Roman Interviews Tucker About How to Flirt with Controversy, Talk about Sex, and Sell a Few Million Books While You're At It
Tucker Max is an asshole. I know this because I read it on the Internet. And they don’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true…right?
So if that’s the case, Tucker Max is an asshole, and says so himself in the introduction to his how famous site. He’s also my friend, and I can tell you that as his friend that he has a lot of qualities that make people seem like assholes: he’s brash, he’s sarcastic, and radically honest without the sugar-coating of unnecessary sensitivity.
Tucker is also an intellectual; a great writer with a sharp, sardonic tone and a law degree who, for a while, just happened to make his living writing about things most people don’t—which is really the key to his success.
And success he has had.
Max is a New York Times best-selling author of four books, many of which have been on the best-seller list all at once, a feat achieved by very few other non-ficton writers. He’s a media lightning rod, and generally as famous as one can be without being on television.
But that, of course, wasn’t always the case. Before the List or the fame (and infamy), before he made a ton of money and a movie about his life, Tucker was just a funny guy with a penchant for getting himself into fucked-up situations, a nasty habit of being a dick, and some skill with a pen.
In 2002, Tucker started his site on a whim and a dare, his friends egging him on to see if he’d post his stories; not being one to back down, Max started posting his writing about his various escapades. A collection of stories that, depending on the perspective of the reader, were either hilarious, shocking, or deplorable—usually, all three—TuckerMax.com quickly became a popular website for all things Bro.
Tucker was, in effect, maintaining a personal blog, but didn’t know it. Something to keep in mind is that Tucker wasn’t just blogging before blogging was cool—he was blogging before “blog” was even an official word. (It was entered into the dictionary in 2004.)
And when I say it was popular, I’m underselling it. In the early stages, Tucker’s site was getting around 10,000 hits per day. While that’s still a really decent amount of traffic, at the time, it was astronomical.
Something to keep in mind here is the time. Unlike now, where people post articles on Facebook and Twitter where hundreds if not thousands will see them directly and sharing is part of the social structure, in 2002 a site like Tuckers was passed around via email to a few dozen friends at a time—and he still got a metric fuckton of traffic. Ahead of his time, Tucker went viral before going viral was a thing.
Not bad for a bunch of stories about drinking and hooking up.
I found out about Tucker the same way everyone else did: a friend sent me a link to the site with a note that said, “this guy is fucking hilarious. You’ll love his stuff.” And he was hilarious, and I did love it.
That was in 2002. I’ve been reading Tucker’s stuff for just about 10 years now, and from the moment I began doing so, I found him extremely inspiring. And not for what you might think. And because I find him so inspiring—and think others might, as well—I’ve decided to interview Tucker for my blog.
If you love Tucker, you’ll love this interview. And if you hate him, you should read it. At the end of the interview, I’ve added a brief piece on why I find him so inspiring.
ROMAN: So, I’ve given a pretty good description of you in the intro, and everyone else can just Google your ass. Let’s assume that most of the people reading the article know you—know your writing, that is.
Given that, those people probably have a perspective on you that isn’t necessarily accurate; so, my first question is about that.
What is your general feeling on fame? The idea that you have all of these people that have opinions about you, both good and bad, based on some shit that happened ten years ago? You’ve said that your intention was never to be famous—but now you’ve got it. Can you tell me a bit about what it feels like, and perhaps about adapting to the limelight?
TUCKER: Oh dude, I could write a whole separate book answering just that question. What does fame feel like? It’s truly impossible to understand until you go through it. But the best way I can describe it is this analogy: If you’ve ever been the “hottest girl at the bar,” its like that, except all the time.
Everyone is always looking at you, judging you, evaluating you and thinking about you, and no one looks at you like you’re a real person. They look at you like you’re an object. You’re what you represent to them, you’re not a person with thoughts and emotions and feelings of your own.
This is not to say that every single person I meet knows who I am, that’s ridiculous. It’s more about how most of the people you meet you in the course of your job/life deal with you and see you, you know?
ROMAN: I guess that makes sense. I’m not sure I can completely empathize, but on a much, much smaller scale I guess I can start to see what it feels like; I’m not “famous” by any stretch, but I guess I’m known in certain circles, at least in the fitness industry. I’ve certainly never experienced anything like what you’re describing, though. At least I haven’t noticed. It must be really draining?
