BusinessI Am Dr. Michael Larson, Inventor, Entrepreneur, Sleep Expert, Mechanical Engineer, and I Had A Patent Case Go To The Supreme Court. Ask Me Anything!
Aug 26th 2017 by DrLarsonSleeps • 55 Questions • 106 Points
My short bio: Hi Reddit! I'm Marc Ruskin. I am a former FBI Special Agent, and I spent 20 years in Undercover Operations. I've juggled a dozen different aliases and have been awarded five commendations from the Director of the FBI. I've worked at US Embassies in Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Asuncion, the latter where I was given a Letter of Recognition from the Minister of the Interior for the rescue of a kidnapped former Miss Paraguay (Mariangela Martinez).
Since retiring, I've divided my time between a law practice in New York and extended sojourns in Liaoning Province, China where I've been studying Mandarin. My new book, The Pretender: My Life Undercover in the FBI, is now on sale.
Thanks to All of You For Stopping By.
** Had a Great Time! **
What does the Sleep Shepard do? I struggle with waking at night and having a hard time falling asleep, I hate the morning hangover that most sleep meds cause. Is this something it can help manage?
In Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates . . .was that really your booty or was CGI involved?
Brendon I was a huge fan of Home Movies.
How much if any was based on your own experiences growing up? I felt like Coach McGuirk was too real for just being a cartoon lol.
What sets you apart from the ever growing list of other 'cheap flights if you sign up to my newsletter!' guys?
When you were UC on Wall Street what was your cover? Trader, lawyer? Did that kind of cover require a lot of financial education?
Thanks for your interest! You're not alone in your struggles, unfortunately.
The Sleep Shepherd is a comfortable headband that does two things: it aids someone in falling asleep by playing binaural tones through built-in speakers, and it gives quantitative information about sleep that we currently can't get anywhere else.
Doctors define our sleep stages by the rate of our brain activity. The binaural beats have a brain entrainment quality that helps our brains slow naturally–without taking drugs. I'm passionate about helping people sleep ever since my own daughter developed chronic sleep problems. The original Sleep Shepard was invented for her and it has helped her so much my friends and I decided to make it widely available as possible.
I FRIGGING LOVE THIS QUESTION! NO CGI, BABY!!! THAT BOOTY IS ALL PURE PRIME GRADE NANJIANI!
a lot of home movies was "wishing" instead of reality. I wish that kids had that jokey relationships with adults. They don't actually. But it was all how I'd like to see things. McGuirk is ALL Jon Benjamin- he's a master.
Great question, I'll do my best to answer this: Flystein is a great service but it's specifically for flights you've already looked at and are looking for cheaper deals. They charge per request, too. Really useful if there's somewhere you need to go at a specific time and you want to make sure you're not getting screwed.
Skiplagged is really for the US, it's for hidden city ticketing. See my comments further down in the thread. Also a great tool if you're comfortable with the risks.
Scott and Jack have great sites, but they use humans to do all the work, and so by definition they will miss deals. I come from a programming and automation background, so I'm able to grab a lot more of the deals. Scott says he sends out 20-30 a month to his premium list, which to me seems like he's missing a lot?
In COMMCORR, I started of as a clerk on the floor of the COMEX, one of the commodities exchanges, learned the business, and a year later passed the written and practical exams to become a local trader on the NYMEX. The case went down in flames after someone recognized me from my time at the DA's office, and blew my cover.
First off: I love you. I made these & sent em. Are those really your signatures or did I get played? https://imgur.com/gallery/VMJQi
Second: Who's the biggest dildo ever?
Just signed up. It says a team of highly trained experts are finding me flights. It also says monkeys entered my email address into your system. Is your company ran by automation? or is ran by HIGHLY TRAINED EXPERT MONKEYS??
That was improvised by Bo! a lot of the stuff with my comedian friends was improvised.
and yup that's legit- I signed it
When the case was over, it did occur to me that I could earn much more as a broker than as an agent. But if making a lot of money was a prime motivator, I would not have left the law to become an FBI agent.
1.) Is there anything you can hint at regarding Galaktikon performing live and/or going on tour? I really enjoyed both albums and would love to see them performed.
2.) When Dethklok played the Marquee in Tempe, Arizona a few years ago, you guys blew out the power. Did you see it as one of the best rock n roll moments like I did, or was this more of a huge pain in the ass because you were trying to play a show?
"Airline companies hate him !"
What was the craziest thing you ever saw in your years as a special agent?
My most fervent advice is to be persistent! You can do this!
The details will, of course, vary on the type of idea. Since you're talking about products, it is usually a good idea to create a prototype. Not only will trying to give your idea form and function help you in refining parts of it, it will also give you a tangible way of helping others to understand it and appreciate its importance. Even if you can't make an exact embodiment of what you have in mind, it is important to build something that demonstrates the core features of your product--what makes it different from other things on the market. When I talk about conveying the product idea to others, it's because these days there are few if any Lone Rangers in the product development business. You're going to have to trust other people to do things for you, and with you, along your journey. Because not everyone is as trustworthy as you (thankfully most people are ethical) you will want to take some steps to protect your idea. A provisional patent, explained at USPTO.gov, is a good first step that can cost as little as $150.
I can't choose a better job than this. I get to live my dreams, meet my heroes, and make stuff I can be proud of with people I love? Doesn't get any better. I feel very grateful and privileged.
That said, I'd love to be a chef. I think that would be fun and creative. And giving someone something that literally becomes a part of them? Very exciting and intimate. Also, now that I'm rereading it, sounds very creepy. But I'm not gonna delete it. This is reddit. I'm far from the creepiest thing on here. ;)
- All I can say right now is that we're working on it.
look live Dethklok shows we're super entertaining but expensive to produce. I'd like to top that- s that means raising money. Totally possible but takes time!
