The Year's Best Memoir Is About a Man Who Shot a Porno in a Baskin-Robbins

And was found at a garage sale. And was printed as is. Or so the comedy writer Mike Sacks would like you to believe.

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Sep 15 2018, 5:10am

Photo courtesy of Mike Sacks

Randy S. is quite the character. The 34-year-old inherited a sizable amount of money from his dear Mam-Mam, and then purchased, in his native state of Maryland, "a brand-new, $950,000 six-bedroom town home" that overlooks his dead mother's former farm. He bribes his neighbors to do what he wants. He owns a 2013 Hummer and got vanity plates that read "RNDY82." He's written approximately 200 songs. He built a panic room in his house, where he does his "best sex watching," and has shot a porn parody, Horndog Day, in the back of a Baskin-Robbins. He drinks at chain restaurants. He still goes to spring break. He loves the writing of Dean Koontz, and only the writing of Dean Koontz. His favorite artwork is a framed Redskins jersey. He hates "guy librarians," "homeless people with attitude," and "movies that end with a twist."

His life's so amazing he commissioned an aspiring writer named Noah B. to author a memoir for him—Randy! The Full and Complete Unedited Biography of the Amazing Life and Times of Randy S!—and published it himself. Luckily for us, the book has been unearthed, discovered by comedy writer Mike Sacks at a suburban Maryland garage sale. Sacks is now releasing it to the public via his book imprint, Sunshine Beam Publishing—which, he explains, he created primarily to publish stuff no one else would publish. Sounds great, right? It is.

Only Sacks made the whole thing up.

If you know what Sacks is about, this is less weird than it might appear. A well-known comedy writer, his work has appeared in the pages of Vanity Fair, and in books like Randy!, he ups the absurdity, which can sometimes go beyond the page. And it's not his first time around this block. His inaugural project on Sunshine Beam was the equally satirical Stinker Lets Loose!, another high-concept premise that saw Sacks releasing an out-of-print novelization of a 1970s action film that heavily involved tractor trailers (think Smokey and the Bandit), also named Stinker Lets Loose! (The audio version of the fake book based on the fake movie features the voices of Jon Hamm, Paul F. Tompkins, and Andy Daly.)

Randy! is Sacks's second out of his imprint. It's also something of a performance art project: Sacks runs Randy S.'s Twitter feed—and, in part of a loose marketing strategy, has been getting in disputes with his own. All of which begs the question: What in the world would drive a guy to write a book he's pretended to have discovered about a writer who's penning a memoir about a suburban bachelor outside of DC?

Below, VICE talks about just that, as well as the state of satire, the comedy industry, the freedom of self-publishing, tricking people, and why everybody should be allowed to create.

VICE: It’s easy to see this not as a sequel, but as a continuation, I suppose, of Stinker Lets Loose!, which operated with a similar—though, in many ways, wildly different—premise. Both Stinker and Randy! were published under your own imprint. Did you found that imprint in order to publish books like this, because there's nowhere else they can be published?
Mike Sacks: No one was interested in Stinker at all. My agent didn't get it. Publishers didn't get it. So I just said, "Fuck it," and I'll put it out myself. And we're living in a time now—if you can write it, edit it, and design it—you can put it out, and it'll be as good, or better, than through publishers, assuming you could even get it published to begin with. Another advantage is when it comes out. You can write it, and put it out whenever you want. You don't have to wait two, three years, like you would with Random House or whatever.

It's basically, like, every fucking book I write. With comedy, with humor in particular, our sensibilities don't match those of agents or editors or publishers. So oftentimes younger editors will like what you've done, but then it goes up the ladder, and the older ones don't necessarily get it. Fine, a lot of people don't get it. But to rely on them to get it is something I want to avoid.

Do you have any plans to tour the book, or do a live rendition or show of sorts? I know you did something for Stinker after it was published, but the concept was certainly different.
Stinker was different, yeah, because it was supposedly this found novelization based on a fictional movie. A lot of people actually thought, including my dad, that Stinker was real—that I was basing it on a real movie, which is, I guess, a good thing. But with Randy!, it's even more removed, because I'm Randy. You know, I play Randy on Twitter—like Randy will get in a fight with me. Last night, Justine Bateman got involved.

I hope this all isn't too confusing. I wrote it, but I am pretending that I found this as a self-published book in Maryland, where I'm from. You know, I just love self-published books.

Who exactly is Randy S.? Where have we seen a person like him before?
So I grew up in Maryland, as I said, and I worked retail from about 15 to 25 in a record store, and I knew people like him. I was very good friends with them. I played softball with them. I went drinking with them. It's a very specific type—maybe not only to Maryland—but Randy is a very specific type of person. I grew up with them. Like, if they had some money, it was spent on framed Redskins jerseys. They went to Ocean City, and got drunk at Club Secrets. I just thought, really, that it be funny to write about this world, because it's obviously not something John Updike is doing.

