Fit as an Octogenarian: The Daily Rituals of New Yorker Writer Patricia Marx

The humor writer shares her fitness inspiration, musical distastes, and preference for clean floors.

By: Jessica Ferri 

The first woman elected to the Harvard Lampoon, Patricia Marx has been making us unattractively guffaw since she joined The New Yorker in 1989. You may have also laughed out loud at her work as a television writer for Saturday Night Live or Rugrats. Marx is the author of several books for children and books for big kids, also known as adults. Her latest, Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties, was published in July 2015. We spoke to Marx about the daily rituals that keep her sane, including her rather unusual diet. 

Let’s get serious.

We have to be serious?!

Coffee or tea?

Tea because I know how to make it. I’d guess I drink 4,238,834 cups of tea a day. I alternate with Diet Coke. My main exercise is walking to and from the bathroom.

Do you get dressed like you’re going to an office? Do you wear shoes while working?

I wear a Zulu headdress. I do not wear shoes because my feet never touch the ground.

Do you listen to music while you work?

I do not like music. Whenever I am in the kitchen or bathroom (frequently and briefly), I listen to WNYC [a public radio station in New York City]. This is why I have a highly partial and useless amount of information about a wide range of topics.

Must you clean the house and have everything in order, or do you thrive in chaos?

I must make my Roomba vacuum the floors every morning. I do not thrive in chaos. I do not thrive in order either.  

Do you practice the same routine every day or are you spontaneous?

I cannot answer this question because I only answer questions about my routine on Tuesdays from 9:45 – 10:15 p.m. Today is Wednesday.

Exercise?

A few years ago, I heard a radio interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s trainer in which he said she does pushups regularly. Until that point, I considered it a physical accomplishment to get out of bed and get dressed. I decided then that I should strive to be as fit as an octogenarian, so I now do 23 pushups in the morning and then call it quits for the rest of the day.

Do you avoid the Internet or surf endlessly on social media?

If someone revealed my Google search history, I would have to hide out in another country. 

Any must-have snacks?

I break everyday for a lunch of flamingo boiled with dates, roast parrots named Mitchell, eggs of extinct animals, steamed camel hump with extra fish maw, fatty carp tongue with bear paw zest, leftover lumpy pottage, dragon kabobs, deer sinew cutlets with white fungus that’s a tinge yellow, a half side of female antelope yellow, mallard wraps, coral, edible moss, cuckoo brains, wines in vogue, and Fritos. 

Do you have a word count you try to hit every day?

I’m happy if I delete less than I write.

What are your rituals for winding down and finishing work for the day?

A military parade and fireworks. 

Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It? is the perfect Mother’s Day gift: A collection of witty one-line advice New Yorker writer Patricia Marx heard from her mother, accompanied by full-color illustrations by New Yorker staff cartoonist Roz Chast. Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It? by Roz Chast & Patricia Marx will be released on April 2, 2019.

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