- I remember and loved that night. SO much fun to have a room clapping along in unison in the dark. Gene Hoglan is such a smart live performer that the second the power went out he just kept playing. I think crazy weird stuff like that unties a room and makes for a memorable experience!
Hello!! Thank you for doing this AMA!!
First question: I know you said that you won't be releasing lyrics, but is there any chance of a tab book for the new album? Or even like a DVD or video series?
Second, if you do tour, please hit Dallas, Texas!! That's not a question. Oops...
As an aside, I just wanted to say thank you for your music and for Metalocalypse. You are literally the reason I picked my guitar back up after ten years of not playing. I rewatched Metalocalypse last year and it inspired me, and working my way through the Dethklok tab books has made me a better player. It's made me excited about guitar, and I didn't think I'd ever feel that way again. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for everything you do.
Why can't anybody make these sites for domestic flights? I have seen a dozen people do this for international but I really need domestic sales.
Did you ever slip up and mix up characters? How do you recover from these situations?
I'm sorry you have to deal with this. Dreams occur during the REM sleep stage. The interesting things about that stage is that your brain is as active as it is when you are awake and most of us experience an in voluntary paralysis of our voluntary muscles, presumably to stop us from acting out the dreams we're having. While REM is in many ways still poorly understood, we believe that the processes in our brains that reinforce daytime memories don't kick in after dreaming and thus we don't remember most of the content. Usually the dreams we do remember occur during the last REM period of the night, particularly if our alarm clock goes off during a dreaming time. Contrary to popular belief, it seems that our dreams happen in real time. Dream researchers generally believe that the dreams are intensified during times of high stress in life. So the first thing to try is to remove the stressors. Since that is impractical in many cases, it is good to take some time before bedtime to relax our minds. Typically it's good to stay away from email, Facebook or exciting entertainment right before bed. Without meaning to alarm you, there are some sleep conditions that include intense, scary dreaming. It maybe something you want to discuss with your doctor and perhaps check a trusted medical website for some general info; many like to turn to webMD or the mayo clinic.
Yes. I have a complete backstory for him. Where he's from, what his family is like etc. Hopefully we get to explore it sometime. I've told the creators the entire backstory, and sometimes they'll pull from it. Like, the storyline with my cousin.
Two of my favorite compliments regarding metalocalypse are these: 1. you got me into metal 2. You got me excited about guitar.
I can't think of hearing anything better than that. I love guitar and Metal and love that it reached you.
lyrics will be released at some point I just wanna draw everybody in first!
Great Question! Because no one wants to pay for a premium service; and because the savings are a few bucks. Want to save on Domestic Flights? Get yourself the Chase Southwest card, get the companion pass, and go wild.
I never mixed up alias IDs. Each one was tailored to a specific case, each a unique persona. It was not that hard to keep them apart. When possible, I would try to use the same birthday, so a not to have to remember a dozen of them.
What's your most embarrassing high school story?
First of all, let me say that your appearance on Comedy Bang Bang as Victor Diamond is one of the funniest things I have ever seen, and I have had that episode (and ONLY that episode) saved on my DVR for.... a year, maybe two? I keep it cued to Victor's entrance because that's why I kept it. "Adult freckle". I show it to everyone who comes over to my house and it has never failed to make people laugh. He's such a great character.
Anyway, how much of a typical episode of Home Movies was scripted and how much was ad-libbed?
What are your thoughts on buying "connecting flights" such as JFK-ORD-some random city instead of just buying the direct flight? This obviously doesnt work with checked bags though.
During an undercover operation..have you ever got this feeling.."OH shit! They know..thats it this is my end" If yes, how you coped up with it?
Yes, we are working on a number of innovations to include, as we've learned a lot from the people who have been using it. The many testimonials we've received about how the Sleep Shepherd has helped people is tremendously gratifying and spurs us on to help more!
Well, in Silicon Valley, there's an episode where I get a gold chain and everyone mocks me mercilessly. That's based on a true story. I got a silver chain and it was a BAD move.
Thanks for digging Victor's CBB TV appearance. He was a character I had before home Movies. I love doing anything with Scott Aukerman & CBB podcast- so much great creativity and fast brains in the same room. So much damn fun.
Home Movies 1st five episodes were improvised off of outlines and we got into trouble w story telling but the characters and tone were totally there- so when we came back on the air Bill Braudis (amazing writer for Dr Katz) and myself wrote all the scripts. And we's read through each scene and try to do it from memory and allow for tons of improv. so it'd be a combo of both but the improvised performance were always better and more human
I mean, I think it's ok for Domestic Flights, if you don't mind not ending up where you need to go.. My list specializes in international deals that save hundreds of bucks.. Hard to do that with hidden city ticketing. My big thing with hidden city ticketing if you book JFK-ORD-Podunk, and the flight gets cancelled to ORD, they're going to send you to Podunk no matter what. Do you really want that risk??
I was in a car with a subject, he was driving - generally a big mistake for a UC - but this was in the early days, and I learned as I went along - and he said to me "How do I know you're not an FBI agent?" I was posing as an Argentine public official receiving bribes in exchange for contracts (a white collar case). My response was that If anyone should be worried about the law it was me, not him, as in my country they'd lock me up and throw away the key if I got caught. For some reason, the logic seemed to satisfy him, and the moment passed....
Hey Brendon! Long time fan, absolutely loving the new Galaktikon album! Have you thought about doing any music videos for it?
How fast do i need to flap my arms to get lift?
What are some of the differences between real life FBI agent work and what you see in movies?
When the medical community realized that apnea was such a widespread issue, many sleep labs popped up around the country to provide the diagnostic capacity. Primarily driven by the costs Born by insurance companies, many of those labs went out of existence in favor of take-home sleep monitors which have gone through the FDA regulatory process. While the Sleep Shepherd measures relevant data for sleep, we have not yet made the decision to turn it into a diagnostic or a screening device, since that would inevitably raise the price. But as we are always assessing how best to help people, we may go down that road– stay tuned!
