What could I possibly say about Tucker Max that hasn’t already been said?
You probably already know that he’s a self-proclaimed asshole and New York Times best-selling author. Not necessarily in that order. What you may not know is that at 36, Tucker Max has evolved from the Tucker we’ve all come to know and love (or hate) through his writings — first on a website that began as a bet, or in his previous books I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Assholes Finish First.
I had the pleasure of talking with Tucker Max about a wide range of topics from his new book Hilarity Ensues (in stores yesterday, so go get your copy) to his retirement from penning “fratire” (a literary genre he’s credited with originating). From his involvement with mixed martial arts to uncovering one of his biggest pet peeves.
This is the Tucker Max Interview.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
TUCKER MAX: Hey what’s going on man
LOGAN CUMMINS: Hey what’s going on? You guys, it’s okay if I’m recording this to take notes.
TUCKER MAX: Of course man, it’s an interview.
LOGAN CUMMINS: I know, I just want to make sure you know. It’s like a Federal law and shit.
Today I’m talking to the best-selling author and originator of the genre fratire Tucker Max about his latest book titled “Hilarity Ensues.” It’s the third and final installment in his volume of drunken debauchery. Tucker Max, thanks for taking time to talk to me.
TUCKER MAX: My pleasure, man.
LOGAN CUMMINS: I’m a long-time fan so my reading actually goes back to the days of TuckerMax.com before there were book or movie deals.
TUCKER MAX: That’s pre-2006, man.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Yeah, old school. Did you ever imagine that what you would build would end up being the Tucker Max brand like it is today?
TUCKER MAX: I would never call it a brand because I’m just a dude. You know, I’m a person. But I get your point. You know, here’s the thing. It’s weird. On one hand I totally expected–I expected every bit of the success. On the other hand, before you’re successful you kind of have a vision in your head of what it’s going to be like. And what you did is never what you think it’s going to be. You know, even if you do really well it’s just always different. And–in a lot of ways it’s just been a very different experience. So it’s like half expected half surreal. You know?
LOGAN CUMMINS: I can only imagine.
Your brand loyalty is pretty astonishing. You’ve got quite a number of not just male fans but also female fans.
TUCKER MAX: Half my fans are women. Half.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Yeah. Do you think that just reinforces the stereotype that girls like bad boys?
TUCKER MAX: Man, you know, I don’t know dude. I’m not really sure it’s about bad boys or not. I don’t know, man. I think maybe a lot of it is–well, first off, every woman has their own different reason. You know. I would never presume that all women that like my stuff like it for the same reasons. I think some just like to read it, some think it’s entertaining. By no means do I think all of them lust after me and want to hook up or something or look at me as boyfriend material or something you know? Some do. But, not all.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Did you know that your first book, which is now out of print, The Definitive Book of Pick-Up Lines
TUCKER MAX (interrupts): I took it out of print. It was self-published.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Right. Did you know that online copies of that are selling for upwards of $300?
TUCKER MAX: Yeah. No, I saw that. It’s frustrating to me because the book’s not worth anything. It’s terrible. Basically, all that book is–is my friends and I in law school played this game where like if you could think up funny pick-up line type things that no one had ever heard before then you could pick the friend to say it and the girl that he had to say it to. And, I just wrote them all down and put them in a–it’s not even a book really–it’s a glued together piece of manuscript. It’s nothing. I did self-publishing thing so that I could give copies to my buddies from law school as a graduation gift. That’s literally what it was. And as soon as I figured out that I was going to start writing for real I took it out of print because I didn’t want anyone to spend money on it because it’s a piece of shit. I care about my fans enough that I don’t want them to buy that and feel like they got jipped. If they spend a dollar on it they should feel jipped. It might not even be worth free. But now it’s so valuable because there’s probably only 1,000 copies in existence, you know? So people that want the whole collection are willing to spend this money for it. It frustrates me because I want to tell them “Don’t buy it, it’s terrible.” But I understand a lot of them are not buying it because it’s good, they just want the whole collection.
