My interview with The Bloggess

I interviewed Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess) for DAME Magazine.

I interviewed Jenny Lawson (AKA The Bloggess) for DAME Magazine. It went well. We spoke for half an hour on the phone while she paced her house and dusted her stuffed mice. (It’s a Bloggess thing.) We talked about her website’s origin, advice for turning a blog into a book, evil Reddit users and how her husband copes with having his conversations posted in public. Lawson is naturally funny, humble and nice. I hope we get the chance to speak again. She has stories. Oh, she has stories.

Naturally, I couldn’t fit the entire interview into the DAME article, so after it was posted I asked the publisher if I could post the rest of the interview on my site.

The original Q-and-A is here.

And now the bonus tracks…

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My Facebook interview with Jon Finkel, author of ‘The Three Dollar Scholar’

Read a Facebook interview with Jon Finkel, author of The Three Dollar Scholar

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.


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Bruce Cameron says goodbye to column writing, for now

Read an in-depth Q-and-A with humor columnist and author W. Bruce Cameron

bruce-cameronIn 2011, just months after being named the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Columnist of the Year, W. Bruce Cameron stopped writing his syndicated humor column.

I wanted to know why one of the country’s few reliably funny newspaper humor columnists was retiring, and I wanted to take a look back at his column-writing career, so I gave him a call.

We talked about how his column started as a daily e-mail in 1995, about being the most plagiarized man on the Internet, why the book 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter was such a success, whatever became of his teenage daughters, the difficulty of launching a syndicated humor column after terrorists attack your country, why newspapers are so un-funny, why he stopped column writing and what he’s learned about humor writing.

Donatelli: You started your column by sending it to six people by e-mail, and eventually it grew to 40,000. Do you ever stop and think about how much technology played a role in your ability to make a living as a writer?

Cameron: Yeah. It is very strange, because it is the only time in my whole life when anything has gone according to plan. And it really it didn’t happen exactly the way I envisioned. The one thing I never saw myself as was a newspaper columnist. That was an unexpected wrinkle, but it was a sheer delight when I went to work for the Rocky (Mountain News).  But the whole idea was, yeah, I’ll send this thing out in an e-mail. I’ll build a fan base. The fan base will become large enough that it would be compelling to a publisher so that they would start publishing my books.

Donatelli: Because you thought of yourself as an author first.

Cameron: Yeah. And that’s what happened. And who saw that coming?

Donatelli: How do you make the leap from 6 readers to 40,000?

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‘Deranged pen pals’ Zweibel and Barry team up for Lunatics

Read an interview with Lunatics co-author Alan Zweibel

alan_zweibelPardon the backstory, but it’s necessary to explain how this interview came about and why the first question in this Q-and-A is about Alan Zweibel’s prosthetic tooth.

I launched The Humor Columnist on Nov. 25, 2011. I didn’t tell anyone because I wanted to spend at least a month working out all of the bugs, of which there have been many. If I have learned anything in the last 30 days it is that I am not a WordPress designer. In fact, if WordPress had any brains at all it would send armed men to keep me away from its content management system for fear of destroying the company’s reputation.

To test the site I began posting stories, specifically the types of stories I plan to run when the site officially launches. These would include my columns, links to other humor columns and news about humor writers. On December 12 I posted a story called Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel are and have written Lunatics. Zweibel read the post and left a comment, thus becoming the first non-Russian-spam-bot to leave a comment on this site. I emailed Zweibel to see if he would do an interview and he agreed. The interview took a few weeks to set up. At one point Zweibel emailed me to say he had thrown his back out while looking for his tooth implant, which had fallen out of his mouth. Yes, you read that all correctly. He wrote about it here.

Zweibel and I spoke over the phone. He took the call at the Friars Club, where he has been a member since he left Saturday Night Live, where he was one of the show’s original writers. We talked about Lunatics, the book he and Dave Barry wrote about two New Jersey soccer dads who do not get along.

The story is told in alternating chapters by its protagonists, mild-mannered Philip Horkman (written by Zweibel) and Grade-A jerk Jeffrey Peckerman (written by Barry). Their adventure begins when Horkman, a youth soccer ref, calls Peckerman’s daughter off-sides during a key play in the championship game. I don’t want to spoil what happens next, other than to say the rest of the story involves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Republican National Convention, a monkey that shoots a helicopter pilot in the groin and Charo.

The book is very funny. You can sense how much fun Zweibel and Barry had sending these chapters to each other as they played a friendly game of “Yes, that’s good, and then this ridiculous thing involving a lemur should happen.”

Universal Pictures has acquired Lunatics. Steve Carell is attached to star as Philip.

Thank you, Katie Clay at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, for sending me an advance copy of the book.

Joe Donatelli:
Have you been back to the dentist to have your tooth put back in?

Alan Zweibel: Yeah. It’s intact at the moment.

Joe Donatelli:
Did you ask the dentist why your tooth fell out of your mouth?

Alan Zweibel: You know something, he gave some lame excuse. Somehow he blamed it on me.

Joe Donatelli:

Alan Zweibel: Yeah. It didn’t really jive. I’ve since switched dentists and now it’s taken care of.

Joe Donatelli:
I’m glad to hear your teeth can now withstand the force of a small sneeze.

Alan Zweibel: Absolutely.

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