I like: Who Wants To Be a Horse.
You know, I hope we get to do more The Indoor Kids. I keep thinking we'll have time, but it keeps not happening. Emily and I have been so profoundly busy. This movie , The Big Sick, has been our lives for the last two years. It's winding down now. But we are enjoying playing video games for extended periods of time, and not having to play every new thing. Playing a bunch of good ones right now that we are getting some time again!
Yes. We have some really cool stuff that will roll out this fall- stay tuned!
FBI Agents have, or used to have, a great sense of humor. In the films, like Die Hard, they're all black suits and grim faces: "We're taking over now." That never happens. We'd kid around with the locals, cops and trooper, and work together all the time.
I remember you teased a project called "M 3" on instagram a while ago. Did that song make it onto Galaktikon II? The Ocean Galaktik perhaps? When I first listened to the album, I prayed for a third Murmaider and couldn't help but grin like a dumb idiot when i heard the whale noises. The album is fucking amazing by the way.
What kind of clothing would you regularly wear? The stereotype is the black suit. Is there any truth to that?
Thanks for digging the record. I remember teasing that. I had lots of crazy code names for these songs. And a lot of people are comparing the Ocean Galactic to the M series. maybe because of the guitar whale sounds right?
The stereotype is just that. For the movies. An agent going out on an interview, particularly in a white collar case, will wear business attire. I would dress to fit the role I was playing, from street hustler with lots of gold chains (courtesy of FBI Seized Property) to refined European jewel thief in elegant suit and $30,000 watch.
Hi Brendon! Toki Wartooth is undoubtedly my favorite member of Dethklok. Which of them is your favorite, and why is it Toki?
What's your theory on DB Cooper?
Ha ha you may not know this but you picked the darkest most violent character on the show!
I dont know favorites but I identified with Charles the most- trying to manage these characters in my head!
He died when parachuting out of the 727.
Do you have a SDK (system design kit) so that I can interface to the cap myself? (ie, read the EEG signals)
How similar was the heckler scene to what happened in real life?!
How was it getting high on camera on Getting Doug with High? Were you comfortable? Self-conscious?
Did you find it difficult to juggle between all the different aliases? What alias was your favorite? And do you ever bust them out anymore now that you're retired?
We are working on many additions and expansions, and while we don't yet have an SDK, it is on our list.
I have been heckled like that plenty of times, especially during the beginning of my career. They'd reference Taliban instead of ISIS, but we updated the references. Hasn't happened in the last few years. But nobody has ever been there to help me. We crafted that scene, out of my experiences and an experience Holly had.
Loved it and even more- Pot cured me of migraines- so now it's part of my life. Actual MEDICAL Marijuana- who wouldve thought??
There were about a dozen over two decades as a UC, but never more than three at a time. Alex Perez was my fav, with the pony tail, the bling, on the street day in- day out. One tough moment: had one 800 beeper for both Alex and Sal Morelli (budget issues), and got a beep from an unknown number. Me: "Yo" Him: who's this?" Me: "you beeped me! who you looking for?" and so on, until finally Him: "You Alex? Julio gave me your number." And so it went!
Brendon, do you have any plans for a sequel to home movies?
What do you think about conspiracy theories in general?
I always thought it would be fun to see how not necessarily THOSE characters- but characters like that would survive in HIGH SCHOOL. probably be like my days in high school learning guitar and negotiating teen years. . .
As to conspiracy theories, there is an appropriate saying attributed to an outlaw motorcycle group: "The only way three people can keep a secret is when two of them are dead." Someone will always going to talk.
When you were actively undercover, was duplicity more like a game to be won, or a burden to bear?
Loren and I get approached to do a reboot occasionally- we both feel like we like where the show ended- and coming back to it wouldn't be the same. We'd like to honor the show by leaving it where we left it- it ended exactly the way we wished to end it!
Not a burden. Rather a way of life. You could call it a game, but I saw it more as a challenge. Did I have what it takes?
"Chopsticks" uses binaural tones. Have you tried playing Chopsticks to put people to sleep?
I'd like to hear the joke about bananas and corn?
Will we ever see a fully functional Galaktibong helmet? That'd be pretty cool...
Also whatever happened to that guy Rikki Kixx choked to death? Like did he just leave his body there or
What are your thoughts on James Comey? Can you talk a little bit about how (if ever) politics affected investigations while you served?
The binaural tones are a stereo effect: each ear must hear a different pitch. Some have merged binaural with music, Mozart pieces seem to be a favorite, and with sounds from nature, such as a babbling brook, in order to create mind-soothing auditory tracks. If you are interested in more specifics about the science behind binaural tones and the brain, please visit www.SleepShepherd.com
Oh man. I will never escape this joke. Here is the entire saga: Couple of years ago, I did a really dumb tweet. The joke was that it wasn't funny. The joke was "Corn is just a banana that takes itself too seriously." It makes no sense. I tweeted it. Here it is:
You can see JOnah Ray, my co-host at the time on Meltdown, hating it. Then, whenever I missed Meltdown, he'd make everyone in the audience retweet the joke. So I'd be in some other part of the country,a nd see my twitter blowing up. And I knew what it was. And then he did this:
And then there were spinoff jokes. "Corn bread is just banana break that takes itself way too seriously." Etc.
My brother made that TRITON helmet and I really wanted it to be part of this whole album- I'm finding that when you can make something that was 2D into 3D something knocks in the imagination. Stay tuned because that Helmet (and much more) will be showing up
Politics never effected cases that I worked on. One of the reasons I was attracted to law enforcement was that, ideally, it's objective and not political. In my time, I saw public corruption investigations of both Democrat and Republican officials -- no one in the Bu cared what the political affiliations of an official happened to be. The perception among many agents, in and out of the Bu, is that Directory Comey allowed the FBI to become politicized, to the detriment of the institution.
