It was a wet and dreary Saturday afternoon when I finally got a chance to sit down with author Mike Copeland, on the eve of the release of his first book, Alive and Kickin’: Sideways Views from an Upright Guy — a collection of his humor lifestyle essays. Although I had been warned that Mr. Copeland could be a naracistic DB, I actually found him to be relaxed and jovial, perhaps he was even mildly inebriated. While we sat in the den of his Danville home, he sipped a piping hot mug of Chamomile tea, likely mixed with bourbon based on the whiskey scent of his breath. He seemed to be enjoying his new found celebrity status.
Mike is both heavier and balder in person than his photo in ALIVE Magazine would lead one to believe. My guess is that the head shot, found on the Contributing Writers page, is at least ten years old. Mike has spent the last five years writing monthly humor lifestyle articles and personality profiles for ALIVE Magazine and is the self-proclaimed master of bathroom writing. I was curious how the partnership with ALIVE Editor Eric Johnson began and what led to the creation of the soon to be released Toilet Tank Book by ALIVE Independent Book Publishing. For those of you unfamiliar with the term Toilet Tank Book it is a similar concept to the hugely popular coffee table books, but without the pretty photos and prestige. A Toilet Tank Book contains writings that a reader can get through in the amount of time it takes them to “do their business” in the bathroom.
Mike tears up when he proudly recants the time Mr. Johnson told him that his literary contributions to ALIVE were the perfect bathroom ready material, both in length and substance. Once Mike changed into his pajamas, UGG® boots and fedora hat our interview began.
MC: Mike, Where did you and Alive Magazine Editor Eric Johnson first meet?
Mike: First, please call me Mr. Copeland. I believe it was a MENSA meeting (Tri Valley chapter) back in the winter of 2004. We both quickly realized we were way smarter than everyone else so we snuck out and started our own exclusive secret society of the USD&Cs – Uber Smart Dudes and Chicks. Our first meeting was at Forli Ristorante on Danville Boulevard in Alamo. We choose Forli because really smart people love Osso Buco.
MC: How did you gain inspiration for your monthly humor pieces that make up the Alive and Kickin’ book?
Mike: Did you not hear me say USD&Cs? Say it with me, G-E-N-I-U-S. However, when I do need the occasional idea it often comes from my kids, my friends, memories of growing up, things that are relevant to living in the East Bay or the local and national media. I suppose my medical marijuana induced dreams are also helpful. JK—Just kidding. I don’t use drugs, unless they are prescribed by my chiropractor for treatment of a gluteus maximus strain, but I digress. Inspiration can be found anywhere, anytime if you’re truly gifted. I’m inspired right now.
MC: Why did you decide to publish a collection of your favorite humor pieces from your magazine writings of the last five years?
Mike: The money of course. People have the misperception that you get rich writing monthly 1,200 word essays for a regional magazine with a circulation of about 40,000. Not so. After my screenplay, Allen and Allen, wasn’t purchased by a major motion picture studio and my collection of children’s bedtime stories entitled, “Would Someone Please Read Me a Story” were rejected by every publishing company south of the Mississippi River, I decided to release a book that I could strategically peddle through a combination of network marketing, direct mail ads and garage sale book signings. Can you say, “Cha-Ching”?
MC: Who are your favorite humor magazine writers?
Mike: Rick Reilly is boss. He writes for Sports Illustrated and other two-bit rags. Dave Berry used to be crazy talented, but now I think he’s just crazy. I still enjoy Tony Hicks, although he still works for a newspaper which is nowhere near as prestigious as a magazine. Just check out the paper stock. I am also a big fan of Scott Osler, but no one knows who he is other than me. I may one day invite these gentlemen to a swanky conference or brilliant writers, but since it would be a no host bar they probably wouldn’t come.
MC: Do you remember the first humor piece you ever had published?
Mike: The year was in 1980 and I collaborated with my buddies Jeff Morales and Derek Sousa on a gritty (and hilariously sarcastic) expose for the Mountain View High School Eagle Gazette entitled, The Future of the Around the Tree Gang. The three of us were part of a really dangerous scholastic gang being forced to dissolve by the administration, the police and our parents. Or was it summer vacation? The article chronicled our rise to power and each member’s blood oath to give up gang-banging in pursuit of higher education at a variety of community colleges and universities. I think it won a high school Pulitzer Prize.
MC: What other publications have you written for before you were signed exclusively with ALIVE East Bay Magazine?
Mike: Too many to name really, but let me try. Going back to the beginning it was the MVHS Eagle Gazette, followed by the Foothill Community College Gazette and the Sigma Chi Fraternity Gazette. I loved those Gazettes. Over the years I’ve scribed for the San Jose Business Times, the California Real Estate News, the Country Music News, Floyd’s Ordeal Newsletter, Valley Lifestyle and The Patch. I must say that my best work may have been the intensely hard hitting reporting I did by having total access to the incredibly popular rock cover band Floyd’s Ordeal. Their wildly popular newsletter (pre blog) allowed me to expand into areas such as show reviews, the Up Close and Personal expose` and an advice column. Our readership was up to eleven when the band broke up amidst rumors of eating disorders and necrophilia.
MC: How do you respond to critics that categorize your writing style as juvenile, sophomoric, lame and sucky. It’s been said that your articles are filled with grammatical errors and factual inaccuracies?
Mike: I don’t. Next question. Who says that? I want names. Was that you? Let me just say to my detractors that the writers of the Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park have made a fortune utilizing that style and my writing is much better. Wait one second. I just realized I’ve been wasting my time all these years. I should have been writing for an animated network show not print magazines. I feel so deflated, so empty, so broke. You’ll have to leave now. I need to be alone with my thoughts.
I never have understood why pseudo celebrities insist on bidding farewell to their guests with a two-handed handshake and air kisses on both cheeks, but I’m not one to judge. For all his eccentricities and egotism, Mr. Copeland does have some talent. From time to time, his wordy ramblings have even given this hardened reporter a chuckle. I wish Mike well with his book and encourage everyone reading to contact ALIVE Magazine at www.aliveeastbay.com to order an autographed copy today.