Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 75 - DAVE NADELBERG

Dave Nadelberg


"I don't believe comedy should always be funny, and I don't believe drama should always be serious." Dave Nadelberg, creator of Mortified




Dave Nadelberg is the creator of Mortified and the cultural movement has now become a podcast, multiple books, a couple documentaries and the new Netflix series, The Mortified Guide. But it all started with a live show, which is still going strong across 20 cities around the world. Dave joins the show to talk about creating Mortified and what it has become, the brand new book My Mortified Life: A Guided Journal, and Jeff actually reads a poem he wrote in 7th grade to Dave and his team! Full transcript below.


This week on Science, the first test image from the TESS spacecraft has been captured, and the telescope will begin its work in earnest in the next month. Also, Elon Musk and his Boring Company have been in the news with his idea of an underground transportation system called The Loop. Weird merchandise from The Royal Wedding is the topic of The Roast and some exciting news from The World's Strongest Coffee on The Update.


Jason Heath works a hard job and needs coffee to keep him going. He was one of the original fans of Death Wish Coffee and has been one of the biggest ambassadors of the brand ever since. Learn all about Jason on this week's show:


Dave Nadelberg: I like to imagine ... I don't know if you're recording yet, but I like to imagine that you guys are making these mugs like pottery like Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore style.

Jeff: Yes.

Dustin: Oh, we need to make a video of that.

Jeff: Actually, what's incredible is that the company we work with Denine, they do it. They're all hand blown mugs, which is crazy when we come out with like a run of like 5,000 of them.

Dustin: But Jeff and I don't get sensual about it.

Jeff: We should start though.

Dave Nadelberg: You should at the very least play some Righteous Brothers or something.

Jeff: Oh man, you just made this company take a whole new turn, and I love it.

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah, I mean ... I don't know, or some brand with brothers in the name.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: If not them.

Jeff: No, I like the Righteous Brothers. I like that.

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. Joyce Brothers, did you ever sing?

Jeff: I'm sure in the shower, right?

Dave Nadelberg: The Funk Brothers. Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah, it works.

Dave Nadelberg: Hanson even counts.

Jeff: They do count. They don't have brothers in the name, but they are all brothers. The Bacon Brothers.

Dave Nadelberg: The Bacon Brothers, The Blues Brothers.

Jeff: The Blues Brothers.

Dave Nadelberg: And, of course, Jonas.

Jeff: Yes, and the Jonas Brothers.

Dustin: I got no brothers. I got no list. Warner Brothers.

Jeff: The Warner Brothers. There we go. Oh my God. Well, thanks for being on the show. That's all the time we have. No, I'm just kidding.

Dave Nadelberg: It's a talk show where you just talk to people about band genres.

Jeff: Love it. I love it. That's actually a good idea. I mean, hell, in the podcast universe that we live in now, if that doesn't exist already, it's gonna.

Dave Nadelberg: Well, in the past life, I was in entertainment journalist and film critic, and I once wrote an article about the micro-genre of versus movies like Alien Versus Predator kind of things.

Jeff: Whoa.

Dave Nadelberg: Like Frankenstein Versus Dracula. But then there's Kramer Versus Kramer. There's ones that aren't as much mashups.

Jeff: That's true.

Dave Nadelberg: Then there's the versus genre that are more meets. So like Billy The Kid Meets Dracula.

Jeff: Oh, right.

Dustin: Wow.

Jeff: Crazy.

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah, I could bore the shit out of you with all this if you want.

Jeff: That's not actually. That's crazy. That's making my mind run wild. I do want to talk about ... I want to start this off by talking about congratulations about the six issue series and the six episode series, I should say, on Netflix now.

Dave Nadelberg: Thanks.

Jeff: The Mortified Guide. It's absolutely incredible to watch this in the comfort of our own homes because some of those stories get very, I guess, cringe worthy is the word I would use. I wanted to ask you what was it like putting that show together because as the creator of Mortified and The Mortified Guide and all of the different genres that you've been doing with it. Doing this now for what? 15 years. What was it like now thinking, "Okay. I'm going to create a show."

