Exclusive Interview: Tucker Max

By Katey Rich 2009-09-23 21:59:25discussion comments
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Tucker Max calls himself a feminist. When we sat down in a bar to talk a few weeks ago, I pretty much figured I'd be the only feminist in the room, given that I was talking to the author of I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, a guy who became an Internet sensation with his stories about getting outrageously drunk, hooking up with hot and stupid women, and treating them--and everyone-- as poorly as possible. But he probably had me pegged from the moment I walked in, knowing all the complaints against him and with his retorts prepared, and somehow when I question him about his general disdain for fat women, he ends up calling himself a feminist in the process.

That's the particular genius of Tucker Max, who is basically every self-aggrandizing prettyboy you knew in college, but a little bit smarter. He's made a fortune from promoting his narcissism as a kind of badge of honor, retelling stories about puking in public and getting caught with his pants down in a way that sounds just self-deprecating enough to fool legions of college kids into thinking he's just like them. He treats most women terribly-- "Run along baby, it's time for Man-Talk"-- and constantly disappoints his friends (read that same story for how he nearly ruined his friend's wedding), but admittedly seems to be having more fun than anyone you know. He's id, personified, and both male and female fans have glommed on to his clever storytelling even as they (hopefully) think to themselves that they could never possibly act like that themselves.

Given how roundly he's been excorciated on the Internet for his misogyny (which he vehemently denies) and general assholery (that part he's OK with), I don't know that I have anything to add to the conversation. Tucker Max was exceptionally polite in person, smart and well-spoken, and I imagine that we could just as easily have talked about Obama's health care proposal or No Country For Old Men. But then again, he's a flagrant narcissist, and given that the topic of conversation was himself, of course things went great.

I didn't bother trying to convince him that he is in the wrong, given that he's one of those 21st-century media figures who has been interviewed so often it's impossible to learn anything new. I already knew that he thinks the fact that he has female fans means he's not a misogynist, that he thinks enjoying sleeping with women categorically proves that he does not, on some level, deeply mistrust and fear them. He's spent years calling himself an asshole before anyone else can, so that when you accuse of him being just that, he can retort "OK, and?"

That was exactly his response when I pointed out to him how often he objectifies women in his pieces, and I admit, it was pretty much a conversation ender. How do you argue with a guy who has made millions off of being an asshole? He's 33 now, and admits that his life isn't much like the exploits he detailed in Beer In Hell, but god help him if he ever expresses regret over anything that happened in that book. How else would the law school dropout have paid for his house?

The closest Tucker came to admitting regret was when I asked him about "hyper douchebags" who have been inspired by work, men who will hit women (which Tucker never did) and lie to them (ditto) figuring that, hey, he got away with it. He hates those guys as much as I do, but seems to believe that, somehow, he hasn't helped create them. It's the same kind of attitude that helps him believe the fat girls who are his fans are in on the joke when he derides other fat women in his stories, or that every single person who reads his work admires him. Tucker Max's worldview belongs entirely to himself, and for 20 minutes, I played into it and got along with him just fine.

Read below for our interview, which includes fewer fireworks that you might expect between a feminist and Tucker Max, both because he was exceptionally nice and because I wasn't really willing to pick a fight. We don't talk much about the Beer In Hell movie, which I will review tomorrow, but given that he co-wrote the movie and it's based on his life, it's basically the same thing. I still believe that Tucker Max is a misogynist and a jerk and a basically unimportant person, but I thoroughly enjoyed the interview. Read all about it below.

Do you ever worry about your grandparents or your parents reading about your exploits?
My parents at this point obviously know what I do. Not to be a dick, but I don't give a shit. It's not their life, it's mine. It's what I want to do. My mom, no question, is not happy with it. The narcissist act is not an act. I actually am a narcissist, very much so. My world revolves around me. She's my mom, I care, but not really.

Even when you first started?
It never occurred to me that I shouldn't do something I wanted to do because it might hurt my mom. It's my life, and I'm writing about my life and the things I do. It's hard enough for me to care about someone when I need to care about them, but in this case, there's no way.

You don't seem to write about your family either.
i don't really have that close of a relationship with my family. How do you make a narcissist? You have two parents who are fairly neglectful. God bless them, they're good people, and they care, but they're just not good at being parents. So it just doesn't occur to me that I should worry about what they think.

Do you run stuff by your friends before you write about them? I know you use pseudonyms.
I use pseudonyms. I leave nothing out about myself. If it's funny or entertaining, I always put it in. I use pseudonyms for other people so I can put it in. By giving everyone pseudonyms, everyone has plausible deniability. Anything that could distinguish or identify them, never ever.

