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Book Review: The Dead Guy Interviews by Michael Stusser

*Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Trivia
* ISBN: 0143112279
* ISBN-13: 9780143112273
* Format: Paperback, 304pp
* Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
* Pub. Date: September 2007

Michael Stusser�s Dead Guy Interviews first appeared in the pages of the trivia magazine Mental_Floss. Drawing on the known, the rumored, and his sense of humor, Stusser writes fictitious interviews with noted personalities from history. People like George Washington, Genghis Khan, Chairman Mao, Nikola Tesla, Mae West and others all sit down for an �interview� with Stusser.

He has now collected and expanded his interviews in a collection. The Dead Guy Interviews is a hilariously presumptuous collection of interviews with 45 dead personalities. Often focusing on the flaws or the rumors, the interviews give the reader interesting trivia (sometimes little known) about these people.

Each interview begins with a short description of the life of each person, noting their achievements, and whatever else made them famous. Reading these is essential, as much of the interview builds on these facts.

As part of the interviews Stusser writes, he also includes descriptions the actions of the people as they are interviewing. Genghis Khan breaks something, or Tesla electrocutes himself. These add flavor and character to the words of the interviews.

These interviews are quite funny, although Stusser often has to resort to rumored sexual escapades or being caught in lies to create the humor. Of course, that is not unlike most journalists of today, always on the prowl for a wif of scandal. I thought that the interviews often focused too much on these rumors, rather than relating interesting facts in a creative way.

Stusser also has a liberal bias. When he writes the interviews of known conservatives or prudish figures of history he will often mock those positions. Yet when encountering promiscuous or progressive figures of history, his interviews support their “progressive” views. For instance in the interview with Darwin this exchange is made:

MS: Let�s talk about the theory of �creationism� �

CD: Bible stories.

MS: Well today they�re calling creationism, Intelligent Design. Any thoughts on that label?

CD: I guess I�d have to say that any intelligent designer that made 99.9 percent of every organism he or she designed go extinct, couldn�t be all that intelligent.

MS: You really did anger some Bible Thumpers with your theory of evolution.

CD: I can understand that. If you want to keep telling the Adam and Eve story � creationism – it�s hard to allow for evolution. We either got put on the earth by god as fully formed people, or we evolved from something a little less human.

Obviously, Stusser is using the contention provided by Darwin’s theory to create humor, its just that often his humor is often at the expense of more conservative type people. Even though I am a conservative myself, I would laugh at these becasue I know that Stusser was just trying to be funny, but I still think he needed to poke fun at the liberal types a bit more too.

But Stusser does find ways to mock everyone he �interviews�. All of these famous people from history have strange habits, weird escapades, and pithy words that can be mocked. And it is funny most of the time. Where possible, Stusser draws on famous quotes from the figures to add a grain of truth to his interviews. Wilde�s interview often answers with lines from his book and letters, or Lincoln�s has a smattering of the Gettysburg Address. This adds a truth and veracity to the interviews that lets you know that Stusser did some research and the facts as he relates them can be trusted.

This is a book I recommend that all fans of trivia read. It is funny, creative, and an unusual way to get your daily dose of trivia. Teachers might find this a useful tool in the classroom; although they will need to read it carefully to censor those things they believe their students are not ready for. As I said, rumor and innuendo provide the basis for a few questions in each interview. It is also just a good (dare I say it?) bathroom book. Each interview is only 3 to 5 pages long, and makes for a more interesting read than the wife�s Southern Living.

Fans of Mental_Floss and lovers of trivia will enjoy this book. I hope Stusser does another. After you read it, look for more in the pages of Mental_Floss. Or check out these that were posted online to celebrate the release of the book:

[Video] Sigmund Freud (This one really has a lot of sex in it, but then it is Freud after all.)
[Text] Queen Isabella I
[Text] Benjamin Franklin
[Text] George Washington
[Text] Huey Long
[Text] Charles Darwin

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