Anne T. Donahue discusses her new book, Nobody Cares, speaking onstage and pop culture.
By Emily McConkey

Anne T. Donahue is an “awfully shrewish” writer and person, according to her Twitter profile anyway. She’s written for Flare, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and The Globe and Mail among other publications, and she hosts a podcast entitled Nobody Cares (Except For Me). She will be releasing her first book, Nobody Cares, tomorrow.

In anticipation of her upcoming book release, we spoke with Anne about her process leading up to the publication. We also covered her podcast, Don Draper, pre-speaking nerves, pop culture and mortality. It got deep.

To start, can you tell me a little bit about your book?

The book is a collection of essays written by me. They are all… true. Yikes. This is a great start. The premise of Nobody Cares is that you can screw up, you can be messy and flawed, and all of those things and it’s fine. We’re all beautiful disasters, so hopefully, the essays read as equal parts funny and, well, sad. You know, balance!

Does this connect back to your podcast?

So the book is sort of like “nobody cares, don’t worry, no one’s looking at you,” but the podcast is called “Nobody Cares (Except For Me).” I have a guest on every week and they talk about something they’re obsessed with and nobody else cares about. I’ve only ever had really interesting conversations with these people. It’s really cool because people are always very passionate when they talk about something they love.

Have you had a favourite episode so far?

I mean, they’re all my children, and I love them equally. I get quite a bit of variety. I’ve had someone come and talk about YouTube cooking tutorials. I’ve also had someone talk about relationship psychology and another about meal planning. Every one of these discussions ends up an avenue for discussion on bigger things. So you end up learning a lot about these people because their favourite things are always so tied to their childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. You see this really authentic side to whoever it is you’re speaking with because I don’t think you can be fake when you’re talking about something you’re passionate about. Everyone loves talking about their favourite things! I know I do.

So what are your favourite things?

Oh in general? Well, I’m like Cher Horowitz in that I completely love the mall and I love shopping. I love thrift shopping, I love mall shopping, I don’t discriminate types of shopping. I love reading, which is good, because it would be so weird if I wrote a book and I hated reading. I love a good television show – I love Mad Men and Mrs Maisel. I like hanging out with my friends, but I’m a low-key hang-outer. I either want to hang out at their apartment or go out for dinner – I’m not a big concert girl or party person. I used to be – that’s in the book – but I was a very different person for a very long time. I’m a little more reformed now and a lot more boring. I truly can’t stress how boring I really am. And how happy I am about being so boring! We all work so hard and life is exhausting, so I’d rather just go curl up and watch the Great British Bake Off.

I can see how you really connect with others through your podcast, and you will with your book – what’s motivated you most in connecting with audiences onstage?

I really love talking to people and making people laugh. Though I never really knew how to do standup or improvisation, I’ve always been good at speaking, I’ve always been a kid who liked attention and it took me a long time figuring out where to put that enjoyment. Now, I like to be able to focus on learning how to speak, how to connect with people, and how to make a joke land successfully. I genuinely like speaking to people. And I really do like to make everyone feel a little less alone while trying to make them laugh, so that’s where that usually comes in.

So you strive for authenticity as you speak?

Yeah, and I mean, my podcast gets pretty dark. In pretty much every episode, we end up talking about death. No matter what the topic is, the conversation usually goes down to mortality. Which seems strange, but I want to talk about death. Everything is bad right now. Everything feels so shitty, especially in the news and politics, and I want, if anything, to have the conversations that need to be had in order to feel better. I think that choosing to ignore the bad makes us apathetic, and I think apathy has led us to where we are. I’m a big fan of getting real, talking about what we’re afraid of, talking about dying, getting old, depression, all of it. I think good things can come from that kind of honesty.

How do you see the role of pop culture in terms of the darkness we see in the news and in the world?

I think pop culture is an important barometer for those things. I always think about Mad Men. The way that it draws this picture of adulthood being full of complexities and mistakes and heartbreaks and tragedy and the overwhelming feeling of incredible sadness. I remember being young when that show aired and thinking “I love this show, but thank God my life isn’t like that.” That was when I was 26, and now at 33, I’ve rewatched it and had a new revelation, that adults have always been sad. You know, our grandparents have been sad and our parents have been sad because life is hard and sad. And even when you’re happy, there’s that line from Don Draper: “What is happiness? It’s the feeling before you need more happiness.” Even Mrs Maisel. It’s a show set in the 1950s but the problems she faces, especially with gender norms, are just as relevant now as they were then.

So, pop culture is a really good jumping off point for bigger conversations. It’s a really accessible way for people to get together and think about things. It doesn’t feel as much like a lecture as if you were talking to people about these topics by themselves. When you get people talking about pop culture, they’re eager to collaborate, and then you can quickly get to those bigger themes.

Like what you’ve read? Learn more about Anne and her speaking topics here.

Photo Credit: Jessica Laforet