My, how time flies. It occurred to me this afternoon that I’ve been doing this for awhile now and I must have a blog anniversary coming up. So I went into the WordPress control panel to check. As it turns out, the anniversary of my first blog post is …
Five days ago. I forgot my own anniversary. I’m very upset with myself for not caring enough about my anniversary to write it down or put in my Outlook calendar, so I’m ordering myself to sleep on the TV-room sofa tonight. (My tenth wedding anniversary is coming up this summer … I’d really better not forget that one.)
So here I am, scrambling around looking for a suitable anniversary present, kind of like the guy who rushes into 7-11, praying they sell roses and some nice chocolates. If I’d been thinking ahead of time, I would’ve asked someone like Jimmy Moore to conduct an anniversary interview. It’s a bit late for that, so I’m going with the 7-11 present: I’m going to interview myself. Here goes:
There are approximately a trillion blogs on the internet now, with another two trillion expected to come online in the next 10 years – although the Congressional Budget Office insists on estimating the figure at 984 billion. Why, for Pete’s sake, did you think the world needed one more blog?
It was my wife’s idea.
Uh-huh. Could you maybe expand on that a bit?
Sure. We had a FatHead-Movie.com site set up a little while before the film was released, but it was static … pretty much just a brochure of sorts for the film. I was completely burnt out after producing the film and didn’t want to look at anything having to do with health or nutrition for awhile. Then I made the mistake of reading some health articles online and started getting angry all over again at how much bad information is out there.
I’d read about some awful study and yell, “Honey, look at what a load of nonsense this is!” and then explain the nonsense in great detail. She’d say, “That’s very interesting. Maybe you should write some of this down.” Later I’d read about a city passing a law requiring calorie counts on fast-food menus and explain to her, in great detail, why those laws are stupid and don’t work anyway. She’d say, “Good points. Maybe you should write them down.” Then I’d see Meme Roth interviewed on TV and explain to my wife, in great detail, why Meme Roth has no idea what she’s talking about, and my wife would say, “I’m trying to sleep! Go downstairs and start a blog already!” So I did.
Sounds like a terrific lady.
She is. Very supportive.
So you started the Fat Head blog. Did you have any specific plans for it, any particular point of view?
The film was a mix of factual information and humor, so I decided I should try to recreate that on the blog, make it my niche. Jimmy Moore already does the regular-guy thing very well, along with the podcasts and YouTube bits. I’m not afraid to do research or pick apart a study, but I’m not in the same league with Dr. Mike Eades or Stephen Guyenet or Peter at Hyperlipid when it comes to evaluating the science. So with my background as a comedian and humor writer, I thought the wise-guy approach would work well for me.
Did you have any fears about starting a blog?
Yup. I was afraid by the third or fourth month, I’d have to put up a post that said: I’ve officially run out of things to say. Thanks for reading. Goodbye.
But that hasn’t happened.
No, it’s been the opposite. My favorite topics are bad science, bad reporting, and stupid regulations, and the people in charge keep supplying me with material. Readers send me links all the time too.
Your normal schedule is to post on Mondays and Thursdays. How did you settle on that schedule?
I think originally it had something to do with which nights the good TV shows were on, but I don’t remember exactly. I chose twice per week because I’m still a software programmer and I don’t have time to write every day, but I wanted to commit to a schedule that would put some pressure on me. Plus, I figured if I just pop off once in a blue moon, when the mood strikes me, people won’t be coming around very often.
So, how’s that pressure working?
It works, and I’m glad I’m writing for print again. I did some freelancing in my 20s, sold some humor bits to Newsweek, OMNI, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times. Then I got into standup in my 30s, moved to Hollywood when I was almost 40, got married, had kids, did some plays, did some sketch shows, performed on cruise ships, then finally made Fat Head. When I started this blog, I realized I hadn’t written anything for print in almost 20 years.
This isn’t print.
No, but people are reading the words instead of listening to me talking. What’s funny in print and what’s funny to hear spoken aloud aren’t the same thing. They’re two different styles. I found that out the hard way when I first started trying standup comedy.
Speaking of styles, you seem to use a lot of these in your posts: …
Yes. Sorry, I didn’t know the word.
Well, yes, I use those. That’s sort of a timing thing. It’s a bit like a pregnant pause when you’re speaking. Sometimes it’s for comedic effect, as in: Take my wife … please. If you just write: Take my wife, please … well, that’s not funny.
How long does it take you to put together a typical post?
It varies wildly. I’ve always been a fast writer, so that helps. I was the guy who could bang out a paper in a day in college. But sometimes I spend hours looking up information online, trying to cross-reference articles or find some particular piece of data. If I know my topic and I’ve got the information handy, I’d say it’s 2-3 hours to write a post.
When do you feel really good about a post? What makes you sit back and say, I like this one?
I’m happy when I can take an ordinary topic and make it amusing, or take a complicated topic and explain it simply so people get it. My college physics professor could’ve explained physics to a six-year-old, I swear. I always admired that about him.
Do have any particular favorites among your posts?
Hmmm … the one on pouring saturated fat down the drain was fun. Jane Brody’s adventure trying to lower her cholesterol was fun. Becoming French to avoid heart disease was fun. Going after Meme Roth is always fun because she’s so stupendously annoying.
If you could meet Meme Roth, what you say to her?
I’d try to explain the concepts of energy balance and homeostasis, which she obviously doesn’t understand. Then I’d look for some physical trait I could zero in on and criticize to make her feel insecure and unacceptable. Fair is fair.
What’s been the best thing about blogging?
Probably feeling a sense of community, even though I’m doing this from a desk in my home office. I don’t even have co-workers, except for when my wife does graphics and web stuff for me. But by the time I go to bed at night, I’d swear I’ve spent part of the day talking to people.
And these conversations with imaginary friends don’t concern your wife?
What’s the worst part of blogging?
Dealing with WordPress. It’s an okay blogging environment, but putting up graphics and links and editing and formatting text in a little window can get tedious.
I’ve noticed you get some totally inappropriate Google ads showing up now and then. Ads for cholesterol-lowering diets, Dr. Oz’s programs, lap-band surgery — people and products you criticize.
Yeah, but that’s all Google’s software placing the ads. I don’t pick ‘em.
How’s Google working out financially?
I don’t want to talk about it.
Then why did I even ask me the question?
I don’t know. Maybe you secretly wish you were on 60 Minutes.
So what are your future plans? Anything besides blogging? Another film?
I won’t do another film unless someone else bankrolls it, but I’m putting together some lectures. I don’t do much standup anymore, but if I can take what I’ve learned about health and nutrition and mix it up with some humor, I think that will be just as much fun.
Thank you for sitting down with me for this interview.
My pleasure. Now get out of my chair.
Thanks to all of you who supported the film and read this blog. Happy blogiversary.