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My Altered States Uncovered on the “Altered Geek” Podcast

I had the chance to talk in depth with Steve “Megatron” Phillips, host of the Altered Geek podcast. I really enjoy doing podcast interviews, as each one is a bit different based on the host and questions asked and the mood of the moment when we’re recording. This was a good talk and I think we cover a lot of ground around my tenure at Troma, and the book itself (which Steve clearly had read in advance). We discuss how, while the book is a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes tales to delight the Troma fan, the anecdotes and lessons within also appeal to readers who have never heard of Troma or The Toxic Avenger (yes, such folks exist!). Steve compliments the “short” chapters and I give credit to Steven Pressfield‘s Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, which served as an inspiration to the style of writing I chose for my book.

In addition, we talk about how I got involved with .CLUB Domains and the domain name industry, and the many opportunities that now exist to create relevant and memorable domains using a meaningful extension (as I do by using www.ToxicAvenger.marketing as a shortcut to the book on Amazon.com). We also touch on the documentary series on entrepreneurship I am currently working at Startups.club.

There’s also a good discussion on culture and purpose in business, and… well, instead of my yapping on here, you can click here or on the embed below to listen to the show. Enjoy!

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Talking Toxie & More on the #BeardSpeaks Podcast (video/adult language)

Chuck Reeves (aka #BeastHost) is a pretty interesting dude. After serving 10 years in the US Navy (thank you for your service, Chuck!) he’s been an outspoken character as a rapper, radio DJ, MC of hundreds of live events, and now as host of the #BeardSpeaks YouTube show and podcast. Chuck is very familiar with Troma and The Toxic Avenger, and he actually read and enjoyed my book before we spoke, so this was a lively and entertaining conversation. Chuck is also a passionate marketer himself and we also dive into a bit about my role at .CLUB Domains and the importance of domain names to independent creators (about 32:33 into the interview).

You can watch the full interview on YouTube below, or you can listen to the audio version embedded below the video. Enjoy, and if you do, give a shout out to Chuck the BeastHost and #BeardSpeaks!

Watch now above. Listen now below!
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Three Words I Learned from The Toxic Avenger

It's a new year, and everyone is considering their resolutions and goals for 2019. A lot of folks I know (myself now included), opt to choose three words as their inspiration for the new year, rather than more traditional resolutions. These are three words you can point to for inspiration and guidance during the year. You can see my "three words for 2019" on my blog, SASSHOLES! In the spirit of "three words" I thought I would write about three words I learned from my monster mentor, Toxie. So, with that in mind, here are:

Three Words I Learned from The Toxic Avenger

BEAUTY.
The word "beauty" may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you take a gander at the hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength. He's got more than a few wrinkles (especially for his age) and that droopy eye thing, is, well, a bit of an eye-sore to look at. But Toxie's beauty is not skin deep, but rather, deep within. What he may lack in more traditional good looks, he more than compensates for with his glowing (sometimes, literally glowing) inner beauty. You can't judge a book by its cover, and you can't judge a monster by how horrifying he may appear on the surface. When I see Toxie, I see nothing but beauty. Do you see it too?

FAMILY.
Despite having to mop things up for most of his childhood, Toxie matured into a loving and caring family man-er, family monster. No matter how busy he is beating the crap out of criminals and ridding Tromaville of its true ugliness - the corrupt and evil corporations and the crooks who run them - Toxie always makes time for his Mom. He's a loving and caring son-er, monster, who will do anything and everything to help his Mom and make her proud. And he treats his girlfriend pretty well too, though she may not always see it, being blind and all...

COMPASSION.
There's no other way to say it. Toxie cares. He cares about his friends and family. He cares about his hometown of Tromaville. He cares about poor, defenseless kittens caught in trees. He cares about the elderly and disabled folks being taken advantage of by corrupt politicians. He cares about cute kids wearing footsie pajamas (and not just because they are the children of the director). Toxie cares. He is by far the most compassionate person-er, monster, I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

So there you have it. Three words I learned from The Toxic Avenger:

Beauty. Family. Compassion.

What words are you thinking about in the new year?


Did you enjoy this post? Please share it, or even better, buy the book!

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Legendary Indy Studio Troma Joins Hollywood Studio Legendary for Toxic Avenger Reboot

Still Toxic After All These Years!

My monster mentor The Toxic Avenger (aka Toxie) is in the news again as word spreads through the media touting a brand new Hollywood remake. Yes, the legendary independent studio Troma is teaming up with the Hollywood studio Legendary to bring Toxie back to the silver screen!

This is not the first time Hollywood has threatened to embrace Tromaville and welcome Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz (and their hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength) to cross over to the dark side and “go mainstream.” Back toward the end of my stint in Tromaville, riding on the grossly green backs of The Toxic Crusaders cartoon series (of which I was a co-creator), we had a deal with New Line Cinema to produce a big budget theatrical “Toxie” flick. But alas that flick flickered away and never came to be. Sad.

In more recent years, there have been rumors of a Toxic Avenger remake to star Arnold Schwarzenegger as Toxie. It looks like Arnold won’t be back, but at least now The Toxic Avenger will!

