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Funny person Georgia Pritchett writes about her life and her anxiety

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Georgia Pritchett is a very funny person. She's written for HBO's "Veep" and now "Succession." But just behind that sense of humor has always been a lot of anxiety. It got so bad that it started to rob her of her speech.

GEORGIA PRITCHETT: I need to tell you, I'm British. And that's...

(LAUGHTER)

PRITCHETT: ...Kind of shorthand for socially awkward and emotionally repressed. And so when I kind of hit a crisis point, even though my whole life is about words and I love words, I just couldn't find the words to express what I was feeling. And so I went to a therapist, and I still couldn't speak. So she said, you know, try writing it down. And I thought, yeah, I'm definitely not going to do that.

MARTIN: But she did. And that journal turned into the hilarious and heartfelt book called "My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life: Adventures In Anxiety." To understand how far back Georgia's anxiety goes, listen to her read this essay called "Tooth Fairy."

PRITCHETT: (Reading) I lost my first tooth biting into a toffee apple. I was alarmed, but my mum tried to cheer me up by telling me about the Tooth Fairy. This was unwise. I was troubled by the concept of some weird, old fairy breaking into my house while I was asleep and then taking body parts in exchange for money. It was the slippery slope. Where would it end? Was there an Ear Fairy? Was there a Toe Fairy? If I tucked my hand under my pillow while I was sleeping, would she take that? Sometimes at night, my head would end up under my pillow. And my head had teeth in it. Would she just take the whole thing? What was a fairy's load-lifting capacity? And why did nobody have the answers to the really important questions?

MARTIN: It must have been a heavy thing to carry around in childhood, that kind of existential worry.

PRITCHETT: Yeah. I think, you know, when you're young, you don't realize that you're different, and you certainly don't want to be different from anyone else. And it was as I got older that I kind of realized, oh, hang on. I don't feel like my friends are measuring their legs every day to see if they have Robertson's giant limb. I think that might be only me. And then you kind of think, oh, no, I'm different. And that's another thing to worry about.

MARTIN: It's easy to be self-aware when you're the only woman in a writer's room, I imagine. And that was the case for you...

PRITCHETT: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Especially as you were coming up. I mean, this was an industry just totally dominated by white men, right?

PRITCHETT: Yeah. Yeah. When I started, I thought, oh, there are no other women in the room, but you know, that's going to change soon. And then it was 25 years before I was ever in a writers room with another woman. When it finally happened, it was - I kind of didn't know what I'd been missing. I love the men I work with. They're all great. But to suddenly be in a room with people who kind of look a bit like you and have similar frames of reference or life experiences is utterly mind-blowing and so validating and so good for your self-esteem.

MARTIN: So I want to get back to the very personal stuff in this memoir. And your love life is part of it.

PRITCHETT: (Laughter).

MARTIN: You endearingly call your partner Moose. I didn't know...

PRITCHETT: Yes.

MARTIN: ...Is that just for the book, for her privacy...

PRITCHETT: No.

MARTIN: ...Or in real life?

PRITCHETT: I do call her Moose, and she kind of put up with it from me - but now, of course, our children, the children's teachers, all their friends. So, yeah, I'm in a little bit of trouble there. But (laughter)...

MARTIN: You are the parents of two boys...

PRITCHETT: Yes.

MARTIN: ...One of whom was diagnosed with autism.

PRITCHETT: Yes.

MARTIN: You lovingly call him the Speck. Have your kids forced you to open up in a new way?

PRITCHETT: They have, actually. Damn them.

(LAUGHTER)

PRITCHETT: That wasn't the deal. As I said earlier, you know, I'm kind of all about the words. And my older son couldn't speak until he was 7. So that was a real challenge to me because I just thought, I don't know how to communicate with him or help him without words. But then he kind of taught me. And that was a real revelation. And, you know, it's interesting how often words aren't enough, whether it's trying to talk to your therapist or trying to communicate with your child. There's so many other ways I now discover.

MARTIN: Right. I do love the moments that you describe with the Speck. As you noted, it took him a long time to learn how to talk, which was in and of itself a source of anxiety for you, which is why the story of his teacher's wedding is so, so good.

PRITCHETT: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: Do you mind trying to tell a short version of that?

PRITCHETT: Yes. Oh, my goodness. Well, his teacher, who actually helped him - literally taught him to speak - got married. And we went there. And then we thought he'd probably want to leave afterwards. But no, he wants to go to the reception. And then they started making speeches. And he was like, I make a speech. I was like, no, no, no. That's for, like, her dad and her husband and best man. And he was like, I make a speech. And I thought, oh, my goodness. So I went to Chloe (ph), his teacher, and said, look, he keeps saying, I make a speech. And she said, oh, yeah. He must. He must. Then he was handed the microphone in front of 250 people, and there was this incredibly long silence. And I just thought he didn't understand what he was saying. And then he started singing "Pure Imagination" from "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory." Yeah, it was a lot of very tearful people...

MARTIN: Yeah.

PRITCHETT: ...In the tent. Yeah, it was incredible.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PURE IMAGINATION")

GENE WILDER: (As Willy Wonka, singing) Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination.

MARTIN: So this book project began with a visit to your therapist. How do you feel about those anxieties these days?

PRITCHETT: Yeah, it's strange 'cause obviously my whole career writing scripts - has been putting words in other people's mouths. I've suddenly written this very personal, direct thing, and now it's out in the world. And in many ways that's horrifying. And people like you keep asking me to talk about my feelings.

MARTIN: Right (laughter).

PRITCHETT: I've just written a whole book about how I'm no good to it. I've made myself very clear.

MARTIN: I'm so sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

PRITCHETT: But I just think we've all been through, as an entire world, a very difficult time where we were all struggling with the same thing. This could be a turning point where we're just more open about our struggles and when things aren't OK. And I think it's been really good for me to admit to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PURE IMAGINATION")

WILDER: (As Willy Wonka, singing) There's nothing to it.

MARTIN: Georgia Pritchet - she's a writer with the HBO show "Succession." Her book is called "My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life: Adventures In Anxiety." Thank you so much for talking about your feelings with us.

PRITCHETT: (Laughter) Yeah. Thanks. It wasn't quite as horrendous as I thought it might be.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PURE IMAGINATION")

WILDER: (As Willy Wonka, singing) There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you'll... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.