The Gladstone Interview

September 7, 2012

Today I chat with a humorist who is a regular contributor to Cracked.com, one of my favorite daily reads.  Gladstone, who goes only by his last name, is also the creator of the web series Hate By Numbers and a contributor to Comedy Central’s Indecision Forever. Recently, Gladstone signed with an agent to produce an old-timey print version of his popular fiction web serial Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, a modern take on a sci-fi crime novel. You can find out much more about him here and on Twitter.

Tell me about Cracked.com’s evolution. I used to describethe site as “not MAD” but now it produces reliably good yet unpredictable humor and pop culture content — and even science and politics.
I was asked to freelance for Cracked many years ago based on work I'd done for Yankee Pot Roast. At that time, the site didn't have a very strong voice. I also had a problem with some of the content being occasionally homophobic or misogynistic. With a change in management, and Jack O'Brien's ascension to Editor in Chief, however, the site greatly matured. You have to give Jack and Cracked a lot of credit for being successful on the Internet without resorting to soft core porn or cheap jokes. 

I had an initial bias against the list form and there's no doubt that it has been abused by the Net to appeal to semi-literates, but I soon realized my dislike of the format was ill-founded. You can write lists like numbered essays if you want to. Pieces I'm very proud of — like "3 Reasons the Ground Zero Mosque Debate Makes No Sense," "3 Mistakes Women Make When Dealing With Men," or "3 Types of Occupy Wall Street Protestors Hurting Their Own Cause" — are all pretty much essays. If adding a number in front of some paragraphs and in the title gets more people to read it and helps them understand it, I can accept that.

Then, when you talk about Notes from the Internet Apocalypseserialized fiction averaging 250,000 views on the 'Net is pretty much unheard of. It was also bold of Cracked to let me do 50 episodes of my Hate By Numbers video series. It was not an intuitively obvious choice to support a video series that often satirized the failings of cable news for a young Internet audience, but the show was a success for Cracked, culminating in the Black Eyed Peas episode, which is still one of the biggest videos on the site. Cracked also had the foresight to embrace hilarious and occasionally bizarre videos from Michael Swaim and Cody Johnston, who grew into video powerhouses.

How will the book version of NFTIA differ from the online version?
Well, it's 65 percent longer for one, but it covers the same basic plot as the online version. The emphasis, however, is on Gladstone's addictions, losses and loves, with the social satire as more of a backdrop. The online version is very terse and the hook of each chapter is front-loaded with what's missing without the Net: Internet porn, 4Chan, Google — what would that be like? The novel is character driven. It's ultimately a love story.

Have you ever heard back from anybody you’ve hated on in Cracked or HBN?
Yes. My favorite episode of Hate By Numbers was episode 41. A local Rhode Island news show did a ridiculous segment on a cell phone that allegedly took a picture that revealed a ghost. Within a day of the show, one of the co-hosts, Shawn Tempesta, contacted me to say he was a fan of the show and honored to be included. He turned out to be a great a guy, and that made me like the episode even more.

One thing you and I have in common is that we both have day jobs, in addition to our Internet stylings. Do you aspire to be a full-time creative type? Sometimes I think I would be more likely to burn out on ideas if I had the freedom to stay at home with my shoes off all day.
I absolutely aspire to be a full-time creative type. I certainly know what you mean. Even in high school, I wrote the most songs when I had a test to study for; but I'm confident I could be productive if being creative were a full time gig. After all, I have a family to support. That's a pretty good impetus.

You wrote a good piece about how to meet Internet friends in real life, which is a topic I can get down with. What advice do you have, then, for explaining to already “real life” friends who your Internet friends are? Sometimes I think some of my friends think my other friends are figments of my imagination.
Ooh, sorry to let you down, but you can't explain that without sounding crazy, either. I found some of my best friends at 30 when I started emailing other writers whose work I enjoyed online and/or received such emails from other humor writers. This was before Facebook and Twitter. And a funny thing happened: Almost every single one of those guys started talking to me like they'd known me for years, almost instantly.

The only thing I can compare it to are those married men with kids who wake up one day and say, "Holy sh*t, I'm gay! I should be gay, like, all the time!" Well, I'd spent time with musicians and people with grad degrees and serious fiction writers and actors and none of them were like me. But humor writers, holy crap, it just clicked. Did that sound crazy? Yeah, sorry. Can't help.

What’s the funniest part about the 2012 presidential campaign so far?
I've never felt so disenfranchised in my life. I used to gobble up election politics, but I could not care less this year. We have a democrat in office and yet, Gitmo still thrives, drones kill U.S. citizens abroad and, apparently, we live in a country where a citizen can be jailed indefinitely on the suspicion of terrorism without due process. I find it incredibly depressing, and all the liberal comics who are getting irate at Republicans should use their energy to keep our current administration in check. Nevertheless, I did laugh when it appeared that Paul Ryan was checking out his own mom's rack.

How does it feel to be the 325th person interviewed for Zulkey.com/WBEZ.org?
Y'know that moment when you're about to sneeze, but then you can't, and then you trip and fall while looking for a tissue, but then land in a super model and have a screaming orgasm? It's exactly like that. Thank you very much.

Read an extended version of my interview with Gladstone here