Dave Nadelberg: Well, I mean, that's been ... I guess TV and film have sort of been on the horizon with Mortified from very early on.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: Mortified actually was born out of the fact that I was a TV writer and I had sold a bunch of pilots and stuff, and then I went through the whole machinery of Hollywood with notes and watching your precious idea get converted into something you didn't like. What would happen is the pilots would sit on a shelf and they would be kind of watered down versions of those pilots. So Mortified really began out of having this idea but wanting to do something your own green light.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: You don't need anybody's permission. So TV's kind of always been a little bit a part of it. Then we had done some pilots in the early days that no one has ever seen and for good reason. It led us to having this realization that the best way to make things with Mortified because it's sort of its own weird beast. We're not a cop show set in Cleveland, but there's five other cop shows set in other cities. This is like what do you even compare this to? So as a result, we realized you need to sort of make things on your own and be in control when you have a weird baby. You've got to be a parent.

Jeff: No, I think that's really, really cool. You started talking about the inception of the idea. Like you said, you can't really compare Mortified to anything, but now it is its own thing. I mean, other things could technically be compared to Mortified. What was it like after having the initial idea and being like, "Okay. I want to kind of create this stage show, this podcast idea in the beginning." What was it like to do that? Were people immediately on board or was that kind of a hard sell?

Dave Nadelberg: People who audience members were always on board, and I'd say agents or industry people who I would float it to might say, "Well, why would anybody be interested in people who aren't famous?" Anybody who was trying to look at it through the lens of like marketing or something that is professional.

Jeff: Right.

Dave Nadelberg: They were like, "Well, maybe it'll work," or, "What do you do after the first six minutes?" But for the most part people were just on board. They just got it and they said, "That's really fun." It really had no ambitions to be much more than a fun night. Then that fun night became many.

Dustin: So did you realize that this was going to be like a giant social experiment or were you kind of more aiming to be on like the comedic side of things?

Dave Nadelberg: I'm sorry. I'm hung up on the idea of the giant social experiment because I like that. It's not a way that I often view it. Say the second half of the question again.

Dustin: Were you thinking that it was going to be like this ... I don't know. It's almost like a journey into a world of adolescents or just ... It's just exploring almost ... Like I said, like a social experiment. It's exploring the human psyche in a totally different fashion. Were you thinking it was going to be something like that, or were you just realizing that it was going to be hilarious and that it was going to be more of a comedic situation?

Dave Nadelberg: I saw it as being comedic with a lot of humanity and buoyancy behind it. I always have liked things that capture the range of human experience. So I don't believe comedy should always be funny, and I don't believe drama should always be serious. So I find it really more exciting when you have things that aren't as siloed. But I ultimately saw this as a funny thing, but something that offered shades of other things. From very early on, that was something that pulled me in.

Jeff: In the journey that you've taken now with this, has there been ... You had a singular vision of kind of just let's put this out there into the world. Since that point, has anything surprised you? Has anything come across that you didn't expect from starting Mortified?

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. I mean, we get crazy letters from people about like how various stories have impacted them, maybe even changed their lives. Often dealing with sexuality and sexual orientation and sort of coming to their own truth. But really I've had people tell me that they've reconnected with parents who they haven't spoken to or long lost friends who they haven't spoken to. Because the project sort of ... As much as it's about these people who are on stage, it's really about you sitting in the audience hearing this person and then reflecting on your own experience. So while you were watching The Mortified Guide or listening to the podcast or if you're reading one of our books or whatever that it is, you're immediately putting it in context of your own life.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: That's very common. That's always been my favorite thing. I like when people immediately make it about themselves, and it's no longer ... That's usually stated in sort of a negative way, but I see that as a really positive thing where people are ... The art or the performance or whatever it is is just a catalyst.

Jeff: Cool.

Dustin: Have you had any ...

Dave Nadelberg: For introspection.

Dustin: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: I should clarify, are you ... Because we didn't really state what the show was. Is that something that gets stated prior or ...

Jeff: Yeah, I would go into an intro before this, but please, from the creator, please explain what the show is. I want to hear your words on it.

Dave Nadelberg: So this is the moment where I just make it up.

Jeff: Yes, exactly.

Dustin: Love it.

Dave Nadelberg: It's a show about outer space and all these aliens. So Mortified is a show where it's a storytelling project where adults share their most embarrassing childhood writings, like diaries and love letters and lyrics, whatever you wrote when you were 14 and thought you were a genius. They share them in front of total strangers. So we exist on stage and as podcast and books. The stage show, I should say, runs all around the world in 20 cities. Most recently we launched a television series called The Mortified Guide on Netflix, which is shot at several of our stage shows all over, at least in the United States.

