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Tucker Max: Belligerent Genius and Gonzo Incarnate

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published in the UCR Highlander 11/28/05

If Hunter S. Thompson had found this site, he probably wouldn’t have killed himself. I say this about
TuckerMax.com
because there is little else that so fully embodies the Good Doctor’s message of self-destruction and indulgence.

The design and utility of the site, along with the subtle insertion of truly skilled artistry is impressive but in the end, totally irrelevant. His enormous traffic (some 10 million visitors a year), popular messageboard and eclectic collection of like-minded writers all pales in comparison to the stellar content.

Hunter S. Thompson often wrote of man’s descent into primal behavior as an escape from both internal pain and the crushing pressure of a mundane external world. Tucker Max embraces this ethic to hilarious extremes and like his gonzo predecessors, contributes to the society from which he takes so much by writing of his experiences.

You can dismiss him as a joke, an internet fad or a pompous jackass, but sooner or later, you’ll come around. The stories are long and they are addictive to the point of causing dangerously low productivity. One story leads to two and three leads to hours in front of the computer.

Let’s face it: text has never looked very kindly on humor, but this collection of youthful indiscretions and drunken angst stands as a bright exception.

Try it and believe me, you’ll find that the story about the time you and your buddy “got totally trashed and were pretty sure the cashier at Wendy’s was on to you” or when you “got high and ate 6 bags of Cheetos” aren’t as funny when you write them down.

Stories about drinking, vandalism, and women have always screamed “you had to be there” but somehow Max’s are different. Both the overall quality of the experience and the prose that describes it combine to ward off the juvenile nature that tales of debauchery so often fall victim to.

Context and style are certainly integral to the success of his writing, but that’s not to say his exploits wouldn’t stand on their own. One would be hard-pressed to find anything more rife with comedic potential than a drunk fighting a hockey mascot or Duke law graduate vomiting on a dog. Nor is there a more qualified person to relay such a message than a man who, out of necessity, carries a tape-recorder to accurately recall the belligerence that flows from his toxic stupor.

Humor, like his patented Tucker Max Death Mix (Red Bull, Gatorade and Everclear), flows seamlessly through the bloodstream of his work. If you can’t remember the last time you actually “laughed out loud” it’s probably because little on the internet actually justifies it. Max, however, earns each and every laugh with bulimia inducing fat-jokes, shameless sexual conquests and general psychosis.

He doesn’t just do what you wish you could do, he does what you wouldn’t even begin dream of and says what you wouldn’t dare think.

It is from this that his message becomes so universally relatable, even if your life doesn’t resemble his at all. A love of alcohol isn’t required to respect a man who lives life on his own terms and is wildly successful at it. A steady girlfriend or a hatred of college-whores doesn’t prevent the inevitable entertainment that stems from dangerous overindulgence and megalomania.

Again, there is the tie to Thompson, who too achieved the cult-status that comes from a life of excess and intelligence.

“Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men’s reality. Weird heroes and mold-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ‘the rat race’ is not yet final,” Thompson once wrote.

Max’s site and success stands as inspiration to those who’ve grown wary of a system that rewards stagnation and embraces the unoriginal. He’s a self-absorbed asshole, but at least he’s himself. Unlike musicians or actors who stand apart rather than behind their work, his life and his craft are one, creating a single refreshingly genuine character.

Despite its propensity for ignoring quality and promoting garbage, Hollywood has begun to take notice. With a looming book release and a screenplay under his belt along with an infamous profile on MTV, Max doesn’t appear to be all talk.

His site rests comfortably among the top 15,000 most visited places on the web, and is the keynote attraction in the “Festering Ass.com” network of bloggers and artists. All of which generates a self-estimated “six-figure income” from ads and merchandise sales.

As an internet writer he belongs to an elite class who have shied away from imitation and in the process created an entirely new genre of media. His delivery is superb—he sits on the cusp of a revolution—but it would be nothing without content.

In this rare instance, he stands apart as both a literary and business genius. Success on a massive scale isn’t likely for Tucker Max it’s impending, so you might as well become a fan before its cliché.

————————

Let me know what you guys think. Check his site out too, its amazing.


Ryan Clark Holiday.com

Ryan Clark Holiday.com/Blog

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  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    “text has never looked very kindly on humor”

    uh-huh. Tuckermax doesn’t grow on you, it wears.

    it’s mindless and panders to the worst in males-female relations.

    this got published in the highlander? I must have all kinds of wrong ideas about what college newspapers or columnists are about compared to what they used to be about, oh last year.

    This is a sad admission on your part and lowers my expectation of your posts to zero. You’ve lost this reader. click.

  • http://evilofficepolitics.blogspot.com T

    Whoa! Easy on the Hunter associations. I do enjoy Tucker Max, and his friends at Gorillamask.com, but I fall short of calling him Hunter incarnate.

    For anyone who was a Gonzo fan, from the early days when he wrote “The Rum Diaries”, to his later works in Rolling Stone, Tucker is no replacement.

    Hunter was a voice for destruction, indulgence, and changing perception, this is true, but he was also a keen critic of politics, society, and justice. He was not a one note pony.

    Sex and booze is funny, and Tucker has a knack for keeping you held in his antics, but his life will never reach the serious journalistic praise and awareness that Hunter did. So please be careful when making these types of associations as they lessen the real meaning of Gonzo journalism, and they lessen a great person-one Hunter S.

  • http://www.ryanclarkholiday.com ryan

    ————–
    This is a sad admission on your part and lowers my expectation of your posts to zero. You’ve lost this reader. click.
    ————–
    thank god, you have been nothing but annoying.

    —————
    Whoa! Easy on the Hunter associations. I do enjoy Tucker Max, and his friends at Gorillamask.com, but I fall short of calling him Hunter incarnate.
    —————

    I’m not sure what the problem with associations is.

    I didn’t call him a Hunter incarnate, I called him a gonzo incarnate. As in gonzo journalist, as in a writer who stylistically puts themselves in their work rather than apart from it.

    —————
    Sex and booze is funny, and Tucker has a knack for keeping you held in his antics, but his life will never reach the serious journalistic praise and awareness that Hunter did. So please be careful when making these types of associations as they lessen the real meaning of Gonzo journalism, and they lessen a great person-one Hunter S.
    —————-

    His life will never reach the journalistic seriousness of Hunter’s but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hold certain social importance. To me, as I wrote in the article, his message is about being yourself and living on your own terms. I’m not sure what the problem with that is.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    “You can dismiss him as a joke, an internet fad or a pompous jackass, but sooner or later, you’ll come around.”

    They said the same thing about Maddox.

  • gonzo marx

    “gonzo” incarnate?

    bah!

    with the exception of those unfamiliar, or the miserable hydroenchephaletic pigfuckers….all know it is me who is Incarnate!

    after all, ancestry proves it out…grandma was a hotel maid stuck in a suite with all 3 Marx brothers for a weekend, which produced Mom…who was stuck in a hotel room with Hunter for Bog only knows how long…

    then me

    but, i guess i will have to read some of this website, just to see what the hoopla is about

    however, let me just say this…it is apparent to me that so many who decry Hunter as not being a “real” Journalist or never having his “facts” correct are always the first to believe the worst when it comes to his tales of “indulgence”

    allegory, metaphor and parable, stir in some irony and satire…that’s Entertainment

    what HST did was far more tan just overindulge and tell Stories about that…

    that’s like saying George Carlin only does bad language and fart jokes

    nuff said?

    Excelsior!

  • Temple Stark

    In my two comments to your posts?

    I’ve been right. Hope you’re not a journalism student. Seriously. If you are, drop it. Thin-skinned as well as base-simplistic? It’s not a good combination for the job.

  • http://evilofficepolitics.blogspot.com T

    Ryan, easy now. You have to accept people are going to be testy when it comes to comparisons. You made the association of Hunter and Tucker, an association is a collection of two or more similar items.

    I like Tucker. I have spent many hours reading his stories. I especially like the one about the first time anal with his friend hiding in the closet. That one made me laugh almost to the point of pissing myself.

    I’m glad you reviewed him but take him for what he is, a young guy with a good sense of story telling. That’s it.

    And really, your definition of Gonzo is a little off. By your terms, any journalist who is involved in their story is a gonzo journalist, since they are living their work first hand. Not true.

    But all that aside. I’m glad you covered him.

  • Temple Stark

    I can’t get by the stupidity of this statement:

    “text has never looked very kindly on humor”

    Anyone who can write that and believe it is, well at the level of a Tucker Max fan apparently.

    What does “text has never looked very kindly on humor” mean Ryan?

    Is your next column on fart jokes?

    IIRC I gave you what you asked for on your last post – constructive criticism (more gently then here). You ignored it, didn’t reply last time I looked.

    You are willing to learn aren’t you Ryan? What do you learn from TuckerMax that you would attempt a comparison to Hunter S. (who I called a coward when he committed suicide so I’m no defender or even that much of an admirer. I consider him a characature).

    That also is a not-smart thing to do.

    Questions. Lots of ’em. Sorry to be “annoying” you with them. I get that way when I think of the next crop of journalists.