TUCKER: Well, yeah. I could go on and on about that, but here’s the thing: I picked this path. I decided to start writing and publishing my stories under my real name, and fame—the good and the bad—is just one of the consequences. There are real, substantive problems that come from fame, and I can justifiably complain about them, but so what? They are my problems and I’ll deal with them. People who aren’t famous can’t understand this, and it seems like petty whining to them—I know, because I thought the exact same things before my life changed.
ROMAN: Here’s how you know you’re famous: you get profiled on Forbes. Not bad. Interestingly, though, when Michael Ellsberg wrote that Forbes profile on you, he touched on a lot of things, but business and books were only a small part of the piece. Instead, the primary focus of the article was that you were moving away from the life of debauchery you’d led, getting some therapy, and looking to settle down. Essentially, that you’re “growing up,” as a number of bloggers have put it.
Some people have said that you’re “done being an asshole”…then the Twitter thing came out and you had the idea to pretend to pay celebrities to tweet obscene stuff. Which means—I think—that you’re not done being funny, in whatever way you see fit.
Does that sound about right? Can you tell us some more about what moving away from the lifestyle means in terms of your attitude, and general worldview?
TUCKER: Of course. Who ever said I was done being funny? I don’t know why people think that “growing up” means that you can’t have fun. That’s a preposterous and offensive notion. All the Forbes article really says is that, at 35, I’m not like I was when I was 25, and that I’m done acting like a guy in his 20’s. Well no fucking shit; the problem should be if I wasn’t changing at all as I grew.
The fact is, there are healthy ways to party and there are unhealthy ways to party, and some of the things I’ve done in my life have been unhealthy. So I am changing them. Doesn’t mean I don’t drink or have sex or say funny shit or just be who I am. It just means I am going to do it in a way that is better for me and the people around me, that’s all.
ROMAN: Well. That’s…I mean, growth. Knowing you personally, I can say that I certainly see those qualities in you, and I hope people will see those in this interview.
Okay, moving on—this is a fitness blog, so I should probably ask some fitness questions. What are your workouts looking these days? Still doing MMA? Any weights, or just punching faces?
TUCKER: I will never not do MMA/BJJ; it is part of who I am now. There is no better workout, either physically or emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other ways to workout that are very good, but there’s nothing as pure and primal as fighting. It’s the truth, in every way. I did an extensive interview about this for Bloody Elbow. [[NOTE from Roman: Worth checking out, for sure.]]
I do lift weights, but only twice a week, almost exclusively either basic powerlifting or sometimes throw in some Olympic lifting.
ROMAN: Awesome! This is what I tell my readers pretty often – if you’re training for something, you have to pick the things that will make you better at that specific thing. In your case, you’re training for basic health, but mores o to help you with MMA—which means you’re not out running around trying a new program every other week. I love that.
So is the lifting just to support MMA, or do you have some goals specific to the iron?
TUCKER: I do have strength goals, but I keep them very basic.
I bench 1.5x my weight, squat 2x my weight and deadlift about 2.5x my bodyweight (well, I’m probably only deading about 400x1RM right now, but I’ll get to 2.5 eventually).
ROMAN: Okay. Something for other people to consider is this—even though your strength goals are “basic” training for those results in a pretty high baseline of strength. In your case, since you weigh 170lbs, that’s a bench of 255, a squat of 340 and working towards a 425 deadlift. Now, these aren’t record-shattering numbers, but for a guy who trains twice a week for less than an hour, it’s fantastic.
TUCKER: I have to humblebrag a little: I can actually 1RM more than 255 bench and definitely more than 340 squat. I’m topping out on about 400 dead though; my failure point is my grip strength, which is ironic because I roll fucking BJJ three times a week.
You got any suggestions sensei?
ROMAN: Well, honestly, I would just use straps as soon as your grip fatigues. A lot of people hate on straps, and I get that. Go without straps at your max weight until you’re really giving out. Then add 10-15% to the bar and strap up. There’s no reason to limit your overall strength because your hands have trouble coming up. By going naked in early sets, you get grip work, but you get max work later on. I’d also through in FAT GRIPZ for just about every exercise, for at least one set.
Lemme ask you though, do you think it’s fair to say you feel everyone should be aiming for strength, at least in relative terms?
TUCKER: Maybe, maybe not. All I can tell you is why I did what I did: I picked these strength goals based on a lot of research and talking to my buddies who really understand these things. Yes, I wanted to get stronger for MMA, but I don’t compete for money in that sport, so the biggest thing for me was long-term health. What could I do in the weight room that would help for MMA, but is something that also helps with my life?