Jeff: So cool. With the show, I have to ask, with all the episodes that I've seen, everybody on the show, I mean, they're all normal people, but they're very well spoken on the mic. Are these all people that have done the show before, or they first timers like kind of walking on stage for the first time?

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. It would have been very fun to do the TV series where these people had never been up before, but these were people in the series were people we kind of plucked because we had seen them at our stage show or heard them at our stage show and thought, "Oh, man. This would be super fun to have." So all these people had participated in Mortified before. Some of them are, in terms of their background, some of them are marketing executes and teachers and psychiatrist or psychologists and shop keepers and whatever. And then some of them are writers, some of them are actors or singers, and really what their profession is doesn't really matter because ... For instance, someone who's a comedian doesn't necessarily make them funnier in our show. If anything, it usually works against them where they're too polished. So sometimes, like even behind the scenes, we were editing around that. If we saw someone being too slick or something, we were like, "Oh, that ..." The challenge is it's not that we want to fool anybody, but it's that people want to believe that everything that they're hearing on stage is real. That's the contract we essentially have with our audience. While everything is real, but we also know that our audience will doubt it no matter what. They'll be like, "This is awesome, but this part was fake, right?" We're like, "No." So when people find out that somebody's an actor or whatever, their first thought is somehow that it's made up, which is asinine, but it's this weird prejudice and bias that I've learned audience members will have over the years. That mostly just impacts our show in Los Angeles and New York where we have a lot of people who do that for a living, but in Chicago or in Twin Cities or in Austin or whatever where there's the occasional actor or stand up, but for the most part, certainly nobody does that as their main job.
Most people are just doing this as a lark. The vast, vast majority of people in Mortified are doing it because the idea of getting up on stage and sort of casting out their ... Casticizing, is that the word? There's a word I'm trying to think of.

Jeff: We'll take it.

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah, sponging their childhood demons and sort of baring that awkward inner child is sort of like a fun thing for people. Then there's also the curiosity of everybody, not everybody wants to get on stage but everybody is curious about what it's like to be on stage and what is ... Not everybody has the courage to actually do it, but everybody has the curiosity of being like, "What would it be like if I got on stage and like rocked a room, either because I'm hilarious or because I'm shredding a guitar or whatever." This allows people who have pretty much zero talent, like you could be very talents on Mortified, but you don't have to be.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: All that it is you just have to be good, you have to be likable. That's your main stage quality and you have to have some stage timing. But for the most part, 85% of the heavy lifting is done by the shit you wrote as a kid. Is it awkward? Is it mortifying in some manner? So yeah, and then we have producers who work with everybody behind the scenes to help them sort of edit what to share because we're not going to put everybody on stage for nine hours and have them read aloud every single bit of detail from their diary because that would get boring in about two seconds.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dustin: Well, I think the authentic-ness, if that's a word, is like the charming part about the show. The real stories from real people. But you must of had some people try and fake a story. Have you caught anybody like any fakers?

Dave Nadelberg: A few times over the years. Every once and a while you hear something and you go, "Is that real?" A few times we have. I don't think we've ever verified that something's fake, but there's been a few times where we're uncomfortable enough with it and we try to approach it as much like journalists as we can, but where we've been uncomfortable with something to where we just don't put it in the show, or if we tried it once, maybe we don't ever try it again on stage. Because we're like ... Or we do it again but we remove the passage that felt too questionable because sometimes ... But the reality is kids are weird and kids surprise you and they write fair more stoat things than you would ever imagine. So that becomes a real balancing act to figure out.

Dustin: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: I will say one of the segments in the series that initially came to us and I remember I was in the initial casting session for that night. This woman Naomi Ko, she's in an episode called The Mortified Guide To Pop Culture, and she wrote Harry Potter fanfiction. But when she read that Harry Potter fanfiction to us in the room for the first time, we were listening to it and we had this sort of session where people share stuff. We start to kind of figure out could this work in our show. As she's reading it, she says, "Oh, by the way, it's not just Harry Potter fanfiction. I wrote Harry Potter as like him and Draco and the other characters are all sort of gay lovers. That's all very erotic sex scenes that I wrote between them." We, of course, laughed because that's hilarious and ridiculous.
But my radar went up of like well, is this real because really why would you write that? So I asked her, and that's the very important part of our process is why. So I asked her why, and she gave a very legitimate reason. A version of that reason winds up on stage, and then eventually in the TV series. She wrote this thing because ... By the way, once we found that out, it transformed everything and allowed us to put her in the stage show in the first place, but it was that she was obsessed with writing fanfiction and no one was reading her fanfiction and being a smart girl, she's like, "Well, what is getting read?" She realized, "Oh, the gay stuff." So she was like basically she was kind of like a sell out. Writing about something she knew nothing about, but decided to write what I had sense learned is called drarry.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: Fiction. So yeah. It's apparently a big thing. So she did that in order to gain a fan, which is brilliant I think. Slightly mortifying.

