(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SAM SANDERS, HOST:
Hey, y'all, Sam Sanders here. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE - hope you're well. If you are like me, you have already made and broken about 12 New Year's resolutions so far. So to keep you and me on track, we have a chat today with the guy who wrote kind of a self-help book. It's actually kind of an anti-self-help book. I'll explain. I'm talking about Elan Gale. Elan is one of the executive producers of two really big shows on ABC - "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette." You may have heard of them.
Before you start running through your preconceived notions of reality TV, let me just say about every part of this conversation upended my ideas about reality TV and those who make it. As for the self-help book I mentioned, it is called "You Are Not That Great: (And Neither Is Anyone Else)." It's a quick read. It's got personal stories and interviews with Elan's friends and some entertainment industry-type people. And I'll be clear - this book does not take itself too seriously. But Elan is very serious about the message behind it. This idea that embracing self-doubt and other negative emotions, it can lead to success.
Now, since we are talking about things like emotions and wants and desires and what's going on inside of our heads and our hearts and living our best lives, got to say neither I or Elan are certified life coaches or mental health professionals or therapists. But you already knew that.
Anyway this is a really fun, surprising conversation, no matter where you're coming from and even if you've never seen "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette." And if you're a fan of the show, don't worry. We have you covered on that front, too - actually took some questions from "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" viewers for Elan. All right. Here is me talking to Elan Gale a few weeks back. He was in LA. I was here in D.C. Enjoy.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
ELAN GALE: I started with "The Bachelor" a little over nine years ago.
GALE: I came on as a segment producer and would just kind of help to figure out some dates and work on locations and stuff like that. And I slowly moved my way up, and now I'm one of the executive producers. I've been there about two or three years doing that now, which really just means kind of just making sure things go OK. It isn't - I don't really know how to describe it better than that. It's like any TV show. We have a giant team of super-skilled people, and they are amazing, and so I don't have - it's sad to say, but I don't have to do a lot (laughter).
SANDERS: OK. OK. You know, from looking at, like, your social media and just like - it seems as if former cast members, they like their producers. You're close with some of them. Y'all develop real relationships.
GALE: Well, you know...
SANDERS: Go ahead.
GALE: Sorry, no, you go ahead.
SANDERS: Well, it's just like - it is out of - it's not in sync with this counternarrative that, like, reality producers are nefarious and always scheming and plotting, that it's like - no, some of these people seem to like you.
GALE: Well, you know, people are people everywhere.
GALE: And that's kind of a philosophy that I have is, you know, the way I would talk to you is the way I would talk to anybody.
SANDERS: Also, though, like is there - there are so many cast members and former cast members who speak very highly about their time on the show. Is some of that also because, like, there is a little incentive to stay in the fam because you might get on the next season, you might, you know, get some appearances. Like, it is better...
GALE: I mean, maybe.
GALE: I think - you know, it's hard for me to detect what people's intentions are, and it's a fool's errand to guess. But I think that most people who come on any television show are doing it - or people that work on television shows - are doing it because there is something about a more ordinary life that leaves them wanting something different. And when you get to do something different like being on "The Bachelor" or being on "Survivor" or being on "Big Brother" or working on any of those shows, you're doing something just a little bit different, and it changes you. It changes you. It gives you a broader worldview.
And what you end up doing more than anything is you end up interacting with people you would not normally have interacted with. You interact with people from all over the country who have very different upbringings than you. And when you spend time with those people, you end up learning a lot about them. You learn about - more than anything, you learn about how similar we all are. And you also learn about yourself, and you learn about yourself simply by being forced to listen to other people.
SANDERS: Yeah. One of the things that people always say once they're done with their time on the show is I learned so much about myself.
SANDERS: What is it about your show and the way that it's made that leads folks to that? Because these folks are adults at this point - 25, 30 years old. What are they learning on the set of "The Bachelor" and "Bachelorette?"
GALE: Well, it's the same thing that you learn when you are just kind of exposed to people that aren't like you.
GALE: If you listen to people and you talk to people, the idea of just asking yourself how do I feel or somebody else asking you how do you feel today and someone listening, that's rare. I know it sounds so silly, but most people never get asked questions about themselves.
SANDERS: That's true.
GALE: They don't. People just don't ask people questions. How did you grow up? Where are you from? How do you feel? What made you the person you are? And so anytime you're getting to know people anywhere, I think the experience is the same. It's just that it's a, you know, condensed time period.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.
GALE: You know, you're away from your phone. You're away from your job, and you ask questions, and you answer them.
SANDERS: So you learn stuff. That's true. OK. So the book, it is called "You're Not That Special," and the entire...
GALE: It's "You're Not That Great."
SANDERS: Why did I say special?
GALE: (Laughter) It's the same thing. It doesn't matter.
SANDERS: I'm obviously not that great today.
GALE: It's OK.
SANDERS: But to sum up the philosophy of this book in 30 seconds, it's basically, like, you're telling us to, one, not ignore negative feelings we have.
GALE: No, indulge them.