As we've somewhat covered, the conceit of Randy! is that you discovered his memoir, written by an otherwise young, failed writer, Noah B., at a garage sale and decided to publish it without making any changes. Yard sales are obviously places where people are trying to get rid of stuff without exactly throwing it out: "Another person's trash is another person's treasure." How were you playing off this idea, if you were at all? Why a garage sale?
I like found items. I like shit. I like garbage. I'm more interested in something you can't find in Barnes & Noble, something off the radar. That interests me, more often than not, than supposedly good writing, like a New Yorker short story. I'm just fascinated by it—and I wanted to launch this book from the reality of it already existing in the world. I thought it would be funnier if people just believed this was real—where this could have been something I discovered buried beneath magazines at a Maryland garage sale.

There's something funny about somebody a hundred years from now actually stumbling onto this book at a garage sale and assuming it's real.
[Laughs] Maybe not even a hundred years.

Does that worry you? People actually taking it to be real? It might be easy to, initially.
No. I don't give a shit. Someone asked me recently why I was doing this, and why I wanted to confuse people. I really don't know. I just like it. If it's Andy Kaufman–esque, I always loved that. If someone stumbles on this at a used book store in Ocean City or whatever, and think it's real, I'd be the happiest guy in the world.

With comedy, if it's real, if it's authentic, if the person is not aware of themselves being funny, it becomes funnier. As soon as someone's up on the stage prancing about and trying to be funny, to me it becomes pathetic. So Randy, the character, isn't trying to be funny. He's living his life. And, for this fake memoir, it's a combination of Noah's purple prose applied to a really mediocre person.

Was Noah as the narrator—having it even one more step removed—always the plan, too?
I always wanted to write a Medici-type book. You know, the Medicis in the 15th-century Italy would hire these people to paint them and write about them—the diction was all flowery—and I wanted to do that in the current age and apply it to suburbia and total mediocrity. Randy comes across new money, because his Mam-Mam sold the family farm, and then he moves into a town home on the top of the hill, as if it's a mansion in 15th-century Italy or something. He sort of rules the roost.

But Randy himself, the character, that aspect came later. I had a friend who was a DJ on WSMU in New York, and she had her own show, Why Oh Why, and it was geared toward relationships, and I asked her one day if I could play the world's worst bachelor. So, through improv, Randy was born—he had moved up to New York from Maryland to write ad copy for Quiznos. His tagline, which he kept saying over and over again—he was very proud—was, "Quiz-no. Quiz-yes!" I decided, pretty much then, I had to do some kind of book on this guy. Just the ego on him, man. He's delusional.

Did you intend for Noah to have self-awareness?
Absolutely. A friend of mine, Nathan Rabin, wrote a review of the book, and he questioned whether or not Noah was aware of it. For me, though, it was obvious. Noah was out of work—he didn't want to work retail—and he's being put up for a year and being paid to write about this guy. He obviously knows Randy is an asshole, and he doesn't think anyone's going to read this book. But little does he know that I'm going to discover it and put it out even more widely.

Was Noah modeled off anyone?
Yeah. He's modeled off me. I was living in Maryland and trying to get a job as a writer for many years. And I couldn't do it. In the Maryland area, especially—it's a little different now—but it's a political town, finance-driven. You had to do jobs you didn't want to do. The creativity and comedy didn't really exist, so you had to make do by writing whatever. So I feel for Noah—he's making a living writing something that he has no desire to write. At the same time, he has it pretty easy—except for having to deal with Randy every day.

You had always wanted to be a comedy writer? Not be on radio, or TV?
It was always writing for the printed page for me, because that was all I knew. I didn't know how to be on the radio or TV or any of that. I didn't know any writers, and I didn't know anyone who knew any writers. I was totally sort of free-floating. So the only thing I could do was write for the page, because I had control of that. I eventually wanted to get into TV writing, but this is my main love. At least, at the end of the day, you have a tangible product that I can put on the shelf. It isn't a podcast. It isn't ephemeral, and it won't disappear. If you want to be a writer, I think you want to be making something that can be physically found.

My huge influence growing up was Ian McKaye of Dischord Records, of Fugazi and Minor Threat, who was a local Maryland guy. He didn't know anyone in entertainment. His father worked as a religious reporter for the Washington Post. He lived in a section of DC, which I later lived in, called Glover Park—so completely removed from creativity and the music world, but he created this business aspect, and this creative aspect, of punk that changed music. He put it out his way. He controlled the rights. He put out albums for $5, which I could afford as a kid. You could go see him in concert for $5, all-age shows, and no alcohol. And he's still doing all that, to this day.

