I’ve interviewed people in person, over the phone and via email, but I’ve never used social media to conduct an interview. So when Jonathan Finkel contacted me about reviewing his humor book “The Three Dollar Scholar” I asked him what he thought about doing an interview over Facebook. Because he is a humor writer and there is very little any of us won’t do for publicity, Finkel said he was game.
First, the book. It’s funny. Finkel has been an advice columnist and writer for a number of men’s magazines. As anyone who’s held that type of job knows, you can’t answer every question every reader sends you. Finkel took all those extra questions and answered the best ones in a tidy self-published Kindle Book.
The Three Dollar Scholar covers important topics such as advice for women buying a pet, the easiest plan ever for losing weight, why so many musicians are named Fat, who makes the best fast-food burger, the circumstances under which littering is acceptable and how to respond to pushy people pushing their global warming agenda on you. And more.
This interview was conducted on The Three Dollar Scholar Facebook page. I cleaned it up a bit because some of our answers and questions overlapped and some of the spelling and grammar was atrocious. I don’t know how we’re writers.
Overall, once we got past some technical issues, I really enjoyed this interview. We discussed some of what’s in the book and went off on a few tangents, such as making the case that most magazines do not need to exist. This is poor form because we have both worked for magazines, but who would know better than us? I think Time will survive.
Joe Donatelli: Hi, Jon. Thanks for agreeing to participate in what I am calling–without any proof–the world’s first Facebook interview. I read “Three Dollar Scholar” and enjoyed it. Could you please summarize it for anyone who hasn’t heard about it yet?
10 MINUTES LATER
The Three Dollar Scholar: Thanks for having me! In short, I’ve been a columnist or writer for pretty much every men’s magazine that exists. Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, GQ, Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Male Dude Muscles. OK, I made that one up, but you get the point. Anyway, I got way too many questions to answer in one issue or even a year’s worth of issues, so I decided to answer some of my favorite questions and put them into one book.
Joe Donatelli: And the book costs $30? $300? How much does it cost, man?
5 MINUTES LATER
The Three Dollar Scholar: Ahh, there’s the true genius. I figured that since people had been willing to shell out $4.99 or even $5.99 for one issue of the magazines I was writing for, they’d easily drop $2.99 for my book, which gave rise to the name: “The Three Dollar Scholar.” That last cent is on me. The Two Ninety Nine Scholar was a bit clunky as a title.
AND THEN WE FINALLY GOT ROLLING…
Joe Donatelli: Ha ha. Definitely. There is a lot of good advice in the book. I like your World Series rule for naming baby boys. If you can’t say “And XXX has won the World Series with a home run,” it’s not a good name for a baby boy. What are your kids’ names?
The Three Dollar Scholar: Right now I have one beautiful baby girl and her name is Reese. My wife says she always loved the name, but I think she just watched Sweet Home Alabama one too many times.
Joe Donatelli: Yeah, I am about to fight that battle with my wife. She want to name our first daughter Vanilla Sparkle or something and I want her to be named Bob. It’s going to be a tough fight.
The Three Dollar Scholar: Ah, the name fight is a good time! The best thing that can happen is that a celebrity picks the name your wife liked while she’s pregnant. Then she’ll drop it ASAP.
Joe Donatelli: Speaking of relationships, your bit about asking a woman how old her cat is so you know if it will die soon was genius. Is that something you actually did?
The Three Dollar Scholar: Yes, that was something I actually did in my single days. I literally can’t stand cats. And full disclosure: When I got together with my wife, she had two cats. Got rid of one the minute we had a baby. The other is like 9 and the clock can’t tick fast enough.
Joe Donatelli: What is it about cats that sucks the most? Their indifference? The pooping in the house entitlement? The trying to steal your breath while you asleep?
The Three Dollar Scholar: First, they think they’re better than you, which is insane, because they literally can’t do anything. Second, they are so prissy it’s ridiculous. They won’t even poop without their own privacy.
Joe Donatelli: I am nodding in agreement.
The Three Dollar Scholar: When my 80-pound lab drops a nice deuce in full view of our neighbors, I’d give him a high-five the moment I pick it up if he had hands. The worst thing about cats is they track litter all over the house and they stand on your table and counters. It would be like if I went into a port-o-potty outside of the Rose Bowl barefoot, then walked home and stood on our kitchen table without cleaning my feet.
Joe Donatelli: You wrote about this–there is an epidemic of people naming their pets after alcohol in this country. I personally know dogs named Sake, Guinness and Stoli. This is completely unacceptable, correct?
