In-Your-Mother-Grabbin’-Face: The Mike Sacks Interview

(Originally appeared on Opium, March 3 2003)

After the unlimited success of our first guest-editorship by Opium’s bestest friend, Pia Ehrhardt, we couldn’t resist doing it again. Where Pia brought a clean and moving literary voice, the new guest editor, Mike Sacks, brings whorling whimsy, sly wit and slapstick sensibility. In droves. Here’s what he had to say when we asked him questions.

You were brought aboard as an Opium guest-editor because you’re tapped into the funny scene. The Freedonian was one of the great sites ever. Does it feel good to be back?

Not really. I spent most of my free time over these past seven years being taught how to design shoes by the master in Florence. Has it really been seven years? That’s incredible. It does feel good to be back. It’s going to be a solid month. The pieces are all great, the writers are all talented, and there will be no references to Michael Jackson, George Bush or anything else that’s current, minus that ongoing litigation involving me and those animal smells.

Could you tell people three facts about you, and two lies?

#1. I enjoy playing the slide-whistle, and have since Bible camp.
#2. I’m seriously bothered by people with afflictions, as I find imperfection unnecessary.
#3. Along with my good friend Ted Travelstead, I’ve invented a line of imaginary characters called The Log People. They are not Smurfs, exactly, but they are very similar. A few sample characters:


#1. I’m an obsessive compulsive with a deep desire to shampoo and condition the hair of the homeless.
#2. I have a fetish for older women with neck braces.

What books should Opium readers check out during your month-long reign?

Wow, that’s a tough one. It’s a toss-up between a few. Let’s see:
#1. “Ballads for Babies with Merry Movements”
#2. “Why Cribbage Represents Sexual Intercourse”
#3. “Dumps: A Plain Girl”

#1.King Suckerman,” by George Pelecanos (a fantastic writer. Read him now before he’s famous. Anything will do, it’s all great. He’ll be touring for his new book in March.)
#2. “Cruel Shoes,” by Steve Martin
#3. “Diary of a Flying Man,” by Randy Cohen
#4. “Pale Fire,” Vladimir Nabokov (I put this down to seem intelligent, but it really is great. Or so I’ve heard. The audiotape version with Louie Anderson is simply fantastic.)
#5. The screenplay to “Network” by Paddy Chayefsky. (Has there been anything this good since? There are so many bad comedies out and it seems that most are made to be watched with a large group of your frat bros. This isn’t a bad thing really, but what if–like me–you have no frat bros?)
#6. “Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories: And Other Disasters,” by Jean Shepherd (I love Jean Shepherd’s writing. It’s nostalgic, but not treacly. He used to write for Playboy and Mad, as well as working as an overnight radio personality. Bootlegs of these shows are available. He used the words “dig” and “man” often, which is nice.)
#7. Anything by Doug Kenney.

What’s your catch-phrase?

It’s long and copyrighted: “He who likes to climb trees and smell the fragrance of passers-by, but is more concerned about smoothing out the wrinkles in his jeans than he is by flattening down his hair to impress the girl who works in the fudge factory.” I don’t use it often because I’m shy.

How do you think online publishing has changed over the last few years? Is it still worthwhile?

I think it’s worthwhile. There’s a lot of crap, but a lot of good things, too. Let’s face it, it’s practically impossible to publish written humor in magazines, unless the pieces are the “X versus Y” charts, or those “crazy” lists on the back pages of magazines. There has to be an outlet and this is it. Do you remember what it was like before the internet? Maybe three outlets for written humor, if that . . . including the esteemed Cracked magazine.

Do you have any hot sisters? Can you send me a picture?

No sisters, but I do have an attractive cousin who lived with my family while she was attending the University of Maryland in the 1970s. Was there ever a better time to attend the U. of Maryland than in the 1970s? A dreamland. Anyway, she turned me on to Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd and granola and freshly-squeezed orange juice. She wore flowers in her hair and dreamed of a better world, where unicorns lived peacefully with the rest of God’s gentle creatures. My cousin went mad in the ’80s, as she was “too pure.”

Rumor has it that you’ve written a movie. What was it? Was it any good? Is this something that you’ll keep trying to do?

I did write a script with a friend that took place in my hometown, with a hero who very much resembled me. Tall and handsome, with a thick and lustrous mane of jet black hair, he was never without a delicious quip or a friendly “how do you do.” The character, however, did have an unfortunate “Achilles’ heel,” in that he was poorly written and not very realistic. Also, he wasn’t “likable” enough. Was this due to his habit of licking strangers on their necks without their consent? Perhaps. I’ll try again, though. Right after I pen that collection of short stories all having to do with “a different sort of lovemaking.”

How did you first discover Opium Magazine?

I read an article about the site in Men’s Health.