As someone who lived intimately with Toxie for more than seven years, through two sequels and a cartoon series spinoff, I can personally vouch for the lovability and durability of The First Superhero from New Jersey. Like Troma itself, this new take on The Toxic Avenger is destined to be Legendary!

I couldn’t be more happy for Lloyd, Michael, and the Troma Team. After all, “Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER!”

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R.I.P. John Altamura… Tromaville Weeps for a Toxie

This week it was announced that actor John Altamura passed away of a heart attack at the young age of 52. While the Toxic Avenger was played by Mitch Cohen in the original The Toxic Avenger film, it was John who I first knew as Toxie, working closely with him on The Toxic Avenger II and III (which we shot at once and then edited into the two sequels).

As I write about in my book, in the end, Toxie was portrayed by both John and Ron Fazio in the final cuts of the films, but there is no question that John made a significant contribution to both films and that his version of Toxie will always be warmly and fondly remembered and admired. John’s portrayal of the Toxic Avenger brought both a strength and humility to the character that helped to make the lovable monster a hero for the ages…

Like John’s memory, the Toxic Avenger will live on, and everyone who ever dons the mutated mask and portrays Toxie in the future will surely be influenced and inspired in some way by the work John did before them.

My condolences to John’s family, friends and fans.

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Author Jeff Sass on The Chris Voss Show (video)

In yet another podcast appearance and another video podcast, it was a pleasure to talk Toxie with Chris Voss of The Chris Voss Show. Turns out Chris is a fan of The Toxic Avenger so our talk was very Tromatic. Enjoy!


 

 

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Pop Goes the Culture show with Jeff Sass and Special Guest Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman

As part of the ongoing promotion of my book, I’ve been making a lot of appearances on various podcasts, which is always fun for me. Each show and the host(s) has its own unique point of view and approach, and that makes every interview take a different path and talk about the book (and other things) with a fresh perspective. Most of the interviews I’ve done have been audio only, but lately, I’ve done a few video interviews as well. This one, the YouTube show POP GOES THE CULTURE – TV, was especially fun for two reasons. One, the host and producer, David Levin, is an old friend who was actually there and a part of some of the experiences I write about in Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER.

David and I worked together at Satori Entertainment, and in particular, we worked very closely together on the talk show, CELEBRITY, with hostess Alison Steele. I talk a little about Satori in Chapter 1 of the book, and more about CELEBRITY and Alison in “Chapter 23: Everyone is Expendable (Especially if you Wear a Mask).” After I joined Troma, I worked with David again on a number of Troma trailers, and on the Troma Informercial, THE TROMA SYSTEM, for Comedy Central (more on that in “Chapter 34: The Director’s Chair and the Tromamercial”) and there are trailers and clips from the Tromamercial in this show. The second reason this was particularly fun is that Troma co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, called in and joined us for the first half. Although there were a few “technical difficulties” with Lloyd and his phone, the witty banter between us makes it a fun discussion. Well, it was fun for me, but you can decide for yourself. Watch me, Lloyd and David on this special “Ask Them Yourself” version of POP GOES THE CULTURE – TV.

 

 

 

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Marketing Lessons From The Toxic Avenger – This Week’s Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Mitch Joel is not just a highly regarded author and marketing thought leader, nor is he just a long-established blogger and podcaster. He’s also not just a co-founder and president of a successful global digital agency, nor is he just a former rock and roll journalist. Mitch Joel, above all these things, is a mensch, in the truest sense of the word. For those of you perhaps not as familiar with the Yiddish term, a “mensch” is a person of integrity and honor – an all around great guy. That’s Mitch Joel, and I am fortunate to have had the pleasure of breaking bread (not bad) with him on more than one occasion. I am even more fortunate to be the guest on Episode #593 of his long-running and popular marketing podcast, Six Pixels of Separation.

It was great to talk with Mitch about my book, marketing, and even share some mutual love for the Mel Brooks comedy classic, Blazing Saddles… It is a fun, and hopefully informative and entertaining conversation. Click here or on the embed below to listen, and if you’re not already a follower of Mitch, please consider subscribing to the Six Pixels of Separation podcast.

If you enjoy listening to my conversation with Mitch, please consider reading my book!

 

 

 

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Chapter 4: Trailer Trash

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 4 from my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. If you haven’t done so already, you can read the Foreword by Troma co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, and the Introduction to the book as well as Chapter 12 and 3. You can also see me read this chapter live, along with Lloyd and Toxie, at Florida Supercon. Stay tuned for additional chapters to be published here. If you like what you read and can’t wait for more, please don’t be shy. You can buy the book now on Amazon (and also please don’t be shy about sharing, and reviewing the book when you do read it.) Both Toxie and I greatly appreciate your support! – Jeff Sass

 

Chapter 4: Trailer Trash

Having huffed and puffed my way up to the fourth floor, I entered the editing lair. Here, there were a few seemingly ancient Moviola “flatbed” film editing consoles. Remember, this was more or less predigital, and still in the age of film. Editing involved literally cutting and splicing strips of film and magnetic sound tapes in an attempt to make something cohesive. A film editor works with prints of the raw footage that was shot during production. When the edited film is finalized and approved by the director, it gets sent to a “negative cutter”—someone skilled in the art of carefully and cleanly handling the camera negatives. The negative cutter conforms the original film negative to the approved edit, and that cut negative, when married to optical effects and a fully mixed soundtrack, becomes the master from which all the prints are made, that eventually end up in theaters. This was 1985. The first nonlinear video editing systems were just being demonstrated and were several years away from being put to any practical use by filmmakers. And, anyway, Troma was decidedly “old school” in those days.

