Broke-Ass Stuart on Turning Nice Sober People into Drunk Assholes
An interview with Broke-Ass Stuart, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, and TV host. He’s probably best known for his print and online guides to living cheaply in San Francisco and New York, making him the only person known to have been called ‘the pimp daddy of budget travel’. Stuart was a co-creator and host for the travel TV show Young, Broke & Beautifulon IFC. As a freelancer, his work has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, US Airways Magazine, 7×7, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Bold Italic, and more. Currently he is hosting a monthly late night show called The Kinda Late Show with Broke-Ass Stuart and he just released a new zine called Love Notes and Other Disasters.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
It depends on how much I feel like explaining. Like, if I’m down for a bunch of questions I say “I’m a travel writer and TV host.” If I want a medium amount of questions I say “I’m a writer” and if I’m tired and don’t feel like talking a bunch I say “I’m a bartender.” All of these are true. And I’m not trying to be a snob right here but you know, sometimes you get that super exuberant lyft/sidecar/summon/cab driver who is stoked on everything and really wants to engage with you. And sometimes you’re into it, and sometimes it’s easier to say “I turn nice sober people into drunk assholes.”
What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?
Finding time to write the stuff I want. The thing that gets me the most high in life is creating, so I take on a billion projects at once making it hard to squeeze out some more long game stuff. I gotta focus on the short game stuff to stay afloat. For example, currently on my plate I’m: doing a new web series/live show called The Kinda Late Show with Broke-Ass Stuart, running BrokeAssStuart.com, redesigning BrokeAssStuart.com, distributing my new publication Love Notes and Other Disasters, freelance writing, and plotting a secret new web project. Plus I bartend three times a week. And on top of all that I have to make sure my girlfriend doesn’t hate me for being busy all the time.
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
My advice would be “don’t become a writer.” Just kidding… mostly. My real advice would be this: if you want to create for a living you need to love what you do and be prepared to sacrifice to do it. None of it comes easy. You have to be willing to not make much money. You have to have a side job that makes the money your creative work doesn’t. You need to be in it for the long haul and realize that there are many ups and downs. I’ve been doing this for 10+ years and feel like I’ve been on the tipping point for most of them. I’ve learned there is no “one big break” and there is no “ultimate failure”, you just gotta put your head down and keep grinding and hustling and working. And never never never stop creating.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
Absolutely. I get to make funny and beautiful things that are not only widely consumed, but also touch people. I get to walk down the street in the city that I love and have people stop me and tell me how much they appreciate what I do and how my work has affected their lives. I get to be called incredible things by people I have the utmost respect for; just the other day I was emailing with Beth Spotswood and she told me I was a “San Francisco treasure”. How amazing is that? She must’ve just come from the dentist and still been high off laughing gas.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
Oh man there are so many! Pretty much any video where ridiculous things happen to cute creatures (small children are lumped into this category of course). Recently I saw a dog in a teddy bear costume running on a treadmill. Pure joy. Also, I was watching those Jimmy Kimmel videos where the kids are told their parents ate all the Halloween candy the little guys hustled so hard for. The ones that have tantrums are hilarious, but the kids that say things like “That’s ok mommy, I just want you to be happy” absolutely ruin me. Those are special little people, I still don’t think I’m as emotionally mature as those kids.
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
I come from a family of wonderful storytellers so I have a ton of great tales I could share, but here’s a particularly good one. I’ll give a short version since people have limited attention spans:
My mom’s family are Jews from El Paso, Texas. Yes, you read that right, and this is how they got there. My great grandfather Lazar Kopilowitz was tired of the Cossacks and the pogroms and all of the nasty shit that was happening in his Lithuanian shtetl pre WWI. So to stop from getting conscripted into the Russian army he walked out of his village one day and headed east… all the way east. He left for America through Japan. Think about that — he was a poor person from a small village so he couldn’t afford to take a train. He walked and wagoned to Asia because of how bad he wanted to get to the United States.
Anyways, he ends up arriving in San Francisco on November 1st, 1915 and works as a bus boy until he saves up enough money to head to a distant relative in Newark, Jersey. After all that he gets conscripted into the US Army anyways and ends up catching tuberculosis. Back then if you had TB they would send you to a warm dry place, so they sent him to Deming, New Mexico outside of El Paso. From there he sent for his brother, his mother and his childhood sweetheart. They all came over and in 1921 and he was married. The two of them started a small goat farm in Deming which eventually moved to El Paso, and by the time it was sold in the 1970s, it was one of the biggest dairy farms in the Southwest. That’s some American Dream shit right there.
Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?
When I was 10? I’m pretty sure it was Mark McGwire. The A’s were a pretty incredible team then and had great charisma. But as for what I wanted to be, I always wanted to be a writer, and then when I got to be a teenager I wanted to be a rockstar.
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn’t have to be ideal.
My week in the wilderness does not last a full week and it’s not very wildernessy, I can promise you that. I envision a real bed and a cabin and maybe some psychedelics and definitely lots of booze and pot and a bunch of my friends. I’ve lived this many times and it makes me so happy to be there.
I actually tell myself all the time that I just wanna go to a cabin in the Russian River and write poetry all day. But in reality I’d probably get tired of that by day 3 and head back to the city. Camping doesn’t really appeal to me that much and please know this: I have no real life skills. If the apocalypse happens and we need to fend for ourselves in the woods, you should probably just leave me behind. I’ll be dead weight.
Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.
I once did a striptease for an exgf to “Bailamos”, the Enrique Iglesias song. It was far more funny than it was sexy. That said I’ve always said that when I become a female stripper my song is going to be “She Rides” by Danzig. Also, “Wild Child” by The Doors is another good one.
How much money do you have in your checking account?
Less than $1,000. I see comments about me on the Internet all the time that are like “There is no way that guy is still broke.” People think just because I’ve done three books and had a TV show that I must be rich. Ha! I wish! They don’t realize that the only way you make any real money on books is if you sell a fuck-ton. I only did my TV show for one season, which means I had enough money to stay out of the service industry for about a year.
What’s wrong with society today?
So. Fucking. Much.
I mean there’s not enough time and space here to go on about it but at the top of the list are: corporate welfare, the prison industrial system, and institutionalized racism and sexism (including heterosexism). They are all really tied together though because what it’s really all about it class. At the heart of it, our country is in a class crisis.
I will tell you this though: if we got rid of the lobbyist system in DC we could start making changes.
Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?
I’ve been on ADD medicine since 6th grade, so I take Adderall. I also have really bad acid reflux, like I’ve been hospitalized for it, so I take a Walgreen’s version of prevacid.
What is your fondest memory?
My life has been so blessed that I have too many to choose from.
How many times do you fall in love each day?
Too often to count.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
The eradication of all the stuff I mentioned in the “what’s wrong with society” question.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
Art is just about the best thing we as a species can do. It’s always either created as a way to express love or to heal from some sort of pain. Without art we’d all be a bunch of fucking stockbrokers.
When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?
I’m so vanilla. I mean the kinkiest thing I’m into is having sex with more than one woman. Are threesomes even considered kinky anymore?
What are you working on right now?
I just put out a wonderful new zine called Love Notes and other Disasters. It’s a collection of some of my most well known work as well as some new stuff no one has ever seen. I moved 200 in the first couple weeks, so people are really digging them!
I’m also doing a new late night style talk show called The Kinda Late Show with Broke-Ass Stuart. We did our first one in November and it was a resounding success! The next one is on December 17th, once again at Doc’s Lab, and will be equally amazing. Our guests include: Veronica Belmont, Gabi Moskowitz, and Josh Constine, music by Double Duchess and house band MegaFlame Presents Big Band and Cabaret. I put together this show with Alexandra Liss, Matt Lieb, Nato Green, Rachel Adams, and Alejandro Morales. We’re extremely proud of it. People walked out of the first one telling us it was the best thing they’d seen in SF in a long time. Imagine the Jimmy Fallon Show with a distinctly SF slant.
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
I wanna do more onscreen work. I’ve got another travel show that I’m pitching around. I’ve got a lot of interest in it from some pretty huge studios, but they all want me to bring a sponsor along with me. So, if you’re reading this and want to get your product seen by millions of people give me a shout!
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
I want it to be more affordable so that all my amazing friends who didn’t have rent control or who got evicted could move back.
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
Drinking and talking to interesting people.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
I saw a guy pull a sword on another guy at 6th and Mission recently! Luckily the cops got there quickly.
What are some of your favorite smells?
My girlfriend. Burning wood. Crisp air in the woods. Gasoline.
If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?
Traveling around the world for a very long period of time.