I Am Not Fine, Thanks by Wil Anderson

Reviewed by Norrie Sanders

Stand-up comedians don’t live in the real world, do they? They are wealthy, slumber in designer beanbags and see jokes in everything. This makes them happy, carefree and able to devote their creative genius to expanding their fortunes. Imagine my surprise to find that the A-list comedian, Wil Anderson, star of stage and small screen, admits in print that he shops for groceries, visits doctors and even self-drives a car.  Or worse, that he has feelings and even listens to prime ministerial health advice.

It turns out that Wil lives in our world and the things he sees and does are the minutiae of everyday existence in a pandemic. But the eyes of a comedian see humour in things that mere mortals do not.  As a COVID isolated new resident, he becomes a keen observer of the societal mores of a northern rivers community. He writes expansively, though a tad sceptically, on the alleged curative properties of apple cider vinegar (at least the brands available in Mullumbimby). He deftly deals with uninvited diatribes from many residents who see no need for either vaccine or mask. He learns how to build a crowd-sourced bridge. Most of all, he shows us how to (accidentally) turn a lawn into a fashion statement (a mullet as it happens).

Wil – if he is reading this – might like to contemplate a writing career in the exclusive genre of whitegoods mystery. His forensic investigation of a mal-performing washing machine – in true Mr Bean fashion – turns a simple household task into a comic masterclass.  Those readers with extensive installation experience might be able to solve the mystery before it is revealed.

Wil’s performances on the small screen through shows like Gruen and Question Everything betray a strong intellect and a mastery of wordplay.  His stand up performances are less familiar to this reviewer, although swearing seems to figure prominently in the pieces I have seen over the years. This book seems to fit somewhere in between.  There is not much swearing, but the material has a stand up feel to it – witty observations of a variety of topics, with the common link being Wil. Most of the material is readily digestible, funny and self-deprecating.

“…they were showing footage from Lismore where floodwaters were two storeys high and I saw an image of a cow on a roof……I don’t expect you to be right across what cows do and don’t do, but I can tell you this: I grew up on a dairy farm for the first seventeen years of my life and I didn’t pay a lot of attention, but if there is one thing I did learn it is this: Cows don’t go on the roof. They don’t. If you see a cow on a roof something has gone majorly wrong with the world”. [p258]

Writing this book allows Wil to expand on his views on some important and recurring themes, notably our responses (or lack of) to climate change. He has assembled some pretty hard hitting critiques and, while somewhat polemic, they are thoughtful and funny, with occasionally predictable targets such as hose-holding (or not) prime ministers. I sincerely hope that his views lead to actions by his readers, because he is certain that our collective actions to date are nowhere near sufficient to solve the problems.

As a mix of witty observation and personal opinion from an enfant terrible now (self-described) as in middle age, this book has something for all ages. No doubt many of his readers will be already converts to many of his causes, but he has gone out on a limb in pushing for solutions that he truly believes in. Hopefully, this will not just preach to the converted, but change some minds. In times of crisis, blending comedy with a call to action can’t be a bad thing.

I Am NOT Fine, Thanks

(November 2022)

by Wil Anderson

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 978 176087 894 8

$32.99; 288pp

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