Drinking Made Easy: A Conversation with Zane Lamprey

Zane Lamprey often brags that he has the best job in the world and it could be argued that he might be right.  Only in America can one get paid to implement a good idea, especially if that idea is to explore drinking culture as Zane does on his current show Drinking Made Easy and its predecessor Three Sheets.  But it hasn’t been an easy road.  Zane Lamprey earned his title of the “Drinking Guy”  on Three Sheets a few years ago, as he made a career of pub crawling the world and drinking everything from the exotic to the mundane.  But if you think that drinking is the point of what Zane does then you need to pay closer attention to what Zane is really trying to do here.  Drinking Made Easy, for example, is one part culture, one part regional exploration and one part good time.  And what Zane is really trying to do is…well, why don’t we let you decide what Zane is really trying to do. Circle Six got to catch up with Zane as he was gearing up for Zane Patrick’s Day.  And as usual, we appreciate the fact that he was able to set aside some time to share a virtual beverage and chat – which as you will soon see is really what Zane Lamprey does best. C6M: Hey Zane, how are you? Zane Lamprey: How are you doing? C6M: Good, good. Thanks for calling. Zane Lamprey: Sure. Are you recording or writing down? C6M: Yeah, I am recording. I’m just setting up my technology, so I’m sorry it’s taking so… Zane Lamprey: No, no, no, I prefer recording. I’ve been misquoted too many times. I don’t understand how someone can take like a one minute answer from me, and actually write shorthand and then have it — you know what I mean? C6M: Oh definitely. And we definitely want to make sure that we quote people accurately. Zane Lamprey: Yes, or misquote me properly. C6M: Oh we’ll definitely try to take it out of context, but the words will be right. Zane Lamprey: [Laughter] There you go, there you go. C6M I wanted to talk a little bit about your shows, really wanted to talk about it in the context of I guess drinking — well, it’s hard to say drinking culture per say, but I mean you know, that’s a big part of what you do. Zane Lamprey: I think you’re saying that that’s an oxymoron basically? C6M: Well, no, no, I mean you know, so much of what happens in culture also involves drinking. It’s hard to separate two things completely, because I mean if you’ve heard the term in vino veritas, there is truth to that, right? With wine, there is truth, so… Zane Lamprey: Exactly. Well, I mean that probably what makes — there’s sort of this joke about Drinking Made Easy, and when I did my stage show, my comedy show, to have the same name, I was trying to figure out the joke, you know, “Oh, drinking made easy,” but then you’re like “Well, what’s the wait?” Well, I guess that that’s the punch line, and it’s also the setup, because the drinking, drinking is the easy part. It’s not really what we’re trying to show. I mean that’s sort of like, you know, the plan works.  What we’re trying to do is demystify some of the drinking cultures or some of the terms when people start to talk about making beer and they start to talk about the mashed on and the wart and the permutation, and people just are like right up, “Okay, you lost me. Just give me something that I can drink in copious amounts.” But I mean what you’re talking about too is basically — it’s true in that we’re really trying to just go out there and have fun too and cover drinking culture, and so many things we do, we do with drinking, that it almost makes everything relevant in a way. C6M: Well, absolutely, absolutely. And I think that that’s probably the genius of it, is that when we talk about I guess culture in general, and when you add a little bit of I wine into the mix or any kind of alcohol into the mix, people become more genuine when they sort of let their guard down a little bit. Zane Lamprey: Well, yeah, just a certain amount. Yeah, I mean I stated it’s a great social lubricant. I mean it really does, especially in foreign cultures, but also here, you know, camera crew shows up, and there’s obviously an extremely handsome host, people are very intimidated right off the bat, [Laughter].  But you know, it’s really — a lot of times it’s not people — with Three Sheets, a lot of times it’s not people’s first language, and they’re — they were up late or lost sleep, because it’s “Oh man, what is this guy going to ask me? I don’t know what it’s going to be about and whatever.” And then you have a drink and then everybody is just relaxed. And especially after two drinks, then you really — you’re right, you almost get the real person, the more genuine version of the person, because they’re just — they’re not holding back.  