I’ve been through every possible way you could react to a famous person. In the beginning, I would tell them loads of personal anecdotes about myself in hopes they’d go, “I like you! I wanna be your friend! I’m gonna tell you about my suicide attempt that I never told anyone before!” That never happened. Then I went through a phase of trying to have sex with people I was interviewing—I didn’t really come up with any good interviews there, but I got some great anecdotes. Then I went through a phase of being really icy and cold. It took 18 years of being around famous people before I stopped being a dick around them.
The other thing is, the first 20 questions you think to ask someone famous? They will have been asked that already. I’ve done so many interviews promoting How to Be a Woman, and I literally have not been asked more than 15 questions in the last two years. So the best way to honor your hero if you go and interview them is by coming up with very intelligent questions that they haven’t been asked before. Give them a chance to talk about something else. And usually whatever your editor asks you to talk about—don’t do that. They’ll go, “Talk about the marriages and the drugs bust and the most famous album and at least two famous outrageous things that they did, those are all the quotes that we want.” Well, that’s what everybody will have talked to them about, so that will be a bit of balls, really. So you ask them something completely different instead and you end up talking about politics with Lady Gaga at 4 in the morning in a sex club in Berlin and you’re kind of like, “This is what I want, yes.”
That Lady Gaga piece appears in the book. How did you keep tabs on the story over the course of an all-nighter?
A proper journalist, I guess, would’ve pretended to be drinking all night but would’ve been pouring their gin and tonics into a plant pot, but I regret to say I’m not a proper journalist—I got completely fucking hammered! So I just ended up dancing with Gaga, trod on her cloak a few times, smoked some fags, ended up in the bathroom with her What I always try to explain to the people I’m interviewing is, I don’t want an exclusive. I don’t want them to break down and tell me something enormous. My horror is I would get something out of someone and it’s worldwide news the next day. I just want to report what it’s like to be around them, and I only ever interview people I like as well.
Humor is your trademark, but in this collection you also do serious, insightful, and heartbreaking. Is it hard to change gears between these voices?
One of the greatest things about being a journalist is knowing other journalists, and I love the camaraderie and the way we can endlessly talk shop. But one thing I’ve become aware of by hanging out with writers almost exclusively is that I can’t really talk that much to them about [the process of] writing because I find it so fucking easy. One of my best friends, Grace Dent, who’s a columnist on [British daily paper] the Independent and also writes books, says, “It’s just like kicking a bag of shit around in front of you every day.” But I just find it so fucking joyful. My mouth salivates whenever I think about the next day’s work. I don’t find it difficult to shift between those gears at all. In fact, figuring out how I’m going to shift between those gears turns me on like a shag. But I would only say that to you, because if I was sitting in a room with a writer friend, they’d stand up and walk out after 30 seconds — they’ve done it before.