Q&A With Louis Writer Vernon Chatman
Vernon Chatman has worked with guys like Louis CK, Conan O’Brien, and Chris Rock. Now, he’s written the book Mindsploitation.
By Ky Henderson
Vernon Chatman is an award-winning writer, producer, and comedian. That’s him, above right, with Louis CK and Pamela Adlon, winning a Writers Guild Award for his work on Louis. He is also, now, the author of a book. Sort of.
Chatman’s book, Mindsploitation, is one big practical joke (or, actually, 50 different practical jokes) played on the companies that students and others pay to write their homework, essays, papers, speeches, and anything else for them. Chatman’s idea was simple: He’d write to these companies making completely preposterous requests, make them jump through hoops to fulfill those requests, and then print their completed assignments: A politician who needs a speech written for him when an unimaginable series of disasters hits his small town of Vittleton. A guy who asks for the answers to a series of increasingly ridiculous philosophical questions to gain some “enlightenmental wisdom.” Someone who’s too lazy to write a eulogy for his own grandmother.
We asked Chatman about the book, whose forward is written by Louis CK.
Was Louis CK your first choice to write the forward?
My first choice in all things is Jesus. But unfortunately, He was murdered shortly after His very existence was totally made up by sad, lonely liars.
There are so many unethical things people do every day. Why did this particular unethical thing inspire you to write a book about it?
The fact that it is unethical doesn’t interest me as much as the fact that this particular industry requires the customer to pay for the privilege of being deprived of his/her own education. And I like pranks where the pranker is the one who gets ripped off. And I am interested in tricking people into making accidental comedy. I wanted to make people write things that are unintentionally hilarious. I wanted to contrive up some uncontrived comedy. Usually, the fact that someone is trying to be funny ruins comedy. I will prove this by intending to be very funny for the rest of this interview, and your profound disappointment in my skills will be final proof of my undeniable brilliance.
You call the people who’ve written these essays “immoral idiots” on the back of the book. Do you really think they’re immoral?
I think everyone is immoral. I believe that the last sliver of morals evaporated from Earth on the day the USA decided to fake the moon. And I won’t stop until the government finally admits that the moon is really a just a big camera designed to catch me skinny dipping with my cat, Horace.
Have you ever cheated on an exam or essay? Or gotten someone to do your homework for you?
I have never done a lick of work myself. I pay people to do the licking for me. I have never NOT cheated. Moments before I was conceived, I turned to the sperm swimming next to me and kneed him in the nuts, just so I could dive in and fertilize that ovum ahead of him. I cheat so much, I even “wrote” a book about “cheating” by paying “immoral idiots” to write it for me.
Do you have a favorite essay in the book?
Picking a favorite essay would be like choosing a favorite child, a choice that NO parent (except my mother) could ever make. BUT … if I had a gun to my throat, I supposed I’d have to say, “Please mother, you’re hurting me.”
What response made you laugh hardest when you first saw it?
No question, the funniest part of the book is the UPC code on the back. The way it looks like tiny prison bars cracks me up. I mean, what kinda criminal would be little enough to fit in such a itty bitty jail? An embezzling caterpillar? A serial raping earwig? A miniature innocent young black male who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Perhaps there is no true justice in that horrible little place, and we were wrong to laugh after all. Shame on you.
Were there initial requests you made that weren’t responded to at all? Or did you ever get responses that made it clear they knew you were putting them on? How many total inquiries would you say you sent out in order to get what’s in the book?
I made sure to only choose companies who were cheap, poorly educated, desperate, and lacking scruples. This whittled it down to just 97 percent of the planet’s businesses. These online companies are the whores of the written word — only difference is that regular prostitutes uniformly refuse my kissy-kissy, no matter how much scratch I offer — but these individuals accepted 99 percent of all the twaddle I plopped on their plates as long as I paid upfront.
Did any of the essays end up impressing you, if even in an unintended way?
While it’s always nice to watch folks grapple with your poppycock, only one of the essays was so unforgettably majestic all my atoms yowled out in pure bliss, changing my life forever — but I don’t remember which one because I was pretty hopped up on bad tacos at the time.
If you found out your kid was using one of these services, would you be more upset about the fact that she was cheating, or that she was doing something so stupid?
My child is 21 months old, so if I caught her using one of these services, I’d be so impressed, I would finally let her out of the trunk of my sweet Camaro Zl1 Performance Sports Vehicle.
What would the punishment be?
I would lock her in the trunk of my other, less sweet Camaro.
You’ve worked with some of the most well-respected comedians in the country. Who turned down your request for a back-of-the-book blurb?
My grandmother told me she’d “rather blurb a donkey’s turd.” I called her bluff and brought her the item (carefully sealed in a Snickers wrapper), which she dubbed “a refreshing, vital, important piece.”