SANDERS: Lean into them, indulge them and use them to fuel us to our better selves. You say at one point harnessing things like fear and guilt and anxiety, and as you said, quote, "making it your B." I'm using B instead of another word.
GALE: Yeah. I think that life is full of negative emotions. And I think that negative emotions are incredibly motivating. I think that things like rage and spite, they're really motivating. Contentment is wonderful. It's not motivating. And if you're happy with where you are in life, if you're really, truly happy, then you don't need this book, and you don't need this philosophy at all.
SANDERS: Beyonce, don't read this book.
GALE: Beyonce does not need this book. In fact, I reference Beyonce in the book saying we can't all be Beyonce. We're not all Beyonce. We're not going to Beyonce, but you can try. You can try. You may fail miserably, and that's part of life. But the idea of the whole book is all of those things that you're told to kind of repress and to push down, the anger and the rage and the fear, those are the things that can actually really help you achieve your goals.
SANDERS: Yeah. And what I love in the book is you have these interludes where you talk to people that have succeeded, either in Hollywood or elsewhere, all about how they basically spent their whole lives and careers harnessing those negative emotions to succeed. You're talking to folks like Rachel Bloom from "Crazy Ex-Girlfriends," Iliza Shlesinger, a comic who I love and talked to on this show recently. What other folks did you talk to for the book? There's a lot.
GALE: Well, I talked to Scott Derrickson, who, you know, directed "Dr. Strange" this year. I talked to my friend James Gunn, who directed "Guardians Of The Galaxy." I talked to Travon Free, who is a writer now with Sam B but for "The Daily Show" for a couple of years. And he was a great - he was the first one I really properly interviewed. He's an old friend. I met him in New York when he really didn't have much of a job, and he was just trying to get his career going. And he had, you know, $4 when he finally got his career going, and now he has Emmys for writing. But the thing about him that was so fascinating was I asked him, you know, what was - like, how did you get successful? How did you become successful? How did you do it? And his answer - you know, there was many, many long stories, but they all boiled down to revenge.
GALE: It was an ex-girlfriend or it was a colleague. There's all of these stories that are like this [expletive] told me I was never going to make it. And now I have two Emmys, and no one knows who the [expletive] that guy is. And that - that's what made him successful.
GALE: Like, the dude that told him he wouldn't be anything, that was what did it. It wasn't like, oh, I just feel really good about myself and I had a really great, inspiring teacher and the teacher told me that I was really a competent writer. It was, like, all revenge. His entire - and he's going to be one of the most successful writers of our time, I think, in TV, especially in politics. Like, he's one of these guys - wrote for "The Daily Show," wrote with Jon Stewart, with Samantha B now. Like, he's just killing it, and it all came from revenge - all of it. And when you feel revenge as a young writer, you're told, oh, no, just put that away. Focus on your craft. No, [expletive] that. Focus on revenge.
SANDERS: And it's funny just hearing you now talk about this idea of revenge as a motivator, like, I was just thinking about - like I - nobody who knew me growing up would ever think that I would host a podcast and a radio show. I had the worst speech impediment as a kid. I stuttered so badly. I, like, could not talk. And finally around high school, I just started making myself do things that would force me to have to talk, so I would do student government. I would do student council. I was this. I was that. And then, like, the culmination of all it was like saying I'm going to make myself have a career in radio. And it worked out. But it's like - yeah, like...
GALE: Did anybody ever make fun of you?
SANDERS: Oh, my God, they made fun of me. Yeah.
GALE: Do you remember?
SANDERS: I do. I do.
GALE: What'd they say?
SANDERS: It was more, like, this frustration of just, like, what the hell is wrong with you? Like, I remember even people in my church would just look at me and say like, what are you - what is wrong with you? Like, that was - so it was less making fun. It was more just, like, a frustration and this exasperation that I couldn't just spit it out. Just spit it out. Just spit it out.
GALE: But you can recall - that was a long time ago, right?
SANDERS: Yeah. I will never forget it. A woman who was very close to me in our church growing up told me once in front of, like, several other young friends of mine, like, just spit it out. And it was just the most embarrassing thing ever.
GALE: Right. That's...
SANDERS: You never forget it.
GALE: It's vivid, isn't it?
SANDERS: It is very - I can see the room. I can see her face. I can see my reaction.
GALE: And then do you remember - like, if you could go back to that time in your life, was there anyone in that same room that you can as vividly say, like, don't worry, pal, you're fine, you just take your time and you just - you talk as slow as you want?
SANDERS: (Laughter) No. Either they were saying get it together or they just said nothing, which was even worse sometimes because you know that they were sitting there thinking I was crazy and just not saying it.
GALE: And, look, I wasn't there, and I don't know you.
GALE: But I would - I would wager that there probably were a couple people who tried really hard to make you feel OK about it, but you don't remember that...
SANDERS: That's true.
GALE: ...Because it was not part of your journey.
GALE: It wasn't part of your story, and it was irrelevant. It doesn't mean they weren't good, and it doesn't mean they weren't helpful and nice.
GALE: But it didn't help you.
SANDERS: No (laughter).
GALE: And let me ask you this. What was your - before you had this show...
GALE: ...What was the last thing you did?
SANDERS: Well, I hosted our Politics podcast.
GALE: Got it. And when you were hosting the Politics podcast, were you thinking to yourself I have reached the pinnacle of my career?
SANDERS: No, I was thinking everyone thinks I'm stupid and I have no idea what I'm talking about. The night before we taped the first episode, I was in the office at midnight trying to study up, crying at my desk playing, like, Christian rock.
GALE: And do you think that that - first of all, why were you playing Christian rock? Let's stop for one second. The Jars Of Clay Christian rock or Creed Christian rock.
SANDERS: Oh, not the - not the (laughter).
GALE: Audio Adrenaline?
SANDERS: I love that you classify Creed as Christian rock because people forget that. People really forget that.
GALE: Oh, no. Oh, man, I love Creed.
SANDERS: Ditto, ditto. "With Arms Wide Open" - it's a jam. "Higher" - it's a jam. And it's funny because I grew up in a black church playing Pentecostal music, but, like, when I'm in, like, a dark, dark place, I want to hear, like, K-Love stuff.
GALE: Got it.
SANDERS: Like that white rocker acoustic guitar Christian rock.
GALE: Like Audio Adrenaline. Did you ever listen to the Louvin Brothers?
SANDERS: No. I'm going to check them out now, though.
GALE: Now, just to go back to you for a second...
GALE: ...Christian rock.
SANDERS: I love how you're interviewing me now.
GALE: Well, it - but this is how - this is the thing. I feel like people are initially really - and not that you've been but, like, people are initially usually not that interested in this concept of being introspective and reflective and self-hating as I like to be.
GALE: But most people find that when you actually do it, you learn about how powerful you are, and you learn about how much you can accomplish if you feel like it because like that dude who was depressed and crying and listening to Christian rock to kind of, like, help heal those wounds is the guy who now has a show that I want to get on.
GALE: Right? That's how - that's how that happened. And it didn't come from you feeling like you'd reached your pinnacle and being content and happy. It came from you being fearful, and that fear is what - I mean - and probably a lot of other things, but that fear is what made you the person you are now. And you probably - I don't know you, again, but you probably still have some fears.
SANDERS: You are right (laughter).
GALE: And if you indulge those fears, if you continue to allow yourself to indulge them, then whatever you want to do next, you'll do in order to - because it's more comfortable than the fear.
SANDERS: Yeah. What is a fear that you still need to indulge?
GALE: Oh, man. That is a good question. You know, it's funny. I'm afraid of everything.
GALE: I am - I'm afraid that I am unclear. I'm afraid...
SANDERS: What do you mean unclear? Unclear as in like...
GALE: Well, I - when I sat down to write this book, for example, like, this is the most total expression of how I feel about life. But it's still 192 pages, and it is not entirely clear because it can't be because I can't talk to each individual person the way I want to. And I fear that I'm not able to get my point across.
Like, I could talk to you about this for three hours. And every single person that reads the book or talks about this concept, I could talk to for hours and just get to know them and try to figure out how this can help them and also learn if I'm wrong about things, which is something that I enjoy doing, and I've discovered a lot that I'm wrong. I interviewed - I talked to Alec Baldwin for this, and I talked to another guy named John Darnielle, who writes - he's the Mountain Goats, one of my favorite bands of all time.
SANDERS: OK, yeah, yeah.
GALE: And they both were like, no, man. You're totally wrong about this. You have it - you have it wrong. That's why I put them in the epilogue because I'm not ever convinced that I'm right about anything. And they said, listen, you're right to a degree, but at some point, you have to let go of all of these negative things. You have to let go of it. Like Alec Baldwin said, like, at some point you have to stop.
GALE: You have to stop being the underdog. You've got to stop.
SANDERS: I'm actually going to read the Alec Baldwin quote. He says, quote, "those underdog feelings can motivate you. But one day, you turn around and see that you aren't the underdog anymore. So it's time to take that label off." That's really poignant. Do you agree with that?
GALE: I do agree with it, but most people don't realize that they're still the underdog.
GALE: Do you know what I mean? Like, I'm still the underdog. Just - like, I don't feel accomplished. I wake up every morning feeling insecure and like I've accomplished nothing and that this was a failure and I'm a failure because nothing satisfies me. Nothing makes me happy, and that's OK because happiness is not my goal.
SANDERS: What's your goal?
GALE: Desire - consistently feeling desire. I love the feeling of desire. I love it. I love seeing something and wanting it. I love thinking of something and wanting it, and getting it is great. That fulfillment you get after desire, that's cool.
SANDERS: It's also just 10 minutes.
GALE: Yeah, exactly. It goes away so fast. It goes away so fast and so if you're obsessed with fulfillment, you're going to have, like, an empty [expletive] life.
