What The Buck?!: An Interview with Michael Buckley
Question: Where can you go to find out about Jennifer's nose job, Tyra's fat ass, or speculation on whom is Anna Nicole's baby's daddy? The answer can be found by searching YouTube with the words "What the Buck" or by visiting the What the Buck page on MySpace.com where you will be brought to the irreverent observations of Buck the Hustler, aka as Michael Buckley. Three or four times a week, he uploads his slickly made commentaries on celebrities and pop culture that are amongst the snarkiest to be found on the web. He's is every bit as funny as anything The Soup, and certainly sharper than most pop culture contributors found on network or cable outlets (think Comedy Central's The Showbiz Show or Weekend Update on SNL). Why he doesn't have his own television show is a mystery.
But what Buckley, a 31-year old Connecticut native has done, is show what a quick wit, an ingratiating personality and access to a television studio can do to receive a level of fame on the web. It's worked for Perez Hilton, why not for Buckley? He may be the next big thing in that place where the Internet and mainstream media merge.
EDGE spoke to Buckley recently from his Connecticut home where he lives with his husband, also named Michael, and their 4 dogs about his webcast and his growing celebrity.
EDGE: You're so funny - we're big fans at EDGE....
Michael Buckley: Thanks. I really appreciate the people that enjoy it because it's a lot of fucking work.
EDGE: How did What the Buck?! come about?
Michael Buckley: I work at the local public access studio in the next town over. I do a live show a half-hour a week. What the Buck?! took off from there. I go in there and pre-shoot the segments before the show. I've been doing that since July '05. Then I put something online, and it really took off on MySpace.com. The clips started getting so much feedback that I decided that I needed to run with them using MySpace as my home page. When you put clips on YouTube, they will often sit there. No one will see it unless you're really lucky. It's weird, because my stuff looks almost professional. Some people realize that I'm a nobody, but a lot of people thought I was famous when I first started and that I actually knew Oprah!
EDGE: Your clips are quite professional. Have you had previous television experience?
Michael Buckley: Nothing. I got a degree in psychology. I work with autistic kids for 6 years. But nothing related to television. I have no writing experience. I did some community theater growing up, but as a grown-up I haven't an ounce of ambition to act. I love being myself, and now I have my own thing. And I want to get What the Buck out there, and YouTube gives me a great opportunity to do that.
EDGE: Have you pitched your clips to any cable outlets?
Michael Buckley: At this point I don't have an agent, I don't have a manager, I get emails from people all the time that say they want to help me; but, nothing real substantial has come of it. Basically I'm relying upon the kindness of strangers like websites like EDGE putting up my clips to get them out there. It's so much work. I have to anticipate what people are looking for - for instance recently I anticipated the thing from American Idol (the racy photos of American Idol contestant Antonella Barba) and got 90,000 hits in one day because I thought it was something that people would be looking for.
EDGE: Are you looking for an agent?
Michael Buckley: I don't think it would hurt. The thing is that for me to submit my stuff to E (E Entertainment) I need an agent. They don't take any unsolicited material, so I need an agent. It's hard for me -I send emails to people and say check out my stuff and get no response. A couple of months ago I submitted stuff to Logo, the gay network; and they wrote back that they didn't think I was a good fit. If I'm not a good fit for Logo. If I'm not a good fit for a gay network, well ... But in December I got an email that said, 'after careful review, etc.'. But, whatever. I figured I'd be great for a late night show, but apparently not. I would love to get on the View. I think I'd be a great fit for them. I would love to be a correspondent on some of these shows. When you see the people doing commentary on some of these shows, and, you know, some of them suck. It's not as if I'm impatient - I'm 31 years old and I'm in no rush at all. I'm enjoying this at this point. I'm having great fun.
EDGE: That shows. Your videos are always very funny and very fresh, and you look as if you're having a ball. What kind of response do you get?
