The Book of Uninspiring Quotes can be taken as a bit of a stab at the ‘happiness industry’ of self-help books and motivational memes on social media. Was this your intention when writing The Book of Uninspiring Quotes?
It wasn’t so much an attempt to take a stab at people who might believe in these ideas, I don’t want to shatter peoples’ hopes and dreams, but rather offer something to people who might not think the same way. A positive affirmation doesn’t work or appeal to everyone. Sometimes finding the funny side of the sadness is a more appealing and therapeutic alternative.

We often ask what inspired an author to write a book but perhaps a more apt question for you is what uninspired you?
I don’t always find positivity or so called ‘positive thinking’ a problem,  but sometimes I do find it a little uninspiring. Especially when it is presented in a vacuous way that can belittle or ignore a deeper problem that one might be feeling.

What also uninspired me to write this book is that like anyone who wants to contribute to the world, I am a little damaged in some way. If someone is going to try and write a book or try anything significant in this life, a part of this stems from feeling deeply insignificant at some point. I’m trying to fill a void somewhere.

Before publishing the book were you nervous about whether people would get the concept?
Yes, I thought it might get taken too seriously. That has been a constant fear my whole life – To be taken seriously when I’m joking and taken as a joke when I’m trying to be serious! It’s not all irreverent though. I think that there are some deeply profound messages in there too. Possibly some of the greatest footnotes to philosophical thought since Plato wrote ‘The Last Days of Socrates’ back in 399 BC.

Since the book has been published I have received some very lovely messages from people who actually found it has healing qualities. I guess I’ve duped myself into writing a self-help book in some way.

So many people today promote the effectiveness of positive affirmations and manifestation in helping to inspire fulfilling and rewarding lives. Do you think there is any merit to that technique or do you think that presenting the hard hitting reality can be more effective in inspiring people to take action?
I tend to agree with the latter and good old Nietszche would be on my side here. However, this could just be my German side? I’m possibly a little more forgiving than him.  My philosophy is that one should hope for the best, but also prepare for the worst!

No Regrets

There’s a trend emerging to teach kids that everyone is equal, teachers and sports coaches are encouraged to give everyone a go. By essentially removing the competition from early education, are we creating a society that can’t handle the tough truth of reality, or that aren’t prepared to face the unfairness life often presents?
That’s a really good point. We are not all equal. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to be but this is an uncomfortable reality that we don’t always acknowledge in life.  Whilst equality is something that is of course a benefit to society, and something that we must strive for in a social sense, its inevitable that it will have its downside in an individual sense.  It might not prepare us for the harsh realities of existence. Reality television makes young people think that they can be a star, and some people will have enough talent to be a star, but some people wont. Whilst these shows encourage people to believe in themselves’, they also take the mickey out of the less talented ones for doing so. Sometimes it’s actually liberating to know that you aren’t the best. It might help us concentrate on achieving things that we are more capable of. I’m not saying people should give up, however sometimes I think some people just shouldn’t begin in the first place.

People often refer to you as a Magosopher can you tell us a bit more about what that is?
A Magosopher is a cross between a magician and a philosopher. I’m a hapless magician and an amateur philosopher. I’ll get up in front of an audience and talk about a particular philosopher and then do a trick to illustrate the philosophy and then I will get laughed and sometimes booed off stage. It can be a wonderful, humiliating and humbling experience.

What was it like growing up as the son of one of Australia’s most famous artists and how has it influenced your own creativity?
Somewhere between good and terrible. On the upside I have only been met with reverence, golden handshakes and the best seats in restaurants. I’ve actually never had to queue up in any lines and basically it’s been a life only made up of VIP treatment wherever I go. On the down side if I were to make Citizen Kane, climb Mt. Everest in barefoot or paint Picasso’s ‘Le demoiselle d’avignon’ – I would still just be the son of Michael Leunig. No-one’s fault really, but I don’t really have a say in the matter.

Courtney Barnett reads The book of Uninspiring Quotes before performing on Saturday Night Live

Courtney Barnett reads The Book of Uninspiring Quotes before performing on Saturday Night Live