Dustin: Yeah. I actually ran into something like that in my past where my mothers, she's crazy. She buys a lot of weird auction stuff, but in one of the boxes that she bought was fanfiction of Spock and Captain Kirk, and it was just that. It was them being ... And it came with illustrations and everything. It was very, very vivid and quite disturbing as a 13 year old male just breaking into that kind of thing.

Jeff: So you've created something in The Mortified Guide and also Mortified, all of the genres. You've created something that it just doesn't exist, and you've touched upon this a little bit already. With audiences sitting there listening to normal people kind of dive into their childhood writings and musings, you're immediate going to think it's fake. Comedians have taught us that. I mean, even a comedian who gets up on stage is baring their soul about a story, they're punching it up for the joke, for the laugh. So like we're kind of trained to do that. Mortified comes from such a real place, and it's refreshing and it's also inspiring because, like you said, getting all these letters from people on how it's changed their lives. As the creator of this and going through the whole journey, has it changed your life?

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. I certainly think it definitely makes one more empathetic and we get to learn a lot more about people's different experiences. That's unquestionably the best part. Getting to hear how different people grew up and part one of that being that what's fun is that everyone is different and then part two is yet within that they're all the same.
Hello. Hold on a second, can you?
Sorry, there was somebody at the door here.

Jeff: No worries.

Dustin: No worries.

Dave Nadelberg: It's changed my life in that people are hear at the door for packages for other people.

Jeff: What an exciting life you live.

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah.

Jeff: So this whole idea of Mortified has spawned all different types of genres and one of the ones I want to talk upon was the books that you've come out with, especially My Mortified Life: A Guided Journey. I think this is such an interesting thing to produce. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. It's actually called ...

Jeff: A Guided Journal.

Dave Nadelberg: Journal. Yeah, exactly.

Jeff: I got it wrong.

Dave Nadelberg: That's fine. Do you have it?

Jeff: I do not have it. No. I actually saw it on your website and I was just reading a little bit about it, and it just seems incredible. I just wanted to hear your thoughts on that.

Dave Nadelberg: Oh, well. Thanks. Yeah, I should try to get you a copy. It's a really unique ... Over the years, we've come out with books that are anthologies of people's diaries.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave Nadelberg: That is like precursors to the podcast, essentially. Where it's like about 85 different stories we put out, not stories but people's edited diaries and love letters and stuff. For this other book, we wanted to do something really different, and for years people had suggested you should come out with your own diary. So I've been thinking, "What would a Mortified diary be?" So that's basically what this journal is. So it's a journal filled with writing prompts that asks you all sorts of questions about your life now as well as your life back then, like growing up, and asks you the same exact question and basically asks you to compare. How much have you changed? Are you still the same weirdo you were when you were 14? Whether it's something as simple as like what's your favorite movie? Like in the past year, what's your favorite movie or TV show or something, and why do you like it? What genre is it? What are some of your favorite things about it. And then going back in time and going well, what was your favorite TV show or movie growing up? Why did you like that? What genre was it? What were some things about it? What's different about those two things and what's the same about those two things?
So you can do something as sort of almost superficial as that, but then there's things like what's the biggest fight you've ever had, or the best gift you've ever received? Then and now. Like in terms of the most memorable fight, how long ... If you think about the most memorable fight you had in the past year, who was it with, how long did it last, how did it resolve, if it resolved, did it make your relationship better? All these things, and then going back in some point in childhood, what is the most memorable fight you had growing up, who was it with, what was it about, what was it really about, how long did it last? All those kinds of questions, and really determining ... It helps you see ... It illuminates the patterns in your life. Things that seem very different are actually in many ways sometimes you find connected tissue and you're like, "Oh, those are kind of similar." So the idea of the book is to really just create writing prompts to help you see that.
Then there's this really fun conceit on top of that. Sorry, hook on top of that, which is at the end of each of these questions, you get to rate yourself up on what I call the Bowie/Betty Spectrum. That is are you a David Bowie in life, are you someone who's constantly prone to changing and evolving, or are you someone who is perfect just the way you are. You never change. You're like a Betty White. So where do you fall on this spectrum? So you rate yourself, and throughout the book you kind of keep doing this to determine are you a Bowie or are you a Betty.