  • http://www.ryanclarkholiday.com ryan

    When I say that text has not looked very kindly on humor, I simply mean it is one of the hardest genres to pull laughs from. Comedy, like Tucker’s, is especially hard in a literary form and there is a shortlist of people who can sucessfully pull it off.

    Gonzo Marx–If you think that I believe HST only legacy is in drug use and excess you couldnt be more wrong. While HST’s skill lay in illustrating the absurdities and foolishness of many of our social or political beliefs, Tucker Max succeeds in advocating both uniqueness and brunt honesty.

    To me, thinking his site is only about drunken belligence is equal to thinking Fight Club was about violence.

  • gonzo marx

    fair enuff Ryan..and as i said, i will have to go and look at the site now

    my comment on such was based solely on what i read in your Post…if i misunderstood what you were trying to get across , well…mea culpa

    as for Humor in text….try Twain

    heh

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.troublewaits.com Robin Plan

    I don’t usually do this, and it took an hour to get the comments to work here, but dude, this is some serious shock and yes, anger coming at you from a writer and reader who knows transgressive humor when she sees it. For you to suggest that “HI, I’m Tucker and I’m an ass-hole” would have kept Hunter from blowing his brains out is just sad. The persona is obvious, hackneyed, and tries way too hard in a tired, dated Andrew Dice Clay fashion.
    You review creative sites? Good, you’re interested, that’s a start. Now have a look at mine, I’m not asking you to write about it, just have a look at how it’s done, compare and contrast, get hip to what it is you seem to be looking for and raise your standards.

  • http://www.ryanclarkholiday.com ryan

    I’ll your site the second it stops looking like you designed it in 1992.

    Has for transgressive, that was my point. Its primal and its raw, but at least its real.

  • Sam Watson

    ouch.

  • http://evilofficepolitics.blogspot.com T

    Ryan, I guess that means you won’t be “getting hip to what it seems you are looking for?”

    Too bad. I heard “hip” was “cool”, sorry “bad”, in 1992.

  • J

    This guy is just a cronie of Tucker Max. He wrote it to get Max’s approval. Here is the thread where they discuss the review:

  • http://www.ryanclarkholiday.com ryan

    You caught me, I’m a cronie.

    I wrote the review, had it published entirely independant of Max and then after he saw it, he posted it.

    I guess that makes me a cronie. Idiot.

  • JL

    Good stuff.

  • the duke

    I’m surprised as fuck that no one agreed with him. I am a massive Thompson fan, have read almost all his books, and know exactly where he is coming from. He didn’t say that Tucker was Thompson incarnate (gonzo is the style he wrote in, based on combining 1st person narrative with journalistic quest for truth (1)), he just made a comparison, and a justified one at that. They are both insightful and intelligent, and the ability to tell a story in that style well is beyond rare, especially in internet writing. And yes, Hunter’s writing is beyond exceptional, completely in a realm its own and no one is denying that. The comparison, I think, (and correct me if I’m wrong Ryan) is in the ability to be completely true to themselves in their writing, regardless of the consequences.

    Fine, he went a little too far by opening with “If Hunter S. Thompson had found this site, he probably wouldn’t have killed himself.” However, The main vibe coming off the posts is “how could you compare Tucker Max to God?” Blind adoration is foolish; recognize the similarities.

    Lastly, Temple Stark, what the fuck is with calling Thompson “a coward”? Why does committing suicide make someone a coward? Just because he couldn’t face living another 20 years of a life he didn’t want to live does not make him a coward. Thompson was as close to fearless as the wise get.

    (1) “Central to gonzo journalism is the notion that journalism can be more truthful without strict observance of traditional rules of factual reportage. The best work in the genre is characterized by a novelistic twist added to reportage, with usual standards of accuracy subordinated to catching the mood of a place or event.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzo_journalism)

  • http://www.ryanclarkholiday.com ryan

    Duke, you picked up the theme perfectly. Tucker isn’t HST, but their motivations and in my opinion, their message, is similar.

    I’m a huge Thompson fan, so if I thought the comparision was insulting, I wouldn’t have made it.

    Tucker agreed as well, and that’s why he liked the article.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment–a well thought out one at that. Glad someone understands what “gonzo” means.

  • Amara Edblad

    Check this out – ASU Entertainment Law Students Association blog about their interview with Tucker on Thursday.

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/669359949/produce-tucker-maxs-i-hope-they-serve-beer-on-broa?ref=email christopher c sanderson

    Wait until you see it all simulated on stage.

  • Hunter S. Thompson > TuckerMax

    If you think Hunter S. Thompson’s message was simply one of indulgence and self destruction, you are sorely missing the point. Tucker Max writes about getting messed up, without any of the social commentary or beauty the good Doctor could muster.