Hi Kumail! I adored the movie. But doesn't it feel like a huge missed opportunity not to have incorporated The Smiths' classic "Girlfriend in a Coma" into the soundtrack? I mean, that just seems like a gimme.
First, I just wanna say that I love the new album! I've already listened to it three times. OK. I know you said previously that "Dethklok is dead", but are we ever gonna get to hear (or see) how their story was supposed to end?
aren't you worried you just posted the target on your back to reddit?
We talked about it! We even talked about naming the movie that! But we felt like it might be too jokey to do that. The biggest challenge with this movie was: how do you write a comedy with a woman who is in a coma? How can you keep that reality level, while still keeping it funny? And we felt that song might be tricky.
They were doing their job and I was doing mine. Most guys understand that. And having the entire weight of the FBI come crashing down isn't what most former subjects are looking for.
I found the movie very entertaining. Congratulations. Was there something in the movie that got cut for artistic reasons that you otherwise wish had made the movie?
Was there ever anything in either Home Movies or Metalocalypse (scene or dialogue) that you wanted in that cartoon network just totally shut down? What an example of something that didnt make it into either show?
You don't look Asian, how did you infiltrate a Chinese gang?
Yes! Plenty of stuff. But there was one scene between me and Ray where we talk in the bathroom. It's actually the first conversation we have. I'm in the stall, he's at the urinal. And he's pee shy so he's having trouble. He's just standing there. And we start talking for the first time. Super funny scene. But we had to cut it cuz the movie worked better without it. It's a deleted scene on the BLu Ray.
Not really- the great part about working with them was lack of notes- we got more notes about home movies but thats because Khaki Jones who was our liaison back in the day loved and cared about the show so much
As the nephew of imprisoned Mexican cartel boss Gil Sandoval. His fellow inmate, Bing Gong Yong, serving life for kidnapping and murder, ran his heroin organization from inside prison. Gil was pretending to run his cocaine business, with me as his trusted lieutenant. And we wanted to expand into the heroin business. And so it went....
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this! I absolutely love you on Silicon Valley, and I’ve been dying to see The Big Sick, but I’ve been putting it off, because it’s a situation that hits very close to home for me.
I’m a white female, currently dating a Pakistani-American man. I love him very much, and he loves me, but currently, the outlook for the future from my perspective seems bleak. Our relationship is a secret from his family and Pakistani/Muslim friends, and he’s expressed to me that he will never be able to tell them about us (and does not want to), because he’d be disowned by his family (immediate and extended). Essentially, from the start of our relationship, it’s been painted that we will inevitably have to break up, but we cared too much about each other not to be together for whatever amount of time we have.
I was hoping you’d be able to share some advice from your and Emily’s experiences. He’s someone I could picture building a future with, but I feel completely powerless, because ultimately, he gets to dictate what happens to our relationship. Sorry for the long explanation! I was wondering:
What advice would you have for women who’re in a situation where they’re seriously dating/are in love with Pakistani-American men?
What advice would you have for these men dealing with being torn between family/culture and personal relationships?
Knowing you and Emily got your happy ending has been what’s deterring me from seeing the movie, because I’m not confident I’ll get a happy ending myself. All the same, I know when I do watch it, I’ll laugh, cry and hopefully find some sort of resolution. Thank you for everything you do, Kumail!!
Has there been any occasion where your mission/objective conflicted with your own personal ethics?
Edit : follow-up question : given your experiences, how has your perspective of the world changed from when you started to now.
Obviously, it's your decision, but I think the movie might give you confidence. These things are very complicated, and I can't speak to the specifics of your situation. But I will say this; I didn't give my parents enough credit. I thought they were rigid and the people they were always going to be. I hadn't considered that my parents, like everyone, are growing and evolving and changing. They're not "cooked" yet. Nobody is. So I'll say: I was terrified of what would happen. And it was very scary. But, ultimately, love won out. Love between me and Emily, love between me and my parents and, ultimately, love between Emily and my parents. I kind of have to hope that love wins out. I don't know how else to live.
All that said, you both should listen to each other and talk about this stuff. It ca n very easy to just not discuss it. I'm sure he's scared. But the more you talk, the more you'll understand each other's situation. It can be very hard for an outsider to truly understand the cultural context a person is from. So... talk!
And good luck. Rooting for you two.
Before working as a UC, it was black and white. The good guys (us) and the bad guys (them). I came to realize that it's a continuum, evil on one end, Mother Theresa on the others. And most everyone in the middle. And early on, I did form friendships with subjects, was invited to an intimate wedding, had a guy's son scratch my phony initials on his skateboard. Did not make me feel great.
Big fan. Is there a recorded version of the Happy Birthday Thank You Very Much song that you know of?
Would you ever consider making another show similar to Home Movies or Metalocalypse with another network or streaming service? I love both of those shows, thank you for making them a reality!
Hi I'm interested in becoming a special agent. I am a 23 year old male with a degree in pr and a national guard Intel officer. I plan on either getting a master's in international relations or a law degree. My other plan to be competitive is just volunteering to get orders overseas. Any advice?
No! I've tried to find it, but it's VERY tough to google. It's burned into my brain tho. And now, if I google it, the only thing that comes up is my story! So, I've kinda boned myself on that one.
The law degree would be the way to go. Makes you more competitive. Not so for the MSIA.
I think you're absolutely hilarious and when I saw you were doing an AMA I actually made a note of it on my calendar (which I don't even use when I'm supposed to for work). I guess I should probably ask a question so:
What was your favorite scene to film in Silicon Valley and why was it the middle out dick algorithm scene?
