Dear readers, Jane must apologize. Well, not really -- but, maybe. Here's the scoop -- we met Kevin Reifler and Adam Najberg awhile ago, via email. They wrote to us about their fantastic new book, and -- after we picked ourselves up off the floor (with tears of laughter streaming from our eyes), we knew we just had to do a Smart Men Online interview with these two pranksters.
This interview -- as fun as it is -- is not for the faint of heart, however. Indeed, there are times it stoops to below sea -level. At times, it gets right into the toe-jam of life...so, don't say we didn't warn you. We think Kevin's and Adam's book is a riot (waiting to happen) -- if you don't, please write to them, not us! Let this messenger live to report another day!
Now, read on and weep: as a small introduction, lest someone think we've made these two young men up...Adam Najberg is an editor with Dow Jones Europe. He also writes for the Wall Street Journal and Barrons. Adam is fluent in German and Mandarin Chinese (so Kevin told us).
Kevin Reifler is CEO of niche marketing companies LegalVoice and AccountingVoice and is a consultant with HumorWorks, which aims to bring humor back to the workplace for increased productivity and ROI (according to Kevin).
Ut-oh, already there's dissention between the troops, this just in:
Hi, I just wanted to add that I don't actually, fluently speak German, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese and French. I just nod along and say "uh-huh" a lot, so it seems that way. And I have a dog*, too, [*this will be more relevant later on] but he's a Sharpei and doesn't bark at the UPS man. But even if he did, I wouldn't hear him, because we sent him up to my in-laws in Hamburg so they wouldn't suffer from empty nest syndrome. And that's like four hours away from me, so the dog - his name is Knuddel - would have to bark really loudly for me to hear him. regards, Adam Najberg
And now, A Conversation with the Authors of STOOPLES [WARNING: Vivid pictures included-- children may need parental guidance]
Kevin Reifler: I think the impetus was High School. [we should have known!] When we are in high school, everything seems small and petty, and at the same time, weird and funny. Then I went to college where everything was a breath of fresh air. And then after graduation, I went to work in an office. Boom! Back in high school. Everything was small and petty, and at the same time, weird and funny all over again.
There are a lot of comparison you can make between high school and the workplace.
Teachers and bosses who talk to you like you’re an idiot. Idiosyncratic obsessions about your locker and your desk….things must be placed just so. And commuting is hell…whether you’re stuck on the school bus or in your SUV.
The nice thing about work is that the bullies don’t beat you up…they just outsource your job to
India [a mountaintop somewhere in the Himalayas.]
Lip-sticking: Have you heard from Staples about your book? What is Staples’ reaction?
Kevin Reifler: I don’t know who they are, but the people at Office Hacks are really annoyed. [??]
Lip-sticking: Aren't you worried about getting sued?
Kevin Reifler: Naw, we’re just some good old boys having some fun. Plus 63 lawyers reviewed every paragraph before St. Martin’s Press would publish it.
Adam Najberg: And I say, "bring it on, boys" - as long as Kevin is paying for our legal defense. I hear he’s been channeling Melvin Belli and Johnnie Cochran.
Lip-sticking: Your book makes us wonder, why don’t people laugh more in offices?
Kevin Reifler: Well, they worry about getting ahead, getting fired, getting their bonus, getting a bigger desk than the next guy or gal. They worry so much about every little thing that they forget to laugh. We hope Stooples will remind them to laugh and not take everything in the office so seriously.
Adam Najberg: And if Stooples doesn’t make them laugh, I hear that four-color catalogs like ours burn better than Yule logs in your fireplace. [as long as you can hold your breath for --well, just ever.]
Lip-sticking: We've heard that work is serious business, that business is serious business, and that's what this country is all about. Why are you laughing about what made America great?
Adam Najberg: Well, we figured if we didn't do something satirical about office life, Microsoft would come out with "Office Satire VD," codenamed "Longhorny" in a couple of months.
We had to beat them to market. You have to be nimble when you're going up against a company that has a war chest of $34 billion. But actually, our book underscores the point that in the dash for cash, we all take ourselves way too seriously. Our lives are a rat race, full of tension and the push to "make it." There's no safety valve. Hence, I give you our book, Stooples. Well, not give. Sell. For money. Did I mention $12.95 a copy? [not yet -- and, can that be right? ONLY $12.95?]
Lip-sticking: Uh, why Stooples?
Adam Najberg: Would it be funny - and sell nationally - if our satirical company were Vern's Office Supplies on Route 9 in Westboro, MA? [not to Vern] Nah, you go for the market leader, grab and twist. Heck, they spent millions building up the brand. Might as well spoof it and ride their coattails. Now THAT's what America is all about.
Lip-sticking: You and your co-writers all have day jobs. So many people have that novel or something in the drawer, but never find time to finish it. How on earth did you find the time to write a book?