As I took my tour with Lloyd, he showed me a work in progress, a new trailer for the intentionally gross, soon to become legendary, Troma epic, The Toxic Avenger. The film had enjoyed some early notoriety but had yet to find its niche in B-movie history as the so-called cult classic it remains today. I don’t think I had actually seen The Toxic Avenger at the time, but its reputation preceded it and I had a pretty good inkling as to what it was all about. My impression, from reviews and word of mouth, was that it was fairly gross and somewhat sophomoric, yet somehow charming and disarming because of an underlying sweetness and humor. Lloyd showed me the trailer in progress, which was fairly graphic and straightforward, and ended with a particularly dry and emotionless tagline, “A Different Kind of Hero!”

Lloyd asked me what I thought. I answered honestly. “Meh.” My understanding was that part of the movie’s appeal was that it had an element of comedy to it, despite the graphic, arguably tasteless violence. I felt the trailer, in the end, fell flat, largely because the tagline, “A Different Kind of Hero,” didn’t really convey how Toxie (or the movie for that matter) was indeed different. It was boring. It was plain.

“Well,” said Lloyd, “What tagline would you use instead?”

I thought about it a moment and asked a question. I had done my homework and read up on the film. I knew that much of it was filmed across the Hudson River from Manhattan and that the locale had been worked into the story as Toxie’s home. Like any good New Yorker, I also knew the various slurs and aspersions we’d lovingly cast at our Garden State neighbor. So, thinking fast I responded, “The Toxic Avenger is from Jersey City, right?”

“Uh, yeah,” said Lloyd.

“So,” I continued. “I’d use the tagline “The First Superhero…from New Jersey!’—something that is an immediate wink to the audience, letting them know that there’s a hint of comedy here too.”

Lloyd paused a moment in deep thought. Then he repeated my suggestion aloud, quietly, like a freshly assigned mantra. “The First Superhero from New Jersey…That’s great. Can we use it?”

“Sure,” I said.

The trailer was changed. The posters too. And like that Toxie became the first superhero from New Jersey.

And that was the first of the many things I would end up writing for Troma.

 

The lesson here, of course, and one I have used again and again since is to share your ideas. Don’t be afraid to give someone a good idea or help them without expecting anything from it. Holding back your ideas because they are precious or valuable or because you are afraid someone will steal them, is just a way to hold yourself back. This is especially true when you are trying to get a job or a new client. Give them a tangible taste of what you are really capable of. Give them a sampling of your valuable ideas that they can use and benefit from whether they hire you or not. More often than not, if your ideas are good, you will get hired or get the client. If you allow your best ideas to be turned into secrets, you may never get to see your ideas put to use.

There’s also a great lesson here from Lloyd’s behavior. He listened! Even though it was probably he who came up with the original tagline, “A Different Kind of Hero,” Lloyd was open to change and to new ideas, regardless of where they came from. Who was this Sass guy, anyway? He had just met me for the first time. I had no track record to speak of, and yet when Lloyd heard a good idea, a better choice, he was ready and willing to discard what he had already done and make a change that he perceived to be for the better. And it cost money to change the trailer and the posters and flyers. But it was the right move.

How open are you to accepting suggestions and new ideas?

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That’s Chapter 4 – Another short and sweet one (are you seeing a pattern here? This book is an easy, enjoyable read!) Stay tuned for “Chapter 5: Working FREE-lance” and the story of how Troma became my full-time employer… 

The book in previous posts:

Foreword, by Lloyd Kaufman
Introduction: Lights, Camera, Action!
Chapter 1: Welcome to Tromaville!
Chapter 2: The Troma Building
Chapter 3: Meet the Moguls

 

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John Oliver Tackles Nuclear Waste with The Toxic Avenger on HBO’s Last Week Tonight

My monster mentor is going mainstream! Not only is Toxie the star of movies, cartoons, and an off-broadway show, but lately The Toxic Avenger has been a darling of late-night talk show hosts looking to make a convenient comic reference to a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength. First, it was Seth Meyers comparing our illustrious President to our favorite monster hero. Now, HBO star and host of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver, featured excerpts from the trailer for the original Toxic Avenger movie as the lead-in to his extended report on “Nuclear Waste.” So, I am not the only one who has been influenced and inspired by the first superhero from New Jersey. You can watch John Oliver invoke The Toxic Avenger in the video below, and of course, you can read about the many inspired business and marketing lessons I learned from Toxie in my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER.