I wrote recently about internet star George “Maddox” Ouzounian and how he’d built a miniature empire on destroying virtually anything through elaborate rants on either his web site, The Best Page In The Universe, or through his books. He had fallen off the face of the planet until recently with the release of his new book, I Am Better Than Your Kids. I wanted to chat with the man himself about where he’s been, what he’s doing, and even what phone he’s rocking these days.
FleshEatingZipper: First off, how the hell are you? You’ve got a new book out, you’ve had this resurgence, how’s life for Maddox?
Maddox: I have to be honest with you: fucking great. But it always is.
FEZ: Let’s go back in time a bit. You’ve always had this penchant for doing things your way, which meant usually doing things on your own. From the site to the illustrations, on and on, it seems like Maddox has always been a one-man show. Was there a philosophy behind it?
M: Yes: other people will fuck it up. I guess it’s a more crass way of saying “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” To give you a recent example, I made the mistake of trusting my publisher to help me out this time around with my new book, and they dropped the ball spectacularly every step of the way: their design of my book was terrible and I had to page it myself while my friend, Marie Barr, did the layouts & artistic direction. Their go-to production company for the trailer was terrible and I had to take care of it myself by hiring friends who did a kickass job. And their marketing ideas were not only terrible (they wanted to create Post-it notes to give out as swag for the book), but they didn’t even follow through with them. I’m very independent when it comes to writing and work, but I’m not so stubborn as to let the quality of the work suffer when there’s something I can’t do.
For example, I started illustrating The Alphabet of Manliness myself by picking up some books on anatomy and drawing, but I realized that I couldn’t get up to speed in time to complete the book (it was taking me six to eight hours per illustration). So I put out my feelers and hired my fans to help. Their work kicked ass, but it required lots of direction. For every illustration in the book, there were two to three pages of notes (on average), with sketches I drew, to describe what I wanted.
FEZ: Do you think making Maddox into a ‘brand’ of sorts, complete with ghost writers, would’ve allowed you to get out of your telemarketing programming position sooner? You were very successful in the early aughts.
M: Yes, but the writing would have suffered. In all the years I’ve written, I’ve only read one or two rants on the Internet that sound like they were written in my voice. One of them was the rock, paper, scissors rant that went viral a while back. It looked so much like something that I had written that I searched my site to see if I’d done it, but I couldn’t find the page and I can’t remember if I did.
The reason most people don’t write in my voice is because my writing isn’t an isolated form of expression from a guy who’s just trying to vent, it’s an extension of me and all the rules I have set up for everything I do in life. My friends think it’s borderline neurotic. I think it’s genius. I have rules and reasons for everything I do, from the ice cubes I use, seating on a couch, and even the garbage I throw away. For example: I don’t throw away anything that rots in the garbage. Instead, I throw it away in a bag I keep in the freezer until I’m ready to take out the regular garbage. That’s because if you throw away fruit or meat refuse in a trash can that’s empty, it will sit there rotting for a week or two until you finally take out the garbage, all while attracting fruit flies to your kitchen. I started doing this about three years ago, and haven’t had a problem with fruit flies or a stank apartment since. Neurotic? Maybe, but it makes sense.
FEZ: Your web site has always had this rudimentary layout for reasons of efficiency and such. When I picked up your first book, The Alphabet of Manliness (TAoM), I noticed the layout was a bit more sophisticated, especially with all the fantastic drawings that you hired artists on for. I haven’t had a chance to read I’m Better Than Your Kids, but I noticed it’s even further in that direction. Do you believe there’s a difference between what you do on your web site and what you do in print? Have you visited the thought of updating your website?
M: The difference between web and print is that web content can be dynamically adjusted to your display dimensions, whereas print cannot. Also, the audience for my book writing is larger than my website. The site for I Am Better Than Your Kids was programmed from scratch, all by hand, and was made to appeal to the audience of that book, which is much larger than the audience for my website. People have come to expect certain things from modern websites: a page index system, comments, voting, trending posts and navigation bars. And that’s the kind of site I made for IABTYK. That kind of design doesn’t make sense for The Best Page in the Universe because A) the posts are so varied, and B) nobody gives a shit.
That said, it is time for a redesign of my site. Modern displays cause the text to span too far horizontally, so I’ve started experimenting with constraining margins, and a few other CSS gimmicks. People have always questioned my ability to design a website because mine looks so shitty, but they need only to look at the sites I made for TAoM or IABTYK to see a sample of what I’m capable of. It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I don’t care. People come to my site for the writing, not text boxes with rounded corners and drop shadows. Nobody ever goes to a website, reads shitty content, and says, “huh, you know what? The writing sucks, but I’ll be damned if those aren’t the smoothest gradients I’ve ever seen. Bookmarked!”
FEZ: Now Alphabet of Manliness came out in 2006 and the book tour followed (I don’t remember a Colorado Springs date…) and then you disappeared. In 2010, you stated you disappeared to develop Manformation for SpikeTV, but that still leaves a lot of unaccounted time. Where the fuck were you?
I got burnt out after TAoM. The hectic book schedule almost killed me. At twenty-seven years old, I gained weight, lost hair, got high blood pressure and cholesterol. I was on my way to my death bed because I worked so hard on that book (six months, consecutively, no breaks; not even Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s). If a book that almost kills its author isn’t fucking manly, I don’t know what is. I took a break for a while to get my life back in order, but I never stopped writing. I write all the time, but I don’t always publish what I write. Also, I worked on a whole bunch of projects in Hollywood that never took off because this industry is finicky and everyone is out to fuck you full time. I even wrote for a TV show for a while, and I absolutely hated it. I worked with some really cool people, but I encountered a shit-ton of censorship. It was around that time I realized that my dream of writing professionally had finally come true, but it sucked because it meant that other people — who were often unqualified — were telling me how to write. I realized that what I thought I wanted was what I had all along: my website where I can write whatever I want, unrestricted and unrestrained by anyone. And that’s where I am today; a rebirth of sorts, where all I really want to do is write for the web. I don’t even think I’ll write another book. If I do, it’ll be independent — not because I encountered censorship in publishing, but because the publishing industry is resting on its laurels, and doesn’t deserve to stay in business. They need strong writers way more than they realize it, but they aren’t doing anything to nurture them. The good news is you’ll see a lot more independent writers self-publishing. The bad news is, you’ll be seeing a lot more Snooki bios until then.