Believe it or not, the best single thing a man can do to extend and improve his life is be physically strong. Seriously, tons of research has shown that the single factor with the highest correlation to both length and quality of life in men is physical strength. Not necessarily lifting weights per se, but actual physical strength, however you develop it. It shocked me too when I learned this, but it makes a ton of sense when you think about it: muscular strength—and living the type of lifestyle that makes you strong—provides so many hormonal, social, physical and emotional benefits. It’s not the actual strength itself, its more what that strength means. We’ve come a long way as a civilization, but the best thing a man can do is still be strong.
ROMAN: All righty, let’s talk diet. You may not know this, but you were the catalyst for my Paleo experiment. I have no idea why you made an argument more compelling than Robb Wolf, but, whatever.
Anyway, you’re eating Paleo style – tons of organic food, no more sugar. There are tons of diets out there, most of which are similar to Paleo eating in that they would have eliminated the processed shit from your diet, and probably would have done about the same thing.
The question is, what was the catalyst for your shift? Why Paleo instead of Slow Carb dieting a la our buddy Tim Ferriss, or just a Ketogenic diet?
TUCKER: I wrote about this extensively on the Adult Swim interview I did on my conversion to Paleo, but yeah, it started with me doing MMA and my body just breaking down. I did ask Tim what to do, he told me fish oil and slow carb diet. I am the curious type, so I really started diving into that rabbit hole of diet and supplements, read pretty much everything I could get my hands on, and when I came out the other side it was pretty obvious what the correct solution was: Paleo.
The only real modification I make to paleo is that I eat a lot of fermented foods—yogurt, pickles, kombucha, saurkraut, etc—which is something I think paleo doesn’t understand yet. But they will. That’s the cool thing about the movement is that it changes as people learn more, its not about dogma.
ROMAN: Wow. That’s a pretty interesting stuff. Firstly, I’m not at all surprised that you jumped down the rabbit hole; you’re one of the most information-hungry individuals I’ve ever met. I might disagree with your assertion that Paleo isn’t dogmatic, at least in some regard—but that’s a conversation for a whole other post.
What I find most fascinating is that you said fermented foods are something that paleo “doesn’t understand yet.”
There are a few things there that I’d like to talk about. Perhaps the best nugget is that here you are, a guy who’s made his living talking about blowjobs, and you’re essentially saying that there’s this facet of nutrition that you understand that most of the well-known experts in Paleo eating don’t. I have no point to make other than that it made me laugh.
And, of course, I’d love for you to tell us a bit about what makes fermented foods so great.
TUCKER: Roman, I made my living writing about something that EVERYONE does, and NO ONE writes about.
I invented a new genre of literature that covers something that’s been in front of all of us forever.
That’s genius, son!
ROMAN: Hahaha, well, some people write about it *cough cough* –but, yeah.
That did well for you, inventing a genre and all.
TUCKER: Ha, well, I’m kidding. Sort of. Anyway, getting back to your question, here’s the thing with the Paleo/nutrition community: There are a lot of voices out there, and many of them are right about some things and wrong about others. Paleo as a community doesn’t get the importance of fermented foods, but the ancestral eating community—people like the Sally Fallon, the Weston Price people and Seth Roberts—DO understand that, and I base what I know and do with fermented foods off of them.
I basically just read everything out there about nutrition, looked at as much objective data I could find, tested everything on my body, and then made my OWN conclusions. That’s just basic critical thinking and empirical testing, and anyone can do it.
To answer your question, what makes fermented foods so great is that I think our bodies require a certain amount of bacteria to operate, specially the family of lacto-bacteria that are used to ferment and pickle foods. The modern Western diet is so refrigerated and pasteurized that we don’t get enough now. So I eat a ton of pickles, miso, cheese, wine, sauerkraut, yogurt, etc.
The reasons for this are legion and beyond the scope of this interview, but my suspicion—based on no hard proof, just how I think the evidence will eventually fall—is that human evolution did not stop in the Paleolithic era, and that the 10,000+ years of using fermentation to store food prior to the invention of refrigeration left us with very different bodies than cavemen had.
ROMAN: Well, that’s certainly a compelling argument. I’ve been eating a ton of fermented food, and I think the nutrition world as a whole, Paleo peeps included, will come around. Awesome.