Jeff: Wow. I think that's so cool.

Dustin: I mean, that is ...

Dave Nadelberg: It's pretty neat. Yeah.

Dustin: That's like psychology at that point. That's where I start to think this is a giant social experiment. It's almost a self discovery book.

Dave Nadelberg: I mean, that journal very much is. Everybody who I talk to about that says that and it's like pretty much nobody knows about it so I'm thrilled you're asking about it. Because it's not easy to promote a diary, I've learned.

Jeff: I'm sure. I'm sure.

Dave Nadelberg: Not a lot of press about this, but it's really unique. It's this fascinating mechanism for learning about people. Whenever I've given to people ... I was actually at an event this weekend. I was helping somebody out at an event for addicts. Whether it was alcohol addiction and drug addiction and sexual addiction, so on and so on. So I was helping somebody at this event, and I spoke and met a bunch of the people there. I had a bunch of the books on me because we were talking about it. They were all very obsessed with it and saw a lot of value in it for themselves. So they all wound up buying them. That was not my intent in showing up. I was just sort of helping to somebody.
So yeah. I know that there's a lot of inequalities about it. So I'm glad you like that.

Jeff: I just think it's such an interesting thing because everybody's obsessed with where they are now and where they came from and where they're going, but it's hard to really delve into that without some sort of guide to do that. I mean, I think that's what Mortified does on a larger scale is, like you said, you're sitting in the audience, and you're hearing people talk and that's immediately making you think, "Oh, man. That's just like me."

Dustin: Me too. For sure.

Jeff: I think something like this that is almost like a blueprint to help you get there is so needed, especially in society today. I mean, we all need to understand where we came from and the crazy world that we live in now. I wish only the best for something like that.

Dave Nadelberg: Thank you.

Jeff: I think it's incredible.

Dave Nadelberg: That's a big thing that behind the scenes, my producer program Neil and I speak about quite a bit is like how can you get that experience and how can you give the experience of self reflection through fun to people off stage so that it's not just for people who are on stage at a mic. So one of those ways, of course, we believe that sitting in the audience gives you that, but we're like, "What can dial that up?" So that's one of those ... That's definitely one of those things. I'd be very curious to hear your own answers to whether you think you're still that same kid you were when you were 14 or different. If wind up filling out the book ...

Jeff: I would love to. Yeah, it seems like such an interesting, personal journey.

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah.

Jeff: Speaking on that, now that this Mortified culture now has coalesced this Netflix show, and you guys are, like you said, 20 cities across the world touring with the live stage show and the podcast and everything. It went from something where people write in their journals and lock them up and hide them under their beds, never to be seen again. To now really wanting to share them and hear other people share them. Personally, do you get a lot of that? Do you get a lot of people now coming up to you and being like, "Hey, here's this journal entry that I've got. You've got to hear it." Do you get ...

Dave Nadelberg: Yes. Yeah. I mean, that's been happening since moment one, like somehow I became the diary guy but somewhere along the way. But yeah, that happens all the time, and I welcome it. That does not annoy me. That is, to me, that's the best is just when ... I just think it's funny. In fact, I even like it when I'm at a party and if Mortified comes up, somebody doesn't understand what it's about. They don't get that it's about childhood writings or drawings or anything like that. They think it's just ... They don't even get that it's even about childhood. They just think it's about stories. They'll be like, "Oh, have I got one for you." They just start telling me about something that happened to them three weeks ago. I find that funny because it shows me just how people want to connect with their frailties and with their ... People want to share their stories, and they don't think that's necessarily due to vanity. It can be, but I think there's a pure reason behind that for the most part.

Dustin: I'm sure it's therapeutic. They get to tell this story for the first time to an expert.

Dave Nadelberg: I guess I am.

Dustin: Sure. Expert by default, man.

Jeff: You've been doing it long enough.

Dustin: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. It'd be curious to see what I find myself thinking a lot about we live in an era of people who certainly like to talk about themselves or brag about themselves in various offices and positions in our country. I often think how this process would fair with our president or anybody else in the oval. I'd be very curious.

Jeff: Well, I'm happy to hear that you like hearing that because I kind of dug something up. If that would be appropriate.

