An interview with Ben Thompson: Badass of the Week
Maybe you’ve heard of Badass of the Week, maybe you haven’t. Either way, there’s this guy Ben Thompson that blogs about the baddest badasses in history, in a style that will make you laugh so hard you will drop kick a litter of newborn puppies just to get the grin off your face. The list is very diverse, and includes all types of historical characters, good and evil alike, from Harriet Tubman to The Predator.
He recently published a book titled Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live. I enjoyed this book so much, I had no choice but to share it with you guys.
I had the opportunity to ask Ben a few questions, and he was nice enough to get back to me instead of sending ninja assassins to my house.
G&T: You’ve listed people dead and alive, male and female, ancient kings, pro wrestlers and General Zod from Superman II. Are there any minimum requirements for becoming a Badass of the Week?
BT: There are a lot of different types of badasses out there, but the main thing that unites a mad scientist badass like Nikola Tesla with an over-the-top face-wrecking badass like Leonidas is that neither of those guys put up with anyone else’s crap. It doesn’t matter what you’re really trying to accomplish — world conquest, nuclear fission, jumping a motorcycle over the Grand Canyon, etc. — as long as you go totally balls-out after it and don’t let anything get in your way, that’s badass.
G&T: I once watched a Kung Fu movie where this guy would punch three holes in the forehead of his enemies with his fingertips. I think he lived in a cave full of ventilated human skulls. Is there any truth to this?
BT: There was a Japanese-Korean dude named Mas Oyama who spent most of his life living on a mountain hardening his fists by punching trees into firewood. He would occasionally come down into town to kick the crap out of martial arts experts and kill bulls by punching them in the face. If this guy can do that, I don’t see why someone wouldn’t be able to punch his fingers through your skull and use it as a bowling ball.
G&T: What is the true “Breakfast of Champions”?
BT: Wheaties, dusted with metal shavings taken from a decommissioned Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile and sprinkled with two scoops of 9mm ammunition.
G&T: Has a featured Badass,or the family of a featured Badass, ever asked you to take down or correct an entry on your site?
BT: I once wrote a story about a 70 year-old man named Gene Moe, who killed a Grizzly with his bare hands while it was mauling him to death. Moe then crawled two miles to the car, drove himself to the hospital, and survived. He emailed me to tell me that he didn’t like my take on his story — the real reason he’d won the fight was because God guided his fist into the bear’s skull, and since I didn’t talk about Jesus coming down and helping this guy kick the crap out of a rampaging Grizzly my story was inaccurate (he much preferred the 700 Club version, naturally). I figured hey, this guy fistfought a bear and won, so I probably shouldn’t give him a hard time if he wants me to take my version of his story off my website.
G&T: Lee Marvin or Steve McQueen? Why?
BT: Can’t we have both?
G&T: How many swords do you own?
BT: I’ve got a set of samurai swords (the katana and wakizashi), an English longsword, a Confederate cavalry saber, and a letter-opener designed to look like Glamdring the Foe-Hammer.
G&T: Are there any authors that have influenced your writing style? I noticed you use a lot of long sentences and commas like you are Homer or something.
BT: Homer was epic poetry, though, and my rhyming and meter skills are really sub-par. As far as history goes, I always loved Gibbon and Plutarch, because those guys told the true stories, but they didn’t have a problem telling you if they thought someone in particular was awesome or a total douchebag. There was none of this middle-of-the-road, fake-objectivity crap. If the guy sucked balls, they came right out and said it rather than trying to rationalize for him.
For more modern authors, I’m a huge fan of Will Cuppy’s “Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody”, as well as a book called “1066 And All That”. I also love Douglas Adams, who was, of course, a genius, but not related to history in any appreciable way.
G&T: I understand if you hate this question, but I have to ask. Who is your favorite Badass?
BT: It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but when people talk to me about the whole Badass of the Week thing, the guy I like to point to is a guy named Wolf the Quarrelsome. Wolf was an Irish barbarian who fought the Vikings, defeated them in combat, and then killed their leader by cutting the guy’s torso open with an axe, tying one end of his intestines to a tree, and then making the guy walk around the tree until he was dead.
Wolf only appears in like three lines in all of history, and he contributes very little to human history in any significant way, but this is a badass story, and it’s the sort of thing I love reading about. Badass of the Week was designed to tell stories like that.
G&T: I have always wanted to cut down a giant redwood tree with a giant chainsaw. Is this natural?
BT: I think the uncontrollable urge to cut things apart with a chainsaw is something that’s deeply embedded into human DNA. Anyone who claims otherwise is only denying their true nature.
Ben Thompson is also the author of Badass: The Birth of a Legend: Spine-Crushing Tales of the Most Merciless Gods, Monsters, Heroes, Villains, and Mythical Creatures Ever Envisioned. You can find him on Twitter as @Badassoftheweek.