Interview with Lex Friedman(@lexfri)

What's up guys? The start of school is quickly approaching and with the little bit of free time I have left I have been trying to gather a bunch of great interviews.

Today's interview is with an outstanding writer! Lex Friedman is a Senior Writer at MacWorld, the author of two books(The Snuggie Sutra and The Kid in the Crib),  and a co-host of the podcast Unprofessional.
 

If Lex had to describe himself in five words they would be:

Funny, father, writer, motivated, happy.

He describes his workspace as follows: 

It's usually a little more cluttered than I'd like. I think in the right role, I could keep my desk and office closer to spotless. But right now, my office is filled with boxes of products to review and all sorts of related stuff. So the office is always packed.
As almost everyone who knows me knows, I work at a treadmill desk. My desk is at tall standing height, and I walk at 2.5mph most of the day while I work. 

 

Here are my five questions with Lex:

How/why/when did you get into writing? 

I've written for a long, long time. I loved reading books from a young age, and I loved writing as soon as I could figure it out. I used to type up fake newspapers for my families on the Mac in our basement and print them out on our Personal LaserWriter LS growing up. (That was a damn fine printer.)

I found that I especially loved writing stuff that I found funny. I'd read and devour books by folks like Dave Barry, and try to emulate their style. Eventually—and it took a while—I found my own style instead. I wrote a column for my high school newspaper called A Different Perspective, and they wrote the word Perspective upside down in the heading, and I always hated that; it felt like putting Groucho Marx glasses on to show everyone how funny I was.

I wrote for a new teen section of my local newspaper as well. And that started getting me compliments on my writing from people who didn't know me already. Up till then, I only heard kind things from family members, friends, or teachers. I didn't distrust them or anything, but it was cooler when I heard kind things from people who didn't know me before—and when I started getting paid to write stuff, too.

I loved writing essays in high school. Weird, right?

My sixth-grade teacher was one of the 20 best things that ever happened to me. Mr. Meiser took a kid who already loved words and writing and infused me with a love of well-crafted writing, grammatical correctness, and succinct clarity. Everything I know about grammar, he taught me, and I remember and use every single day.

What is it like working at MacWorld?

I freelanced for Macworld for a couple years before I started there full-time. I begged Jason Snell to hire me for a while before it worked out. 

I love writing for a living. I've read Macworld since I was a kid. I take tremendous pride in my job. 

Working at Macworld is fun. When a beta version of iOS or OS X comes out, I get paid to play with it. I get paid to play with new iPhones and iPads and speakers and apps. I get to write about products I love using, share insights I've gained, and all that.

I have a boss at Macworld of course, but I have a tremendous amount of freedom. There's stuff I have to write and take care of, and then a huge amount of latitude to figure out what I want to write and how. 

There are calmer times, and then there days with crazy breaking news, and then there's days when Mavericks gets announced and you're just writing and editing for hours straight.

What is your favorite food?

I love crispy duck, crispy fried chicken, and the least healthy Chinese food variants (your fried battered sesame chickens and whatnot). I also love chocolate milk and chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

How did you get into podcasting?

Back in 2006 or 2007, I started a podcast with my friend, the humorist Seth Brown. He and I first met at summer camp more than ten years prior, and we cowrote stuff there and awful lot, under the name "Leth & Sex." In '06, we started this Leth and Sex podcast, where two of us talked about anything, made jokes about the news, freestyle rapped, and generally had a good time for a listenership of dozens, maybe even a hundred. That podcast eventually fizzled.

About 18 months ago or so, I helped to beta test a podcast app that never got released. During that beta testing process, I met Dave Wiskus, who was working on the app. I told him that he and I should do a podcast, too. Mostly because I wanted to me a famous beloved podcaster and didn't know how to break into the business anymore, and figured if this guy was working on a podcast app, he could be my in.

Eventually, Unprofessional was born on Mule Radio. It went through several names and themes before we landed on what the show is today—conversations with interesting people about anything but their day jobs.

I'm planning to launch a second podcast in September. I'm very excited about that one, too.

My Podlexing side business was a surprising but in retrospect natural evolution of the podcast. We wanted sponsors for Unprofessional, and I found after a while that I was bizarrely good at finding some. Now I book sponsorships for about 50 podcasts. Crazy!

What can we expect from you in the future?

I have a new book that I'm working on, probably for late 2014. I have the new podcast I referenced. 

I feel like I'm always working on a new project or new direction. I hope to keep that up, because I keep having fun. So, I guess I like to come up with new things to do from time to time, that maybe feel surprising at first, but are semi-obvious in retrospect. 

 

Thanks so much Lex for an amazing interview! 

David Silverman