LOGAN CUMMINS: It’s been a long ride. Along the way you’ve had some hits and misses. Best-selling author. Named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most influential List. But I know a lot of people get hung up on this, so sorry for bringing it up, but the movie version of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell wasn’t so successful. Based on your learnings from that, what’s the most important thing that you’ve learned that would translate to advice for someone that’s looking to follow your lead?
TUCKER MAX: My lead in what way? As a writer?
LOGAN CUMMINS: Yeah, someone looking to follow your footsteps in a career.
TUCKER MAX: Man, it’s tough. It’s hard. I’m actually thinking about writing something up about this because I really do get this question a lot. From a lot of people. How do I become a writer? How do I have your success? Blah blah blah, all those sorts of things. There’s a lot of things that you have to think about. The big thing though, I think, that most people don’t understand who want to get into the entertainment business–there’s two big things, I think. One is that a lot of people don’t actually care about being a writer or director or whatever, they just want to live the lifestyle they perceive a writer lives. If you don’t care about the art, then you’re not going to be good at it. If you just want to be a “writer” because you think you’re going to get girls from it and it’ll make you a lot of money you’re not going to write well because you don’t care about writing. That’s the irony is that you have to care about writing to get the job that gets you the girls. You know. If you only care about the girls you can’t get the girls. It’s one of the paradoxes in life. The other big thing that I think people forget is there’s a big difference between wanting to write and wanting to be a writer. If you want to write stuff that’s important to you or relevant to you that’s great. But there’s a place for that. It’s called a diary. If you want to be a writer, that means by definition that you are getting paid for your writing. Other people are paying you to read your writing. So you must understand that you are writing for other people. Your writing has to be interesting and relevant and meaningful to them. It could also be meaningful and relevant to you, but it has to be interesting and relevant to them or they’re not going to pay for it. And a lot of people forget that and don’t understand that. They think “Well, the crap ramblings that I think are super interesting about myself I think everyone else will like them.” Well, no, they usually don’t. Most stuff that people write is boring, stupid and tedious and annoying and no one cares.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Let’s talk about the new book, “Hilarity Ensues.” I got my copy. It’s in stores today. Tell us what your fans can expect from the new book.
TUCKER MAX: I think you can expect a book that is more similar to I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell than Assholes Finish First was. I think you can expect to laugh your ass off. The stories that I’ve laughed the most at while writing were the sexting stories. There’s like three of them in the book. I’ve never laughed that hard in my fucking life. (Laughs) I laughed so God damn hard. I don’t know, man. So far the book’s been out for whatever 12 hours or something, and I’ve seen a lot of feedback and that series of stories is the one that’s exactly what I predicted. I know my fans pretty well and I knew people would freak out and love those stories and they do. You can expect to laugh a lot.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Being that this is your last foray into the “fratire” genre if you will, was there any particular memory that you were looking to leave with your readers?
TUCKER MAX: The most important thing that I wanted to leave with my readers was the same thing that I had to do to earn them. Good stuff that they liked reading. That they laughed at. That they appreciated. That’s the most important thing. If I did that, everything else is secondary. There’s tons of other stuff that I’d love for them to get or to take, but you know everyone takes what they want. 19 year olds are going to see this book very different than a 29 year old or 39 year old. I don’t know if it’s up to me to say this is what you have to take from it. People are going to take what they want to take.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Over the years, you’ve taken a lot of shit for a lot of things. Being a sensationalist. Being irreverent. Politically incorrect. I know that you’ve been called a misogynist. A self-proclaimed asshole. From your perspective, what’s the worst criticism that you’ve had to take on?
TUCKER MAX: Here’s the weird thing about that question, man. I don’t know. I don’t mind being criticized for stuff that’s true. There’s a lot of legitimate criticism of me that is valid. But most people who criticize me don’t make those criticisms. They kind of make stuff up. Or they make a straw man out of me and then criticize the straw man. And it’s really kind of annoying. I don’t know. This is sort of like a rich white person problem but–uh–like I don’t want to go crazy with this, but calling me a misogynist is ridiculous. I write about things like drinking and driving in my stories. Which is indefensible. You know? I could easily be criticized where I should be. So many people who criticize me use me as a soapbox for them to address their agenda instead of actually addressing the things that are wrong that they could criticize. Does that make sense?