Adam Najberg: My partner, Kevin Reifler, made me do it. Night after night, my phone would ring. I'd hear whips cracking in the background and that grating voice, "did you write those funny bits yet? Make 'em ‘pee-in-your-pants’ funny." It helps that I'm an insomniac and that my wife and kids all go to sleep by nine. I spent three to four hours a night on the book sometimes. It helps to have workaholic perfectionists as partners. It's like marathon training. You're flagging badly and they urge you on. If I could use another athletic cliché here, "it was truly a team effort. We won one for the Gipper."
Kevin Reifler: The key was to combine the home improvement project with book writing. I would spend hours sanding my dresser drawer, but I would also take the little shavings and piece together letters and numbers and exclamation points. When you read Stooples, you’ll see a lot of exclamation points. That’s because the shavings tended to fall in long straight lines.
And hey, it was fun to write. It sure beats mowing the lawn. When my wife would ask me to paint the toilet or whatever else she wanted me to do, I would say, "Honey, I’m working on my novel." Unfortunately, this is what came out, so now I have to go back and paint the toilet. [a task worthy of a lumber jack]
Lip-sticking: How did you guys actually put this thing together, with Kevin based in New Jersey and Adam out in Germany?
Adam Najberg: We bought this submarine, not a nuclear one or anything, but one of those two-man bathyspheres, if you know what I mean, and we laid an undersea fiber optic cable from New Jersey to Germany. No, this was very much a product of the 21st-century office concept. You use e-mail and phones - no teleconferences, which was good, because I mostly wrote in my Calvins. Anyway, I found the distance both made my heart grow fonder for the work, less pressure than always having someone in my face, and it was also good for maintaining creativity. With satire, with humor, you're either funny or you're not. It's easier to tell your partner something sucks when you're 5,000 miles away.
Kevin Reifler: Our publisher actually thinks that this is the first cross-Atlantic book collaboration. That’s pretty neat. Soon I plan to ask my co-writer to move to Burma so we may have the first cross-Pacific collaboration.
Lip-sticking: So, why a catalog?
Kevin Reifler: Jon Stewart parodied history books, and George W. Bush parodied the American Presidency, so catalogs were all that were left. [remember, dear readers, this is not JANE speaking....we are standing aside biting our lip]
Adam Najberg: Let's talk "empowerment." How many Dilberts are out there, guys and ladies who sit in their cubicles, hating their bosses, thinking they're stupid or incompetent, and you're powerless to do anything about them. Wouldn't it be cool to have a catalog that sells you the supplies you REALLY need to put your boss in his or her place, to put yourself in the power position where you belong, instead of just one that sells three-ring binders and hanging folders?
Lip-sticking: Why did you think a book about office products might be funny?
Kevin Reifler: We go into battle with all the things on our desk. The Vikings had their shield and their armor and those funny hats with the horns sticking out. We have our pen, our pen holder, our stapler, our sticky notes, our computer of course, our Blackberry, our tape dispenser…the outsauce...these are our weapons. When you think about going into battle with paper clips and your favorite coffee mug…that’s funny!
Lip-sticking: Well, then, where's your blog?
Kevin Reifler: Blogs are a lot of responsibility. [a wimpy answer if ever we heard one!] We plan at this time to write as guest bloggers -- AmericanMadness.com has just invited us to spread insanity over there and we believe others will follow. We are now working on three humor projects: a Stooples Movie (well, movie treatment, actually); a humorous book about Money; and a lecture series along the lines of John Cleese's funny work-related videos.
Lip-sticking: Tell our readers what you think of online shopping, since this blog is about marketing to women online.
Kevin Reifler: The most wonderful aspect of online shopping is that you can order without embarrassment. Last year I wanted to buy the CD of a group I heard. The salesclerk in the store said, "oh yea, your son will like that." That was my last trip to the CD store....Amazon and Half.com forever!
[for what it's worth, the mug-shot here is not Kevin.]
Plus my dogs love online shopping. Every other day the UPS man delivers something, ringing the doorbell 2-3 times. My dogs, Gypsy and Cleo, launch a bark-a-thon and run up and the steps repeatedly to warn me of the imminent postal invasion. I reward them with a dog cookie and go back to work. [now, there's are two smart creatures -- we should interview them! Say, where's our cookie?]
We're worn out now, dear readers. You will notice that we added a comment here and there, in between the brackets [ ]. It seemed only fair. Kevin and Adam are on the fast track to -- prison or someplace else totally undesirable. We expect they will merely end up on Reality TV. Watch for them on your favorite cable channel...no, not the shopping channel, something closer to...hmmm... Animal Planet.
Sorry boys, we couldn't resist. What's not to laugh about that???