SANDERS: That's so true. I got a pair of new shoes this Tuesday. Today is Friday, as we're taping this. I already hate them.
SANDERS: It's like - and every single thing you're just like, OK, fine.
GALE: So I do this thing where I'm - I'm obsessed with food. I'm obsessed.
GALE: And I'm a fat kid. I was - I was fat almost all my life. I'm no longer fat because I forced myself to lose weight by deciding...
SANDERS: You discuss it in the book, yeah.
GALE: Well, yeah. It was - and that was scary because, like, I always pretended I wasn't fat. I would just, like, dress in a way that was funky. And I had, like, a big beard and funny hair. Like, I made things about me stand out more than my overweightness...
GALE: ...In order to disguise - 'cause, like, you would look at me and you wouldn't say, that's a fat guy. You'd say, that's a weird looking, you know, hipster weirdo...
SANDERS: With the crazy hair and that big, old beard...
SANDERS: ...And that crazy shirt. Yeah.
GALE: Yeah, exactly, just all kinds of stuff around it so that you couldn't see it. I'm going to really distract you. And I was living a life of distraction. And then the way that I lost the weight was by taking my shirt off in public on a regular basis, going to the beach and taking my shirt off and feeling the judgment.
SANDERS: And not just any beach, right? If I recall correctly, you were on the set of one of the seasons of "The Bachelor" or "Bachelorette" surrounded...
SANDERS: ...By really pretty, skinny people and that's where you began to take your shirt off.
GALE: That's where and it continued. I mean, it goes - I would just come - I lived in Santa Monica at the time. And I would get up in the morning and get my coffee and go down to the beach and walk around with my shirt off on the beach.
SANDERS: Which beach?
GALE: Down on Santa - like, down you know where Winward Circle is in Venice?
GALE: Right there. And I would just walk there. I'd get my coffee at Menotti's every morning and I'd walk straight to the ocean right where the breakers are and I'd take my shirt off and I'd sit there. And I would feel how I felt to be in this body that I didn't like. And I don't - and it's one of those things where I feel like sometimes people feel like there's some kind of, like, fat shaming involved here.
And the truth is is that it's really all about whatever you want it to be. Like, there's nothing wrong with being overweight. I just didn't like that for me. It wasn't my preference.
GALE: And there are some things you can change about yourself. Like, I don't know how closely you read the book, but I talk about the fact that I have raccoon teeth.
SANDERS: Can I read you...
GALE: I don't know if...
SANDERS: I actually had an excerpt that I wanted to read. One of the big questions I had for you was, like, how do you allow yourself to be so self-deprecating? So I want to read from page 61 of your book. And this is just what you wrote.
SANDERS: Quote, "I'm 5'8'' with shoes on. I have a very slow metabolism, so no matter how much I try, I am always slowly gaining weight. There's nothing wrong with being short and fat..." But then you go on and say, (reading) I also have kind of an annoying body. It collects fat in all the wrong places, like under my arms and around my waist.
So I have this weird-looking muffin top that is so soft that it even appears when I'm just wearing underwear.
GALE: (Laughter) True.
SANDERS: (Reading) I also have caveman teeth. I have an occluded bite so I look like - and then you said that you look like you're two steps back in the evolutionary process.
GALE: I do.
SANDERS: Go on, I'm going to stop.
GALE: But it's all true. That's the thing. It's - all of that - none of that is a lie.
SANDERS: You're describing the Geico caveman.
GALE: That's what I look like.
SANDERS: (Laughter) No.
GALE: I'm sorry. I wish I didn't. And that's - I'm - if you saw, like, I work out every single day. If you saw me in a pair of underwear, you would go, yeah, that muffin top exists.
SANDERS: Oh, OK, OK.
GALE: You do because that's the truth. And some people look at me and they go, like, oh, that guy's doing well. But I don't feel that way, and that's OK. That's my process. My process is not feeling well. My journey as a human being is not feeling well. Maybe it's the Judaism, you know...
GALE: ...Maybe it's the 5'8''-ness (ph). Whatever it is, not feeling well and not being confident, that's my jam. And so here's the funny thing. And I'm telling you this now. I haven't told any - I've told literally no one this. And I kind of have been fighting - going back and forth in my mind with, like, am I going to tell this story? Am I going to be honest about this thing about me?
So part of the book is really about, like, if there are things you can change, you should change them. There are many, many, many things you can't.
GALE: But if there are things you can change - so I wrote about my occluded bite and my caveman teeth, or as my girlfriend lovingly used to call them, my little raccoon mouth.
SANDERS: She's a hater. She's a hater.
GALE: She knows what it's like to be with a guy who has a raccoon mouth. She's honest, and that's why I love her.
GALE: She loves me despite my raccoon mouth, not because she's pretending it doesn't exist. So I literally said, OK, I just wrote this book. I published a book that I tell people they should change things about themselves that they don't like that they can. And here I am talking about something I can totally change. And so I went a week ago and I'm going back right after this interview for the final step.
I had my front 12 teeth shaved down.
SANDERS: Girl, stop.