Hi Brendon! Thank you for doing the amazing music you do - you got me to better explore metal and find such an immense appreciation for it.
My question is if you got another chance to work on/finish Metalocalypse, would you? Even if it wasn't with Adult Swim and was with another network (assuming you got full rights over it and whatnot) would you want to finish up the storyline or just leave it where it is for posterity's sake?
what is the strangest thing you've had to put on an expense report for an operation?
Ha! The middle out dick algorithm was actually pretty difficult to film. Took us 14 years in tiny hotel rooms.
I like any scene where we are all in the room together. It's fun to shoot with everybody. I really loved doing the RIGBY scene with Martin Starr too.
All of that stuff is out of mine and the fans control- they have the rights. As we all know we tried to make it work and they said no and wouldn't even discuss- we know it'll go down as an injustice- the fans got screwed and I don't like that. I think we all know it was a bad move. I believe that the show is in its coffin forever. part of the reason I decided to make GII.
Myself and agent Rita F. put together carriers for my Mini-Nagra recording device that would allow me to carry it the place least likely to be searched - guess - It had an elastic waistband, and flaps with Velcro pockets in the front, and was worn over briefs, with baggy pants. I'd cut hole in my right pants pocket to run the on-off switch, held in place with a safety pin. Very high-tech. The bean counters authorized the minimal expense for the materials, but voucher must have read a bit odd!
Hi Kumail, I loved the movie, I saw it twice with different people. How is your relationship with your family now?
Hi Brendon, will there be any chance that the upcoming issues of the Galaktikon comics will also go through the story of Galaktikon II?
Very good! It's been ten years. We're all very cool now.
We're gonna see how the first one does and then figure out how to proceed!
Vincent Terranova, the agent played by Ken Wahl in the TV show Wiseguy was great, and very realistic. Showed the emotional issues of deep cover work for the first time.
I met him once because I did an Old Navy commercial with him and Julia Louis Dreyfuss. It's funny, in case you haven't seen it. I met him and introduced myself, but I don't remember if he ever said my name. Super nice guy. And shockingly funny.
I loved the DOOMSTAR the most. It had everything I love- characters going through change, music, the best animation we've produced, a 50 piece orchestra. . .
It was amazing- i found a way to pay my heroes to hang out with me.
easy- FACEBONES. my voice would just quit at some point honking out that garbage
They can afford the best lawyers.
I'm the guy from the Rotterdam Q&A that asked the first question, a brief update, The Big Sick is my favorite film of the year including porn.
So, question time: how has your personal circle reacted to the movie? Have both if your parents seen it by now? How about your friends? Have you gotten a lot of "oh wow, I never knew that"?
Hey Brendon, knockout job on the album. It's seriously awesome and I've had it on pretty much constantly since I got it. I have a few questions:
How did you flesh out the Galaktikon story for the comics? Was it something that was always there that you wanted to get out, or did that come after the album was released?
How do you decide what voice to use on what song? Is it driven by story and/or lyrics, by music, or something else?
Any chance we can get Doomstar back in print on vinyl, even unautographed? I missed out on that amazing album art and would love to have a copy.
Thanks! Looking forward to the rest of the Galaktikon issues and crossing my fingers for a tour!
Greettings Marc Ruskin. Were there any instances where you had to compromise your principles, and were there any time that you had to turn in a bad guy who genuinely became your friend whilst you were undercover?
Ha! Hi! I remember you!
My friends and family are all thrilled with the film. A lot of them didn't know the events of the movie, yeah. We moved away from Chicago right after all this happened, so a lot of our LA/NY friends don't know it. It doesn't come up. "I'm sorry you have a cold. That must suck. Emily was in a coma for 8 days."
thanks for digging GII!
For the Galaktikon Comic I took the first Galaktikon record and divided up the 9 tracks into 6 issues to tell a bigger 3 act story. So as you read remember you're just reading a part of one of the acts and the story is moving fwd. and it was great to have Eric Powell from the Goon reach out and make the comic a reality. He's such a creative guy and we work well together- i love the team he put together for the comic. And Steve Mannion is so damn good! I think this makes sense as a comic book because I used to describe G I as an "audio comic book album"
and regarding voices on GII I experimented with BRUTAL and CLEAN vocals on every song until I felt like it was all lining up musically in my head- so there were vocal experiments for both on every song- I went with which voice fits the right mood/story/ sounded the coolest!
I'll work on Doomstar Vinyl!
No, I did not compromise my principles, and was never pressured to do so. If there was a gray area, I'd talk it out with the case agent or supervisor. And yes, there were times were I had become friends of sorts, and the subjects were ultimately arrested. Particularly in RUN DMV, in the early nineties. (Young UCs can be too eager to succeed, as I was, and as was my fellow UC in the TURKEY CLUB UN OP, with the mob, years later). Afterwards, I resolved to keep it strictly business. My attitude: "You've got friends, I've got friends -- I don't need more friends, I do need more money. I'm here to do business."
I've always wanted to hear an extended version of Dwayne's solo from Guitarmageddon. Any chance you have one of those lying around?
I think it's all in the episode! my guitar playing has changed a lot since then!
To quote from the surveillance agents in Reservoir Dogs, you have to "have rocks in your head" to be a UC. Seriously though, you need five+ years agent time, and if you have a family, they will need to have lots of patience to accommodate an unusual career. Most agents don't do UC work, and of those who do, most don't do it often. There are about 100 full-time UCs in the FBI at any given time - for a country of 300+ million people. I was privileged to be one of them.
Hi Kumail! Love you on Silicon Valley and Harmontown. I was planning on watching Big Sick anyway but when my mom called me about "the best movie ever" I got tickets right away (and it's truly fantastic).
My question: how was it working with Bo Burnham? It was interesting to see him in a relatively relaxed supporting role -- a real contrast to the persona in his shows. Any interesting stories there from behind the scenes?