Dave Nadelberg: But I hate when podcast hosts do it.

Jeff: I didn't keep really well journals when I was a kid. I would start them. I used to have stacks of them and I got rid of a lot of them because I would start them for a couple days and then would fall off. But I wrote a lot. I was very into poetry and that kind of stuff. So I dug you a poem that I wrote in seventh grade. Between seventh and eighth grade.

Dustin: I feel like I should leave the room.

Dave Nadelberg: Hold on second. Can I get the other members of The Mortified Podcast staff to hear this poem?

Jeff: Oh my God. Yes. This is the first time this poem has ever been seen the plain of day.

Dave Nadelberg: What's that? Oh, she just went to the bathroom. Well, I'm going to put ... Can you listen.

Neil: Sure.

Dave Nadelberg: So is that cool if I do that?

Jeff: That is totally fine. This is the first time this poem has ever seen the light of day since I wrote it between seventh and eighth grade.

Dave Nadelberg: See if you can grab Joey for a second. We're going to bring in our podcast intern.

Jeff: Oh my goodness. I have an audience now. This is what cold feet feels like.

Dave Nadelberg: Oh, yeah. I want you to be as terrified as possible.

Jeff: Oh boy. Okay.

Dave Nadelberg: Here we go. Hello.

Jeff: Hello.

Dave Nadelberg: So this is Neil and Joey.

Jeff: Hi Neil and Joey.

Dave Nadelberg: Hadley. She's in the bathroom. She'll be here in a second.

Jeff: All right.

Dustin: Hi, Hadley in the bathroom.

Dave Nadelberg: They're dying to hear your ... This is the Fueled by Death Podcast.

Jeff: Yep.

Dave Nadelberg: They're going to share ... Are both of you sharing or just one of you?

Jeff: It's just me. It's just Jeff here. In preparation of having Dave on the show and watching a lot of the Netflix series, I did the exact same thing that everybody in the audience does. I started to think about my own writings, and I started pawing through and I found this poem. Like I said, never seen the light of day, and to preface this, this was right around the time ... This is between seventh and eighth grade I would say is when I wrote it. It's right around the time when I discovered Edgar Alan Poe, so my vocabulary sky rocketed to a lot of words I probably didn't really know how to use. But I tried to use them as best as possible. Also, this poem deals with a theme of drinking, which is odd. I can only attribute it to both my parents were drinkers at the time. They both have since stopped and have been sober for years.

Dustin: Ever since this poem.

Jeff: Yeah, ever since this poem, I guess. I don't know. So that's the preface.

Dave Nadelberg: Okay.

Jeff: Are you all ready for it here?

Dave Nadelberg: Oh yeah. Yeah. Oh, wait. Hold on. Hadley's just walking in I think.

Jeff: All right.

Dave Nadelberg: Come on in, Hadley. You're going to listen to a total stranger's teenage poem.

Hadley: Cool. Let's do it.

Jeff: Okay.

Dave Nadelberg: All right. Your audience just became four.

Jeff: All right. So hello, everybody. My name is Jeff Ayers. This is my poem from between seventh and eighth grade, and it is amply called Untitled because I was bad at titles apparently. So here we go.
Through the drunken gloom, the dark of a man can be seen. He sits within a pocket of despair, turns his brandy over in his glass and coughs. Reality has not fared kindly towards him. His life too rough for words. Starlight plays upon his cracked face, his shallow eyes. Happiness once flowed from them, but now lays dead. Once, he was a father of passion. Also, he had thoughts instead of regrets. Time snaked its wicked way across his youth squeezing out every last precious memory and swallowed them whole. An angel he could have been were it not for his obsession to drink coupled with his weak heart and broken mind, or maybe that was the other way around. It's all the same. Angel ... Ha. If he were one, his wings would be broken and the feathers would be ruined and old from disuse. His halo would be rotted and mistreated, and he would grab another drink. His hell is living too long. Being 37, he wishes for an end. Writhing in his stupor, brought on by the brandy and his unkept hair duly catching the last rays of day. He slips unconscious.
Thank you very much.

Dave Nadelberg: That is epic.

Jeff: What's even more epic is I just found this for the first time in years and years and year, and I turned 37 next week.

Dave Nadelberg: So now your just getting old.

