The Mike Sacks Interview: Slightly Less Than Twenty Questions
(Originally appeared on Zulkey.com, March 21 2003)
Today’s interviewee knows the way to my heart, and that’s by sweet nicknames, frequent emails and constant laughter. He is prolific throughout the internet, is currently the guest editor on sweet, sweet Opium Magazine, and was the former editor of the late, great Freedonian. When you read him, you are guaranteed to laugh and have your heart warmed. If, for some reason, this does not occur, you may indeed be a Communist.
You work for Vanity Fair. Do you get a lot of people asking you for invites to the VF Oscar party? And, have I told you how handsome you are?
No, nobody’s ever asked for an invite to the Vanity Fair party, but I do get a lot of requests for an invite to my own Oscar bash. A cozy soiree, featuring me and group of my closest friends (or my “best buds” as I call them). We take off our shoes, sip hot cocoa and argue over whose facial features are more against nature: Joan or Melissa Rivers’. I only say that out of jealousy, of course. I would love to have a face as tight as a Buddy Rich snare drum.
As for me being handsome, yes, it’s true. Did you receive my press packet? How’d you like that Polaroid of me dressed as a randy sailor? Gore Vidal took it in front of the castle at Disney World.
How has guest-editing for Opium Magazine been treating you? The power, the sheer power, etc.?
It’s been wonderful. I had an assistant do all of the hard editing, while I took two hour “power lunches” at the Times Square Olive Garden. I simply adore Opium’s editor, Todd Zuniga. Do you know that he’s still a virgin? He would never say as much, because he’s very humble.
How did you choose your pieces? Did you feel any hesitation to ‘follow your vision’ as opposed to the editor’s usual fare?
I was never diagnosed with ADD, but I think I have a splash of it. My mind has a tendency to wander and if a piece isn’t funny, I begin to daydream, usually about my youthful adventures with my best mate Flobber. We would wear drainpipe trousers and winkle pickers, and hunt for “land oysters” behind our apartment complex.
Speaking of Opium, I read the following about you in an interview with Todd Zuniga: You enjoy playing the slide-whistle, and have since Bible camp. Care to elaborate?
Did I say “slide whistle”? I meant “penis.”
Also, he asked if you had any hot sisters, and you said no. But what about hot brothers?
I do have a hot brother, but he’s very reclusive. When you’re the younger brother of the guest-editor for Opium, life isn’t always going to be so easy.
Tell us about the Freedonian: how was it started, and why isn’t it around any more?
I started it with two guys, Jason Eaton and Ian Lendler, because we couldn’t get published anywhere else. I take that back. I was freelancing for MAD and Cracked, and Jason was writing children’s books. As far as Mr. Lendler was concerned, we found him at an open-casting call.
We thought it would all be so very easy: we’d start off writing most of the material ourselves, and then we’d wait for the fantastic submissions to pour in. It didn’t quite turn out like that, although we did receive a lot of great stuff. But it became a bit of a burden and we became burned out. So, eventually, we all decided to spend our spare time doing other things. In my case, organizing my extensive collection of Cabbage Patch dolls.
The name “Mike Sacks” is very googlable, providing many a tantalizing photo. Are any of them you? Like this one? Or this one? If not, give us an idea who we’re talking to.
Thankfully, there’s no photo of me on the net, but here’s a photo of someone who looks very similar to me:
You’re incredibly prolific, yet hold down a day job at a reputable company. When do you find time to write?
Early in the morning, and late at night. I usually write while sipping homemade herbal tea and performing 100 brush-strokes on my honey-dappled blonde locks. Truthfully, though, it doesn’t take long to write these pieces. They’re fun and they take my mind off the more serious tasks that I wish to avoid. Like filling out tax forms or watching reruns of “Mama’s Family.”
You’ve written a screenplay. What have you found to be the hardest parts of writing a script and shopping it around?
Now that was difficult! It took forever and it turned out poorly. It’s a whole different animal than writing short pieces, and one has to really shift gears. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s difficult. On top of that, you have to deal with “Hollywood types,” which is a nice way of saying “idiots.” They all look and smell pleasant, though.
I think the main difference, quite frankly, is that there’s no room for flourishes or fluff. It has to be a certain length, and there has to be certain plot points that are touched upon, and there has to be this, and there has to be that. You can’t do your “own thing.” At least, not as a first-time screenwriter. In fact, if the script isn’t strictly formatted to industry specifications, it’s never even read. There’s also the good chance that your script will be mistaken for what you’re trying to satirize. If you’re mocking certain conventions or formulas, the satire will most likely be missed by the assistant who reads the hundreds of scripts that come in every day.
But looking back, I’m sure it was mostly my fault that the script didn’t sell. To impress the suits, I’d walk into meetings with an attitude. I’d wear biker shorts, a tank top and a backwards baseball cap that read: “Bad Hair Day.”
Is it true that Virginia is for lovers?
I’m not really sure, I haven’t lived there for years. I later moved to Maryland, where there is no slogan. There are, however, many outlets of Zany Brainy. The SUVs begin to line up at dawn outside the stores. Maryland children are under a tremendous amount of pressure to be smart, whereas Virginia kids are under a tremendous amount of pressure to become future good lovers.
How would you describe your sense of humor? You can relate it to web sites, authors, types of fruit, use similes, analogies, what have you (but if you use a metaphor, this interview is over.)
That’s a hard one. It might be easier to just tell you about a few of the things that I like, and that I find funny and that have influenced me greatly. (For more information about me and my interests, please check out the movie “The Dead Zone,” which was based on my life.)
#1. Jean Shepherd (buy his books!)
#2. Paddy Chayefsky (read his scripts!)
#3. Doug Kenney and Michael O’Donahue (National Lampoon writers from the early years . . . I’m going to stop using exclamation points now!)
#4. The documentary “The Salesman” by the Maysles brothers (follows a group of bible salesmen in Boston and Florida in the 1960s. Funny and sad and incredibly powerful. Each of the salesmen have their own animal nickname. What would yours be, Claire? I think mine would be “The Ox.”)
#5. Chris Elliott when he was on Letterman (touched in the head with the funny madness)
#6. George Carlin (minus the ponytail. Does he still have one?)
#7. “Election” (the best comedy of the ’90s, not counting Shaquille O’Neal’s “Kazaam”)
#8. “Dazed and Confused” (I love this damn movie. One would have almost thought that Matthew McConaughey was going to have a great career after his role as The Woodster. Have you seen him in “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days”? I haven’t either.)
#9. Albert Brooks before he went all sour and stanky.
#10. Peter Sellers (I think one of the funniest jokes in a modern comedy is Peter Sellers as Chauncey Gardner aiming a television remote at a chattering child in order to make him disappear.)
Can you tell me a few of the things you don’t like?
#1. Humor pieces that begin with excerpts from NY Times articles
#2. Twee first-person NPR bits
#3. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (what the hell was all the fuss about?)
#4. Those phony self-deprecating newspaper humor pieces, usually about precocious children and second homes in the country
#5. This herpes sore on my palm
If you could be any haircut, which would you be?
How does it feel to be the 49th person interviewed for Zulkey.com?
It seems that everything in my life has been leading up to this very interview. Now with this out of the way, I can go on to accomplish all of my dreams, including meeting and hugging former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft. Thanks, Claire, you are dynamite! So, I’ll meet you later tonight at The Banana Hut, our favorite hang-out? I’ll be dressed as a randy sailor! Ciao ciao!