny, but I’m going to go home.’ ”
But, a few days after our interview, she had a date with a fan of her blog.
“The dude used the word paroxysm in an e-mail,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to do it with the lights on.’ It’s demoralizing banging dumb dudes. I always take it so personally when I let some asshole with no vocabulary put it in my butt.”
Irby is skeptical that half the things she says will make this story. But they have to. It’s the fearlessness in the way she talks and writes that will eventually propel Irby to the level of fame she desires, and may even take her out of the shoplifting game once and for all.
Irby hosts the Sunday Night Sex Show Sunday 30.