Anything else you’re doing in term of nutrition?
TUCKER: The other thing I do now and I see great results from is intermittent fasting.
Maybe once a week or so I’ll go 24-36 hours without eating. Fasting, I find, is really not that hard if you’re really paleo and it produces pretty incredible fat loss and energy increasing results.
ROMAN: Ha! I know a guy who’s an expert with IF–wrote a whole program about it and everything, wink wink. [[NOTE from Roman: for those interested, check out my articles on intermittent fasting here and here]] All righty – you’re healthy and fit, which means you’re pretty. So, let’s talk about the ladies.
You’ve mentioned a few times in various articles that you’re looking for a partner now. How does the public nature of your past affect your dating life? Obviously, there were times when certain women would throw themselves at you because you’re Tucker Max. On the other side, and more pertinent to your current desires, are there women who seem completely unwilling to give you a chance because you’re…well, Tucker Max?
TUCKER: Yeah, that sword obviously cuts both ways. I can’t complain man; for many, many years I got an unconscionable amount of pussy simply because I was me. But yeah, the other side is that now there are some girls who won’t or can’t look past what their preconceptions of me are.
That’s fine; it’s part of the trade off. I’m not trying to brag or anything, but finding girls who are interested in me has never really been an issue for me, and isn’t now. The problem is more…which girls I decide to hang out with, because in the past I have often choose poorly, but that’s something I can fix pretty easily.
ROMAN: Well, that’s something I can certainly relate to. This is something you and I have discussed a lot, but it’s new for my readers to know about me, and therefore worth mentioning. Like you, my problem has never been meeting women–it’s always been picking the right ones. It’s something I’ve been working on, and I would like to tell you, in this public forum, that your advice on the matter helped a lot.
Moving on, something pops into my head. This is a quick one – before we transition away from women, something I need to ask. Your most famous story, I think, is “Hilarity Does Not Ensue.” You’ve said it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever written—it was one of the first things I read on your site years ago, and it got me hooked.
At the end of that story, the girl in question leaves. You said,
What I never found out, and I still want to know, is how the girl got home. I never heard anything about her or from her again, even though she left her clothes and ID at my place.
I’m hoping she reads this. Maybe then I’ll find out how she got home.
Well…? Did you ever hear from this chick?
Believe me, no one wants to know what happened more than me. Still no idea.
ROMAN: Damn. That is crazy. You gotta figure on of these days she’ll come out and do some anonymous interview with some radio station. I hope. [[NOTE from Roman: the story is hilarious, but it’s certainly hardcore and not for the faint of heart. I would rate it NC-17 at best. If you want to read it, just google.) Okay, moving on.
You really have seen and done it all at this point—and not just in terms of your sexual history. You’ve written books, made tons of money, partied like a rock star (probably with some rock stars). You’ve even had a movie made about your exploits. Or, more specifically: you made a movie about them. You were involved in the movie making process.
Are there some lessons you learned there? Things you’d do differently?
Given that movie wasn’t as well received as your books, would you consider making another one, perhaps avoid some stuff?
TUCKER: I don’t have the stamina to get into the movie discussion now. It’s exhausting. Yes I would do a TON of things differently, and yes I learned a lot of things, mainly that I will never do a creative project again where I am not in full and complete control. I will get back into that business, but in a different way and from a different position than I did last time.
ROMAN: Fair enough, sir, we can come back to that at a later time.
On, and I should mention…
…if you make another movie, I’m lobbying for a part. =)
ROMAN: Oh. So, let’s skip movies for now, then. Books. At this point, you’ve sold what we can realistically call a metric fuckton of books. In fact, as of this writing, you are one of just two authors to have three non-fiction books on the best-seller list at the same time. The other author is Malcolm Gladwell.
What are your thoughts on stuff like that?
TUCKER: Here’s the weird thing about selling millions of books: Before you do it, it’s like this incredible, unattainable goal you can only dream about. Then you get it. And you get the royalty checks. And it’s really cool for a while, but honestly, it passes, and you realize that its not as big a deal as you thought it would be. Life is still life. There’s a famous saying in Buddhism that I didn’t understand until I got to be really successful, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”
That’s not to say I don’t want or care about my success. I love it, and I want it. But once you have it, you realize it’s not as important and you thought it was before you had it, and that the things that truly matter aren’t always the exact same things as professional success.
