Writer and comedian Matt Bellassai has made his name living out our collective dreams — drinking wine and complaining — first for his series “Whine About It” on BuzzFeed, and now on his own with “To Be Honest.”
Now, Bellassai, who won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Social Media Star in 2016, will bring his sardonic humor to the page in a new essay collection with Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, he announced Wednesday. Titled Everything Is Awful, the book will feature stories from Bellassai’s life that show how he became the wine guzzling ranter fans know and love.
EW caught up with the video star for an exclusive chat about what we can expect from the book, and his Twitter friendship with a certain pop heartthrob. Check it out, below.
Everything Is Awful hits shelves Oct. 31, 2017.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you give us a basic synopsis of the book and what it’s going to cover?
MATT BELLASSAI: Sure! It’s called Everything Is Awful. It’s very optimistic. It’s a book for the times, you know. The way that I thought about it from the beginning was that, I guess people who follow me online know me as this guy who gets drunk and rants about things. So I picked out the stories that made me the grumpy person that I am today. It’s all the little moments in my childhood and growing up where I somehow embarrassed myself, or just generally brought shame upon myself or my family, or became the victim of something or another. All of the little moments that added up to my life of depravity. And I should clarify that there’s sarcasm in my voice so everyone is not like, “This guy. His life is so hard!”
Do you write scripts for your videos or are they off the cuff?
I actually write a lot of it. I went to journalism school and I feel like I’m wasting my degree if I don’t write words. [Laughs] I actually like writing as much as possible beforehand so that I can kind of have something to work from, and then can feel free to deviate once I know I got what I wanted to say out. I do videos on my own now, but obviously, I used to do videos with BuzzFeed, and I worked with a producer there. There were weeks when I would say, “We don’t have to have a perfect script. Let’s just go for it!” And my producer would be like, “No. You think you know what you’re gonna say, but then you get drunk and you don’t know what you’re gonna say anymore.”
How is writing funny essays different from writing a video script?
It’s much more personal, obviously, to write about my own life. You know, for a video, I’m writing almost for a character. But for a book, I’m writing about myself. There’s definitely a version of myself on the page that’s probably different than a version of me in real life, but it’s trying to get closer to that real person, I think. That was me attempting to sound far more profound than I actually am.
So how does your book character compare to your video character?
I feel like I’m pretty open about the fact that my video character is a character. People will come up to me after a live show or something and kind of expect me to be that guy. If I were that guy all the time, I would be unbearable. Can you imagine following around this drunk guy all the time? I think probably the biggest difference in the book is that I poke fun at myself a whole lot more. The video persona is me almost playing up a sort of confidence in judging everybody else, and the book is sort of me saying, “Listen, I can judge everybody else, because I am the worst.” And I recognize that I am all of these things also — all of the worst things that I call out.
Were there any essay collections you used as a model? Were you looking at David Sedaris or anyone like that?
Yeah. I feel like so many people say, “I can’t read anything else while I’m writing because then I’m too distracted.” But I feel like I was trying to read as much as possible to try to get inspiration. David Sedaris, obviously, I love. I write about Nora Ephron in my intro. Her mantra was “Everything is copy,” so my Everything is Awful is sort of an homage. I appreciated her ability to pick something super innocuous and write a super personal, funny essay about it. The whole point of the mantra “Everything is copy” is that all of the embarrassments in your life are fodder for your writing. So I kind of took that to heart and exposed all of my most embarrassing moments.
This is my most important question: Can you please talk to me about your bromance with Harry Styles?
Okay, so I have, like, an encyclopedic knowledge of Harry Styles. When I was at BuzzFeed, I sort of became like the boy band reporter. It started as a joke like, “Ha ha, I’m this grown man who loves One Direction.” And then it became, like … real. So I started a campaign at BuzzFeed to get him to follow me on Twitter, and I promised everyone in the office that I would buy a cake if he did. It went on for eight months, and he finally did, and I had to buy everybody a cake. There were a few moments where he’d interacted with me before, but I made this joke a couple weeks ago about wanting him to be on my podcast that doesn’t exist yet, and I was surprised that he replied! He’s been giving all of these interviews about his new album, and he talked about Twitter and how he really doesn’t go on it because most people are awful, so I feel like whenever I’m tweeting at him, I’m tweeting into the void. But it’s like fishing. Occasionally you’ll catch something.
Do you ever run out of stuff to complain about?
Surprisingly, I haven’t. Living in New York is sort of a constant reminder of humanity’s worst behavior. I just have to walk outside and I have an hour’s worth of material on the block that I live on alone. Obviously because the main platform that I use is Facebook to post my videos, it’s so interactive, and people are constantly saying, “Do this next,” or “Do that next.” At one point I asked, “What should I complain about next?” and one person like freaked out that she thought I was trying to get them to write my material for me. I was like, “No. Just calm down, OK? It’s harder than it looks.”