In our quest to ask inane questions to every one of our friends from Cracked.com, today we gleefully waste the time of yet another Cracked columnist, Soren Bowie.
You may know Soren from his weekly column “Zero Accountability”, his role as a talking head in the Cracked series After Hours, and from real-life, in which he is an insanely handsome man that has a face as sharp and angular as one of those onyx-colored Macy’s mannequins.
But we’re not here to belittle him by treating him as a piece of meat. We’re here to pick his brain. And we did.
You can find Soren on Twitter at @Soren_Ltd, and you can find his work here.
HT: Has it been hard to fill the shoes of Ian Fortey as a columnist on Cracked.com? Do you like shoes?
Soren: I would never knowingly put on a pair of shoes that were worn by Ian Fortey so I don’t feel like I can honestly answer the first part of that question. I will say that I have been a columnist for over a year now and, to this day, at least one person will comment on every article I write, “This is good. This is almost Fortey good.” It’s a special kind of insult when someone starts with a compliment and then steals it out of your hands to give to someone else. I’m still privately suspicious that each of those member accounts actually belongs to Ian and he’s just really diligent about reminding me he exists.
As for shoes in general, I like them exclusively for their utilitarian purposes.
HT: People know you from your video work with Dan O’Brien, known deviant and fellow Cracked columnist. How much acting have you done apart from Cracked? We heard tell you were in a movie called Are You Scared? that was once described as the “Rent-A-Center” version of Saw.
Soren: That’s an apt review. “Are you Scared?” was a horror movie I acted in that is, quite honestly, a struggle to watch even for fans of the genre. I don’t mean to spoil the movie but I get drilled in the face with a masonry bit and the scene lasts for roughly 10 minutes. I don’t have any obligation to the people who made the movie so I have no problem telling you that the whole thing is agony to watch.
I did “Are You Scared” and some other low-budget movies right out of college when I still thought it might be kind of fun to be an actor. But I realized pretty quickly that all my friends were developing skill-sets at real jobs while I was doing the occupational equivalent of buying lottery tickets. At a certain point I resigned to the idea that I probably wasn’t going to win, so I stopped doing that.
HT: Do you get offputting fan mail? Ian Fortey used to get a lot of messages from middle aged women asking about you and Dan O’Brien, in a sexual way. This was depressing in several ways.
Soren: I do. I get a few messages asking if Dan O’Brien has girlfriend, a few that say nice things about me, and then a lot that are complaints about something I wrote or that outright threaten death. I even did an article of writing tips specifically for the people who send me death threats.
But the strangest thing I ever got from a fan was a vibrator shaped like Obama called the Obamarator. No note with it, no follow up message, just a tiny, dick-shaped president. I keep him on my desk now and when things get bad in my life, I ask him if this was the change he promised me.
HT: Now that we can be reasonably sure you’re funny, do you have comedy aspirations? A screenplay? Acting in mainstream Hollywood? Bitter and resentful stand up?
Soren: I’d like to write for television or film but they both seem pretty insistent that you have to start with a script, which is something I do not have. Between editing, writing and filming for Cracked I stay pretty busy. I also don’t reserve any of my ideas for my own private projects because I know that I will disappoint myself by never using them. So every idea that I think is good or funny, I will adapt to fit a project for Cracked.
I did write a book that will probably never see the light of day though. It’s a dark comedy about a family that self destructs one summer in the desert. There’s also some child abduction and dog mutilations in it, it’s hilarious.
HT: Was there a moment in your past when you realized you were funnier than other people? When did you decide you’d do something like this for a living?
Soren: I’m not one of those people who can say that I knew I wanted to be a comedian from the first joke I ever told, or that I wanted to be a writer from the first time I ever held a pen (I also think a lot of those people are liars). When I was a kid I wanted to be a baseball player or an archeologist. Kids don’t know what they want. They’re fickle and they only know the names of like, five jobs.
I really discovered that comedy was fun and something I was good at in high school Spanish classes. We would have to splinter into groups to perform vignettes using whatever new vocabulary we learned. I would fixate in a very neurotic way on making them as funny as possible at the sacrifice of everything else. I didn’t care about proper conjugation or syntax, I just wanted our skit to be the funniest one. I wasn’t very good at Spanish so mostly I just wrote five-minute fight sequences with two lines of dialogue or I would make all the characters cats so they couldn’t speak anyway. Looking back I can see how that might have been humiliating for everyone else but I thought I was a goddamn genius.
Those vignettes had the same appeal for me as sketch comedy would later in my life; I was making rudimentary sketches without realizing that’s that they were called. It wasn’t until college that I really understood that people could write and perform comedy for a profession and even then a job doing Internet comedy didn’t really exist yet.
