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Everything I Learned About Writing I Learned From Tucker Max

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Occurred: Fall 2009 |Written: Fall 2009

If you read the about page, you know I describe myself as “Catholic Tucker Max”.

That doesn’t mean or suggest I think Tucker Max should change. He’s an excellent writer, I love his stories, and as far as successful blog role models go, regardless of what you think of his content, he has to top everyone’s list.

I recently had the chance to interview Tucker by email. It took a few hours to think of questions I haven’t seen him answer, and avoid falling into the trap where he might call me a retard if he doesn’t like the question. This is the best I came up with, and he delivers with some of the best writing advice I’ve come across.

Read it. Memorize it. Go see his new movie.

The Tucker Max Interview

1) Do you always have a recording device or some other method (notepad, camera, ETC.) of keeping track of what happens to you?

I always have my iPhone with me, which I can use to take voice notes, but it’s not like I leave it on all the time. That would be creepy and who wants to sort through 8 hours of bar noise? For the most part, I just remember things.

2) When introducing Slingblade, you mentioned he clarified what he said about his GI Joe collection. Do you run your stories by friends that were involved to verify events, facts, and statements?

If I think I am forgetting something, or if I want something clarified yes. Dude, I am not writing the Warren Commission Report, I am writing humorous short stories; only fucking losers pour over the meaningless forensic details of their lives. PJ O'Rourke said that humor is truthful more than it is factual, and he’s right. The basic facts are always easy to remember, and unless you are writing a police report, they’re all that matter.

3) When you put your stories together, do you use an outline and plot everything out or do you focus on writing and then cutting when you’re finished?

I may start with an outline of sorts, but it’s mainly just a list of the high points in terms of action or the funniest specific lines I can remember from the night. Then I write a ton of shit, let it sit for a while, and then ruthlessly cut it down until I just can’t bear to cut anymore. Most of my success I feel comes from being a good editor, as opposed to a great writer.

4) Is there anything you want to add for writers who have read “A Brief Introduction to Writing” since you published that post?

Oh dude, I could add so much to that. I wrote that like five years ago. I really should go back and change and update that. But the basic point is the same: Be brief, get to the point, be entertaining (or informative, depending on the point of the writing), and then get out.

5) How has reader feedback helped shape your stories?

General reader feedback is usually pretty worthless. 99% of people give feedback that is irrelevant, stupid, or just flat out wrong. But that 1% of people who give good feedback are invaluable. In my world, friends like Bunny, Nils Parker, David Zuckerman, and all my law school friends, have helped shape and hone my voice and skill. They’ve been crucial, no doubt.

6) You had a hit before social media took off, do you think it’s easier today for a new writer to breakout?

Yes! Much easier. There is ALWAYS more demand for great content then there will be great content to satisfy it. I always laugh when aspiring writers ask me how to make it or get discovered. Are you kidding? That is not the EASY part. The hardest part now is just making something that can interest people. And of course, most aspiring writers hate to hear this because they think their stuff is great and can’t understand why no one wants to read it. Probably because it isn’t…

7) What writers are you following now that you think we should check out?

Do I even need to mention the stalwarts of the web, people like Mark Cuban, Seth Godin, Tyler Cowen, Paul Graham, Hugh McLeod, Bob Lefsetz, Tim Ferriss, etc that we all follow? Aside from them, of the ones I really like, none of them are really entertainment writers, but the people I read most are Umair Haque, Seth Roberts, John Robb, Ryan Holiday, Charlie Hoehn, John Hagel, and The Last Psychiatrist.

8) Last question: Did you ever hear from Miss Vermont after the lawsuit?

Of course not. What’s she going to say, “Thanks for exposing me to the world for the person I am?”

Bonus Story: Brandon Meets Tucker Max

I was pumped. Why? Thanks to Ian at Rudius media, I was getting to meet one of my heroes, Tucker Max. I wouldn’t know how to put my stories together if it wasn’t for his website.

I convinced Amanda to come with me for the NYC movie premier of “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell”, but I had to warn her that Tucker, or Blonde Dude (the guy in the Youtube videos), might say something she doesn’t like, ask her to do something ridiculous, insult her, or all of the above.

We were cut off in traffic once in Saratoga, and as this dick yuppie went by, cell phone in one hand, Live Strong bracelet wrapped around the other, he screamed at Amanda while pointing to his head.

