Zack Parsons, one of the original contributors to comedy site SomethingAwful.com, is starting to make a big name for himself. Parsons was kind enough to grant us an interview about SomethingAwful and his newly released book, “My Tank Is Fight!”
Mustang Daily: So who is Zack Parsons and how did he get involved with SomethingAwful?
Zack Parsons: Back in 2001 I was selling Russian pornography to stevedores and Turkish sailors down on the docks. A rusted steamer carrying londs pulled into harbor and the Captain sent out his thugs to shanghai for some fresh crewmen. I got caught in their little press gang and took a blackjack to the base of the skull. Out like a light. Woke up halfway to Singapore and captain Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka told me I would be shoveling coke in the boiler room. After a couple years of backbreaking labor I was allowed to write for his Web site.
MD: And for those readers still wondering what a Web site is, what is the point of going to SomethingAwful.com?
ZP: Great deals on Cialis. Basically if you want an erection, but you can’t have an erection, then go to SomethingAwful.com and you’ll be able to have an erection. Even if you don’t have a penis we’ll mail you a boner.
MD: Tell us about your new book “My Tank Is Fight!” and how the initial sales are going.
ZP: It’s a “pulp history” book, which basically means I never graduated college and I’m writing a history book. Think of it as Indiana Jones meets the Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War II. It details over 20 strange inventions from World War II and combines that with some really bad jokes and an episodic narrative. It’s a fun book and it’s selling pretty well. It’s a niche title with a weird format, but it is keeping pace with some of the big boys.
MD: What’s your personal favorite insane WWII invention?
ZP: The P. 1000 “Ratte”. It was this immense tank, bigger than a barn, with a cruiser turret stuck onto the top. Insane and useless, but so cool at the same time. They never got far on that one before someone with a little common sense pulled the plug.
MD: Do you plan on writing more books in the future? If so, will they continue to have the SomethingAwful name on them?
ZP: Definitely, I have many stories to tell. The question of whether or not anyone wants to hear those stories remains to be answered. They’ll probably have the Something Awful name on them, if only because I intend to remain associated with the site as long as it exists. It’s pretty much the ultimate working environment for a writer.
MD: SomethingAwful could possibly have a more diverse selection of entertainment than any comedy site, ranging from flash movies to pranks to reviews (to name a very small few). About how much of your content is created by SomethingAwful (users or editors) and how much is outsourced?
ZP: There is a town in India responsible for all of our content. Most of my articles were written by Ravi Patel, a 9-year-old who works in a shack made out of corrugated tin. My book was written by a team of three widows whose husbands died in our comedy mines. Other than that, it all comes from our staff writers or our forum members. Except for the stuff we steal from eBaum’s World.
MD: Content-wise, where would you like to see SomethingAwful go in the future and do you have anything new in development?
ZP: I would like to see us offer more knitting and dress patterns, more guitar tabs and more homespun advice on herbal remedies. Also, we’re going to get a Sybian and have people on our forums ride it while we tell Livestock, our mongoloid helper, to “turn it up, turn it up to 80 percent!”
MD: YouTube and online video have become very popular, yet SomethingAwful is still successful without using video as its main source for comedy. Why is this and how do you continue stay so popular without much video?
ZP: The basic reason is that video is expensive. I don’t know how YouTube really generates its money, but most of those video sites are just cesspits of pop-up advertising to compensate for their huge bandwidth bills. Also, making videos is very time consuming, which is why very few popular content Web sites make videos. Having said all that, we do have a fair number of original videos on our site, we just don’t base our site around video content. For example, Lowtax’s “Doom House” has been wildly popular and has been released on DVD five hundred different times.
MD: Subscription fees are starting to become a new trend for all Web sites trying to become online magazines. SomethingAwful already has a forum fee. Do you see fees becoming more prevalent on SomethingAwful and other comedy/viral media sites?
ZP: We will probably be offering hosting packages for our members soon, but other than that I think we’re approaching the point of saturation on selling information and access to information. We have actually done the reverse over the past couple years and have branched out heavily into selling real merchandise and goods.
MD: Many comedy and viral media sites are starting to be acquired by online media corporations. Has SomethingAwful received any offers or would it even matter?
ZP: First of all, I don’t think we’re a “viral media” site by design. You can create “viral” content by being controversial, but the best viral media is just really funny or interesting stuff that gets passed around. I think the best example of this is that Numa Numa video. This goofy fat guy made a video lip synching to some stupid Europop song and then posted it on YouTube. People loved it and it became wildly popular. Then some company got the idea to sponsor him and he made a “new” Numa Numa and it was the exact same formula. It was terrible, not because its content was different from the first video, but because it was self-aware. If you set out to create a viral media sensation, or meme, or whatever you want to call it, you’re probably going to fail. We just try to be funny and make ourselves laugh.
To actually answer your question, I don’t know that we have received any offers recently, but they would have to involve outrageous amounts of money for Lowtax to hand over the reins. Rich has an ancient history of being involved with media partners and it has always ended in disaster. People just looking to make a quick buck off the back of a content site never have the slightest clue about what makes that site successful.
MD: Do you have a favorite SomethingAwful feature/sub-site?
ZP: I really love doing Fashion SWAT and I hope we can do a book of that some day. My overall favorite from the site is probably still Jeff K.’s stuff. It may seem one-dimensional at first but it really has a lot of depth and there are a lot of really wild and hilarious pieces of content.
MD: And finally, the age-old question that just keeps coming up in “60 Minutes” interviews: T-Rex vs. 100,000 turkeys; winner?
ZP: The T-Rex makes it through about a hundred and then has to lie down on the couch and fall asleep watching football. That’s when the turkeys strike.
Want more comedy site interviews? Click here to read our last interview with eBaum’s Worlds Mike Parker.