Interview with Don Ake, author of Just Make Me A Sammich.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: Even though I eventually wanted to write a book, I never intended to write this one. I started Ake’s Pains blog in 2011. It gained a following and became very popular, so I decided late in 2013 to compile and organize the posts into a book. It’s strange that I was writing a book, an essay at a time, for over two years without even realizing it. If you would have told me five years ago, I would now be an author, I would have never believed it.
Q: Where did the catchy title come from?
A: I write a lot about the relationships between men and women from a humorous, non-judgmental, perspective. How different couples handle things in their relationships varies widely, but people find it amusing. Some men think it’s a women’s duty to make them sandwiches and some women believe that’s demeaning, and that’s okay. All couples decide this for themselves, and it is personal and private. It’s very similar to sex, except people don’t discuss sex, nearly as much. It’s been a running joke in my blog and so it became the title. I show, in the first essay in the book, that who makes the sandwiches in the home is actually more important to women, than it is to men.
Q: Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
A: The book’s subtitle is Absurd observations from a wild mind. I literally have a wild mind. I inherited a fabulous sense of humor from both sides of my family. Combine that with a genius level I.Q. and a knack for people watching, and I have more ideas that I can ever write about. I can find the humor in almost any subject. I have written hilarious 800-word essays on such things as eating rice cakes. It doesn’t take much to spark an idea. I wondered what it would be like to date Taylor Swift since she dates so much. This inspired the post “I Dated Taylor Swift and She Wrote a Song About It”
Q: What got you started in writing humor?
A: I was working on my high school newspaper, cracking jokes as I always do, when the faculty advisor said, “Why don’t you write some of those down and we will print them in the paper?” I and the rest of the staff thought she was joking. The editor was totally against running my first column titled “Giving The Bird” (our mascot was the Cardinal). That led to writing a hugely popular humor column in college called Ake’s Pains, which led many years later led to Ake’s Pains blog, which led to Just Make Me A Sammich. And when I was on the college newspaper staff I met my future wife. It’s incredible how one comment by an observant teacher by can influence your life.
Q: What are you trying to accomplish with your writing?
A: I write to make people laugh out loud. We take this world way too seriously. We have too much stress. It is important for your health to laugh at something every single day. That’s what I provide. That’s my talent and I’m using it. To have a talent, to know what it is, and then to use it to help others. If you can accomplish this in life, then you are special. Very early in the life of my blog, I started getting emails that said “I came home from a terrible day at work. Then I read your blog, laughed, and now I feel so much better. Thank you. That’s why I do what I do.
Q: Your day job is so different from the book, how do you explain this?
A: I work as an economist and analyst in the trucking industry. My expertise in this job is sales forecasting. I am a respected industry expert because I see things and trends that other people do not see. I can fit the pieces of an economic puzzle together, when others just see noise. As a humorist, I am able to see humor where you wouldn’t normally find it. I am able to compare seemingly unrelated subjects and blend them together in very funny ways. My brain just works different than other brains. That’s not always a good thing by the way, just ask my wife. However, it does allow me to excel in both of my careers.
Q: What is your favorite story from the book?
A: There is an essay titled: “A Christmas Letter To Brag About”. It is a takeoff on the humble Christmas brag letters you get from people telling you all about the great things their family members did that year. In this one, the things my relative is bragging about are really not so great. For example, my cousin Maude is bragging about the size of her husband’s prostate. This is my favorite one, because I would write a paragraph and then have to stop because I was laughing out loud. I was literally cracking myself up with my own writing. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I know I have something special. And this happened numerous times when writing this piece.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in writing humor?
A: My biggest challenge is to write somewhat politically-incorrect humor to a very diverse audience. My audience is diverse in so many different aspects, yet I can make anybody laugh. In 2011 I started writing the blog with the attitude that I would write whatever I found funny, the way that I wanted to, and didn’t care who read it or what that about it. Of course, that was before I had an audience. If you would have told me back then, this is the audience your writing for, I would have said that is impossible. It can’t be done, except now I’m doing it. I don’t make fun of people for who they are. It doesn’t touch partisan politics. It approaches religion very carefully. The writing is naughty, but not vulgar. The language is tolerable. I consider the writing PG-13. I take all this into account and still write very funny stuff.
Q: How do you find humor in everyday life?
A: I watch people carefully. I look at their motivations; I contemplate their words. People are naturally funny; they do funny stuff. But the other thing is, really weird stuff tends to happen to me and it makes great stories. For example, I find myself seated in the middle of a group of swingers at a comedy club. I end up in front of a blind guy in the line at the voting booth. I get stuck in a hot pizza parlor on a 95-degree day. My life is bizarre and I write about it.
Q: You poke fun at being a middle aged, white guy in your book, why is that?
A: I write from a realistic, honest, perspective. I do not present myself as superior to anyone. I make fun of myself in the book a lot. Sometimes I look like a total idiot, it’s funny, and people can relate to my struggles. Yes, I’m have biases, we all do. I don’t try to hide it. I think now the number of female readers exceed the number of men. And it’s because I’m honest. I think women value honesty above anything else in men. They don’t expect men to be perfect, but they want men to be honest. People won’t like everything I write, but I think most people respect me as a writer, so it works.
Q: How do you take boring subjects—like economics—and make them funny?
A: I taught college level economics classes to adult students who were coming to college at night to get their first two-year degree. They came into the 4-hour, night class, tremendously nervous about learning economics. I learned very quickly to inject as much humor into the class as possible as a learning tool. I incorporated my experience as a stand-up comedian to communicate difficult principles in an interesting manner. Some students labeled it “Stand-up Economics” – and it worked. There are two chapters on economics in the book – from my economic blog. They are very, very, funny and are enjoyable to anyone – regardless of your economic knowledge.
Note: Don Ake is a client of Media Connect. If you want more information, please consult: http://akespains.blogspot.com/