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Culture

‘So You’re a Little Sad, So What?’ Comedian Alicia Tobin Doesn’t Have Answers

But she’s written a funny, honest book. We’re pleased to excerpt it.

Emma Cooper 5 Nov 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Emma Cooper is the operations and development assistant at The Tyee.

It’s exciting to read a comedy book. They are often shorter than other books, way more fun and when you finish you can brag that you read an entire book. It’s even better when the book is largely set in Vancouver (rain references!) and the author shares her ideas on how to cope with life’s many damp basement moments.

Alicia Tobin’s first book, So You’re a Little Sad, So What? is a collection of funny and touching autobiographical essays, and it weaves as gracefully between silly and sincere as Tobin herself does when performing.

Tobin created and hosts the sell-out live show in Vancouver, ‘Come Draw with Me.’ Audiences are given an idea for a drawing (your favourite childhood animal eating your favourite summer snack) and the rest of the show is Tobin playfully chatting with folks about their creations. Anyone else hosting something similar would be repetitive, but with Tobin it’s charming and makes for warm, personal interactions in a city that can sometimes feel cold.

As someone who’s also involved in the Vancouver comedy scene, I look up to Tobin’s work because she’s entirely herself onstage. She doesn’t use humour to deflect feelings, but rather to engage with them in a deeper and more profound way. Many of her funniest moments create space to digest challenging and difficult moments as easily as finishing off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream all by yourself.

In her new book Tobin tells the story of how she got where she is, and gently makes the case that being funny and sensitive offer ways to persevere even when life feels like a wet dog’s fart. (If you’re wondering if the dog or the fart is wet in this simile, both are; it’s Vancouver, after all.)

We are pleased to share an excerpt below from So You’re A Little Sad, So What? Nice Things to Say to Yourself on Bad Days and Other Essays by Alicia Tobin. The book is published by Robin’s Egg Books, an imprint of Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019. Information on the Vancouver launch is available after the excerpt.

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You probably have no choice but to work today. You don’t have the kind of job you can just not show up to and expect to have a job tomorrow. You need this job. And at work at least you can hate someone other than yourself for a moment: a rude customer, a co-worker who is a real ding-dong, or the other one who chews so loudly. Perhaps on the way home you find the energy to go to the grocery store, but once you get there, you suddenly have no idea how to make a meal. You leave with Windex and a jar of salsa. Mission accomplished! You get home and lie down. In the dark. Lying down is the best feeling. Has it been weeks like this? Crying. Cancelling on friends. Not returning messages. Does it feel like your brain is melting? Have you thought most days about ways to die and could not come up with a way that wouldn’t hurt so many people? You don’t remember a day where you felt hopeful. You go to work. You laugh when people laugh so they don’t know that you can’t really listen and nothing is funny right now. You go home. Eat something from a box. Shower. Sleep. Start again the next day. You don’t know how to get through it outside of trying to follow some sort of routine.

Work. Sleep. Cry. Work. Sleep. Feel nothing.

I know this feeling, too. I have stopped wearing mascara so I could cry in the bathroom at work, staring up at the ceiling, hoping the tears would be reabsorbed before I had to go back out and answer the phone and ring through sales and be polite and mimic being engaged. It wasn’t just that I was down, it was that everything had been going wrong for so long that the wheels had come off and I didn’t know where to get new wheels. Listen, I don’t drive, but you get the picture.

But then one day I stepped outside, and the sun was sort-of-well-kinda out. A sort-of-well-kinda out sun on the West Coast is reason to celebrate. It was probably out before. I don’t know. Small birds, the colour of the winter leaves, sprang from a shrub and I cried. I marvelled at how small those birds were and how perfect the day was. I was there. I was there to feel this day. In all that it was already and all of the who knows what it will be. Those birds were there with me (not for the whole day: no-birds-at-work policy). They had life to show me. I thought about how difficult it must be to be a bird and how scared they must feel when they are simply trying to eat. My heart burst for those birds because they were so exquisite. I began worrying I might become a weird bird person. Bird people are, like, sometimes, a lot. I laughed. I pushed forward. I saw so much. Stuff I walked past before. Houses returning to the earth in a slow defeat against the West Coast weather. Everything felt more. I felt like the world was showing off for me, but I may just have been waking up from being depressed for so long. Something broke through that day, and when my heart opened up, I quickly wedged something in to keep it from closing again.

And I then said to myself, “So you’re a little sad, so what?”

I had been sad for a long time, pushing and pulling myself through life for about twelve months. But so what? I could still see beauty each day. All of this beauty kept seeping into my hardest and saddest places. It was lush green moss. It was kind words. It was a squirrel. And it was the lace around the shittiest of days. Like a fancy thong on a sunburnt butt.

I am so sad. But I see so much beauty. I see it in you. So if you woke up sad today, I am right there with you. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to fix it. Because I don’t think it can be fixed. The world, people, well, they can be absolute dirty diaper garbage.

But you aren’t. Say that to yourself for me:

“I am not dirty diaper garbage.”

How did that feel? Better right? Now try this one:

“I will let the beauty of this world find me on my worst days.”

And one other thing:

“I will believe the kind things people say about me and learn to know they are true.”

And one more:

“Alicia, here is my credit card. Please go buy yourself a tiny horse.”

The official Vancouver launch of So You’re a Little Sad, So What? takes place Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m., at the Havana Theatre. The launch features a full night of comedy centring Tobin’s wit and work. The event will be hosted by Katie-Ellen Humphries (The Debaters, Winnipeg Comedy Festival) and also features comedian Charles Demers (Robin’s Egg Books Imprint Editor) as well as special guests Andrea Jin (semi-finalist, SiriusXM Top Comic) and Aaron Read (The Sunday Service). This is an amazing lineup of local talent! Buy your tickets and find more details here.  [Tyee]

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