Wil Anderson Tells Us Why He’s Not OK In His New Book – I Am NOT Fine, Thanks

Pamela Connellan
on 16 June 2023

Last weekend, thousands of people enjoyed the Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival as it showcased some well-known Australian celebrities and writers who’ve recently released a book. They included the comedian, Wil Anderson, who talked with Melanie Kembrey from the Sydney Morning Herald about his new book called I Am NOT Fine, Thanks – including what inspired him to write it and why it’s called – I Am NOT Fine, Thanks.

Most people in Australia know Wil Anderson – largely because of his association with the ABC and the fact he’s worked as a performing comedian for many years. In his early career, Anderson made numerous appearances on Good News Week and of course we remember him from his days hosting the fabulous Gruen Transfer.

And this is not Wil’s first book – he’s written two others but this one is definitely available on Audible and so it should be as he’s been producing his own podcast called Wilosophy since 2014. I Am NOT Fine, Thanks is a political memoir and comedic reflection mostly written in the years we were in lockdown. From the overall tone of comedy and outrage throughout the book, it’s obvious lockdown wasn’t easy for Wil – and that’s understandable if you’re a stand-up comedian. In this video below, Wil tells us how the book ended up being called – I Am NOT Fine, Thanks.

Talking more about his book at the Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival, Wil said: “One of the things I’m most proud about the book is that it does feel messy. It feels of the time – and every time that I dip back into it, for whatever reason, like when I’m doing something like this, I’m reminded of the fact. I’m glad that I didn’t like try to draw any firm conclusions about what we were going through, because I think what I wanted to write about was how hard it was, how we were all in a desperate search for answers and try to extend some forgiveness.

“Because obviously at the start – for people who don’t know the story – at the start of the global pandemic, when all my work went away, I moved pretty near Mullumbimby – as you all know – the scientific capital of Australia!

“But I wanted to write about the fact that I lived in this community that had some alternative ideas and that my prevailing way of seeing the world wasn’t the prevailing idea of the community,” adds Wil. “And I wanted to write about both the strengths and weaknesses of that. How you could engage in conversations with people you didn’t necessarily agree with… And try not to be overly certain about things that you couldn’t possibly be certain about yourself.

“And so when I look back on it, I have a complicated relationship with it because when I sent it off, it felt incomplete. It didn’t feel like a real book. It felt like it was a mess of different things. But the further I get away from it, the more I realise that was all it ever was meant to be. And now I’m glad that it’s that.”

Melanie Kembrey asked: “Mullumbimby. Why did you go there? You seem to like wearing shoes and there are not a lot of shoes in Mullumbimby. Why? Why did you move there?

Wil: “Oh, I mean, part of it was because it’s literally like family residence honestly – that’s the boring answer. But part of it is like, I love that part of the world. I’ve had a 20-plus-year relationship with that part of the world and it felt like a good time to be like, if everything went away, you might as well be somewhere where it’s a nice place to be. And so that was the simplicity of it. But it was an interesting time to be there because obviously like what a place to be, during the pandemic and dealing with all the related issues of that.

“But also to see a community that was really torn apart by those issues and then really put back together by a natural disaster. So the book is kind of my personal disaster – the comedy going away and the pandemic starts it – but it really ends with the floods and the Northern rivers floods and the way that everybody up there sort of, regardless of what they believed, all came back together to help each other and reunite the community. And so it’s about the limitations and strengths of communities, whatever they might be.”

Melanie: “And one of the things the community taught you, which maybe you could share for those who haven’t read your book yet, was about the benefits of apple cider vinegar.

Wil: I mean I bet people here know about it, but yeah, like 95% of the conversations you will have with anyone in the northern rivers of New South Wales will eventually get to apple cider vinegar. It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, at some stage it is gonna get to apple cider vinegar, right? It doesn’t matter – you’ve got a bit of a sore throat there. You know what you need? Hot water, apple cider vinegar. Oh, you got some bird shit on your car. You know what’ll get that off? Apple cider vinegar. Oh, you spilled some apple cider vinegar on your carpet. You know what’ll get that out, more apple cider vinegar, just put it on top.