GALE: Yeah. And I've had them replaced...
SANDERS: Oh, my God.
GALE: ...With new porcelain teeth so that I don't have to have the thing I don't like anymore.
GALE: And it's expensive...
GALE: ....And painful...
SANDERS: Oh, I'm sure.
GALE: ...And terrible...
SANDERS: Oh, my God.
GALE: ...And totally probably not worth it. And the best part is everyone that's seen me since I've changed it, like, people that know me well, they go, you look the same. And that...
GALE: Because the truth is is that people don't notice the things about you that you hate as much as you do.
GALE: But they don't have to live with my raccoon mouth. I do. You know what I mean?
GALE: And so the fact that, like - so I just couldn't be a hypocrite and go, oh, man, there's this thing that I hate about myself and not change it. So now I have these new teeth. I feel like I sound weird. Everyone's like, no, you always talk like that, like overly dramatic and like you're maybe angry and trying to be interesting. But that's just, you know, like, it's all this constant evolution. That's what this whole thing is to me because I don't believe in purpose.
I don't think we're here for a reason. In fact, I'm very confident that we're not. The fact that you and I are talking now is totally happenstance.
GALE: And I enjoy it. I'm more grateful for it because it has no meaning. And I think the purpose of being alive is to find meaning and to create it...
GALE: ...And to build purpose and to - like, you and I get to decide what this means to us.
SANDERS: It means a lot to me. I'm liking this conversation.
GALE: It means a lot to me too. And I'm enjoying it because we're talking and we're listening to each other. And that's something that you get the freedom to do when you get out of your own head, care less about your own happiness and try to become invested in another human being.
SANDERS: I like that. One last question about the book, if that's cool.
SANDERS: You, you know, talked to successful people in the industry and other places who talked about how they deal with negative emotion to kind of fuel them towards success. Rachel Bloom from "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" said that she's learned that pain is universal. Iliza (ph) said that she just is someone who gets angry very quickly. She's always mad, and she uses that in her comedy.
What was the most surprising thing you learned in interviewing these folks about their experiences with negative emotions and success?
GALE: You know, I think Rachel Bloom was probably the one that surprised me the most because her persona - you know, Iliza (ph) is someone I've known for years. And I've seen her career...
GALE: ...And, like, her anger comes through.
GALE: And as someone who's also, like, worked with her, she gets mad quickly. And she's super judgmental. And I love her for it.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Yeah. And she's really good.
GALE: She's so good. But Rachel is someone that you watch on TV, and it feels - I don't know if you follow, like, Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter.
GALE: I don't know if you've heard of this guy. He did a show. It's called "Hamilton." It's very popular.
SANDERS: Oh, yeah. The kids love it these days.
GALE: The kids love it. There's a lot of singing and dancing and it's very good.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.
GALE: But anyway, Rachel Bloom has the same kind of, I think, public persona where she comes from this place of love.
SANDERS: Yes, yes.
GALE: Everything feels like it comes from love and joy.
SANDERS: And positivity.
GALE: And positivity. And when you meet people like that, I'm always surprised to see that deep down, even though they're not angry people, that anger really propelled them, that I'll-show-you thing really propelled them in the same way that John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats, his music is so much about kind of, like, often rage and exhaustion and depression.
But he's the opposite on the inside.
GALE: You know, he tries to find - because he had such a dark childhood, he tries to find the fuel mostly from his kids, his kids that are joyous and excited.
GALE: He finds that fuel. And it's just interesting when you get to know people and you think you know what makes them tick.
SANDERS: It's so true.
GALE: And you never really do.
SANDERS: That's so true. That's so true.
GALE: And then you don't really know what makes you tick.
GALE: And if anything, that's the - sorry to keep going.
SANDERS: You're good.
GALE: But I think that's the overall thing I would like people to take from the book is figure out how you tick. Don't assume you know. Maybe you do, but maybe you don't.
SANDERS: All right, time for a quick break here. When we come back, Elan's surprising story of his struggle with addiction, plus more on "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette." B-R-B.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SANDERS: One of the most poignant parts of the book is towards the end you describe alcoholism. And there's this scene in the book where someone you know at a party pulls you to the side and says, I'm a doctor. I know what this looks like. You're an alcoholic. I can see it. And he said, basically, you might die. And you should really start to worry if any part of your body turns yellow.
GALE: And I, of course, was, like, super offended, as we are when people tell us the truth about ourselves.
GALE: I was really hurt. And I was like, who the [expletive] is this guy? He doesn't know me. What's he going to tell me that I don't know about myself? Which is the most common reaction that we all have, myself included, when people are honest with us about things they observe. And then it was maybe a month later. I think it was less than a month later.
I, you know, I used to drink really heavily. And when I say heavily, I don't mean it in, like, a fun way because it was almost always alone. It started when I wasn't, you know, like, working. I never drove drunk, which was something I learned pretty young. I'm very lucky in that way. So I never had, like - I never had a wakeup call. I never got in a fight. I never got fired from a job.