Hi Brendon! First of all, THANK YOU! The Galaktikon II is better than I've ever imagined. Totally out of this world. So hats off to all of you! Secondly, to those nasty questions: What is this obsession with the ocean and/or water? I mean, Go into the Water, Blood Ocean, the Murmaider songs, Ocean Galaktik... How are you always so energetic? Coffee I guess... Have you ever been to Hungary? Do you play video games? If not you should try some, for example DOOM. Thank you for your answers! \m/ Oh, and Where is the full Triton armor you've teased several times?!
What is your favorite dinosaur?
Duly noted. Infernal Affairs/The Departed are great and really hit home for a UC. Reservoir Dogs I saw when I was doing a lot as Alex Perez, and it was a chilling reminder of the risks.
Love the movie, seen it a few times already. Any plans on writing a horror film?
Just wanted to say GII is a sick record and I've been jamming it nonstop all weekend. I love that you've blended the Dethklok and Galaktikon sounds so perfectly.
Since I can't think of anything that hasn't already been asked, what's your favorite song on the record? Or what was your favorite to record? I honestly can't pick any favorites yet, every track is really solid.
In terms of doing illegal things to keep your cover, is there a line that UC's can't/won't cross? In other words, what would an UC do if the crew they had infiltrated wanted them to join on a murder or assassination attempt?
I'd love to! Have a couple of ideas. The issue is, so much of the industry doesn't take horror seriously. I hope GET OUT has changed that some.
Thanks for digging!
I really like Ocean Galactic, Could this Be the End, To Kill A GOD. but I like them all- just really like the way those turned out- but it changes every day!
There are absolutely lines that can not be crossed. There is policy, for UCs and Informants, concerning authorized criminal activity. Some property crime might be authorized in order to avoid compromising the safety of the UC or CI, not violent crime. And that is realistic -- many real criminals may be fine with property crime and want nothing to do with violence. If I, in my UC capacity, refuse to participate in a violent act, that does not compromise me as a UC. Me: "No way. I'm a thief, not a killer. If you want to risk a 20 year stretch, and enjoy hurting people, that's your business. Count me out." If anything, my credibility as a real criminal just went up.
I really enjoy the work you do in music and musical parody, and as a fellow guitarist, think your skills are absolutely phenomenal. Thunderhorse was my white whale in guitar hero and on the real guitar I still can't quite get all of it.
Along with your music, I really follow your comedy career and I think Victor and Tiny, and - I guess Willy Mapleton - are my favorite comedy characters out there. Could you talk about their origin at all? And also can I write a spec script for their pilot? I'm not sure how you could play both roles though but I can't think of something with more potential.
Thanks for all the jams and laughs! Ian
One of the big plot points in UC stories is when the criminals test the agent by having him commit a criminal act in front of them. Does that really happen? Did it happen to you?
He's the best. Super funny in person too. And very nice and grounded. I know his whole family. And I text with him all the time. He's super great.
and I love doing victor and Tiny and have thought about making a TV show with them. They really are sweet guys who have each others backs and I love that about them. And I can pay both parts easy!
Meeting with one of the heroin organization players at a hotel by LaGuardia Airport, for a buy, I asked him casually how good it was. Meaning, what % purity. He misunderstood, and answered "I don't use this stuff, I sell it." I almost fell off the corner of the bed I was sitting on. The point: If a real drug dealer can say that he does not use the merchandise, then certainly I can. So, if any dealer would want to test me: "I don't use this poison, this is about money. Lots of money." Completely credible. If a subject were to ask me to commit some kind of criminal act so as to prove myself, the response - in line with being a real criminal - would be "What, are you kidding? Forget about it, I'll take my business elsewhere." Looking like I was willing to walk away from a deal always enhanced my credibility.
Hey my name is Rafi, and my family is Muslim. Could you give me advice with compromising with my parents?
what are you listening to right now? fav new album?
I know when preparing a new alias, you try to get as much real life experience to make sure the alias is authentic. Did you ever have to do anything disturbing/unethical/illegal when preparing for a new alias? And if so what did you have to?
I think you ultimately have to decide how you want to live your life. I think talk with them about it. It's difficult. One of the toughest challenges that almost everyone faces is expectations of parents vs expectations of self. You have to find the balance and know, ultimately, you're the only person in the world who is living your life.
I am going through a Phil Collins Genesis phase. He (&Genesis) are under appreciated masters of song writing. I love their chords and pedal tones
love new masto and Gojira
An example of the kinds of unusual things I'd need to learn: For one case, I went to Waste Management's facility in South Florida to learn about the working of the business. Over the years I learned a little bit about a lot of professions, in order to get on the inside. As to "unethical," it depend how you view lying. I was constantly lying about who I was, my history, etc. I learned to "live a lie." But nothing illegal, and no lying that would bring harm or loss to innocent bystanders (except a little bit, in COMMCORR - I learned my lesson). Often appearing to be doing illegal activity, when I really wasn't. Selling "hot" Swatches at 1/3 of list, out of the trunk of my car in RUN DMV, to create the appearance of being a hood. I had really bought them at market price, legitimately.
Hey Kumail, I'm a big fan of yours since I saw your Beta Male standup. Have yet to see Big sick, but my parents loved it.
Anyway, A few months ago I played Titanfall 2 with you and Thomas Middleditch for a promotion of sorts and thought it was a really cool experience. Do you have any plans on doing something like that again, with a different game perhaps? Also, I cant wait for some new Indoor Kids episodes if you and Emily every get the time to record some more!