We couldn’t hear what he was saying but he was pissed. I laughed. I thought the guy was explaining he drives like a drunk blind man because his brain is tiny, but Amanda started to cry. Can you blame me for being nervous about her meeting Tucker Max?

While waiting for the press to be let in to the theater, Tucker got off the bus to meet a Doppelganger. I only saw him for a second before he vanished into a throng of acolytes that snaked around the corner. I was disappointed, but also slightly relieved.

Before the film, we were seated next to two reporters. One of them was with a woman and was trying to impress her by saying, “I don’t like Tucker’s stories”. The other reporter was uptight and clearly getting ready to rip Tucker several assholes regardless of whether he liked the film.

The second reporter bolted as soon as the movie finished with a look of terror and disgust plastered on his face. The kind your mother makes when she gets you from kindergarten because you’re covered in shit and interrupted her drinking. I know that look.

Blonde Dude and Nils Parker (drunkasaurusrex) were on stage killing time by ripping on the crowd. To avoid drawing attention our way, we didn’t raise our hand for anything and politely laughed and clapped at the jokes. I like Nils, I’m a fan of his blog, but Nils doesn’t like the Yankees, so I wanted to give him shit for it because his A’s are having one of their worst seasons in ten years (as per the LA Times).

Nils and the Blond Dude before the movie

 

The film was awesome, by the way, and most of the crowd stayed to meet Tucker, Nils, and Keri Lynn Pratt, who joined them for the Q & A and signing session. I think she was only asked two questions the entire time. People mostly asked Tucker the same questions he answers over and over, so it was a little disappointing.

There was a pretty serious moment where Tucker was answering a question about what his Mom thought and he said something like, “I love my Mom. But, I’m going to do what makes me happy because it’s my life and not hers. So, I’m not trying to please my parents.”  The crowd went silent. I wanted to stand up and go, “Hell yeah!” but who wants to be that guy?

We got into a growing line and waited almost an hour to get through to meet them. When we were called up to Tucker’s table I shook Nils’ hand, told him I was a fan of his blog (but again resisted the urge to mock the A’s) and asked Tucker to sign my book.

My copy of “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell” now says, “Brandon: Fuck you. – Tucker Max”.

Amanda briefly chatted with Keri. Apparently Amanda is a fan of hers. I had no idea who she was.

 

We got set up to take the picture. Nils was still sitting, and so I asked Tucker if Nils would be willing to join us. I saw Tucker eyeing Amanda. Uh oh. We had a few second to kill, so Tucker says to me

Tucker Max: “Is that your girl?”

I pause, thinking, “Oh shit. Please don’t burn her. Please don’t burn her.” I answered with a tepid, “… Yeah?”

Tucker Max: I’m proud of you man, you’re playing above your game.

I laughed. Noting mentally: Tucker Max 1, Brandon 0.

On the way out, I was hoping to avoid Blonde Dude, because I knew he camped out by the exit with a camera from watching the videos. I hoped he would be gone by the time we left. As we’re going down the escalator, he’s there eyeing both of us. Crap.

The second the door opens he steps in front of me and puts a microphone in Amanda’s face. The camera closes in.

Blonde Dude shouted, “Oh! Review Time!” as he gently grabbed Amanda’s arm,  ”Quick review time. Quick review time.”

Amanda: ” But. I … uh. I don’t want to!”

Just then we were saved. Five nerdy guys, either college freshman or high school seniors, came out.

Blonde Dude: “Oh, let’s interview them.”

Amanda: “Yeah. Interview them!” she said as she walked away briskly.

I caught up to her. “You should go back and do it.”

Amanda: “I don’t want to”

Brandon: “I’ll go do it then”

Amanda: “No. They didn’t want you. They wanted me. And I don’t want to do it.”

She’s right. I’ve got the evil Burt look going, and for marketing purposes, I suspected Tucker doesn’t need a ton of dudes plugging his film, he needs women because it helps negate any Feminazi protests that will likely follow his film when it hits wide release. Also: It doesn’t hurt him in other areas, but you probably figured that out.

We walked silently back to the Port Authority where we caught a bus with a homicidal driver and an old dude who wanted to fight me. Story material that Tucker might be proud of.

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I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (2009)