“Sedaratives,” The Believer’s monthly humor/pseudo-advice column, is exactly as variable as any feature that changes authorship every time out. It wasn’t planned that way: As the title indicates, it was initially a showcase for Amy Sedaris to dispense crackpot fake life lessons to “questions” that bore more than a whiff of the magazine’s editors in funny-funny mode. Then the byline started to be handed around. That revolving-door sense can be lively when encountered issue-by-issue, as the question of “Who will they get this time?” summons some suspense. But assembled between paperback covers as You’re A Horrible Person, But I Like You: The Believer Book Of Advice—which adds in recent Believer interviews and essays—the advice-column format seems more precious than ever, however patently phony the questions. Or for that matter, how game the participating stand-up comics, television personalities, and movie directors are at trying to subvert it.
Mostly, You’re A Horrible Person is a showcase for them to refine their personae. Todd Barry’s “answers” are gleefully cynical in the manner of his stage act, as when he informs “Mr. Cake-And-Eat-It-Too,” who wants to know how to out his girlfriend’s affair without admitting to his own, “It’s really difficult to focus on your question with your girlfriend’s lips around my cock.” Judd Apatow meta-answers his round by berating people for queries such as “My son was just diagnosed with a wheat allergy. Does this mean he’s going to be rotten at competitive sports?” (“Now, this is the type of question that only an egghead unfunny human can write,” Apatow replies.) Eugene Mirman is genial and completely loopy. (“When possible, dishes should be tossed out a window. I know my answer isn’t very ‘green,’ but the time saved will let you make a much bigger impact in your community.”) Mostly, though, the pieces tend to read like leftovers from the contributors’ better work, and little of it is especially memorable.