LOGAN CUMMINS: Absolutely. I know I grew up Southern Baptist. So a lot of times the criticism that would come of things in our house–for example–when I started listening to stuff like Snoop Dogg, my dad would know nothing about it except–
TUCKER MAX (interrupts): Except he was a black guy and he was cursing so your dad freaked out.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Right. And broke all of my CDs and shit. And I think that you deal with a lot of the same situations. For example, my wife is a preschool teacher and she’s around 3, 4 and 5 year olds all day. When I first get a new book of yours I pretty much have to fight her to read it. Because she thinks you’re hilarious. And then she’ll have to defend it to other women around her that say things like “I can’t believe you read that shit.”
TUCKER MAX: But here’s the thing: all of those women criticizing it, they haven’t even read it. They’re just going off of what they think they’re supposed to think about that. You know? Oh yeah, dude. No, I know. I have to deal with this stuff, I know.
LOGAN CUMMINS: I believe it.
In some of the most recent articles and interviews that I’ve read, you’ve been not necessarily a critic of yourself or let’s say the twenty-something Tucker Max, but seemingly more aware.
TUCKER MAX: Right
LOGAN CUMMINS: What is the underlying cause for the change. Is it that you’re at a different place in life now? I know that it’s a lot of you just can’t keep doing the same thing year after year, but are there one or two things that you would attribute that to?
TUCKER MAX: Dude, at some point you’re just tired of the things that you used to like and you want to do new things. You know? You probably played with GI Joes when you were 10, but you didn’t when you were 20, right? I mean, I was the same way. And it’s not fundamentally different. As you kind of get older, you just don’t–just don’t feel like doing that stuff anymore. The last thing on earth I would ever say is that I’d try and take back anything. Oh, I shouldn’t have done it, or you kids should be like me or whatever. I’ve just always been very into what I feel like doing, I do it. And if I don’t feel like doing it, I don’t. For a long time I felt like getting drunk and partying and having fun, and I did it. And now I don’t feel like doing it anymore so I’m not going to.
LOGAN CUMMINS: It’s funny, I’m just a couple of years younger than you. But we’re at the same place in life where all of our friends are having kids and shit and we’re the ones showing up at baby showers with a beer pong table and you can’t help but feel like “Dude, is it time to hang it up?”
TUCKER MAX: How old are you, like 33 or something?
LOGAN CUMMINS: Almost 32.
TUCKER MAX: You’re married, though. You’re ahead of where I am dude. I don’t even have a girlfriend yet. You know? I kind of made the decision to move into this place and then I felt like I wanted to get myself right and ready before I even got a girlfriend. You’re actually ahead of where I am. Do you have kids yet?
LOGAN CUMMINS: No, oh God no.
TUCKER MAX: I definitely want kids, just not right now. I need a girlfriend first. She’s fairly important in that part of the process.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Baby steps, right?
In some recent articles that I’ve read I know that you’ve attributed a shift in your mood to both psychoanalysis and mixed martial arts.
TUCKER MAX: Right
LOGAN CUMMINS: Can you talk about mixed martial arts and how you’re involved in that?
TUCKER MAX: Yeah, I kind of stumbled into it when I was doing Hollywood stuff I hated. A buddy of mine in LA was like you should try it. First day I went I thought it was stupid. I got my ass handed to me and I got frustrated and was like ‘I’m not going to let these guys beat me up.’ And then I just fell in love. I don’t know, man. Something about MMA. It’s so primal and it’s so honest. There’s no bullshit in fighting. Either you can fight or you can’t. I just love it. Fighters are so cool. And I don’t mean cool like party cool. They’re all good guys. There’s no one who purposefully goes in to a gym to get beat up is a dipshit. Because even if you are a dipshit when you show up you get the dipshit beat out of you. You get humbled. That’s part of fighting is learning when to tap. If you don’t tap you get choked out, you get your arm broken, you get hurt. You know, so everybody taps. Everybody taps. And learning how to deal with failure–all of those things–mixed martial arts. Plus it’s like the greatest, most intense workout ever. It’s fucking incredible the workout is. I mean, I’m 36 and I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m stronger and faster than I was at 26 or 16 and it’s all because of MMA. I love it, dude.
