When Joey Green
teams up with
James Patterson, something funny happens.
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Interview with Joey Green
Posted on: July 11, 2012
How’d you come up with the idea for your new book, Dumb History? Joey: I’m just constantly amused by the stupid mistakes people make all the time. It’s been said, “To err is human.” Well, yes, it most certainly is. Some remarkably smart people have made some incredibly stupid mistakes. We all make mistakes. Huge mistakes. Some of us just make much bigger mistakes than others. Ahd this book is a celebration of all the astoundingly dumb mistakes people have made. So, if you’ve made a really dumb mistake recently, you can take comfort knowing your faux pas probably doesn’t hold a candle to some of the tremendous blunders, colossal feats of idiocy, and astounding snafus committed by others. Just don’t use this book as a how-to manual. That would be a huge mistake.
Do you think it’s bad for people to make mistakes? Joey: There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake. We all do it. Ideally, we learn from our mistakes. Unless you die. In which case, other people learn from your mistake. But aside from that, the biggest mistake you can make is refusing to admit you made a mistake and then trying to cover it up. I’m just trying to get people to laugh at their own stupiditybecause, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be laughing at yourself all day long.
The book is called Dumb History. Do you have a Ph.D. in history? Joey: No. I took history classes in college, sure. But I’m not a student of history. I’m a student of dumb history. I just love discovering all the stupid mistakes that have been made. For instance, in 1935, Adolf Hitler posed for a photograph with a blond boy on his lap as the model of a pure Aryan child. The subsequent postcard sold hundreds of thousands of copies throughout Germany. The Nazis later discovered that the ideal Aryan child photographed on Hilter’s lap was actually the Jewish grandson of a renowned Rabbi.
How did you discover all these stupid mistakes? Joey: By mistake. I’m not kidding. I read magazines, newspapers, books, or watch the news on TV, and the stories that always pop out at me are the ones focused on human error. I’m just constantly awed at what fools these mortals be, to quote Mr. Shakespeare. Speaking of Shakespeare, in Hamlet, the ghost of Hamlet’s father mentions the Catholic concepts of purgatory and absolution, despite the fact that the play takes place in Denmark at a time when the Danes were pagans.
What’s the funniest mistake you came across? Joey: There are so many. One of my favorites happened in the summer of 1938. Pilot Douglas Corrigan took off in an airplane to fly solo nonstop from New York to Los Angeles. Twenty-six hours later, he landed in Dublin, Ireland. Corrigan explained that he had followed the wrong end of his compass needle and, flying through fog and heavy cloud cover, could not identify any landmarks.
If you could go back in time, which mistake do you wish could be erased? Joey: On October 25, 1964, Minnesota Viking Jim Marshall picked up a football fumbled by the San Francisco 49ers and ran sixty-six yards the wrong way into his own end zonescoring two points for the other team. I feel sorry for the guy. How do you live that down?
Did you come across any mistakes that embarrassed a lot of people all at once? Joey: In October 1961, the New York Museum of Modern Art opened an exhibit of the works of French impressionist Henri Matisse, accidentally displaying one of Matisse’s paintings titled Le Batuea (The Boat) upside down. Over the next 47 days, an estimated 116,000 museum visitors viewed the upside-down painting, including Matisse’s son, Pierre. None of them noticed that the painting was hung upside down. Finally, a Wall Street stockbroker named Genevieve Habert brought the mistake to the museum’s attentionafter visiting the exhibit for the third time.
What’s your favorite mistake in the book? Joey: The typographical error on page 137. No, no, honestly I don’t have a favorite mistake. What I love about Dumb History is that this book features stupid mistake after stupid mistake by hundreds of people, like Napoleon, Shakespeare, Galileo, Alexander Graham Bell, Richard Nixon, Elvis Presley, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, NASA scientists, O.J. Simpsonthe list goes on and on. I’m really proud of this book. I think it’s one of the funniest books I’ve ever written, because truth really is stranger than fiction. I mean, I can’t make this stuff up. For instance, in front of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, there’s a nine-foot tall statue of baseball legend Babe Ruth, sculpted by artist Susan Luery in 1995. The statue depicts Babe Ruth holding a right-handed baseball glove. Babe Ruth was left-handed.
Have any of these dumb mistakes cost a lot of money? Joey: Absolutely. In September 1978, a worker dropped a fifty-five-cent paint scraper into a torpedo launcher of the U.S. nuclear submarine Swordfishcosting the U.S. taxpayers $171,000 in repairs. There are other mistakes in the books that have cost billions.
Was there a stupid mistake that changed the course of history? Joey: There have been a whole bunch.One of my favorites took place on the night of June 5, 1944. Adolf Hitler took sleeping pills and gave orders that he not be woken. The next morning at dawn, the Allied Forces launched their D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach. German headquarters in Berlin refused to take action without direct authorization from Hitler. When Hitler finally woke up, the Allies had won the invasion.
What do you think is the most embarrassing mistake anyone ever made? Joey: On January 26, 1998, President Bill Clinton looked into the camera at a press conference, pointed his finger, and stated emphatically, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Unbeknownst to Clinton, Lewinsky had kept a dress stained with his semen. How do you top that?
What’s your stupidest mistake? Joey: This interview.