We here at Maximum Fun do our best to bring you all things awesome. We look far and wide. But sometimes awesome is closer than we realize. Neil Pasricha is the creator of the 1000 Awesome Things blog. It’s a countdown of all the awesome things that we come across in our daily lives that we may not always acknowledge. Some of them you’ll immediately identify with, and others you’ll think to yourself, “Oh yeah! That IS awesome.” Pasricha spoke with me about awesome smells, chicken wings, and the kindness of people.
Chris Bowman: 1000 Awesome Things was originally started as a diversion from all the bad news that seems to circulate every hour of every day. How did you settle on this idea?
Neil Pasricha: Well basically, I started in June of 2008. At that time, if you flipped open the newspaper it was filled with the same stuff every day. The polar ice caps were melting, there were pirates storming the seas, the economy was on the verge of collapse, and there were wars going on all over the world. Everything was so heavy. 1000 Awesome Things was meant to be that one little place where we turn the lights out, put a blanket over our heads, and just talk about popping bubble wrap, or snow days, or the smell of a bakery.
To find out what else Neil Pasricha has to say click Read More
CB: The entries on 1000 Awesome Things are so well written. You’ve got a knack for speaking directly to the reader. When or what age did you find your talent for writing?
NP: First of all, thank you. I’ve never though of myself as a writer (laughs), I just sort of really enjoy it. When I was a kid my mom used to read with me. And a real treat for me at the time was the Saturday morning trip to the library where I would just sort of paw these thin, shiny hardcover books with titles like, “Why We Sneeze” and “Everybody Poops”. I remember being so fascinated touching the pages and smelling the books and being so interested in really blunt, clear, simple writing. And I’ve always aspired, if anything, to write like that. Believe me, I’ll never match the genius of “Everybody Poops”, though. (laughs)
CB: The sign of a true reader is someone that smells a book.
NP: (Laughs). Yeah, totally. Maybe I’m just a smellophile. I do talk a lot about smells on the website.
CB: Well, in the absence of fresh baked muffins or gasoline at a station, maybe a ratty old book does just fine.
NP: Exactly! It’s the smell of those libraries where they’ve got that sort of thin green carpet that’s really, really dusty, and there are those heavy atlases with yellowed paper sitting in the corner. That smell is just burnt into my head.
CB: I just had a conversation the other day about walking in to a book store. The smell of new books? There’s nothing like it.
NP: Yeah! There’s a lot to be said for binding glue. (Laughs).
CB: (Laughs). Inspiration is all around you. What do you do when you’re stuck for an idea?
NP: I go out and grab chicken wings and beer with my friends. It’s like anyone else’s group of friends. You’re just having beer and people are loosening their ties and laughing about the day. It always turns to what made them happy that day. I think the ideas just come because these things are all around us. It’s not too hard to think about. When I’m lying on a couch and someone throws a blanket on me, I smile and think “That’s awesome!” When I put on warm underwear out of the dryer, I smile and think “That’s awesome!” You don’t need me to point out awesome things. We all know them and love them. They’re just there.
CB: What do you do during the day?
NP: Well, the truth is I am a really boring guy with a regular office job. I just love spending my nights talking about the cold side of the pillow, sleeping with one leg out of the covers, and old dangerous playground equipment.
CB: The images you use are pretty funny at times. Have you ever thought about collaborating with photographers or illustrators?
NP: Oh, actually it’s funny. A few months ago a guy wrote me an email and said, “I love your website, I’m an illustrator, I teach a drawing course at a college.” He started sending me images of some of my awesome things and I just kept sticking them at the bottom of my posts. If you go to “Old dangerous playground equipment”, or “A long hug when you really need one”, or “Squeezing through a door as it’s shutting without touching it” you’ll see illustrations he’s done for the site.
CB: I read that you've signed a book deal, when is it coming out?
NP: The book is going to hit stands in spring 2010. It’s called “The Other Side Of The Pillow…and 199 Other Awesome Things In Life.” So it’s got 200 awesome things and is around a 300 page book.
CB: One of my recent favorites is #675 Wordless Apologies. But I’m a sap, so that’s to be expected.
NP: Well, we’re all saps. I mean, come on. Wordless apologies are great. We all relate to them. We’ve all been in situations where they happen to us. You feel that warmth rising in your stomach when you see the other person feels the same way you do and it’s like, “We don’t even need to talk about this because we both know we screwed up and we both said something we didn’t mean. Let’s just work to get things back to normal.” We’re all just out of our own minds sometimes. I don’t think you’re a sap. I think you’re just normal.
CB: Well, the other thing I was going to say is I think I find myself apologizing too much. You know, we’re Canadians, you and I. Just reading about wordless apologies made me say, “Yes!”
NP: (laughs) Well, that’s awesome!
CB:You recently won two 2009 Webby Awards for Best Personal/Culture Blog and a People’s Voice award. You said you were going to accept the award in person. Two questions: did you trip on the red carpet? And what was your five-word acceptance speech? (the five word acceptance speech is in accordance to Webby rules)
NP Luckily enough, I didn’t trip on the red carpet, but I was really nervous. I went up to a media guy, I can’t remember who it was, it was a big magazine let’s just say, and I was like, “OK, I’m ready to go!” and they said, “Who are you again?” and I said, “Oh, I’m Neil from the 1000 Awesome Things blog.” And they said, “Uh, well, thanks, but we’re going to wait for Sarah Silverman.” (Laughs). And I thought to myself, “Let’s be honest here. I’m a nobody.” Also, since you asked, my speech was “Short acceptance speeches. Awesome.” My favorite speech was probably Jimmy Fallon’s who said, “Thank God Conan got promoted.”