Michael Buckley: It runs the gamut, but every day I get responses. 60% of the time the comments are 'you're so funny. I love you Buck'; but then 40% I get those 'die fag. I hate you.' They can be horribly mean. It's so funny. When you make fun of people like I do, you have to expect people to be mean back to you. But when they say things like 'I'm going to kill you faggot,' and 'you're just a HIV-chaser.' That's just weird. I'm not sensitive, and can appreciate negative feedback when people are clever; but when I get comments like 'die fag', that sucks. I get enough of that at home.
EDGE: Do you think people take you too seriously?
Michael Buckley: One of my most popular videos was 'Beyonce threatens to kill Jennifer Hudson if she wins the Oscar,' and with this video I got so many mean responses from Beyonce fans. But what they don't get is that I love Beyonce. I love Oprah, But I can't make fun of obscure people - I have to go for the throat. You have to go for someone that everyone is talking about, and is probably thinking the same thing but wouldn't say it. I know I don't believe half the things I'm saying - I know I'm saying them for shock value - but that's half the fun. I know I look like a bitter gay guy, but I'm really not. I'm happy with my place in life. For me it's a whole big joke. But people think I'm so mean and harsh about things that I'm some miserable person. But people need to know that I'm not all that serious, and they need to lighten up.
EDGE: Are there any celebrities that are overrated?
Michael Buckley: Um. All of them? But I especially think Rachel Ray is overrated. People think she's very talented, but I think she's a loser. But look at them all? Look at the women that win the Oscar - Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts. They're adorable. They play themselves in every damn movie. Every one of those women - none of them are particularly impressive. I love some actresses - Helen Mirren, Kate Winslett, Meryl Streep. but these younger American actresses? They're supremely overrated. Jennifer Aniston. I don't think anyone rates her, but she's horrible. People say I should be nice to her, but why should I be nice to her? She's got $100 million dollars - these are the people you need to make fun of. And Kristen Dunst is looking a little wobbly. She was at the Oscars. She's a good actress. I think she's respectable, but lately there's no hiding. The paparazzi are everywhere, and she's looking pretty wobbly. For lack of better word - she's like Heather Mills - a little wobbly. If I'm going to be nice to anyone on Dancing With The Stars it will be Leeza Gibbons because I want to get a phone interview and get on her radio show. I'm going to make fun of Heather Mills because she's an asshole, but not Leeza Gibbons.
EDGE: Speaking of celebrities - are you watching that new series Dirt?
Michael Buckley: Yes. It's not very good in terms of television acting, quality writing, and story line; but I enjoy it. It's not a great show. It's not going to win any Emmy Awards, it's fun. But it's hard to hear some of those words on network television. When you hear Courtney Cox say 'why aren't you sucking my dick?' I think, huh? And to hear her say 'douchbag.' That's just too much.
EDGE: Where did the name What the Buck?! come from?
Michael Buckley: My name is Michael Buckley. And I had this shitty experience last year. I found this casting audition off of Craig's List. It was for this MTV2 show. I got there and it was 100 black people and me. I'm texting my husband, and saying, 'it's a hundred black people and me,' and I said I should leave.' But, no I decided to stay just to talk to them. It was in Brooklyn, and this girl in line said, 'yeah. You should have known it was for black actors. If it's a casting office in Brooklyn, then it's for blacks. If it's Manhattan, it's for whites.' Anyway, it was also for 18-24 year olds, and I was 30; but I convinced them to let me in. Plus I was wearing a very gay t-shirt - not very urban. In the audition I think I made a complete fool of myself; but they called me the next day and asked me to come back. They christened me the Buck the Hustler - I don't know why. And I wrote four little things for them, and did them in one day. I didn't get paid for it and they never aired. It was kind-of shady - they didn't even know how to work the cameras. But the experience inspired me use the name Buck the Hustler. So I came up with What the Buck?!. So my name came out of this horribly shady experience with this pilot show that never aired that I'm strangely bitter about.
EDGE: How do you put your segments together?
