Tucker Max: Belligerent without booze

The Internet icon, author and funnyman needs to learn how to take a joke

Tatum Fjerstad

Tucker Max makes a living by being an asshole. And then he writes about it.

He uses the stories on his Web site www.tuckermax.com, and his new book “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” to disrespect women and abuse alcohol. Through it all he keeps a charismatic shamelessness that attracts high volumes of male fans and female followers.

He spits insults, says he has loveless sex with countless women and exploits people’s privacy. But apparently, one thing’s sacred – himself.

I interviewed the 30-year-old Duke University law school graduate by phone. As I dialed the numbers, I was excited. This frat boy has become such a phenomenon in drinking circles that his name is now an adjective: Drinkers proudly boast they’re “going to get Tucker Max drunk tonight.” I expected Max to be self-deprecating and funny. But he wasn’t. He was temperamental, easily offended and defensive.

For living (and working) such a morally loose lifestyle, Max takes himself way too seriously.

First, as a self-proclaimed narcissist, Max demands that if you’re going to ask him a question, you must do your research – and by research, I mean scour his past like you’re writing an honors thesis. Ask a question he’s answered anywhere on his Web site and be prepared for Max’s wrath.

Last month he was touring and signing “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” which spent some time on The New York Times best-sellers list. He traveled in a recreational vehicle and relied on students to publicize him on college campuses. He kept a running tally on his Web site of books signed, drinks consumed, photos taken and – of course – women conquered. The closest he came to the University of Minnesota was his weekend stay in Madison, but he couldn’t make the jaunt to Minneapolis.

When I asked him why he didn’t come here, he got pissed.

“Did you not see the part about cars and RVs on my blog? I wrote to Iowa and Minnesota students that kept asking me why I wasn’t coming to their school. I didn’t come to Minnesota because it’s too fucking far away.”

I looked back at his Web site after the interview, and I still can’t find that entry. And is Madison really that far away? You did stay there for the entire weekend. Come on Tucker, it’s Wisconsin.

One of his most famous stories, titled “Sushi Pants,” follows Max throughout a night of drinking and blowing into a breathalyzer just to see how drunk he could get. He stops at a sushi joint for nourishment and discovers it’s an underwear party. After hitting on and insulting several girls, he finds himself vomiting in a bush with only a tight pair of boxers barely holding in his “package.” He has a fight with a cop and wakes up the next morning in his car still legally drunk.

The book is a compilation of new and old stories, some long, some short. There are stories strictly about drinking, strictly about fornicating and others are a combination of the two. Max writes conversationally. It’s like reading his journal, and he knows how to tease the reader and give background information in appropriate places. Some stories are gripping and induce guilty laughter, while others drag on.

I’ll proudly admit that after reading the first couple of stories, I thought Max was a pretty funny guy and charming in his own disturbing way. It’s his confidence that makes him attractive, even if he’s confident about the crudest of activities.

But after the fifth and sixth story, I started to feel dirty – and bored. The stories are fantastical and hard to believe but not implausible. He claims to disregard social norms, but instead of disregarding them, he emphasizes them. He lives out the fantasy of a cliché, egotistical, beer-guzzling college man.

After Max closed his book tour March 5, he disconnected his Internet and phone and went on vacation, only to discover upon return that he’d been served legal papers – for the second time. The first time was by Katy Johnson, otherwise known as Miss Vermont, with whom, he says, he hooked up and wrote about. Now he’s being sued for a string of ridiculing posts on his message board about a New Year’s party gone wrong.

But Max doesn’t lie. Or does he? On his Web site he proudly states:

“I am Tucker Max, so of course everything I write about this will be completely candid and truthful. Well, it will be the truth as I see it. Other people often interpret truth differently than I do, but fuck them if they can’t take a joke.”

I might not be as seasoned a drinker as Max is, but I know that after a hard night of partying it’s hard to remember what you did the night before. I wondered about the timelines he uses in his stories. He says he uses a tape recorder and his friends to help him remember. In his book, some stories are written about six years after they happened. He makes reference to the time of day or night things took place, which seem pretty precise.

So I asked if he carries the tape recorder around with him and whips it out to record memorable things.

Max started shouting at me:

“I have a fucking memory. I remember the things that fucking happen to me. No, I don’t sit at a table with a fucking tape recorder out. What kind of idiot do you think I am? Would you sit at a table with a guy that had a tape recorder out for six fucking hours?

“The times are my best guess, and it adds another level to the humor, that’s the only point,” he said.

Then for good measure, he brought out the insults.

“How old are you? 19? (I’m 21.) How many interviews have you done? (I’ve been doing this for two years.) Do you think your readers want to know this shit? Whether I use a tape recorder or not? Your questions are dumb.”

The interview went on for about 20 minutes – mostly in shouts. Max threw insults at his leisure.

I became exhausted and didn’t know what to say or do. You can’t really win with a guy like Tucker Max. So he decided what to do for the both of us.

“You’re wasting my time.”

Click.

Of course he hung up on me. You can’t ask a man who writes about himself and how awesome he is for a living to answer questions that might make him look less credible. I shouldn’t have expected anything more. Or anything less.