Lyrics for become the storm? Did you take longer to make this second album because you had to incorporate a somewhat ending to dethklok as well as continue the story of the first album? I see there are some songs that tie into both story lines as well as some familiar riffs such as in murmai- I mean the ocean galaktik
First, I was in one shootout, in Buenos Aires of all places, Intervening in a carjacking while off duty. First (documented) shooting by an FBI Agent outside the U.S. No one was killed, and it's not like in the movies. Not like I had imagined. Take my word for it, once was enough. I did not like being shot at. And I'm impressed, all the time, by our combat men and women in arms, more now than ever. And yes, a UC can be to deep, that's why the Bu (as we call it) had the Undercover Safeguard Unit. To monitor and protect UCs. Check out MIPORN, with UC Pat Livingston, to see what can happen to a UC who spends too much time on the dark side.
You gonna make any more shows?
Living in La Lucilla, as a kind of diplomat. Myself and one other agent covering Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. It was in the early 2000s, the peso had just been devalued, and a steak -- excellent steak -- dinner for four at Puerto Madero, the waterfront, would cost $65, including a couple of bottles of Malbec.
Do you keep up with what's going on back in Pakistan? The PM just resigned, it was all over the news.
Brendon, after the 6 issue comic of Galaktikon, do you have any plans of writing a different comic, or possibly more stories within the galaktikon universe?
I love the comic book medium so I think I might just stick around a while. . .
What food could you eat everyday for the rest of your life?
Thanks for answering!
I know usually that's not a great question to ask a lot of people in these positions because usually having to shoot at someone isn't ideal.
And having read up a little on Livingston, I can understand how integrating into that kind of lifestyle be dangerous. But do you think it's still likely for that to happen in other kind of organizations like the right-wing terrorist group you mentioned? Or is it more complex than people realize?
My friend Mike G. infiltrated many Aryan Nations type organizations, and came out psychologically unscathed. To do this sort of work, one needs a fairly unusual skill set and personality make up. That's why the Bu's UC Safeguard Unit is so important.
Have you ever been close to dying before?
Oh man. Cindy Crawford was tough to escape. Aishwarya Ray. Madhuri Dixit. The latter two are two huge Bollywood stars. Madhuri, especially, loomed large in my mind...
In the Buenos Aires shootout, there was a minor miracle. The shooter, on the back of a motorcycle, fired one round into my Ford Escort's windshield, I returned fire. Later, the locals found, a few yards from my car, the magazine (clip) from his 9mm Glock. Full of ammo. After he fired the first round, the one already chambered, the magazine fell out. Either it was not properly seated, or he inadvertently depressed the release. Had that not happened, he could -- would -- have sprayed 15+ rounds into my windshield, and you wouldn't be AMAing me today.
What do FBI agents do at embassies? I thought FBI only was for crime in US.
Yes! I studied Computer Science in college. But I was very bad! That's where the stereotype breaks down.
We would coordinate with the National Police and Intel Services of the host country. Exchange info on international cases and work together. In Europe it was all very formal and proper. Me: "Can you provide bank info on a suspected Wall Street fraudster?" etc. The receive a report two week later to pass on to the NYO (New York Office). Now in Paraguay, it was different. I'd be bouncing in an unmarked car with locals, a revolver tucked into my waistband.
What video games you playin' these days, Kumail? Any mobile ones you find particularly addictive? (Loved you in TWD S2)
Hi Mr Ruskin, would you please shed some light on the psychology of the people you have met UC during your investigations. Would you also talk about the motivations and behavior of the "bad" guys , did you find any patterns of similarity between them?
The motivation is usually greed. As is often the case with those who are not technically "bad guys." Just that in the case of the subjects I dealt with, they did not let laws interfere with their business activities. For the Malaysian Chinese heroin dealers, it was all business -- it just happened that selling heroin was immensely more profitable than selling a legit product.
How did you keep yourself from getting intimidated when you were starting out in comedy?
Why is it that when large financial organizations, banks mostly, have been found guilty of fraud, often hundreds of millions of dollars, that the organization is fined, but no individual in the institution is ever indicted?
There's no way to not be intimidated. You just have to do it. There's no shortcut. I remember I'd go to open mics in Chicago, sign up, and then, right before I went up, I'd almost walk out. I was so nervous i could puke. But then, I'd stay and do it. And it slightly easier each time. But, ever so slightly. You'll barely notice it getting easier. But, for me, I felt like I had to do stand-up. I had no choice. Like, I just needed to do it. So, the super scary part was scary, but not as scary as not doing it. You just have to deal with it.
I'm pretty sure Ivan Boesky and Mike Milliken were indicted, and I believe they served time. It happens, but you're right, not enough. Leaving tens of thousands of senior in poverty after stealing their savings is worse than pretty much any crime I dealt with.
I'm a big fan of Silicon Valley! Dinesh is one of my favorite characters on TV right now:)
I saw The Big Sick recently and really enjoyed it, it was incredibly funny and an amazing story. How were you guys able to create such a great balance between comedy and seriousness (is that a word?) in this film? Was it difficult to hit that balance?
What were the most important things to do or remember while undercover?
Hi Briana. The balance was very experimental. I was actually surprised at how many more jokes we were able to put in. I thought, leave comedy out of serious scenes. But I was wrong. I was listening to the commentary for Tootsie and Sydney Pollack would be like "We just had a serious moment, so now we need a joke." So that's how we decided to structure it. Never keep a joke too far from a serious scene. And comedy and drama enhance each other. Laughing opens people up, and you can blindside them with an emotion. And jokes can really release the tension of emotional scenes. It's great and I'd love to work in this tone again.
You have to be "on" constantly, never out of character. And think like a criminal, act like one -- not like a cop. A cop would ask "where did you get the heroin/guns/ whatever." A real criminal couldn't care less. I never asked that kind of question, which would set of alarm bells with the subjects -- even though the prosecutors often pushed me to do so. By acting like one of them, I was accepted as one of them.
What are the best ways to figure out if someone is lying to you in a face to face conversation?
Also, are you any good at poker?