I still don't know what the hell I'm doing. I'm way off the beaten track. It confuses everyone. It confuses my family and friends. I just have to do this stuff the way I want to do it. This is all just a way to take my mind off anxiety and depression. If I don't have something to work on writing-wise, I am a bubbling mess. I'm a disaster.

There's a lot discussion today—at least on the internet, where these discussions seem to happen—about comedy’s evolution. This is a broader question, not necessarily related to Randy!, but what do you think is the role of comedy in the present day? What do you think, rather, it should be doing?
I think things change only because people are told things change. And if enough reporters write that things have changed, then they change. But all this talk about it being not comedy any longer, and going up there and being woke, and telling the crowd about your story, that's fine, obviously. It just doesn't necessarily appeal to me from a comedic standpoint.

What I like are Key and Peele. Danny McBride. Ricky Gervais. People who write characters who talk about society, in a way that will last. Like it reminds me of when I was growing up, I never really enjoyed mainstream radio, but I would have to go elsewhere—to alternative record stores, or alternative radio stations. And I kind of think the same thing now, as in mainstream comedy doesn't really interest me. Like Get Out was astonishing—satirical, scary, in tune with the times. It was brilliant, and it'll last.

I was curious, too, on your thoughts about satire today, in this political climate, in the United States and beyond. I'm in not at all a proponent against it—that our reality is too absurd to incorporate satire seems lazy, and a bit of cliché—but do you think it's harder to do so?
Maybe politically, but I'm not a political writer. I'm not into political humor at all. I admire people who can go into work every day and write a Trump joke. But I think the satire of going after the ignorant American is easier than ever. If you're doing character-based comedy, you have more to work with now, sadly, than you ever have. There are endless things you can make fun of. It bothers me, of course, what's happening out there politically, but I think it can attacked from a different angle, instead of just telling a Trump joke.

Is Randy a Trump voter, then?
I think he's more libertarian. I don't think he thinks it matters. I think, even, that he thinks he would do a better job. He's certainly an example of someone out there who's not watching PBS or listening to NPR, or really has a grasp on what the world is going for. And I know a lot of people like that—a lot of people in my family are like that, quite frankly.

There was a specific manager I worked with at the record store in suburban Maryland, who was kind of the model for Randy. It was behind a housing project, in this place called Aspen Hill, just west of DC. This guy—I became very good friends with him—had his viewpoints and way of life. He owned every Aerosmith CD. His book collection was only Dean Koontz or Stephen King. Very mainstream.

Is Randy sad, or just totally blind to himself?
I do think he's sad. It's probably something, though, like 80 percent delusion, and 20 percent sadness. I wish I had that confidence—to call up a crush he had in junior high school and just go visit. But I do think, even through his deluded worldview, that he knows he's not achieving what maybe he should be achieving, or could have been achieving.

The most human aspect of Randy, to me, is the fact that just wants to be remembered, however ridiculously. Would you say that's true?
Yeah. He's no different, really, than a kid scrawling his name in wet cement. I think there's just a human need—a desire—to be remembered. He has no real idea how to do it, though. So he's doing stuff like writing 200 songs, or a screenplay about Dennis Rodman visiting South Korea—not North Korea. He thinks it's South Korea. At least he's trying to create something. At least he's not going up at night and only watching reruns of Two and a Half Men. He's making stuff no one wants, and maybe deep down, he knows no one wants it. I feel for him.

Have you seen Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman?

I have.
That movie bothers me. I find it very mean-spirited. I think Guest has contempt for these small-town people, and these small-town creative dreams. I think he's going after the wrong people. There's nothing wrong with someone living in a small town and wanting to be a part of something creative. If you don't come from New York, if you don't come from LA, those worlds, they seem very faraway. Let people get joy out of creating. Not everyone needs to be a professional, high-end writer or actors in Hollywood. And honestly there are plenty of shit professional actors and writers in Hollywood. So I truly hope it does not come across, in any way, that I'm mocking Randy. I hope he comes off as likable, in an authentic way. Because there are plenty of likable people out there who you might not want to hang out with, but wouldn't mind reading about for an hour.

I'd hang out with Randy. Why not?
You'll go out and get a beer with him, yeah—I would, too. As long as I can go back to my own world after I'm done.

And then you have a story too.
Exactly. At least the guy is fucking interesting. There are so many boring people out there. To me, any sort of individuality, any sort of urge to be different, I think is obviously a good thing. What the fuck's wrong with that? Especially if you're a writer. Hang out with people like that.

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This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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