Books & Literature

Author Interview: Wil Anderson Interview

We caught up with Wil Anderson to talk about his latest book I Am NOT Fine, Thanks, conspiracy theories, and the writing process.

Feature image credit: Allen & Unwin

I start this interview off by instinctively asking the venerable comedian how he is, forgetting that his book is titled I Am NOT Fine, Thanks. After apologising to him, Anderson simply says, “It’s all good mate, I’ve kind of created a rod for my own back with that title!”

At the time of our chat, Wil was in Sydney recording his show Question Everything as well a number of podcasts to be released over the holiday period. To my question about how it felt doing his first book in over a decade, Wil replies with, “Well, the first two books were compilations of my columns and had nothing in new in them. I just sent my columns to the publisher and they had an editor who compiled them into the books.” He reflected, “I almost forgot that I had written them, to be honest. This book is the first book I’ve sat down and thought about: ‘How does this all relate to being a book?’”

The book is not quite what people would expect. As Anderson says, “It’s not a memoir in the traditional sense. It’s very much about the last couple of years and it goes backwards and forwards in time. When I was first planning it, it had a more traditional narrative structure in the sense of ‘this happened, then this happened’ and so on, but as I discuss in my show and in the book, we live at a point where time seems to have no meaning anymore. So towards the end of it I really took whole bits of it and moved it around.”

Anderson expands on the topic of the book and his stand up show Wilogical (recently aired on the ABC). “There’s a slightly different structure between the book, which is about 70,000 words, and my show, which is about 8,000 words. Although the story is similar, part of my show is about getting back on stage to do the show the audience is watching. It all starts to feed in on itself. I like that aspect of it. I like that sense of, ‘Here are some stories told differently to how they were originally envisaged.’ It feels good to not have a story that wraps up neatly at the end. The stage show ends with one story that has about five callbacks to the rest of the show. The same story in the book has only one which finishes the book. It’s good to have that difference.”

As to how the book came about, Anderson explains that “originally it was going to be a book based on the wisdom I had gained from my Wilosophy podcast but then the pandemic happened and all that wisdom went out the window.” Following on from the change in tack, he then set about writing a book based on a lot of his material he had written and performed over the last couple of years. “My editor worked with me to give it a sense of being stand up. I really hate comedian’s books that aren’t funny so one of the goals I set was that it had to be, hopefully, funny.”

Hearing Anderson talk about the method of putting this book together is a fascinating insight into the writing process. As he explains, “There are not a lot of names in the book unless it was absolutely necessary. For example, Julia Gillard’s name needed to be in it. Everything I talk about in the book is true but I didn’t want anyone to be identified. I don’t want to make fun of a person. Part of the theme of the book is that good people can have bad ideas and vice versa. I wanted to de-personalise it so I could tell these stories without the people being in it like a documentary. I went out of my way to protect people’s anonymity. If I give you enough detail in the story, I’m happy for you to fill in the rest yourself.”

One of the themes explored in the book is conspiracy theories and I ask him why he thinks they have become so prevalent. “It’s a complex issue but it comes down to the fact that in times of uncertainty people look for answers. It’s easier to believe that there is a conspiracy behind things than to believe that life can be unfair, cruel, and unpredictable and that sometimes we don’t know what’s going on. There’s a search for certainty and that role used to be played by religion but as people are moving away from religion, they are looking to other areas to find that certainty. It has also become commercially viable to hook people into these conspiracies now and make a profit out of it via their social media platforms. It’s a pretty powerful combination.”

Recently, Anderson moved to Mullumbimby and he was happy to make the move. “Part of the reason I moved there was because there are alternative thinkers there. It’s important to sometimes be suspicious of the government or to ask questions of the people in power. It can actually be a good thing to look at the world and say, ‘Things aren’t right,’ because there are countless examples in my book of things that I look at and say, ‘This isn’t right.’ There’s plenty of conspiracies that are out there. It’s out there if you pay attention. They are out there, but they are not the ones that have been invented.”

He adds, “Human beings are incredibly resilient and they are also very smart. We have been through some tough times that we’ve had to adapt to and overcome. There are a lot of forces in society that don’t want you to pay attention because it’s not in their best interest to pay attention. When even David Attenborough is pointing to the camera and waggling his finger at you then you need to pay attention.”

Wil is still juggling his stand up and his many podcasts, which includes TOFOP, a podcast with his friend Charlie Clausen which has been going for 12 years. I ask him how they keep going with it despite both of them being busy. “If it wasn’t for technology, we’d probably still not be doing it. Charlie is in London for work and so we banked quite a few episodes in a row and that was great. That may be how we do it in the future. We still like it and it’s still fun to do.”

Wil Anderson’s book I am NOT Fine, Thanks is out now. Read our review here.

Wil’s new show “Wiluminate” is currently running at The Garden of Unearthly Delights at the Adelaide Fringe until March 5.

Interviewed by Rodney Hrvatin

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