Jeff: I think I'm going to end it. I think I was like yeah, that's a good epitaph, right? As I said, I had just discovered Edgar Alan Poe, who's still one of my favorite writers, but at that point, he was my favorite writer because oh my gosh, goth was all the rage at that point.

Dave Nadelberg: So wait. So let me ask all the team podcast here.

Jeff: Okay.

Dave Nadelberg: Does this go in the next episode or ... We're working on an episode right now.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: It's not about drunks or poets unfortunately. But I can see the real journey of how to use this. Was this about you when you grew up or was this about just some guy that you ... Or what you imagined 37 to be?

Jeff: I think it's what I imagined 37 to be because I was enamored with like above 30. I thought that was ancient. Even when I was like 14, I thought when you turned 30, you know everything. You're given the keys to earth, and you've given your adult card and that's it. So 37 to me was the end of life. That would just be it.

Dave Nadelberg: So this is just a portrait of the age of 37 but not you?

Jeff: I believe so. But, again, I was very enamored with Poe at the time, and a lot of when Poe would write a lot of his lyric poetry and stuff like that, he would kind of put on a persona, but it was always a little bit of him. So I think I was trying to copy that where the eyes were me, but this was like the most gothic me that I could possibly be. If that makes sense.

Dave Nadelberg: Sitting here. I feel like ...

Jeff: Hello?

Dustin: We lost you there, guys.

Jeff: Hello? Are you still there?
You're cutting in and out. Hello?

Dave Nadelberg: Oh, crap.

Jeff: I hear you now.

Dustin: Beautiful. Beautiful Skype. There we are.

Dave Nadelberg: Does this work?

Jeff: Yep. I hear you now.

Neil: Okay. All I was saying ...

Dave Nadelberg: And you may need to be louder.

Neil: But all I was saying is our podcast, our editor who manages the podcast, I feel like she was listening to that poem and just sort of weighing, like, "Oh yeah. This is what we keep. We cut this part. We keep this part. This line. This stanza." But I kind of like that it goes on and on and on. I kind of ... audio crosses all where it just ... for like 10 years.
Anyway, kids are assigned to write their autobiographies.

Jeff: Oh yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. Some of them have to do with [inaudible 00:42:17] life they already lived up to like 10 or whatever. But also what your future holds for you. Some people want to just be alcoholics apparently.

Neil: Or dead apparently.

Jeff: Or both.

Dave Nadelberg: All right. I'm going to plug you back into my headset now.

Neil: Okay. We're off.

Dustin: Adios.

Dave Nadelberg: That was a fun tangent.

Jeff: That was fun. Thanks for indulging me.

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. Thank you. They enjoyed it.

Jeff: Oh, that's awesome.

Dave Nadelberg: That was Neil who was speaking to.

Jeff: Oh, very, very cool. Yeah, like I said, when I was doing the same thing that you were talking about. I was watching the show and I was just like, "I know I've got a box of old poems." I just went through them actually just last night with my wife, and I found that one. I was like, "Oh, I got to bring it. Just in case." So that as a lot of fun. Like I said, that's never seen the light of day.
One thing that we get to on this show is single question. The idea behind this podcast is that we are all fueled by death. We are all put on this earth ...

Neil: It's very fitting that your podcast is called Fueled by Death now.

Dave Nadelberg: I'm sorry. Neil just walked into the room and said something very funny.

Jeff: What'd he say?

Dave Nadelberg: I know you're in the middle of asking a question, but basically it's very funny that you wrote that poem and your podcast is called Fueled by Death.

Jeff: It is true. That is true. That's crazy.

Dave Nadelberg: You have always been ... There you go.

Dustin: Self-fulfilled prophecy.

Dave Nadelberg: That's why he is who he is.

Jeff: Exactly. I am still the same person I was when I was 13.
Anyway, so yes, we are Fueled by Death, and that idea is that we all want to leave the world a little differently before we inevitably leave it for good. We always get to the same question with all of our guests of through your life, through where it's lead you to now doing everything with Mortified, including the show, the books, the podcast, everything else, what fuels you to keep doing it? To keep wanting to put this kind of thing out into the world.

