Photo: Maarten De Boer/Getty Images. Graphic: Natalie Peeples.

In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.

We run Savage Love every Wednesday here at The A.V. Club, but it turns out that writing the popular sex advice column is only a fraction of what Dan Savage accomplishes each week. Savage is also the editorial director of The Stranger, Seattle’s weekly alternative newspaper and Savage Love’s home, and hosts Savage Lovecast, the Savage Love podcast. Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, created the global It Gets Better project to inspire hope in LGBTQ youth facing harassment, and Savage’s books include American Savage: Insights, Slights And Fights On Faith, Sex, Love, And Politics; and Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins And The Pursuit Of Happiness In America. Now the Chicago native and current Seattle resident has a new Audible series called Hot Mic With Dan Savage, described as “a sexy live sex and love story telling variety show,” which launches in wide release on August 8.

Savage took a few moments to run through our 11 Questions with us, and the answers were just about as hilariously irreverent as you would imagine.

1. If you could spend the rest of your life inside one movie or TV show, which would it be, and why?

Dan Savage: Oh, my god. One movie or TV show? That’s really hard. I shouldn’t react to it like it’s consequential—it’s not actually going to happen. I think maybe The Boys In The Band, the film of the Mart Crowley play, which so many gay men over the years, and at the time, even complained that all the gay men in it were so self-hating, and that was part of the message you could play. It ends up with one of them saying, “If only we could learn not to hate ourselves quite so much.” But this is a big group of gay guys, a diverse group of gay guys living in Manhattan at a time when you could get a cool apartment for cheap. What I took away from it, when I saw it when I was really young, was like, “Oh, you could be gay and have friends and lovers, but maybe I’ll try to have better friends than these guys.”

But I think the reason I would want to be transported into that universe, into that friendship circle, is that I never hated myself for being gay. I always kind of divided the gay guys I met up into two groups when I first started coming out. There were the guys who thought there was something fundamentally wrong with them and hated themselves and were so burdened with shame and internalized homophobia. It just really paralyzed and shredded them. And then there were guys like me who thought, “I’m fine, everybody else is crazy. My church is sick and the family’s crazy, but me? I’m fine.” Maybe if you dropped me into The Boys In The Band, I could help them learn not to hate themselves quite so much a little quicker than they did.

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2. Do you have a favorite swear word or phrase? How often do you use it, and in what circumstances?

DS: I say “fuck” constantly. It’s, like, every third word out of my mouth. I don’t know if that makes it my favorite. It’s my go-to. It would have to be “fuck.” Its ubiquity. I’ve listened to my own show a couple times, and even I’m like, “Jesus Christ, I say ‘fuck’ a lot!” And the producer’s like, “Yeah, you say ‘fuck’ all the time. Sometimes I edit a few ‘fucks’ out so it doesn’t just become a long string of ‘fucks.’”

I have the NPR switch in my head. I can go on NPR and not swear. There’s a switch I can flip in my head, and the profanity stops. I swore on Colbert the last time I was on Colbert. They bleeped me. I could be unemployable anywhere else. The acronym for “not safe for work,” NSFW, when I use it, I do NSFYW: “not safe for your work.” Fine for mine. I look at these websites constantly. I have to, it’s my job. It’s not safe for your place of employment most likely.

3. What did you do on your last birthday? How did you spend your last birthday?

DS: I’m 52, which means I don’t really… I was never a person who celebrated birthdays to begin with. At this stage, it’s certainly something that someone who made a big deal out of their birthdays in their 20s and 30s kind of hangs that up. Not because you’re sad to be getting older. I’m thrilled to be getting older. I have so many friends who died when they were 25 and would be ecstatic to be here with me turning 50. It’s a thrill and a privilege to still be alive.

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What did I do? Usually, Terry and I just go out to eat and hang out. The last memorable one we had we went to Palm Springs and stayed at a friend’s big gorgeous house and got super baked and just laid around the pool all day with a couple of other friends and did nothing. That’s what I want to do on my birthday. Nothing. Nothing somewhere cool, nothing somewhere nice.

The A.V. Club: How old is your son now?

DS: He’s 19. And he’s a responsible kid who can be left at home alone and you can come back to the house as you left it, not a smoking hole in the ground. Which is nice.

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4. What is the worst professional advice you’ve ever received?

DS: “Don’t move to Seattle and write a stupid sex advice column. That’s a waste of time and you need to grow up and get serious.”

AVC: Were you still in Chicago when you heard that advice?

DS: No, I was in Madison, Wisconsin. I got that advice from a really close friend who just thought that it was a silly thing to do, and who now apologizes to me every time I see him.

AVC: Did The Stranger offer you the column?