LOGAN CUMMINS: This is my last question. This interview is for my website MyMansformation.com. The website is chronicling my journey to become more manly. So my awesome wife is the man of our house. The premise is that there are so many things that people assume or suggest that every man should know how to do. So basically, I’m listing those out and for each of those enlisting a coach to help me learn each of those. Based on that, if I were to talk to 26 year old Tucker Max and 36 year old Tucker Max, what would be one skill that those versions of Tucker Max would say that I should know how to do?
TUCKER MAX: You know, this is actually something that I’ve been thinking about a lot. I might have a different answer than anyone else has given you. Here’s the thing. Whenever someone says “Real men do X, right?” that person is full of shit and trying to control you. Take your hand–I’m serious–take your fucking hand and put it between your legs. Do you have a dick and two balls? Yes. Then you’re a man. Period. If you eat quiche and you’re a faggot, you’re still a man. If you have a dick and balls I don’t care how effeminate or how manly you are, we’re all men. Like, telling a man that he’s not a man because of some arbitrary subjective thing I think is preposterous and ridiculous. And it’s the type of thing that someone does when they’re trying to control somebody.
I understand that what you’re doing is a little bit different, right. And I’m not criticizing what you’re doing. What you’re doing is a little bit different. You’re trying to say, “Okay, I’m not as manly in the traditional sense as I want to be so I’m going to learn all of these skills and do all of these things to be a better man, right?” I get that. That’s cool.
I don’t think there’s any one thing that you have to do to be a man. I could say like fighting. Martial arts. Defending yourself is integral to being a man. But the fact is that I know lots of men who can’t fight their way out of a paper bag who are men. And not being able to fight doesn’t make them a lesser man. You know, maybe they should know that. Maybe if they did know it it would make them better, but not knowing it doesn’t make them lesser.
I hate to sound like I’m preaching about this or something, you know?
The first thing I would say honest to God is–okay–I’ll answer the question this way. If I were giving my son advice on things that he should explore to see if he likes, you know that–that I wouldn’t maybe recommend to my daughter or wouldn’t be the first thing that I would say to my daughter, the first thing I would say to my son is that you’ve got to know how to fight. And it’s not because necessarily we live in a violent society. But if you know how to handle yourself physically it gives you a confidence and a presence that nothing else can. Look, I love law. And order. And cops. All of that stuff. But–the cops aren’t always there. And if you know that no matter what happens you can handle yourself then it gives you a confidence–a true confidence in yourself and in your world that nothing else can give you.
If your confidence is that the cops are going to save you, what happens when they’re aren’t there.
LOGAN CUMMINS: Yeah, you’re fucked.
TUCKER MAX: Right. And it may never happen. For most people it never happens. And that’s great man. But it impacts how you deal with people on a day-to-day basis. It impacts your hormone levels. And it impacts everything about you. If you believe in yourself–you know, physically, you’re a more robust, stronger, more functional person than if you don’t believe in yourself physically. You know what I’m saying?
LOGAN CUMMINS: Right on. It’s funny, that’s the first lesson that I went through was how to properly throw a punch. Because growing up I never got into fights ever. You know, I would fight with my brothers and shit and give them titty twisters and stuff like that. And the whole site is presented from a comedic angle, by the way.
TUCKER MAX: Of course, dude. I totally–I know you’re taking a light sort of angle and I totally came in with a serious, preachy answer which I didn’t mean to do like that. I get it. That’s like a pet peeve of mine when someone is like “Real men do X.” Whatever X is it doesn’t matter. It can be like “Real men eat quiche” or “Real men don’t eat quiche.” Either answer is bullshit. You know? The concept that you’re not a man unless you do something else doesn’t make sense. You’re already a man.