Lecture With Max Brooks: Zombie Facts, But Funny

Max Brooks Visits Palatine's Harper CollegePreparing for  zombie apocalypse is no laughing matter; that is, unless you are Max Brooks, former Saturday Night Live (SNL) writer and author of the popular zombie books, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and The Zombie Survival Guide.

While he’s ultra-serious about his message of being prepared in case of a real apocalypse or natural disaster, once onstage, the Los Angeles-based writer has the audience practically rolling in the aisles, as he did at this past Friday’s appearance at Harper College in Palatine, Ill.

“Zombies terrify me,” he began. “That’s why I write about them. They don’t obey the first rule of being monsters. We’re the dominant species on the planet and we’ve taken a long time to drive them to the dark corners of the planet. You have to go find them in the swamp or desert or abandoned camp, and if you go follow them you refuse to be reasonable people and just become crocodile hunters.”

In that respect, he says people have to remember that movies (digging at a certain recent movie release) and even “reality” shows are no longer real.

“Forget what you see in the movies, especially this summer,” he suggests. “All that stuff is meant to entertain. In this country we don’t know where that line is between entertainment and education. The lines got blurred on ‘reality’ shows and the problem is people think they’re real and it’s going to get them killed. Real is boring. Real is about details that aren’t sexy and cool.”

Considering the ‘zombie apocalypse kit’, he notes: “Ten years ago, I’d ask people what they want in their zombie kit and they’d say ‘a big gun.’ This is America. If there was a real zombie plague, the first thing you’d want is this.” He holds up a bottle of water, saying that you’d never see a zombie movie where someone dies of dehydration, and then he acts it out. “‘Oh my head, that’s why my pee was so yellow this morning! Go on without me, Brad Pitt!’ You’d never see this in a movie. You’d never write a scene where someone poops themselves to death (after drinking from a puddle.) You need something to purify the water.”

Here are a few more Maxisms from his lecture:

  • On society: “The reason we have society is so we don’t go out and die in the wild. We’d have to do the most un-American thing – we’d have to work together.”
  • On Z Day 1: “They’ll be waiting for us at the Canadian border with a sharpened hockey stick and a Molson.”
  • On sharing the “serious” facts: “You don’t go all crazy. You get them with a laugh, and a smile, just like Scientology.”
  • On his favorite zombie movie, Dawn of the Dead: “… George (Romero) was part of a group, the baby boomers, and he totally wails on his generation. That should be sold in a box set with Easy Rider, the beginning and the end.”

Max Brooks 2 Visits Palatine's Harper College

Following the hour-long lecture, he took questions from the audience, and while some were probably familiar to him (he’s been doing this for 10 years, remember), some may have been slightly different. Here’s a few:

Q: What should you do the first week of a zombie apocalypse?

A: “Duck. If you wake up one morning and it’s zombie day, don’t try to get out of Dodge. Two hours out of my city, the hills have eyes. They can’t wait for the zombie plague. They get to shoot somebody in the eye. The hills are going to explode in a cloud of crystal meth.”

Q: Wouldn’t other people trying to take your supplies be more dangerous than the zombies?

A: “You’ll be running from Duck Dynasty in the first minute.”

Q: Your favorite thing about the zombie apocalypse?

A: “That it hasn’t happened.”

The question that got the most applause was that while he had the theory down, what would he actually do in practice?

A: “I don’t have a frickin’ choice. I’ve got to survive. I’m a dad.”

Read more of what Brooks says from his phone interview with Christine Verstraete:

Max Brooks is a man of two natures. There is the serious Brooks, the man who talks about zombies and links them with real life issues. Then there is the entertainer who gets his point across with wry and often hysterical humor…

Read the rest of her interview, Max Brooks Still Talks – and Fears – Zombies, at GirlZombieAuthors!

  • Christine Verstraete

    Great! Thanks for the post!