DS: I met Tim Keck, who was the co-founder of The Onion, and he moved to Seattle to start a weekly paper. And we were talking about it, and I said, “You should have an advice column, because everybody reads those.” That Q&A format. I said that as a fan of the genre, not at all angling for the gig for myself. And he said, “That’s good advice. Why don’t you write the advice column?” That’s literally how it happened. Twenty-seven years ago, we had that conversation.

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The crazy thing is I’m now getting questions from adults whose parents were reading my sex advice column before they were conceived. I’m getting questions from people who are 22 years old whose parents were reading my column 25 years ago. That always freaks me out. That makes me feel old in not a great way. Like, holy shit.

5. If you were a medical doctor, what kind would you be and why?

DS: Oh, my god. I’d be a terrible doctor. I don’t like to touch other people. There’s a lot of gruesome stuff in my line of work to feel or to admit. I’m sure everyone’s expecting me to say “proctologist,” but actually no, I don’t want to be a proctologist. Probably want to be a dentist, because you don’t have to touch much of the other person’s body, just their face or mouth.

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AVC: You could be a psychiatrist and you wouldn’t have to touch anybody. And you have a lot of good advice.

DS: That’s true. I could be a chiropractor if I wanted to be a quack.

AVC: Are you saying psychiatrists are quacks?

DS: No, no. That just didn’t come to mind with medical doctor. Maybe I’d want to be a sports medicine doc and work exclusively with the Danish men’s soccer team. Maybe that’s the kind of doctor I’d like to be.

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6. What’s your perfect Sunday?

DS: Going for a bike ride or going snowboarding, hanging out with my husband, and then piling into bed with my husband and some friends on Sunday night to watch Veep and Game Of Thrones and pass around some baked goods. Not pot goods, like cake goods. The only TV in our house is in our bedroom, so if somebody comes over to watch Game Of Thrones, that means everybody’s in bed together, cozy and cuddly. But that is not a fuckfest. It’s Game Of Thrones time.

7. What do you get snobby about?

DS: Musical theater. Yeah, that’s about it. How people should treat waiters and people in the service industry. It drives me absolutely bananas. I’ve broken up with guys who were rude to waiters. It drives me absolutely bananas when people are shitty to frontline folks who are not responsible for some giant corporation’s policies. When people are shitty to gate agents at airports, when people don’t tip hotel maids, don’t leave some money for the person who has to clean up the mess they made in that room. That sort of stuff just annoys the fuck out of me.

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Maybe because I did that kind of work before Savage Love came along, and maybe because I would still be doing that kind of work if Savage Love didn’t come along, but it just seems so classless and it makes the world such a worse place for so many people. There’s no reason to be a dick. There’s no reason. It gets you nowhere. It doesn’t make your day better, it doesn’t make their day better. It doesn’t change Delta’s gate policy. It just creates friction where there should be ease and a sense of we’re all in this together. So that’s where I’m a snob, if I see someone who’s rude to a waiter or a barista or whatever. I just look down my nose at them like they are fucking scum, because they are.

AVC: What would be bad musical theater versus good musical theater?

DS: Bad musical theater are jukebox musicals. Rock Of Ages, anything other than Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

AVC: I agree completely. Growing up Catholic, my mom used to play that all the time.

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DS: It’s great. It’s genius. You wonder what the fuck happened. But you know, I hate Cats and Evita and Starlight Express. Phantom Of The Opera. Ugh.

I hate touring productions that play in what used to be movie theaters. I won’t go see musicals in Seattle since they have two houses that have Broadway musicals, but they were movie theaters when they were built. They’re 100 rows deep. I saw Angela Lansbury in A Little Night Music at the Walter Kerr in New York. That theater is 17 rows deep. The person the furthest from the stage is 17 rows back. The theater here where the touring companies of Broadway shows come, the furthest row from the stage is 100 rows back. Who would do that? That’s a movie theater. That’s not how live theater or a musical is supposed to be experienced. Hearing songs blasted over speakers and looking at people who are on the side dancing, it’s just not musical theater. I can’t bear it.

8. What’s the book that you’ve read the most?

DS: The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich by William Shirer, which I was in the habit of reading and re-reading every time I got broken up with or dumped and was just really sad. I would sit down and read that giant book. I read it for the first time all the way through when I was, like, 13 years old, and then I read it at least half a dozen times over the years. It’s actually sitting on my nightstand, even though I don’t think I’ve read it now for five or six years. It sits on my nightstand, always ready in case I need to read it. Also, The Persian Boy by Mary Renault is a novel I’ve read a bunch of times and really enjoyed.

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AVC: What about The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich appeals to you when you’re in that kind of emotional place?

DS: I guess it’s that things could be worse. [Laughs.] Although right now, reading it would probably feel a little bit like things are getting worse. It might not help keep things in perspective. It might be actually terrifying to read it right now.

9. What are you afraid of?

AVC: Maybe this is an inevitable question after that.

DS: Bears. The white working-class voters that you hear so much about. Trump administration. Climate change. Heights. Cunnilingus.