ROMAN: All of that leads into my next and last question, which is, of course, about the future.
I think even people who hate your content have to admit that you have talent. But now, you’re done writing fratire—a genre you essentially invented—and on to what? What’s next? Are you going to stick with writing?
TUCKER: Definitely more writing, and some other things. I just signed on to co-write the autobiography of the highest grossing movie star in the world. I can’t say, but if you can’t guess from that clue, you’ll see it announced when his people decide to announce it. Other than that, I have a few projects in the works, mainly an advice book that my buddy and I have been working on for a long time.
ROMAN: Okay, let’s wrap up here. I love chatting with you, but we’re not just here to screw around, we’re here to sell books. Specifically, your new book, Hilarity Ensues; as the title promises, it is hilarious. People should buy it. Let’s give them a little something.
What bonuses can we offer my peeps to incentivize them to buy this book?
TUCKER: Well, I can give your readers an entirely free ebook. It’s called Sloppy Seconds: The Tucker Max Leftovers, and it can downloaded here. Full Disclosure: The ebook is free to everyone, not just your readers. But it is free, and your readers can get it. And your readers can read a ton of free material on my main site, of course.
Try that stuff out, and if you like it, you’ll like the other three books, which people can pick up here.
ROMAN: Okay, cool. I’m going to sweeten the pot a little bit–if people buy your book, I’m going to let them in on a little secret—a little known project where I wrote several stories like yours.
Because he IS inspiring. Not in the content of his writing—while it was funny, some of the worst of it was a little much, even for me, but most of his antics weren’t really that far out of my own experiences.
Instead, what I found inspiring was the writing. From the outset, Tucker was unapologetically Tucker. He was honest about himself, didn’t pull his punches, and was willing to talk about everything from owning chumps to banging sluts. While that might not make for classy reading material, that is the kind of thing that happens in the college and post-college era of your life, and in a very real sense changed the way we’re “allowed” to write about ourselves, and the extent to which we’re allowed to write about it. So much so that he invented an entire genre of literature.
When I first started my fitness blogging journey, in an effort to get familiar with the process and the environment, I did the sensible thing: I read everyone else’s blog. Immediately, I noticed that they had something in common: they sucked.
Well, perhaps sucked is too strong a word—but they were very dry. The information was generally solid, but the quality of writing was abysmal and the generic tone was infuriating. No one was willing to inject a little humor into their stuff, or put there personality on display. It wasn’t accidental; it was intentional. This white-washed, milquetoast presentation of information intended to help people without offending anyone seemed like a giant conspiracy.
Even my best friend, Joel Marion was complicit: while his writing is fantastic, Joel’s huggy personality and refusal to ever use colorful language was a jarring contrast to who Joel is—an extremely funny guy who, like me, doesn’t shy away from F-bombz.
I once asked Joel, “are people really fooled by that? Do they really think you don’t curse? You’re from motherfucking Jersey. No one is this squeaky.” Joel just shrugged and said, “just the way it is, bro.”
My immediate response: fuck that. If I couldn’t use my best friend—one of the smartest and most successful fitness professionals in the world—as a model, who could I use?
Yes. Tucker Max.
In that instant, I decided that I would do for in the fitness world what Tucker had done elsewhere: be real. Or as it’s known in the blogging world, display true authenticity. I decided I would talk about fashion, sex, literature, and anything else I wanted. I would give fitness content filtered through MY lens and no one else’s, and if I wanted to say fuck, I was going to fucking do it—and woe betide those who would seek to castigate me for it.
I never set out to be “the Tucker Max of fitness” —I just set out to be myself, and he and I happen to have a lot in common. I don’t make a habit of blogging about my dick, but I wouldn’t shy away from it if I thought it was cogent to a discussion or done in a way that was funny enough to warrant the risk of potentially offending people.
Tucker’s example showed me you can (and should) have good writing, and that you can—and must—be yourself if you want to stand out and be successful; through his writing (and that of a few others), I learned not to be afraid to push the envelope and step outside the box.
And so, whether you love Tucker Max or loathe him, if you enjoy this blog, you have him to thank for it, in many ways. And so do I. When we finally met in Napa in 2011, I told him as much.
His response? In typical Tucker fashion, he said, “good on you for not being a lame pussy like the most fitness writers.” That’s about as good a compliment as I could expect, and the exact one I deserve.
Thanks, bro, for being
an asshole you.