HT: If you weren’t writing and making videos, what would you most likely be doing with your time?
Soren: I don’t really know since archeologist and baseball player aren’t viable options anymore; age has closed a lot of doors for me. I guess I would probably try to get a job as a backcountry guide. I do a few hiking and camping trips each year and I like picturing myself leading people through the harsh wilderness, probably wearing a flannel shirt over some long underwear. Is that something guides do or am I thinking of lumberjacks?
HT: Who are the funniest comedians working today? Funniest of all time?
Soren: I love Stephen Colbert. I feel like he’s responsible for a resurgence in satire. His persona is so clearly developed and consistently funny that a lot of people who don’t think about comedy everyday finally have something to look at and say, “Oh, I get it. That guy is making a point.”
As far as authors, I like David Sedaris and Dave Eggers a lot because I like the way they treat writing as a way to legitimize their most humiliating and awful life experiences. Both of them are fantastic at finding those crucial moments that are specific to their pasts but also universal. I think every writer wants to find those.
But the comedians who had the biggest influence on me and more or less shaped my sense of humor growing up were The Kids in the Hall. I loved everything about that show and even now I feel like it holds up. They had entire sketches without a single joke in them and the cast played the characters so earnestly. Without live audience laughter, those sketches could have just as easily been dramatic short films. I don’t feel like The Kids in the Hall ever went for easy jokes and that makes the audience feel smarter too. I liked that.
HT: Trash talk time – what comedians suck and need to pack it in? Besides Carlos Mencia and Dane Cook.
Soren: I have a hard time saying there are comedians who just flat out suck because a) it’s more likely that I just don’t get whatever they’re doing, and b) I’m not nearly successful enough to burn all those bridges. That said, there is one comedian who I think is not only bad at his job, but bad for comedy as a whole: Tucker Max. I said before that every writer wants to find those moments in his/her own life that are universal, but the moments that Max chooses are so seedy and so glorified for being seedy that he is helping to create a culture of awful people. I think he appeals to humanity at its worst and then insists that it’s OK to live that way perpetually.
HT: In recent years comedy, for better or worse, has crossed just about every line imaginable – jokes about the Holocaust, rape, deviant sexuality, 9/11 and pretty much anything else you can imagine – are there lines comedy should never cross or is comedy necessary to help us deal with and open up about things that are otherwise too awful to discuss?
Soren: No, I don’t think there are topics comedy shouldn’t broach. Either everything is fair game or nothing is. But I do think that all comedy makes a point, and that comedians have to be aware of what they’re saying through their humor. There’s a lot of power in comedy and it’s easy to be reckless with that power because there’s also no accountability; we can always hide behind the fact that it was just a joke. With things like 9/11 or the holocaust or rape, a comedian walks a fine line between defusing the tension around the topic and devaluing it. Not everyone can tell the difference between the two so comedians take a lot of heat for touching subjects that are taboo. But as long as the intent is always to defuse then I don’t think anything is off limits.
HT: That last question was deep – what’s your favorite dick joke?
Soren: The one where I take it out of my pants and pretend to be allergic to it. That one has been my favorite since I was a child.
HT: Most ignorant thing you’ve ever been told about your writing or video work?
Soren: I like to write satire so I generally expect some people to be mad when they take what I say literally. But every once in awhile I’ll say something sexist, racist or bigoted and people will not only take it literally but agree with it. Those are the most ignorant comments I get. I did an article about trying to save a Suicide Girl from porn in which I really just end up objectifying her for 1,500 words. In the comments I got a few people saying, “Yeah! Finally a guy who gets it!” It’s the worst because that kind of misunderstanding makes me complicit in their ignorance.
HT: Zombies Have Taken Over The Land, You Have To Arm Yourself. What Zombie-killing Weapons Do Carry With You as You Roam the Post-Apocalyptic Wastelands.
Soren: I’d want a crossbow. I’m choosing that over a gun because you can’t reuse bullets when you pry them out of a zombie’s head. It also doesn’t rely on gas, electricity, or gunpowder so it seems like a weapon that would be fairly easy to maintain and use forever. I think I read somewhere that crossbows aren’t great over long distances, but I don’t have to be closer than 15 feet for it to be effective either. That feels like a comfortable distance for me.
Also, now that I think about it. I’d like two crossbows in case I miss with the first one; I don’t want to have to spend all that time reloading or chasing down my arrow. Maybe a third crossbow couldn’t hurt in case there’s more than one zombie in that Banana Republic where I’m getting my clothes.
Wait. OK, 8 crossbows. That feels like it should do it. That way I have one for each day of the week and a special one for holidays. It’s important to keep traditions up in post-apocalyptic worlds so that you don’t get depressed, especially around Christmas.