I never, like, cheated on anyone. I never made any of those big mistakes that people make, which actually kind of propelled my addiction forward because nothing bad happened from it.
SANDERS: Exactly. And just to underscore, you write in the book, you were averaging per day/night either four bottles of wine or a full bottle of tequila or vodka.
GALE: And that wasn't even, like, a heavy day. That was an average day. So there were days that were, you know, the last day I drank, I definitely had a bottle of tequila in the last three hours of the day on top of whatever else I'd had that day.
SANDERS: Oh, my God. And so you describe in the book basically - well, I mean, you tell us.
GALE: Well, I'll tell you the story. I basically went to bed really drunk. I woke up in my hotel room by myself. And I had to pee, and I couldn't find the bathroom in my hotel room. And I peed into a pile of clothes that I made into a little toilet in the corner of the bathroom, just to show you, like, the level of inebriation I was at.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. And that was after sleeping.
GALE: That was after sleeping for three or four hours.
SANDERS: Oh, my goodness.
GALE: I wake up in the morning, I get in the shower and I am just like, you know that feeling when you've been drinking and you feel shame? You feel, like, shame and dread.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah, I know it.
GALE: I don't know if anyone feels it, but I definitely felt it a lot. And I got in the shower. And I was washing my body. And I looked down and the right side of my body looked like it had been splattered with, like, a highlighter.
SANDERS: It was yellow like that doctor told you.
GALE: It was yellow. It was like I was, like, a "Simpsons" character.
SANDERS: Oh, my goodness.
GALE: And the [expletive] part was I didn't know if it was new because I hadn't looked at myself. You know what I mean? And no one else was - I didn't - I was single, and no one else had any reason to see me walking around shirtless. So it could have been there for a month. I have no idea because I was paying that little attention to myself as a human being.
I was drunk so often that I was unaware of what I looked like. And I saw it, and I realized that this guy was right and that I was going to die. And the good part was I was able to make the decision I had to make larger than about drinking because it really wasn't about drinking anymore it was the idea of, like, do I want to die or do I want to live?
SANDERS: Do you think alcoholism was you secretly saying to yourself that you wanted to die?
GALE: Yeah, I think so.
GALE: And the truth is is that, I mean, this is the hardest part. You know, my mother read the book. And this was the part that she wanted to talk about afterwards, which is the decision of wanting to live or die was not easy. It wasn't like, oh, yeah, I want to live. I really had to think about it because living as a sober person was not a thing I'd considered.
It didn't sound fun to me. Also, you know, quitting drinking, for me, wasn't that difficult. The actual...
GALE: Yeah. Not drinking wasn't hard. It still isn't. The hard part is living soberly.
GALE: Because I started drinking so early, like, I'd never been - I don't remember, like, ever since I was a kid - like, when I was a kid I'm sure but, like, I'd never been on a plane sober. I'd never been to a concert sober.
GALE: I'd never had sex sober or been on a first date sober.
SANDERS: That's better sober, actually - pro tip.
GALE: Yeah. You know what the weird thing is?
GALE: Everything is better sober.
GALE: And the reason everything is better sober is not because you enjoy it more but because you have a clear understanding of it. And so when you go to a concert and you're drunk, you may really like bad [expletive]. So when you're sober, you go, this is bad and I'm not going to listen to this anymore.
SANDERS: I'm leaving.
GALE: I'm not going to do this anymore.
GALE: I'm going to go home now and do something I enjoy. But it's a hard decision to make. And the idea of, like, do I want to live? Like, that's not an obvious one when you're as drunk as I am for as long as I am. And when you don't particularly love your life, then you just go, I don't know, maybe I'll just go out. Maybe I'll let this thing happen. But, like, why not?
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. But all of this is happening - the intense alcoholism is happening while you are reaching career success. At this point, you're a pretty well-established producer. Like, one, how did you manage to be that much of an alcoholic and still function?
SANDERS: And, two, did anything about the success that you were experiencing give any kind of happiness that might have led you to not want to be an alcoholic?
GALE: Well, I mean, that's a really good question. First of all, I drank to a point that people wouldn't really ever know I was drunk, if that makes any sense. Like, I was very highly functioning.
GALE: Like, I didn't drive. But, like, even when I was pretty drunk, people didn't know. So that really was never a problem, you know what I mean? I don't exactly know how. But people - when I quit drinking, people did not say, like, oh, you seem really different. People are like, oh, you're - yeah, I guess I didn't notice.
GALE: And the career success was interesting because because of my mindset in life, even though - and I'm not sure I really fully understood it at the time. I never feel accomplished. So, you know, success is relative.
GALE: You know, like, I bet if you went back 10 years, you would look at yourself now and say, I'm doing really well. But I bet you 10 years from now, we'll look back on this and feel differently.
SANDERS: Oh, it's so true. Ten years ago, all I wanted was a job that I had three years ago. And now I want the job that I don't have yet. It's, like, it's just endless.
GALE: And that's the thing is that, you know, not everyone's like that. But the people - but that's why we're talking now.
