Recently we had the opportunity to metaphorically sit down with Cracked.com editor and writer John Cheese to pick his brain about some important topics, like writing, Mortal Kombat, and blumpkins. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Let’s start with the basics: How did you get into writing?
I started writing in high school, but not for pay. Just these ridiculous Stephen King ripoff horror stories that I’d pass around to my friends, and they’d politely tell me that they were good while trying to avoid eye contact so I wouldn’t see them rolling. Around 1997, my best friend (David Wong) and I started writing comedy on a website that he owned called Pointless Waste of Time, and with the exceptions of a few personal alcohol-fueled breakdowns, I’ve never stopped.
2. What prompted you to take the plunge and try to make writing for the Internet your career?
That happened by accident. I have chronic back problems that put me out of physical work without notice. One day I was working, the next, I wasn’t able to walk to the bathroom without help. In a panic, I called Wong and asked if I could submit a couple of articles to the site so I could at least have some sort of income while I looked for another line of work. It turns out that all those years of writing comedy for fun were a viable marketing commodity, and Cracked eventually hired me as a weekly columnist. That back injury was the best catastrophe of my life.
3. What is your favorite piece of your own writing?
Five Reasons Life Actually Does Get Better. I typically write about some pretty dark topics, and I think it was needed to sort of lighten the mood a little and let my readers know that life isn’t all bullshit and gloom. That the point of all my other articles is that, though life is filled with down sides, that doesn’t dictate who you are and how much the world really needs you as an individual to grow and succeed. The response from that article was incredible.
4. Speaking of response, when you began including anecdotal evidence and personal experiences in your articles, such as 5 Ways You Know It’s Time to Get Married and 5 Bad Ideas for Dealing With Bullies You Learned in Movies, what was the response? That is, could people relate and empathize or did you get myriad internet tough guys saying, “Yeah, well I would have mashed their throats in with my hambone sized fists?”
The response was awesome all around the board. The only article that I ever had a problem with was the one on Pro-Legalization Arguments That Aren’t Helping. And (this will shock you) the people who were complaining were all legalization advocates. Like they lived their lives according to what they smoked. That article brought about some of the stupidest people I’ve ever talked to. And the great thing is that I’m not anti-pot. I even said so in the article. Several times. But they were so offended that someone would dare insult their weed, they just lost their shit.
5. What is the funniest/stupidest response you’ve ever received for one of your own articles?
I wrote an article about unhelpful people you meet in every hospital. It was pointing out those really bad nurses who don’t really have any business being in a hospital. Several times in that article, I point out that I’m not talking about the actual nurses who do their job well and who love the industry. And I point out that I could never do what they do in a million years.
However, I had a couple of nurses message me in a total rage about how I had no idea what they go through in a day and blah, blah, blah. So I asked them if they were the types of people I was talking about… because if they were they needed to do the world a favor and quit their jobs on the spot. I told them to go back and read it with a clear head and take note of the spots where I gave normal nurses their due props. Later they came back and apologized for flying off the handle.
I later discovered an online petition from a band of nurses, demanding that I apologize to them and that Cracked fire me. I showed it to the editors, including Editor in Chief Jack O’Brien, and we all laughed pretty hard at it. One of my readers later started his own petition to get me fired as a joke, and we blew away the nurses’ number of signatures.
6. After which article did you realize, “Hey, I’m fucking e-famous now,” and immediately begin emptying bottles of Cristal on stark-naked, ample, undulating women’s asses/asshole regions as a result?
5 Ways We Ruined the Occupy Wall Street Generation. Shortly after that went live, Huffington Post ended up linking to it. It then made the front page of the actual OWS website. A few days after that, Newt Gingrich used one of my points as a platform in his campaign. The thing about that is, it doesn’t matter whether people support him or not—the fact that he was using one of my points as a political rally… that’s crazy.
Other than that specific article, it was actually a gradual thing. When I no longer had the time to answer each email and forum private message individually, it felt different. Surreal.
7. Do you in fact smell like any type of cheese? Perhaps a nice provolone or swiss? If so, have you ever made any of your sexual conquests refer to you as “The Big Cheese,” in bed? Or is the name derivation not based on that terrible joke at all and am I in fact just a huge asshole for poking fun at the nice family name your progenitors had chosen to distinguish themselves by?