Michael Buckley: On Mondays I go to the TV studio at 5pm, and from 5-6:30 I'm shooting four original things I put online over the week. It takes all day Sunday to put them together. I take notes and jot things down all week, then on Sunday I get on my laptop at 9am and work until 1am. It takes me all day to write four things. So it's so much work. I talk about a lot of the same people every week, so I can't say the same Britney Spears joke every week. I have to keep changing it up. Every week I'm surprised that I come up with new stuff, but it is getting easier. There are always going to some things I'm going to talk about. I'm always going to talk about American Idol and Top Model, because they are shows I really like and enjoy talking about. I'm always going to talk about Britney Spears, because people are always interested in her. Then I'll just see something shocking, and will write it down. Then on Sunday, I try to make sense of it all.
EDGE: Is there anything off-limits for you, such as outing celebrities?
Michael Buckley: That's not my thing. I do joke about Jodie Foster coming out, or Anderson Cooper coming out - it's not me with cold hard facts about outing someone, rather it's me making fun of the fact that it is in the press that they are gay and everybody knows it. I'm not a reporter. I'm not digging through people's trash. If I had too sure, but I live in Connecticut. Whose trash am I going to go through?
EDGE: Do you think a gay person's career would be ruined today if they were outed?
Michael Buckley: On some levels, yes. There are some male actors I think it will hurt. Anderson Cooper is a television journalist, so I don't think it is such a big deal. But I mentioned to someone the other day that Anderson Cooper was gay - it's pretty much known - and they reacted horribly. So you never know. I get emails from people from other parts of the country and these people don't like gay people. We're pretty sophisticated in this part of the country it's a different world - New York, Connecticut, Boston, but in the middle of the country. I get emails from people that say 'die fag'. It is shocking that people still feel that way. The whole gay thing-get over it. I never gave it any thought. It was never an issue for me. I knew I was gay at four. I enjoyed it. That was it. But then I hear from people that it was my choice and I was going to hell, and all that other crap. Just shut up.
EDGE: What? You came out when you were four?
Michael Buckley: Yes. I had a big party. I remember watching The Dukes of Hazzard, and thinking, I don't know what I want to do with these men, but I want to see them with their shirts off, and I wouldn't mind wrestling with them. But I also remember seeing gay people on television who were very traumatized about being gay, so I knew it wasn't considered a good thing. I didn't, though, cry about it - I just waited until I went to college. But I was one of the few people on my campus who was gay, so that was strange. I didn't have any role models. If you asked me right now who was a good gay role model, I couldn't say.
EDGE: What do you think of the new gay sensibility on television. Gays seem to everywhere, don't you think?
Michael Buckley: It is still not quite there yet. For instance it's okay for a lesbian like Ellen or Rosie to be on a talk show, but if I was on one, no one would want to watch me that much. There was an article in Time recently about it, that it is adorable that all these shows have one gay character, but they don't really represent people. Then you watch Queer as Folk and you realize, you don't really know people like this. This is stupid. They all act so stupid. I don't know. It's better than when I was growing up, and gay television is happening, but is still in transition.
EDGE: Where do you get your story ideas? Do you get tips from viewers?
Michael Buckley: People always send me things. People sent me the pictures of the girl from American Idol and told me I needed to rip her a new asshole, and I did. But I didn't care about what she sticks in her mouth - I could care less. But she's a horrible singer, and that's why I did a thing about her, and why I wanted to pick on her. I always talk about Tyra. Tyra is constantly entertaining. She's crazy. She's one big contradiction. She has this one series called Top Model, where she's trying to find a model; then on her talk show she has this movement -she calls it a movement - called So What. So what if I have cellulite on my arm? So what if my thighs are fat? It's very strange that she lives in these two worlds. Now she has these two plus-side girls on Top Model, and she's trying to say it's okay to be fat and to be a top model. But the last couple years she's been saying to women they should lose weight, so it's all a little strange; but I love her. I love her weave. She scares the crap out of me, but I love her.
EDGE: Are you intimidated by celebrities?
Michael Buckley: Not in the least. If anyone contacted me and said, screw you. You're such an a-hole. I would be thrilled. The fact that they were watching me and were affected by it, I could retire - I would be so happy. That would be awesome.