Humorist Lillian Stone’s Debut Essay Collection Is Everybody’s Favorite

Books Features Lillian Stone
Humorist Lillian Stone’s Debut Essay Collection Is Everybody’s Favorite

Like most of Lillian Stone’s fans, I met her first on the Internet and immediately imprinted on her as a super-Stan. She’s a writer with the almost cryptid-like ability to read a former ‘90s kid’s thoughts on body image, small-town angst, and AIM chat room PTSD—then, somehow make them funnier and even more relatable than a lived experience. 

Named by Paste as one of the best humorists of 2019, I cornered her that year at the Satire and Humor Festival in New York City to commend her on her viral humor piece “I’m a Clog Bitch Now”, not realizing I was catching her mid-bite at the food table. Before I could apologize, and then apologize again for apologizing too much, she apologized to me

“Sorry,” she said. “I was goin’ in on a meatball.”

Be still my overly-sorry millennial heart. She is exactly who she is online. 

Now, this obsessive-compulsive, ex-Evangelical, and survivor of the Ozark Howler is giving us the gift of feral-fellowship with her first book: Everybody’s Favorite, with more stories on flatulence, Y2K diet culture, and horny-tween fodder that add up to a blueprint on overcoming the urge to be a people pleaser—or everybody’s favorite—despite being brought up in the Bible Belt. It’s also an ode to anyone with a hometown they equal parts love and love to criticize in order to make it better.

Touching on her essays, from “Welcome to Ass Planet,” and “Popular Sins, Explained,” to “Nothing’s Funnier Than Naked” and “Tiny Dainty Baby Lady”, Stone sat down with me via Zoom to talk about her inspiration for the book.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Paste Magazine: How do you think growing up Evangelical in the Ozarks helped your humor writing? 

Lillian Stone: Evangelical culture is such good comedy fodder because it’s objectively wild. Like, have you seen The Righteous Gemstones? Everything about it is larger than life and self-righteous to the point of total absurdity. There’s a megachurch on the outskirts of my hometown that went viral for hosting a men’s conference opening ceremony where military tanks ran over a bunch of cars as pyrotechnics exploded in the background. How are you going to grow up in that environment and be even a little normal?

Paste: Wow…just…hallelujah. Same question but about your OCD?

Stone: I think it helps in the sense that any personal ailment helps if you can laugh at yourself, but I’m not gonna pretend like I need to experience inner turmoil for my art. If someone offered to take OCD off my hands, I’d be extremely down. It’s an annoyance, mostly. I’d rather have a more glamorous problem, like a beauty mark.

Paste: What are some alternative titles to Everybody’s Favorite?

Stone: Now that I’m finished writing, I’d like to submit the following titles for consideration:

Lillian’s Big Book of Hate; Literally What Is She Saying; and The Bible: For Girls.

Paste: Lol. Ew, I just made the sound “LOWL” out loud. So far, you’ve explored the lives and legacies of a Clog Bitch, a Clog Bitch 2 and a B12 Bitch—all of whom I want to invite to my pickleball birthday party. What other bitches would you like to write about next?

Stone: Someone has to speak for the bitches who eat too much summertime stone fruit and emit absolutely explosive flatulence. Also, I’ve become a real Cat Bitch in recent months, which caught me by surprise.

Paste: “Opinion Machine” is one of my favorite essays in this collection. What was the most benign thing you’ve ever posted online that got the most heated, knee-jerk responses from strangers?

Stone: A few years ago I tweeted something to the extent of “I hope I’m doing something cool if a nuclear bomb falls and encases my corpse in ash,” which is so stupid and honestly not even how nuclear bombs work, and people got really mad because there are real individuals living under threat of violence every day. Which, yes, but to be fair, we’re all technically living under threat of nuclear war. Have you *seen* Top Gun: Maverick?

Paste: Which essay was the scariest for you to write and why?

Stone: I was (still am) pretty terrified that my family or hometown connections would misinterpret the Ozark Howler essay, or read it in bad faith. It’s a very vulnerable, personal account of my complicated relationship with my hometown, which is rooted in so much affection.

Paste: What murdered darlings from the book’s revisions still haunt you? Let’s resurrect them in this interview transcript.

Stone: I tried so hard to get a mention of BAWLS energy drink in there, but it didn’t work out. I also had this whole exchange that got cut from the intro; it was between two cavemen using a gel pen-highlighter combo for the first time. It went like this:

“Consider the anthropological implications if early man had expressed himself using a two-ended gel pen that doubled as a cool highlighter:

Neanderthal man: Hey, what are you up to?

Slightly more handsome neanderthal man: Documenting the latest crimes of the village pervert, Oog, in this crudge pigment I created using animal blood and saliva.

Neanderthal man: Here, try listing Oog’s carnal offenses with this two-ended gel pen instead.

Slightly more handsome neanderthal man: What if I want to emphasize Oog’s absolute worst offense, somehow setting it apart from the other offenses? Highlighting it, if you will?

Neanderthal man: Boy, is this the writing implement for you.

Paste: I’m glad we have that unabridged version on the record. Now, onto an even more pressing question. In addition to Youngstown, what is another lesser-known, underrated early 2000s boy band you love and would ghostwrite a memoir for?

Stone: There was this Christian boy band called Plus One that I was absolutely obsessed with. I saw them at a music festival that I can only assume was actually an abstinence conference, and I went nuts. I think one of the former members actually lives in my hometown, so the ghostwriting thing could be huge.

Paste: What would be the opening line of Plus One’s autobiography?

Stone:Their pants were tight but not too tight.” 

Paste: Perfect. What’s next for everybody’s favorite anxious AOL girlfriend?? 

Stone: I’m writing a movie about a lazy woman with a bad idea (my favorite kind), and I just dipped my toe into another book proposal because I have a sickness. I don’t want to say too much, but it’s Bigfoot-adjacent. I’m also out promoting Everybody’s Favorite at a few book events in Chicago and New York!

Everybody’s Favorite is on sale July 18.

Megan Broussard is a writer and producer in New York City with work in The New Yorker, Marie Claire, New York magazine’s The Cut, Slate, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Reductress, and more. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @megsbroussard.

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