“There’s a bit in my… book, which is about the idea that I was talking to my doctor about medicinal cannabis and I was saying to him that, I said, obviously the problem is, that I have to take it daily, but like it’s often not outta your system in time for the tests. And my medical doctor literally said to me, he goes: ‘Well you know what I like to do in my glove box? I keep a little bottle of apple cider vinegar.'”

“My medical professional said that to me!”

Melanie: A lot of the stories revolve around kind of the different response you have to COVID to the many members of the community there in terms of vaccinations and COVID as well. Did you always see the kind of funny side of the Mullumbimby’s – obviously we’re generalising a bit here – but of the response the community had to COVID or did it take you some time to be able to find the humour in that?

Wil: So, the book is – it’s funny because like the pretence of the book is it’s about the worst time that I’ve ever been through. But so many of the worst things that happened during that time aren’t in the book. The book’s just for fun, it’s meant to be stories, fun stories that tell of the time, but it’s not a documentary about what my life was like during that time. I lost my Nana who lived on the same block as me all my life and I wasn’t able to go to the funeral. My dog died during it. And we had a really close friend in the local community who died very early on from not being vaccinated and being exposed to COVID. And so at that time I was incredibly angry. Like I was angry at him and his partner and the community that endorsed it and all those sort of things.

“But just being angry – it just is such a useless emotion. And you would just see so many people being angry at each other. Even if you agree with people sometimes you’re like, I just was sick of all the anger ’cause it’s not helping. It feels like it helps, right? And sometimes of course it feels like it helps, but like being angry in these situations it’s like beeping at someone when they’re in the same traffic as you. Like it’s their fault. The one person who’s in front of you, not the fault of the system and the infrastructure and whatever’s happening in a place that you are all actually trapped in this event together.

Melanie: You were saying before that, you’re a comedian and being a comedian is an easy job compared to being a farmer. But you’ve had some struggles with the tech during COVID, right? When a lot of comedy was going online.

Wil: Yeah, I mean, I’m off it all now. But back then I was still on some sort of technology and media. And there was a little special they had at the start of the pandemic. They realised that all these comedians had all these materials. They were gonna do a comedy festival, but they didn’t have anywhere to perform it. So they decided… because they couldn’t send out camera people, they would just send out the camera equipment and get people to film their own set for this special in front of nobody. Like that should have been the show. Seeing comedians trying to set up their own cameras.

“Like some of the young comedians were amazing, but old people like me, I mean, honestly it was the best. And I had just moved into a new house and then suddenly they couldn’t even bring the equipment into the house. They had to drop it across the road so you could go and get it. So, I’m sure my neighbors thought I was making pornos up in the hills.

“Like that’s how I was pivoting post COVID. So, yeah, it was a mess.”

Melanie: And at the end of, towards tail end of COVID, all of a sudden the floods hit the northern rivers regions. Can you tell us a bit about how your home was affected and the community up there?

Wil: I remember I was in Adelaide when the first flood happened. I remember when I first found out it had happened – it was like my first time back doing standup for nearly two years. I was at the Adelaide Fringe… I got up the next morning and I turned on the TV and Sunrise was on the TV and there was these pictures of the Lismore floods with all the water up to the roof. And there was a cow on someone’s roof. And I’m like, yeah, something’s gone wrong.

“Some of you guys might not understand this, but I’m from a dairy farm, so I realise the cows don’t go on the roof. So you might not understand that, but take that home with you. If you see a cow on a roof, something has seriously gone wrong. I lived on a farm for a very long time and like Dad, not once ever did we watch out for the cows getting on the roof. They never got on the roof.

“So it’s a warning sign that everything has gone wrong. The second flood, I was at a flood fundraiser which was up on the Gold Coast because the Gold Coast had obviously been affected by the first flood as well. And so I was there doing a sold out show like where we’d raised about $80 grand as a flood fundraiser.

“And I drove that night to where I was meant to go at the Melbourne Comedy Festival for the first time the next day. And I think I was the last person to drive over the bridge. And when I got up the next morning to go back to Melbourne, the bridge had washed away. And so I got stuck there in Marina for a week – could not get back. So that was a pretty interesting experience, I’ve gotta say.”

If you’d like to listen to Wil’s book – I Am NOT Fine, Thanks – check out Audible here.

For more from Women Love Tech on eBooks, visit here.


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