The Miss Vermont story is the one exception.
I used her real name because she's a public figure and she's an absolute, utter hypocrite about it. Her big platform for her pageants was sobriety and abstinence, and the first night I met her, we got drunk and fucked. God bless her, it was awesome, but she was such a hypocrite. It would be like if you met me and I were some squirrelly little nerd playing video games in the basement. No one would have read that if she hadn't sued me. It was a big deal for internet First Amendment law. It was the first time prior restraint had been used in internet speech ever. So of course the AP wire picks it up, every newspaper has it, it's a huge deal. And now I'm a star. I'm like, thank you.

There aren't a lot of new stories on your site. Do you feel like you've moved on from being a blogger?
I still write a lot. On the movie production blog, I've written 200 entries over the last 18 months. I still write a lot of stuff, it's just, to be honest-- when I was 27 I was like an unguided missile of debauchery, and all I did was write about that. Now it's like, making a movie is hard. Even if you make a shitty movie, it's a lot of work. My book sold a lot of copies, I have a lot to lose now. Also I'm 33 now, I just don't do the same shit I did at 27. If I was an unguided missile then, now I'm like a smart bomb of debauchery. If I had to keep writing about it, I would have to essentially fake it or force it.

Are you going to keep writing about your life after the movie?
I'm definitely going to keep writing and keep doing stuff. I've got another book coming out that has a bunch of stories that happened around the same time as Beer in Hell. If that's all I have, that's all I have. You can't create magic by trying to recapture magic. You have to move forward. If I find something else, then I find something else. A lot of people miss this.The point of the book was always to me, having fun, the joy of having fun with your friends, whatever it is. To me it happens to be getting drunk, hooking up, acting like an idiot. And when that's not fun anymore, I just don't do it anymore. It's not that I have to do this because it's my identity. The book is a very small slice of who I am and my life. I don't write about how much I love my dog, because who gives a shit.

It's it weird to you to still be an icon to these college kids even though you're older now?
Kind of. On one hand they're identifying with stuff I wrote when I was 24 to 28, so it's very much in their wheelhouse. When I give speeches at college, I don't tell stories, I talk about what it is to live your dreams and take the path less traveled. The idea that you can not do the standard thing and you can do something different is a very powerful message to those kids. The meaning is this is one man's story of doing what he loves, instead of what everyone else tells you to do. The point is do what you love, not what you think you're supposed to do.

You say over and over again that you're not misogynistic, and I see where you're coming from, but I can't reconcile that with your hatred of fat girls.
Here's what you have to understand about that. The idea that I'm misogynist or don't like women, I don't even know where that comes from. If I hated women, why would all these women come out and support me? I've sold a million books-- you don't sell a million books to guys.

There's a lot of objectification of women in your books.
OK, and? I don't necessarily think that's untrue.

But you don't think it's a bad thing?
No woman ever treats men like objects? It's not like I treat my ex-girlfriend like an object, she's a human. It's not like I'm looking at you you're not a person. When I'm writing a funny story about a night out, I'm a narcissist, so everyone is an object to me in that sense. It's not that I'm a sociopath and I see them all as pawns in my life, but when you're writing a comedy story, that's the way it comes out. It's the same thing applies to the fat girl thing. There's tons and tons of really kind of fat girls who are huge fans of mine, because I think they get that it's a joke. If you make comedy, if you try and make comedy where no one gets upset or offended, you're going to fail. You're right, sometimes I say mean shit, sometimes I hurt people. That's never the point. The point is to be funny. Usually we're all in on the joke.

Do you worry that you're creating a race of super-douchebags?
It does kind of annoy me. Most people, they take out of what I write what they bring to it. If you're already a fucking douchebag, you're going to think I'm just like you, because you don't realize you suck. I fucking hate those guys. But what can I do? I feel like those guys would exist with or without me, and I make a point out of making fun of those dudes. I don't care if I lose them as fans.

What do you want to tell me about the movie?
It is going to shock you. It is deeper and more meaningful and has a better story than you would ever guess came out of the book. The female characters are smart, strong-- very cool well rounded characters. It's not what you would expect. if your image of me is hyper douche whatever, it's not what you would expect. We've been getting amazing reactions from people you wouldn't expect.

The Tucker in the movie seems to not be great to his friends, and that seems to be something that's important to you.
The movie is about Tucker's narcissism. He loves his friends and he cares about them, but he's a narcissist. His narcissism fucks his friends over, so he has to figure out what he did wrong and how to fix it. He does it in a way that I think its really authentic and real. He learns how to model the appropriate behavior instead of learning how to empathize.

Is that what you've done too?
Yeah. That's how you learn to empathize. You fake it before you make it. I'm always going to be a narcissist. I think I'm more of a functioning narcissist.


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