SANDERS: OK (laughter).
GALE: Do you know what I mean? Like, and that's why five years from now, I'll want to do another interview with you and you'll be like, I'm sorry, we have no time for that and it's because you have that same drive. Look, I think we're probably very similar in that way.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.
GALE: You know what I mean? Like, I looked - every time I wanted a promotion or every time I wanted a new job, I would do everything I could to get it. And when I got it, I would go, yeah. And then five minutes later, new goal, new goal because it's not about the fulfillment to get it, it's about the desires. And the desire for everything - and also, that's probably a better understanding for me of my alcoholism and of my ending my drinking is that it's all about desire. I always just wanted more everything. I used to actually say unlimited everything always. Unlimited everything always - there's no end to the booze that I want to consume. And so when I quit drinking, I had to kind of create a new paradigm where quitting drinking was a desire, where getting those days - like getting to day 30 was a goal and getting to six months and getting to a year. And it's now three years, six months and five days.
GALE: Thank you.
SANDERS: Are you, like, pushing for five years, pushing for 10 years? Is that where you're at now?
GALE: I'm - you know, it's one of those things - like, it's a different - when you have an addictive personality, everything is an addiction. So, like, the idea of drinking now is more of a failure of a streak.
SANDERS: You're on a winning streak right now.
GALE: It's like Cal Ripken probably played a lot of games that he shouldn't have played where he was feeling 60 percent. And he knows he would have been a better team player if he didn't, but he was addicted.
GALE: He was addicted to the streak.
GALE: I only know '90s sports references for some reason, by the way. I have nothing current.
SANDERS: I'm fine - I only know '90s R&B references, so we're kind of in the same boat.
GALE: It was just a nice time.
SANDERS: '90s was all right. I'm going to go ahead and say that was an all right time. So when folks hear this a few weeks from now, the new "Bachelor" season will have just kicked off. And I'm not asking for any spoilers, but I think one of the things that will be at play in this season, as in seasons before, is a show where some of the cast - some of the folks in the show drink, you know, and that is a part of the show. And some people do it well and some people can't handle the liquor. Has your change in your relationship with alcohol changed the way that you see that facet of "The Bachelor" and "Bachelorette?"
GALE: It hasn't to be honest with you. I've worked on the show as someone who drank a lot and I worked on the show as someone who didn't drink at all. And the truth is it's really difficult to judge how any single person's relationship with alcohol is going to be.
GALE: Some people - like, I'm one of those non-drinkers who thinks that drinking is OK.
GALE: I don't think other people should quit drinking just because I did. Some people really enjoy it. Some people enjoy having wine or beer or vodka - I know I did - and some people don't. And some people are in fact more comfortable in social settings having had that and some people are more comfortable not having had it. You know, there are people on every season that don't drink also. And, you know, it's obviously not as exciting to talk about, but the truth is is that everything is really just about individual choice. And that's kind of where we try to leave people - where I try to leave people.
SANDERS: OK. Since we're on the show again, let's go ahead and take a few questions that we have from fans of the show. Is that cool?
SANDERS: We asked our listeners to give us some questions for you. We have one now from Meredith (ph).
MEREDITH: My question is I'm wondering about the bonds that the producers form with the cast members, and when a relationship doesn't work out and you've got distraught cast members in front of you, how as a producer do you deal with that on a interpersonal, human level with that person?
GALE: I mean, I think it's - unfortunately, I think it's really simple. You just treat people like people, and you listen to them. And you're not - you know, none of us are doctors or their fathers. We're just people or everyone's just a person.
GALE: And when someone goes through a breakup in real life or someone goes through a breakup in their real life, which happens to be on "The Bachelor," it's the same, you know. You listen to people, you ask them what they need and you try to provide it, and hopefully they can find some clarity. But breakups are great in life. That's the thing that people I think forget is that breakups are the things that help you figure out the next one. And you're always onto the next one. All your relationships will fail except for one hopefully.
SANDERS: Yeah, and then that one probably fails too (laughter).
GALE: And then - yeah. If you're really - if you are really lucky in life, you will have one relationship that doesn't fail and it's because, again, we've built ourselves to expect happiness and success when really we're built to trial and error, and most of it's going to be error.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah, I hear you. Here's one more question from Eva (ph).
EVA: My question for Elan is how does he balance his seemingly much more liberal politics with that of the contestants post show? Many of them seem to be not so liberal, so just wondering how he balances that out.
GALE: That's a good question. I actually think that it's a little bit of an understandable assumption of what people's politics might be because of where they're from or what their accents are. But personally, I speak out the same in all settings. And, look, I'm pretty progressive as a person, I think. I'm always trying to get better and learn. But I'm - look, you know, I got into a Twitter argument about Doug Jones with a guy that was on the show a couple years ago, which was yesterday.
GALE: Yeah, and I'm totally very happy to do that.
SANDERS: Who won?
GALE: I mean, I - well, Doug Jones did.
SANDERS: Well, yeah, touche.
