The Happiness Project: Finding Joy in Tough Times

Roddy Ricch: I don’t go looking for happiness in things—I look for happiness within myself. If you can’t find happiness within yourself, then you don’t have happiness. There’s nothing in the world that can give you happiness but something inside of you.

David Lynch: One thing I’ve noticed is that many of us, we do what we call work, for a goal, for a result. And in the doing, it’s not that much happiness. And yet that’s our life going by. If you’re transcending every day… it eventually comes to: It doesn’t matter what your work is, you just get happy in the work, you get happy in the little things and the big things. And if the result isn’t what you dreamed of, it doesn’t kill you if you enjoyed the doing of it. It’s important that we enjoy the doing of our life.

Samantha Bee: So can a person be too happy? I mean, I think you could conflate happiness with being too naive about the world or anything. But I think people who are happy are great. We should learn from them.

Drew Barrymore: [laughs] According to station managers, at the first week of my show, I was too happy! They were like: “Is she going to be this enthusiastic the entire season? Because it’s too much.” I just didn’t know what to do with the note. I felt a little embarrassed, you know, and then I kind of just started laughing and I was like, “Yeah, no, I see it too—I really am fucking excited, aren’t I?”

Anthony Hopkins: I know nothing. I don’t know anything. My favorite story is “The Appointment in Samarra.” About the servant who goes to the market to get goods for the caliph, and in the marketplace he sees Death. Death beckons to him, so he gets on his horse and he runs back to his master and says, “I saw Death in the marketplace. Can you lend me your fastest steed? I must go off to Samarra tonight, to be with my family.” “Yeah, go, go.” So the master himself goes down, and he sees Death in the marketplace and goes up to him and says, “You wanted to talk to my servant. What was your message for him?” Death says, “I just wanted to tell him I’m going to meet him tonight in Samarra.” [laughs] Enjoy it while it lasts. Enjoy it while it lasts. Because we don’t know. We know nothing.

Tracy Morgan: I just forget what made me unhappy, or try to find out where the communication breakdown took place, fix it, and move forward. Keep moving forward. You got tomorrow. And you know what they say about tomorrow, right? [Morgan starts singing down the phone] “The sun’ll come out…tomorrow! So you got to hang on till tomorrow! There’ll be sun…” [Morgan stops singing his Annie showtune, as though he has finished. But then he starts right up again] “Just thinking about that tomorrow! Must be able to hang on till tomorrow. There’ll be sun…” Know what I told you at the beginning of the conversation that makes me happy? The sun. [Starts singing for a third time] “The sun’ll come out…!” The sun will come out tomorrow! You want to stay upset? Can’t stay upset. At some point that sun’s gonna come out, regardless.

Roxane Gay: I think happiness is extraordinarily important. And I also think it’s incredibly elusive.

Jeremy O. Harris: I think I’ve gotten more comfortable being unhappy as I’ve gotten older.

David Lynch: Bliss is our nature. We’re supposed to be happy. We’re not supposed to be sad. We’re not supposed to be suffering. We’re supposed to be happy campers enjoying life and being kind to one another, and getting along, and making sure that we’re all happy and we’re all together on this beautiful trip.

Roddy Ricch: Being happy, it’s all just about perspective.

Chelsea Manning: It’s the absence of feeling overwhelmed.

Tracy Morgan: I’m looking to make people feel happy. That’s why I do what I do.

Samantha Bee: I guess we’re all striving to achieve it. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?

Drew Barrymore: Even though I don’t know what it is exactly, it’s what I wish for everyone.

Chris Heath is a GQ correspondent.

What else inspires happiness for our 12 interviewees? Read more about the music, the art, and the fashion that they discussed with Chris Heath.

A version of this story originally appears in the February 2021 issue with the title “The Happiness Project.”

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