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AVC: That list covers a lot of bases.

DS: Flying. A bear in an airplane wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat attempting to perform cunnilingus. I think I’d have a heart attack and die. That would be the combo platter of all my fears.

10. Who are you a big fan of that we wouldn’t necessarily guess that you’re a big fan of?

DS: These questions are so hard! I’m a big fan, predictably, of Stephen Sondheim. I’m a really huge fan of Abbi and Ilana of Broad City, because I think it’s fucking genius. But those are kind of obvious. Everyone knows I love Broad City, everyone knows I love musicals. I put penises in my mouth, so that means I love Stephen Sondheim. Who would you be surprised by? I don’t know!

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AVC: Do you have a guilty pleasure? Bad movie, bad music?

DS: I like Billy Joel.

AVC: Okay, that’s surprising.

DS: It’s weird, because I don’t listen to a lot of other music, I don’t listen to a lot of rock ’n’ roll or pop music or whatever, but I really like Billy Joel. Maybe it’s because when I was in a Catholic grade school, we were forbidden to listen to “Only The Good Die Young,” because it was about a girl getting fucked after her confirmation, having pre-marital sex. So maybe because Billy Joel was held up to me in my Catholic grade school as forbidden fruit, we were forbidden from listening to Billy Joel, it made me go and listen to him. It imprinted on me at a young age. It’s weird, I don’t listen to really any other things that aren’t musicals, but I do listen to Billy Joel. [Sings.] “You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation / You got a brand new soul, and a cross of gold.”

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AVC: You were growing up Catholic on the North Side of Chicago, and I was trapped on the South Side with the meanest nuns in the world. They would break yardsticks on your ass.

DS: How old are you?

AVC: About your age.

DS: I always tell people, they always think because we’re post-Vatican II babies, that we had nothing but singing nuns in our grade school. It’s like, no, they didn’t line up the old awful nuns who hit kids the day after Vatican II in the churchyard and mowed them down. They were all still there when we got there. So we had this weird mix of singing nuns and fucking psychotic, abusive, crazy nuns. People our age. I had the same nun in the same room in the same school in fourth grade that my mother had in fourth grade that my grandmother had in fourth grade. She had been teaching them for 60 years.

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AVC: All those years of celibacy, it can’t be good for people.

DS: Yeah, it can’t.

11. What advice would you give your younger self?

DS: Spend the money on a personal trainer, don’t waste too much time in the gym not knowing what you’re doing. Which I eventually did.

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Buy Amazon. I actually had a friend when I got a book deal tell me to spend it all on Amazon. If I had listened to him and done that I’d have, like, $80 million in the bank. He did the math and showed me, just to be an asshole.

AVC: That’s harsh.

DS: I know, right? In a way, I never really cared about what people thought of me. I like to think I never cared, but I did, and so, if there’s any advice I can give my younger self, it would be to speed up the process of not giving a shit what other people think. And not just about my sexuality but about other aspects of my personality, my character, who I am and what I want, what I enjoy. I’m at that point in life now where I’m like, “I don’t give a shit what people think.” Sometimes I forget that I didn’t believe that when I was 18. I didn’t believe that when I was 18. If I could tell my 18-year-old self anything, other than listen to your friend Mike when he tells you to buy Amazon in 15 years, I would tell him to hurry up the process of learning how to not give a shit what other people think.

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12th question from Craig Robinson: How do you find balance?

DS: Pot.

Balance? Yeah, just pot. I came to pot late in life, but it’s very centering for me. I’ll exercise. I’m one of those people who—my mother was on antidepressants, a lot of people in my family are on antidepressants, I’m not. I think it’s because I exercise maniacally. Exercise is a natural antidepressant. If I can’t exercise because I’m too busy, I get depressed. I’m off my meds. I feel the same way about pot. Those two things together. Pot and movement. Biking and snowboarding and running around and going to the gym and walking places instead of sitting in a car.

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My husband last weekend thought it would be fun to rent a boat, and so we rented a boat on a lake and drove to that lake and spent the day on the boat and we really just spent the whole day sitting on our asses. We’re sitting on our asses in the car for three hours, and then sitting on our asses in the boat for 10 or eight. And that to me is not relaxing. It just made me feel kind of tense and depressed at the end of the day. I just can’t sit on my ass. You know, you write. We spend our workdays sitting on our ass. I don’t understand people who at the end of the workday sitting on your ass want to go someplace else and sit on your ass, whether it’s a bar or movie theater or the couch in front of their TV in their apartment. When I get done sitting on my ass at work all day, I’ve got to run around.

AVC: The last thing we have is your question. We don’t know who the next person is going to be yet, but we will ask that person your 12th question. It could be anything.

DS: When was the last time you had a three-way? It’s [the kind of question that] presupposes that they have had a three-way.

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