An Interview with Tucker Max
_Tucker Max went from sharing funny stories about his nights of drunken debauchery with friends via email to writing best selling books full of those same stories. He took time from his hectic book tour promoting Hilarity Ensues to answer some questions. You can read his stories and find out more about him at http://www.tuckermax.com/
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How’s your tour going?
It’s going great, dude. It’s sort of the problem you want to have. There’s tons and tons of people coming out at every stop, but my hand is about to fall off I’m signing so many books.
Where are you right now?
Do you do signings every day or do you have some days off?
Yeah, I have a couple [days off]. I have about 5 or 6 a week.
What kind of lifestyle do you have when you’re on tour?
It’s kind of tedious, because you’re traveling every day, you’re living in hotels and whatever. But I mean, it’s still fun. You meet tons of people, lots of girls come out.
Do you ever get a chance to make your Death Mix (a liter of Everclear, quart of gatorade, some redbull, usually in a camelback for easy consumption)?
No dude, that stuff is awful. The only time I drink that is if I want to black out. If I’m like “Today is a black out day and I’m going to combatively drink. Let’s drink Everclear.”
You’re known for your witty (and occasionally offensive) remarks. One of my favorites from Assholes Finish First was, “Jesus would have used less teeth and worked the balls.” Do you copy down phrases like that as they come to you or work them out when you actually sit down to write?
I mean, normally what it is just comes to me when I write, like I’m just writing the way I speak. It’s probably stuff I’ve said hanging out with friends, you know, like I’ve said that before. I don’t necessarily write it down. Sometimes if it’s something really funny, I will.
If I’m taking notes the next day so that when I write it up I remember everything, I’ll put it in there, something like that. It’s sort of a combination. Sometimes it comes to me when I’m writing, sometimes, you know, I use it a lot or I hear it and I put it in.
Do you have any plans to adapt some of the stories from Asshole’s Finish First into a movie?
No, dude. I hate Hollywood. I hate dealing with that shit. I don’t want to deal with that shit. Life is too short and I have too much money now to have to deal with those fucking assholes.
Your website started from e-mails that you probably didn’t put too much thought into other than to make them funny. Do you spend a lot of time rewriting now that there’s more on the line?
Yeah, of course. Anyone who tells you that their first draft is what they send out to the public to read is a fucking liar. It’s not easy to write something. I mean, my stuff reads so smooth and so easy and so polished because I put in a lot of work. I essentially try to take out every part that is boring or tedious or makes people want to skip. So that everything, every word has a purpose, either advances the story or tells you some background or is funny, you know?
When I read your stories, I’m constantly trying to place everything in chronological order. Is there a Tucker Max timeline?
Not one that’s laid out. At the top of every story I put when it happened so you can get an idea of how old I was and the point of my life that I was. But that might actually be a good idea, when I’m done with all these sorts of stories, to release a one piece volume that has all of them in chronological order. That might be kind of funny.
At ChangeUp we cater to readers who want to have fun on budget. You wrote that you spent at least a year scraping by trying to write full time, what was that experience like?
I was quite literally a starving artist and it’s not fun when you’re going through it. It sucked. It might be fun to look back on and talk about or whatever, but it’s not fun ever to not be able to eat.
How was it putting aside your law degree and deciding you were going to make a living on your own terms?
The honest answer is that it fucking sucked, dude. I’m very happy where I am now, now that I’ve made, now that I’ve made it work because I don’t have to answer to anybody. I do whatever I want, whenever I want. That’s sort of like the ideal life. And I got it. But I earned it. And I went through, it wasn’t a year, it was like two to three years of, poverty’s not even the right word to describe it. I mean, I was destitute in every sense of the word. If I wasn’t good with girls and good with [he pauses to criticize the driver behind him]... I was one of those people, I was so poor it was comical. It was almost unbelievable how poor I was at the time. But to me it was worth it. It was either do that or I have to go be a sheep and get a job with someone I hate, with people I can’t stand, and I can’t handle that.
Were you driven by the thought of success or the desire to entertain others?
You know, it was neither actually. It was more like I need to do what I want to do. And the path I wanted to take is not... if you want to be a lawyer, there’s a very clearly defined easy path, but the cost of that is it sucks. It fucking sucks to have that job. But the job I have now is extremely hard to get and it’s extremely difficult to be this. But once you get here it’s awesome because I’ve sort of created my own niche in the world and so I don’t have to answer to anybody or anything.
Where was the best place to pick up girls when you were broke?
[laughs] Dollar beer nights. It is a massive myth that you have to have money to get girls. It’s just not true.
Would you write if you didn’t think there would be anyone to read it, or is the idea of an audience necessary to you?
Um, I don’t know, dude.
Well, do you get something out of the process, do you enjoy it, or is it always about the end result of entertaining people and making them laugh?
It’s hard to say. When I started writing stories it was just an e-mail for my friends and the only reason I did it was to make my friends laugh. And so, I mean, I don’t know, dude. I can’t imagine writing this stuff without having an audience. To me, art is only fifty percent what you create and fifty percent how the audience reacts to it and who the audience is and stuff. I think it would have to be that.
When you first moved to Chicago to write full time, did you have any idea that the stories you were writing at the time would be the same kind of stories you would be writing down the road?
Here’s the thing, I knew I wanted to write full time, but sort of my idea of what a writer should do and what they wrote about was not normal. I honestly first started off trying to write fiction and it sucked a lot. It was really bad. But at the same time I was writing these e-mails to my friends that they thought were hilarious. And so, I was writing the stories that I would eventually become famous for but that’s not what I thought I was going to [be writing]. My friends said to me, “Look, dude, your fiction is stupid and awful and ridiculously bad, but these e-mails you write about the stuff you do when you go out drinking are fucking hilarious and awesome. This is what you should be writing.”
So that choice stemmed directly from your friends?
Well, the idea that I should focus on sort of this nontraditional type of writing. I mean, no one was doing what I did when I started doing it. The concept of ‘fratire’ as a genre did not exist. And the idea that you could write short funny stories about going out and getting drunk and stuff was just not something people recognized as valid. I kind of had to create that market and create that genre. I knew I could write; I didn’t know that the e-mails I was writing my buddies would be what I would write.
You mentioned fratire, and a lot of people are suggesting Karen Owen (the Duke sex list) is your new female equivalent--
But dude she didn’t mean for that to come out. That was something she wrote for her friends. She did not want that to get out and become what it became. My stuff is written with the intent, even from day one, when I was just writing e-mails to my friends, I knew other people could potentially [read it]. It was for my friends, but if other people read it it’s no big deal. Her stuff was not written with that in mind.
How do feel about her potentially using her publicity to get a book deal?
From what I understand, she’s gone into hiding and does not want that sort of attention or those sorts of deals. I mean, who knows, she could change her mind, but from what I understand, she doesn’t want to do that.
What kind of beer do you hope they serve in hell?
Cold. I’ve actually never heard that question before.