GALE: But, yeah, look, not everyone in your life is going to agree with you. What can you do?
SANDERS: Come on.
GALE: You can try to be - you know, I just try to listen to why people feel the way they do...
GALE: ...Because at the end of the day, I really think that most people that disagree with me on things can change. And I'm sure they feel that I can change.
GALE: And I - and that's OK, but let's try to get there together. I mean, there is - there is a middle ground.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.
GALE: You know?
SANDERS: One more question from a listener. This one is from Sarah (ph).
SARAH: I helped run a "Bachelor" fantasy league for a long time. I really love this show, but ever since the allegations of sexual assault on "Bachelor In Paradise," I have looked at the show in a totally different way, and it's been really, really hard for me to come back to it since then. So I would like to know what "The Bachelor" franchise is doing to make sure that people aren't being exploited on television. Thanks.
GALE: I hear the question. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on that.
SANDERS: Understood, understood, understood. I just have a few more of my own personal kind of big-picture-thinking questions. And I think approaching this conversation about not just the book but your time on the show and your work there, a show that is in many ways driven by women characters, this is a really interesting time to talk about what it means to be a woman and how they're portrayed in the media as the #MeToo movement continues to kind of be the center of a lot of conversations right now. And part of that #MeToo movement has the culture almost re-examining the way that every part of our society treats women. And this is probably too big of a question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. Is "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" - are they overall good or bad for women?
GALE: I don't think that anything is overall - I think it's really hard for me as a male to judge that. I just don't feel equipped to make that call. You know, is it a cultural movement? Is it a television show? Is it somehow indicative of larger culture? Is it something that people just like watching on Mondays? Those are individual decisions that people have to make, and I'm not in a position to make those decisions. I do think that it's obviously important for all of us to have these conversations, but personally, I feel like it's more of a good time for people like me to listen and less of a time to kind of dictate what I think is right for anybody.
SANDERS: Yeah. Do you think in light of this #MeToo moment as the culture tries or some parts of the culture try to do better by women, can these shows, "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," be a platform in some way, or is the show not supposed to be that?
GALE: Well, again, I hope that the people - you know, it's a reality show and the people on the show are living in the same society that all of us are living in. And I hope that everything that everyone is doing in Hollywood and elsewhere continues to take everything into account. But it's - you know, it's not a scripted show. It doesn't - we don't follow - you know, we'll have to see. We'll have to see what people are - or how people intake the show and how the people that are just people, like me and you, how they are on the show in their relationships, which is really all the show is about.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. You know, I was - so my - well, all of my friends watch the show. I watch it, too. But I was talking with some folks, and they were basically saying this is the kind of reality show that people watch even if they aren't into reality shows. We interviewed the new poetry editor of The New Yorker the other day, Kevin Young. And he was like, oh, yeah, I love "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette." I watch all that stuff. This show has transcended any one demo that we think would be into a show like this. Why?
GALE: You know, it's funny. I think it really just comes down to we've all been there. I think - it's just a show about wanting someone and trying to get them, you know. There is an inherent competition with any desirable human. If you want someone of your gender or another gender and you think that they're really worthwhile, there's probably someone else that feels that way, too. And the kind of act of going after them is super relatable. The act of wanting someone and the act of losing them or getting them are two things that we either relate to, fear, desire, want to emulate - all that. I just think that the one thing we all have in common is that, you know, for the most part, we all want something. We all want someone to be with or someones to be with. And generally, we like to aim up, you know? And when you aim up - like, I always - you know, you don't want to be with someone who you think isn't great. You want to be with someone who you think is great.
SANDERS: Come on.
GALE: And when you want to be with someone who's great, other people will want that also. And there's an inherent competitiveness that we all have in that, whether we want to admit it or not I think.
SANDERS: Totally. So speaking of that being kind of universal, does that mean that at some point soon we are going to get an LGBTQ bachelor or bachelorette?
GALE: I don't know. I mean, that is a really good question. We had a person on the show last year who identified as bisexual on "The Bachelor," and she identified as fluid on "Bachelor In Paradise." And she talked about going out with men and women, and she chose to go out with a guy and then broke up with him. And that was great, and I really enjoyed that. And I think that was a step in the right direction. But, you know, again, it's all about the people, and we'll see what the future holds.
SANDERS: Hey, well, thank you so much. This was a joy.
GALE: Thanks for having me.
SANDERS: Take care, man.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SANDERS: Elan Gale - he was a delight. His new book is called "You're Not That Special." And of course, the newest season of his show, "The Bachelor," is on Monday nights on ABC. A special thanks to NPR producer and "Bachelor/Bachelorette" superfan Samantha Balaban. She actually brought the idea of this conversation to the show. We really appreciate it, Samantha.
OK. Our next episode is our usual Friday wrap. Do not forget to share with us the best thing that happened to you all week. Record yourself. Send me the file at any time throughout the week - firstname.lastname@example.org. Send it there - email@example.com. All right. Thanks for listening. You are that special. Talk soon.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
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