But then of course, as we call our Steve McKennas, and then you have people that overindulge, and then you get something that’s — you get the beast within I suppose. C6M: Right. Well, let’s talk about I guess the Steve McKenna mystique so to speak, the genesis of that, I mean I read on your website, has to do with an actual person, but you’ve turned it into a sort of a loose term on people who overindulge. Zane Lamprey: Well, so when we first started doing Three Sheets, I wanted to make it a drinking game, and so I thought, “Oh, I’ll do — I’ll hide the monkey, which sure we’ll talk about in a bit. I’ll hide the monkey in the show some place. Whenever someone spots it, they can make someone else a drink, whenever I drink, you know, it’s a social, and then it was going to be — whenever I talk about a friend of mine, it’s social as well. People have to have to drink. But then I told my first story — I had stories about my buddy Ben, my buddy Neil, but I told my first story about my buddy Steve McKenna, and the crew was like, “No way, that guy’s not — we need to hear more about this guy.” They’re like, “We don’t care about your other friends.”  And so it was almost like I was intending to give a different friend a shout out in every episode, and then because he is who he is, he was the first person I told the story about, and the crew was like “That’s all we want. We just want the Steve McKenna story.” So, he came along in four episodes, Kentucky, then he was in London, he was in Amsterdam and New York City, and he was great.  And so when I started doing Drinking Made Easy for HDNet, I made him a permanent fixture on the show as my co host and also my stunt drinker, because you know, I mean I’m the guy that has to run the show. I like to have fun and stuff, but there is a point where I have to draw the line. And as a co-host/stunt drinker, there is no line. C6M: Well, you know, is it weirder to be known as the drinking guy or is it weirder that you are basically getting paid to drink for a living? Zane Lamprey: Well, I mean I suppose that it’s the first one, because I’ve — both of these things I’ve been doing since late 2005 when they shot the pilot and then it’s been steady ever since. I mean ever since I’ve shot with just drinking shows, I’ve shot about 77 of them, 78, plus an episode for the Food Network, for eating. And so, to be known as the traveling, drinking guy, or the guy who basically gets paid to do what other people would pay to do — to get to do. Yeah, I mean that’s sort of then — that’s really then my job. As far as becoming known as like the drinker, you know, that is really I think what’s maybe more unique. It wasn’t necessarily getting out there and being a host, because that’s sort of what I’ve been doing or what I always thought I was going to do, but to become at this point a veritable expert on drinking. That I think is the more interesting thing for me, the fact that now I can actually sit down and write a book about it.  I can explain it to people. I can go — like I went last weekend to the South Beach Food Network Food and Wine Festival, and gave few seminars on it, and had bartenders there that learned something. So, that’s just two of the upsides of doing my job. C6M: Right. Well, I was reading in one of your interviews that our perception of how much you actually drink isn’t necessarily the reality. So, does it surprise you that given that you have that title, do people have this idea that you must be this huge lush and you drink from sun up to sun down. I mean do you find that just as weird as the perception of being called the drinking guy? Zane Lamprey: Yeah, I mean again this is something that I — as the show started off on Mojo and I went to Fine Living and then Travel and Spike, and now the inception of Drinking Made Easy, which we’re currently in that season. It’s been so slow to grow to a point where if it’s not once a week, then I get stopped twice a week, then it’s like I get stopped once a day. And then it’s like every time I go to the grocery store, there’s somebody that has a question — or forget the grocery store, let’s talk about going to a bar. I mean that’s like, you know, there will be a line of people, because people are generally respectful. They don’t want to come up and take up too much of my time, and so, but they want to have had a drink with me, so they can go and tell their buddies, “Hey, I had a drink with a guy who has a drinking show.” And so instead of coming up with a beer, which as you know, like a beer, it takes a few minutes of drink, sometimes 20, sometimes a minute, but they will come up with a shot because that’s the quickest way of having a drink with me. But I remember one time the guy — this guy came up with a shot, and there was — and I’m like, “What am I going to do?”  And then there were two other guys, you know, they weren’t like all friends. And they were like — two of the guys waiting behind them and I’m like, “Alright, at some point I got to draw the line.” Not tonight, but it’s tough what I do. C6M: Right, right, that is funny. So… Zane Lamprey: Can I talk to what you were saying about before, just about the perception of it, is that people perceive that I drink more than I do, but the reality is that as much as you see me drinking, I am drinking. So, I’m always — whenever if you see me drink 20 drinks in the show, then I drink 20 drinks.  It’s just that I didn’t drink them in the course of a half an hour that the show is or in the course of a night. Most of the time, I shoot them over the course of two to three days. So, it looks like I’m just drinking in a more concentrated time frame than I actually do. C6M: Right, I was going to say that there is probably what people don’t realize is how long it takes to actually — you know, how much time it takes to actually film the show, and… Zane Lamprey: Right. That was something that I got criticized for, my Food Network show called Have Fork, Will Travel, and I was replacing Bourdain’s show on the Food Network, and so he immediately had some disdain for me. And then when he watched the show, he’s like, “Oh, this guy just goes around making fun of people, and whatever he’s there for” — you know, whatever, you can find it online, it’s actually kind of funny. And kind of mean, but I think it’s funny.  But you know, of all the people to think that I walk in and just automatically start making fun of people rather than — the reality of it is that I’ll go to some place, I’m there for two, three, four, what’s Food Network sometimes five, six hours, and then it cuts down into four or five minutes.  And so you’re hanging out, having drinks, cooking with people on TV and joking around, you’re going to have inside jokes, and you’re going to start busting on each other and that kind of a thing. And so, it’s like I’ve edited, joke, joke, joke, then that’s just the way it got edited. He has to understand that that’s not the way that it actually happened, and like you said, like a lot of time goes into making a very short segment. It’s probably like — I’d say it’s probably an hour per minute of television. C6M: Of course, absolutely. So, let’s talk a little bit about the shows themselves, because I was reading something about how getting Drinking Made Easy on television, you had to actually pitch this idea to Mark Cuban. What was that like? Zane Lamprey: Really simple. I mean when Three Sheets went off the air for Mojo, I had Save Three Sheetsrallies, which was basically pub crawls, three pub crawls that I had in LA and in New York City. And when we — we did LA, then the next day I flew out to do the New York City one, and at the last place, I mean we had like 700 people in our group in each of the cities.  And so someone was like, “Hey, Mark Cuban is out there and I’m like “Yeah,” and like, “No, no, he’s right down there.” I’m like “He is? Like he joined our rally?” So, he did, like he actually joined our Save Three Sheets rally. C6M: Wow, that’s cool. Zane Lamprey: You know obviously he flew in, in his plane, it was easy, but pretty cool. So, I went down, had a beer with him. He’s like, “I want it,” so he tried to get it, but I don’t know. I wasn’t involved in the actual business of it, but it ended up not going onto HDNet. So, then when Three Sheets was acquired by Fine Living Network, and then Fine Living Network, like Mojo, also went off the air, I’m like, “Okay, I got to figure this out.” And so I just had same conflict as Mark a little bit, so I shot him an email, a few sentences, and he’s like, “No, let’s do it. Let’s go do it.” So, it was really getting a start, it was that simple. He always wanted to do it, and we stayed in touch and we knew at some point we probably were together, and so it’s kind of like “Okay, now is the time,” he is like, “Alright, go do it.”  So, I did — over the summer, I did my 50 city stand-up comic tour, and in the same three month period, shot 24 episodes of TV, plus a one hour special. C6M: Right. I was reading that it was basically like the same — wherever you were doing your stand-up, you would do the show, or you would film the show, film the episode. Zane Lamprey: Right, so basically I had to pull the trigger on one of the two things. So, I had the ability to pull the trigger on the tours first, so actually doing the stand-up comic tour. So, they both took a lot of planning, and it was chicken and the egg scenario, one had to go first.  So, in order to book all these rooms all across the country and to route them in a specific way, I just told my agent to go for it, and then I’d look and I’d have two or three down days in Dallas, I’d have two down days in Atlanta, I’d have two down in New York City. So, I actually — I’d have one full day to go out and shoot the episode, plus half of it next day, and then I would go and have two crews, until then I just went right to the venue, and then went on stage, which incidentally in New Orleans was a bit of a challenge.  Going and shooting all day on Bourbon Street, and then going to Tipitina’s, which is like the venue down there, and then going in and doing my stand-up was — it was nothing sober about it. C6M: [Laughter] Right. Zane Lamprey: It was probably one of the best shows. I walked out there, and I had just gone and did — I did drink hurricanes, I went to that Pat O’Brien’s, and I went to Tropic Isle and had Hand Grenades with the woman who invented it, and drank it, at Jean Lafittes, which is the oldest bar in the country. We had Cherry Bombs, which are cherries soaked in grain alcohol, and purple slushies.  And then I had to go — oh, and Absinthe. And then I went and did a live show, and I walked out on stage, and sort of as a joke to my crew, because people are like, “Oh man, what’s going to happen, because he’s been drinking all day?” So, I walked up and I started doing my thing, I’m like, “You know, I’m going to lay down, I’m a little tired.” And so I laid down on the back and did like the first three minutes of my set lying down. And everyone thought that at some point I was just going to say a word and then [snoring].   