Dave Nadelberg: Really I think I love that I frequently get to here new version ... Like new things that I've never heard before. Like I've heard lots of like diary entries of girls with crushes on boys and vice versa and things of that nature. There's a lot of ... I've heard a lot of the white kid who wrote a lot of hip-hop songs. A lot of cultural appropriation kind of stuff. I think those are all very funny. But it always makes me laugh when I hear something like, "Wow. I've never heard that before." So that kind of happens. But the main thing that ... For me, the thing that keeps me interested and even if I move beyond Mortified, it's a thing that I intend to keep exploring is I like the idea of making an audience emotionally react to something. That's just exciting to me. I like to make them laugh if they're having a shitty day. I mean, you guys ... This is where your show does. I know you get mail and all that kind of stuff. You hear from people who are into the thing that you do, and because it matters to them on whatever level. Whether it's deep or whether it's sort of surface, but even if it's surface, it's still deep. It still makes their day better. It makes things tolerable, and it also helps them see their lives in different ways.
So I think that's the purpose of art. Maybe that's a self-important way to look at it, but I do think ... I don't know. I feel like that's kind of like the purpose of art and media is to sort of help you sort of reflect and not in a gross, navel-gazing way, but just in a healthy way to help you grow. I don't know. There's my touchy-feely answer.

Jeff: I think that's great.

Dustin: I like it.

Jeff: So what's next for Mortified? You've spanned multiple genres. The Netflix series is excellent. Are you going to do more of that? Are you going to try something completely different? What's next?

Dave Nadelberg: My dream is to do a project called Mortified Planet where we go all over the world. We made a movie for Netflix a couple years ago called Mortified Nation.

Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave Nadelberg: I'd like to expand that idea, whether or not this happens or not I don't know, where we get to ... I would love to go to radically other countries, cultures I should say. We get a lot of fan mail for whatever reason from Brazil. I have no idea why. People are watching our series in Brazil. Occasionally we're getting stuff from Korea. I would love to just ... I'm really driven by this mission to sort of change people's relationship to the word shame and what that means in their life and using humor to do that. I would like to explore that all over the world because I do believe that's a universal thing. I think we all have self disgust. We all have vanity and we all have misery. You know all these things. I think it makes me feel better knowing that I'm in the same boat with a lot of people.

Dustin: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I've heard it explained a lot that the one thing that every human shares on this earth is suffering, and this is a great way to highlight it. But I think something like that where you're going into different cultures, you really start to discover the boundaries of embarrassment, the cultural boundaries of embarrassment, and what it means in that culture to be embarrassed and how they might or might not deal with it. I think that's a ...

Dave Nadelberg: Sure.

Dustin: I think that's a spectacular idea.

Dave Nadelberg: Who said that horribly depressing phrase, by the way?

Dustin: I think I first read it I think it was Deepak Chopra, if I remember right.

Dave Nadelberg: Oh, interesting.

Dustin: Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: That sounds like ... Wow, it's just like bleak as shit because it's not ... It's true but it's incomplete. We also share joy and other things.

Dustin: Well, the idea is that we go through suffering in order to relate to each other. So that suffering is not in vain, it's so that you can share that experience with somebody else and connect with them is pretty much the idea of that.
Still bleak?

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. I get it. I just love that it's the one thing that connects us is suffering. That sounds like one of my Jewish Aunts or something.

Jeff: Oh, man. Well, we can't thank you enough for taking the time to be on our show. I just want to tell all of our listeners and watchers, you can obviously find The Mortified Guide right now on Netflix. Also, GetMortified.com for all of your Mortified needs. But, for you specifically, Dave, do you social media? Is there a place where people can find what you're up to?

Dave Nadelberg: Yeah. So I am @DaveNadelberg and I'll spell it, I won't spell it. You'll just Google it and figure it out.

Jeff: Oh yeah. I'll put it right in the show. Yeah.

Dave Nadelberg: Oh, for you. For you, personally. It's Dave, N-A-D-E-L-B-E-R-G. So that's me on Instagram, as well as on Twitter. Then we are @Mortified on Twitter, and we are @MortifiedShow on Instagram.

Jeff: Perfect.

Dave Nadelberg: People should listen to Mortified Podcast so they can find out all sorts of other things about the world of Mortified.

Jeff: Yeah. That is available wherever podcasts are found, and as I said before, if you go on over to GetMortified.com, you can see the list of shows, all the live shows that Mortified is doing. Honestly, it's incredible the baby that you've born into the world. This Mortified culture is inspiring and awesome. I only wish you the most success through everything else that you do.

Dave Nadelberg: On a serious note, I really appreciate it because it's not always easy growing something that's kind of grass roots and it can often be the opposite of easy and very, very hard and depressing and all sorts of other things. So that means a lot to hear. So I appreciate it.

Jeff: Awesome.