The Three Dollar Scholar: Yeah, I don’t understand it. Unless you are an actual descendant of Jim Beam, don’t name your dog Jim Beam! Must be something about the Irish ales and liquors. I actually know a dog named Killian and a dog named Bailey, after Bailey’s Irish Cream. I wonder why the presence of alcohol makes a product acceptable to use as a name. I’ve never heard of a dog named Coke or Sprite. You? Though Mello Yello would be a cool dog name, potentially.
Joe Donatelli: I have not heard of that. Although my mutt once won a Nuts For Mutts competition against a breathing Swiffer pad named Chicken. The host told the audience, “The owner says that Chicken is very shy, but his confidence is improving every day.” Total sympathy ploy! I don’t even think it was the dog’s real name. And what dog doesn’t have confidence? Dogs are natural-born 5-year-olds, brimming with confidence.
The Three Dollar Scholar: Totally. The judges should be ashamed for such blatant crowd-pandering.
Joe Donatelli: I’m more proud of our dog’s victory than of anything in my life!
The Three Dollar Scholar: Somehow Chicken doesn’t sound like a dog name, but other animal names are used all the time. Bear and Moose are pretty common.
Joe Donatelli: Those are fine. Because dogs think they’re bears and moose. But Chicken? Come on.
Joe Donatelli: Moving on. Your diet plan is genius. Only drink water, no white foods, walk or exercise 30 minutes a day. How did you arrive at this combination?
The Three Dollar Scholar: This one came about from my time at Muscle & Fitness Magazine. We used to put out these insane diets and workout plans for guys to follow. That magazine is geared towards bodybuilders and stuff, so it played to our audience. But we had lots of readers who just wanted to get in decent shape. Scientifically, this diet is indisputable. Drink less calories, gain less weight. Eat less crap, feel better. Walk 30 minutes as opposed to sitting 30 minutes, you’ll burn calories.
Joe Donatelli: I don’t like complicated diet plans or workout routines because you try it, you fail (because it’s unnatural to the human body work out hard 90 minutes and only eat figs), you feel worse and then give up. You make no progress. With the Finkel Diet System, progress is achievable.
The Three Dollar Scholar: Exactly! The magazine would go from a monthly pub to a one-time Tweet.
Joe Donatelli: Most magazines could just be a one-time tweet.
The Three Dollar Scholar: Also…
The Three Dollar Scholar: Sorry, that was an errant “also”…
Joe Donatelli: Let’s explore a few magazines that could easily be summed up with a one sentence Tweet. I’ll start. O : Hey, everyone, look at Oprah! See. Now you never need another O.
Joe Donatelli: GQ : Will you please put on a tie?
The Three Dollar Scholar: Cooking with Paula Dean : Eat like shit and get diabetes.
Joe Donatelli: Cosmo : If you have to learn it from a magazine, you’ll never be able to properly please a man.
The Three Dollar Scholar: Fit Pregnancy : You won’t want to work out pregnant, but here’s some hot celeb woman who lie about it.
The Three Dollar Scholar: Maxim : We don’t show nipple, but we want to.
Joe Donatelli: Rolling Stone : Read our back issues from when we were cool.
Joe Donatelli: Money : Your life would be much better if you had some.
The Three Dollar Scholar: National Geographic : You might see some acceptable female nudity…but probably not.
Joe Donatelli: Time : Just remember whatever was relevant to your life six months ago.
The Three Dollar Scholar: Good Housekeeping : Keeping feminism in check.
The Three Dollar Scholar InStyle : Clothes you can’t afford on women you wish you looked like.
Joe Donatelli: Prevention : Let’s all try not to die, OK?
The Three Dollar Scholar: It’s actually amazing how many magazines cover the same topics and still make money.
Joe Donatelli: There’s a reason for that. There are only like five things that matter in life: money, health, sex and two other things.
Joe Donatelli Esquire : Picture Bill Clinton’s crotch in your head.
The Three Dollar Scholar: We can move on, but maybe revisit it another time.
Joe Donatelli: We did it, Jon. The world’s first–I am still making this up–Facebook interview.
The Three Dollar Scholar: Awesome. I enjoyed it. Sorry about the early kinks. I wasn’t seeing your responses.
Joe Donatelli: Final thoughts?
The Three Dollar Scholar: Buy the book. You’ll like it. It’s only three bucks. You can buy the book and a cheeseburger and ice cream cone from McDonald’s for under 5 bucks. That kicks Subway’s ass.
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