My real name is actually Mack Leighty, but I do smell like cheese several times per week because I’m big into cooking, and you can make pretty much anything taste awesome if you put enough cheese on it.
8. If you and your wife-to-be were swingers and she had varicose veins, would you try to use them as some sort of bizarre selling point or just never take her out in public. Ever?
She’d kill me for even answering that. But I will. I’d tell people they were sex road maps. And all roads on this map lead to Hunchville.
9. What would you rather do, and you have to pick one or a midget in an executioner’s mask strategically stabs you with a catheter until you slowly bleed to death: Receive a brutal anal fucking from Shaquille O’Neal for five minutes right after he was done with a basketball game? I’m talking full on, balls penduluming against your taint kind of intensity. (Back when his knees could support his own weight) Or give Rosie O’Donnell a blumpkin for fifteen minutes?
I’d probably do the blumpkin thing. Mainly because I think Rosie could benefit from it.
10. Do you think Goro, the final boss from the first Mortal Kombat, has four nuts and/or four dicks in parallel to his four arms? (This question courtesy of my little brother. And by little, I mean he’s a 25 year old man.)
I would think so because his arms are massive. And I couldn’t imagine them all getting equally conditioned without some major, simultaneous masturbation going on.
I guess he’s right. His forearms are all pretty equally jacked.
11. Is writing on the Internet as thankless a job for you as it looks and has proven to have been on a consistent basis for us? And which article or piece of writing that you’ve completed, if any, made you think afterward… “You know, I actually made a positive difference in someone’s life today.”
Before Cracked, I would say that yes, it is thankless. But since working for Cracked, I can’t say that. I get constant messages from people, thanking me for my work, and it’s incredible. The one that spurred it all was Things They Forgot to Tell You About Quitting Drinking. Since that article, I’ve had literally thousands of people send me thanks you’s. People telling me their own stories of survival and how my articles on addiction have helped them and their families. Those articles make me feel like I’m doing something important, and that’s more valuable to me than the actual check.
12. How do you deal with criticism from anonymous commenters? Somebody once called me a “fagmo” and said I “couldn’t write [my] way out of Bibi Jones’ ass.” I didn’t leave my bed for a week.
I don’t read the comments section under any circumstances. I did on a guest column back in 2008, and I’ve never been back. Even when I’m checking my article to make sure there were no coding mistakes, I don’t scroll past the “Next” button because I don’t want to even accidentally see what’s down there. In my experience, comments sections are the scourge of the Internet. They’re generally the most hateful, unintelligent cocksuckers on the planet, and their opinions change exactly nothing about the way I write. The things I write about life can be 100% proven, simply from my dramatically improved existence—my escape from addiction, poverty, and abuse. It’s a fact, not a theory. Nothing that they type can disprove that. Their opinions simply don’t matter.
13. You’re a big wrestling fan. Do you think we’ll ever get back to the golden days of the Attitude Era, where every episode was “must-watch” rather than “must try to stay awake until 11pm”? Does CM Punk vs. Johnny Ace hold any water compared to Austin vs. McMahon? Were you disappointed when the “It Begins” prophet wasn’t Disco Inferno?
I think they’ll take a stab at going back to the Attitude Era, but not until they move all of their shows to the WWE Network. I know they haven’t said anything about moving RAW and SmackDown to that channel yet, but I think it’s inevitable that they will. I think it’ll take a huge ratings plunge to make them get back into that era, but it’ll happen. We’re already starting to see it with CM Punk starting to throw in lines like, “I’ll beat you like a bitch.”
14. Thanks a lot for the interview. Finally, do you have any advice for those trying to make a name for themselves as Internet writers besides “try to get on Cracked?”
Write in as many places as you possibly can. And always have something to say. Don’t just write “5 Ways Justin Bieber Sucks.” Tell us what that means for our society. What does it mean for the entertainment industry? What does it say about musical evolution? Always think bigger. Everyone knows about the things in life that suck. They want to hear how that’s directly affecting them.