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Reminiscing: Ex-Candidate Burps, Farts During Esquire Interview

It sounds like a reporter’s dream.

Interview a subject with no fear of being lied to or spun. He’s into “Radical Honesty.” You get to tell him some of his answers are boring. He gets to tell you that you’re self-indulgent and the magazine you work for is pretentious. It’s for the story. And besides, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

This was the interview A.J. Jacobs did for Esquire six years ago and we wanted to hear about any lasting effects the experience had on him. Esquire‘s digital editor tweeted the story out over the weekend. Jacobs didn’t know for certain, but suggested, “Maybe he thought it was a particularly lie-heavy news cycle?” Explains Mike Nizza, Esquire‘s Digital Editor, “On the weekend, we like to recirculate the Esquire classics. It’s when people seem to have more time to dig in to a longer piece.”

But first, a look back: To interview with Brad Blanton, a 66-year-old psychotherapist in Virginia who unsuccessfully ran for Congress twice, Jacobs traveled to “buttfuck” Va. The setting: Radical Honesty HQ, i.e. Blanton’s house. During their talk, so and so downed Bourbon, farted, burped and and said his dog once licked his dick. so and so didn’t get upset by any of the questions. There was an expectation that both men would be radically honest.

Favorite lines: Jacobs: “I’m glad you picked your nose just now,” I say. “Because it was funny and disgusting, and it’ll make a good detail for the article.” Blanton: “That’s fine. I’ll pick my ass in a minute.” And this...”Then he unleashes his deep Texan laugh: heh, heh, heh. (He also burps and farts throughout our conversation; he believes the one-cheek sneak is ‘a little deceitful.’)”

After the interview, in real life, the reporter was supposed to try out radical honesty on friends and family, a task he tried hard to avoid.

What do you think? Could you hack it?

See our discussion with the author on lasting effects the experience had on him.

Questions for A.J. Jacobs:

1. What were the lasting effects of trying to radical honesty experiment? Did you lose any friendships, did any get deeper? I try to practice what I call ‘sustainable radical honesty’ (which Blanton would say doesn’t exist, and that I’m still a lying bastard). What I mean is, I try to be radically honest about positive things. If I enjoy something (a book, movie, meal, friend), I try to express that without irony. I try to tell my mentors how much they mean to me. That kind of thing. I also try to be honest about my mistakes, which I find liberating.
2. Are you still lying? All the time! I lie to my kids a lot (e.g. “Let’s do that later” means “we are never doing that ever”). Also, I lie to people to avoid hurting their feelings and/or to avoid expending mental energy.
3. How long did you try not to lie — as in days or weeks? It was a few years ago, so I can’t remember exactly. I think it was two months. I should probably look at the article and notes to doublecheck, but honestly, I’m feeling too lazy.
4. Are you in touch with Blanton? Do you think he still thinks you’re a loser? I’ve been meaning to email Blanton. I think he’s one of the greatest, prickliest, funniest, oddest people on planet earth. I think he liked the article, despite my tendency to wuss out on occasion. We were in contact for a few months, but have now lost touch. The truth is: He emailed me last, and I owe him an email. But it’s been so long, it’s gotten to that awkward stage where I don’t know how to jumpstart the email chain again. So if you’re reading this Brad, please email me. (To which he’d surely reply, YOU email ME, you manipulative prick).
5. Are you working on a new book and if so, what’s it about? I’m mostly working on Esquire pieces now. I just finished one on Lifelogging.
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