C6M: [Laughter] Zane Lamprey: But I finished it, and I remember it and it was one of the best shows, because like you’re saying, it’s like, “I didn’t give a shit, I didn’t care,” and because of that it was like you know — I probably did half of my material, and the other half was just you know, making fun of people in the audience, so everyone had a good time. It was fun. C6M: That’s great. So, let’s talk a little bit about Pleepleus, and you said that basically it started out as a little bit of a way to start a drinking game. Zane Lamprey: Yeah. I thought I could hide him in the episodes, and then start this drinking game without having to run it by the network. So, let me do these things, talk about my buddy — I would turning in my buddy Steve, and then hide the monkey and then we’ve actually learned like the German sign for a good burp. That was on the third episode we ever did, which was in Belgium. And so, we could do all these things and then — and make a drinking game, and I would launch — I sort of say it on my website, like “Hey, by the way, here’s what I did,” and I talked to the — Mike Kelly, who is the executive producer, and he’s like, “Wow, that’s awesome.” I’m like, “I think we really need to tell the network.” “We cannot tell them this.”  And so he goes and tells them, and he comes back, he’s like, “Alright, talked to the network.” I’m like, “Alright well, it was fun while it lasted.” He is like, “No dude, they love it. They read it by their legal department, they think it’s great.”  So, you know, that kind of goes to like the motto when we’re out filming, and both of my crews, whether it’s theThree Sheets crew or the Drinking Made Easy crew are just like some of the nicest people you’d ever meet.  So, it’s not like we ever — it might be a little off putting when all these people walk in with lights and cameras and stuff, but then they meet us, and they — and especially have a drink, they’d relax. But you know, it’s a — oh, I was going to say that our saying is, it’s easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. C6M: Oh absolutely, yeah, yeah. Zane Lamprey: So, we kind of work on that. C6M: Right. So, I wanted to actually close on a little bit of a, I guess… Zane Lamprey: What, somber or serious? Let me know. C6M: Well, a little bit serious, because I’m sure that there’s — like we were just talking about how people have this perception of you. Zane Lamprey: Overindulge. C6M: In the overindulgence, exactly. And I was looking up on YouTube, while I was doing research for questions that I wanted to ask you, and one of the things that popped up quite often is that your name shows up on a lot of different things that are on YouTube, for example, that have nothing to do with you. They’re frat guys drinking, like having drink. Zane Lamprey: Oh, really? C6M: Yeah, like having drinking parties. And obviously they’re doing — they’re I guess playing the game, but you know, I don’t know if you were aware of that, but… Zane Lamprey: No, I have never seen that. C6M: Well, and the thing was that I was just wondering if you’d felt like is there a part of you that I guess feels that there’s a certain amount of responsibility that your show has towards at least telling people to drink responsibly. Zane Lamprey: Yeah, I mean I do — on a personal level, I do feel that, and I’ve always felt that. And I’m always very acutely aware of the perception, and the fact that people do overindulge and idiots do get behind the wheel and there’s issues that can come from it.  But I’m very careful to not — aside from the drinking game, which isn’t meant for people that are necessarily overindulging, but like aside from the drinking game, I’m not instigating really anything. I mean I’m going out and I’m trying to blend in with people whether it’sDrinking Made Easy or Three Sheets, I just — I’m like I’m here as an active participating observer in whatever you’re already doing.  So, I’m really not going out and saying, “Hey, everyone go get dressed.” As a matter of fact, I sort of shy away from instances where that is what’s happening. Like people email me all the time, and I publish my address, and people email me all the time. They’re like, “Hey, you got to come to this. How about a college tour, or how about go to the best college bars? Or come to our town, because we’re the drunkest city,” there’s people in Fresno making that.  Um Chico and Fresno, email me that, but the — that’s not really what — or not really, that’s not at all what I’m about. I’m really about really a nerd that just likes to have fun. And I want people to walk away having learned something, and then I just try to hide that education in our ADD society where it’s a fun journey and you’re hiding the actual information. But you know, as far as responsibility, I was really concerned about that one when I first started out, like I don’t want to be promoting. But ultimately it is what it is, you know. C6M: Right. Well, like I said, one of the geniuses of the show is that — like I was mentioning earlier, that you definitely get to see people at their most truthful if you can see beyond just the drinking part of it. Zane Lamprey: Right, right, and there’s you know — I remember that one of my first interviews I ever did was with — Shannon Cook on CNN, and she’s like “You tricked me.” So, she said this, that was in the interview, and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” She’s like, “Well, I thought I was just having a good time watching, but I went to my friend’s house and they’re Welsh, and I knew more about Welsh drinking customs than they did.” C6M: Oh, that’s awesome. Zane Lamprey: And she’s like, “I didn’t know that I was getting the education,” I’m like well — I mean look, I’m just doing what I do. I can make it seem like I’m trying to do something that I’m not, but I’m just myself. So, I just go out there, interview — talk to people like I’d normally talk, I’d have a drink like I normally have, but it’s just on TV, and it gets edited so that all my shining moments make it to TV. So, that’s it. C6M: Great. Alright, well let’s close with Zane Patrick’s Day. That’s coming up in San Diego, correct? [Ed. note - Zane Patrick's Day took place on 3/12/11] Zane Lamprey: Yeah, you’re a 714 guy, so are you down in that area? C6M: I am in Southern California, so I’m only an hour away. Zane Lamprey: Nice. Yeah, we’re — well, long story, as short as I can make it, I started doing these — I talked to my publicist about doing pub crawls, and they were going to start doing international pub crawls, like international, like “Hey, come with me to Wales and the UK and France, and I’ll bring you to some of my favorite places.”  I just found that that really wasn’t feasible, so then I changed that into Zane Crawls, which was international pub crawls in US City, so I did like Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and took people over, in the course of two days, around to maybe 10 or 11 different bars.  And then the economy was just sort of wrestling with us gradually, and we started doing it in like 2007. And we decided just to turn those into just one party. And so, now I have like my Zane Patrick’s Day, my Zano De Mayo, the Zanedependence Day, Zane Year’s Eve, Zanetoberfest is a big one.  And so, I have these basically kind of quarterly parties, depending on what I’m doing. Sometimes my schedule doesn’t allow me to have them, but you know, when it came time to do Zane Patrick’s Day, we had to figure out where we were going to do it. We had a huge one in New York, like two years ago. I think it was actually our only other Zane Patrick’s Day, and this time I wanted to have it out here. And I live in LA, but I’m smart enough to not throw a party in LA, because there’s so much going on, I don’t know, it’s just not — it’s not the best environment for stuff like that. C6M: Well, yeah, there’s just too much stuff going on in LA, there’s too many choices. Zane Lamprey: There’s too many choices, and everybody knows somebody, so everyone expects to not have to pay. So, you know, it is not like something free for me to throw. So, you know, San Diego is one of my favorite cities, so it was kind of a no-brainer. And Belly Up is kind of like my home turf. I’ve done more shows there than anywhere else, and I’ve ended all of my tours there, every tour that I’ve — all three comedy tours that I’ve had, I’ve ended at Belly Up. C6M: Right. So, is that — that’s basically — that’s Gaslamp? Where is that exactly? Zane Lamprey: No, Belly Up is actually in Solana Beach. C6M: Okay, so it’s further north, okay. Zane Lamprey: So, it’s about — yeah, it’s north of there. C6M: Yeah, yeah, right, I know where that is. Very cool, well we’ll look forward to that. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to talk to me, and we definitely will do our best to promote your stuff. I really enjoyed talking to you. Zane Lamprey: Appreciate it.  Thank you very much. And if you mention Zane Patrick’s Day, tell people that I said don’t be an idiot, take a cab or take the train. Really, it’s — the club is literally at the train stop, right there near the train station. We don’t want people getting hurt.  Maybe you can phrase that more eloquently than I did. C6M: Alright. Thanks again, Zane. Zane Lamprey: Cool. Thanks man, cheers. Okay Zane, here goes.  We at Circle Six are of the opinion that drinking is a privilege.  If you’re going to indulge in your favorite beverages, we hope that you dive in and make it a learning experience – one in which you take your time and enjoy life at its intended pace with your drink of choice in one hand and some good conversation to go with it.  If you’re going to over indulge – we hope you make those plans in advance and arrange safe travels to and from the party.  It’s a long life and we’d hate to see it cut short because you were unable to use sound judgment. Now, with that being said, if in your travels you see Zane standing next to a stuffed monkey or Steve McKenna passed out in his own vomit – you know what to do. Raise your glasses in salute and don’t forget to let them know that Paul sent ya.

By Paul Stamat