I believe that it takes years of being lied to get to the point where you can tell. As and Asst. DA, I interrogated several 100s of subjects when I worked in the Investigations Bureau, and after being lied to a zillion times, I developed a feel for it. Very useful to me as a UC.
What's the closest you've come to being uncovered?
Also have you ever had any near death experiences?
AAAAGH SUCH A TOUGH QUESTION. So I'll list a bunch: Golden Axe, Revenge of Shinobi, Comix Zone, Streets of Rage, Sonic 2, Strider, Quackshot, Moonwalker, Gunstar Heroes AAAAAGH I'M OVERWHELMED
There were a few times. Once, in RUNDMV, I was chatting with a few subjects - we were friends already - in the lobby of Yonkers DMV when a subject from COMMCORR walked in. I extricated myself, close call. Then there was that shootout in Buenos Aires....
Was it difficult to act in a movie based on something that happened to you and Emily, but with someone other than Emily? Was some/alot of it awkward?
Best advice to prospective agents?
It was actually less awkward than I would have anticipated. Zoe and Emily and I became super good friends, so that helped. I wasn't trying to recreate the relationship I have with my wife; I was trying to portray a separate one on screen with a different person. i think that helped.
Get a law or accounting degree, work out regularly, and don't post anything online that can come back to haunt you.
Who would win in a fight. One Dinesh size duck or 20 duck size Dineshes?
How do you feel about the portrayal of the FBI in pop-culture?
Also, did you ever flaunt the fact that you were an agent? Not for anything nefarious, just to see how people react. Let's face it. It's a pretty bad ass job!
Agents are for the most part very nice guys and gals, with great humor. NOT like in the films at all. And we did not flaunt it. I would tell people that I was an attorney, and leave it at that. A friend from San Juan, Bob B., would tell people he worked for Social Security (he never had a follow-up question!). It's not the kind of job you want everyone to know you're doing. Just a matter of discretion. And if one person in your building finds out (as happened to me in San Juan), then the whole building knows.
Thanks for doing this AMA! My question is:
As an active military member transitioning out soon, I have always wanted to work as a special agent and work on domestic cases. I already have a TS SCI done through a SSBI from the FBI for my current job. Could this help me with the application process and what is the best way to contact for setting up an interview?
Your background sounds great. With your clearances, you've already been vetted once, and emerged as trustworthy. You'll need to apply to take the written test, but keep in mind that is years since I went through the process. You'll need to check the website for your local FBI office, and speak to a recruiter there. Good luck!
Hi Marc, I know this isn't exactly your area of expertise, but is there a real "X-Files" type of department within the FBI? Or is that just purely for entertainment purposes?
If it existed, I would have heard about it. I got around a fair bit throughout the organization. It would have been a challenge: UC infiltrating the Alien Community!
Hey! Thanks for doing the AMA. How'd you get started in your field?
When I worked for Senator Moynihan in DC, as a young legislative research assistant, I met a special agent from the DEA (it may have still been the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs - BNDD in those days). He was about to retire, and made a big impression on me -- his integrity compared to what I saw around me in the Congress. If you think the mean streets are rife with crime, the absence of ethics in Washington was staggering. (I'm not referring to Moynihan, who's integrity was unparalleled).
what's something that was considered standard operating procedure when you started, but was changed by the time you left?
This may not be exactly what you're asking about, but addresses the issue of changing times as they affect UC work. When I started, I carried a real tape recorder, reel-to-reel. A Nagra or a Mini-Nagra. If the bad guys found it....Now recording devices are all digital, nothing to worry about, they can be disguised as anything. On the other hand, in those days there was not internet. As long as you did a decent job crating your fictitious ID, you were relatively safe as to your alias. Now there is Google, and if it looks like Alex Perez did not exist until two months ago, you've got problems.
What percentage of construction companies in a close proximity to NYC would you say are involved in the mafia?
The La Cosa Nostra case that I worked in the mid-2000s involved money laundering and hot jewels. I could not comment with any personal knowledge on construction.
Have you ever had to make an arrest out of working hours?
There is no such thing as normal working hours for a UC. I would return beeps (pre cellphone days) from subjects at 11:00 PM on weekends. Otherwise those alarm bells go off in the back of their mind: "how come he only works on weekdays?"
What was the most interesting thing you have seen in all of your years?
There was never anything Not Interesting about working as a UC. In a nutshell, being exposed to the inner working of so many worlds, from Wall Street to the Mean Streets was always fascinating.
Which FBI TV show/movie/series do you consider the most (or somewhat) accurate in your opinion?
TV: Wiseguy. Film: The Infiltrator, Infernal Affairs, The Departed.
Would it be possible for the people with integrity to lose control of the organization, and if so, what would be signs that this might have happened, that the public might notice?
It is hard to imagine a scenario where leaders with integrity lose control of the Bu. There would have to be "rogue agents," a virtually impossible situation to develop. On the other hand, where there to be leaders at the top with questionable integrity, or absence of independence from political pressure, then there would be a real problem. Signs to look for would be apparently unsubstantiated investigations conducted against critics of those in high places, or conversely, the shutting down of investigations targeting those in high places.
The FBI have always been protreyed in media as always wearing black suits no matter what.
Is this true in real life FBI?
Or do you dress differently sometimes.
The black suits are for Die Hard and Men In Black. Its a popular stereotype, and just that. Just as the stern visages and absence of humor.
Did you ever do drugs or participate in other illegal activities to maintain cover? If so, how were you affected personally? Did you develop let's say, a coke habit or struggle to stop a behavior after coming in?
Edit: Did you ever do anything you found to be morally reprehensible? Does the bureau mandate therapy after coming in from an undercover job? Are agents that seek mental health assistance stigmatized amongst their peers?
The Undercover Safeguard Unit has as its mission selecting agents to work as UCs, and monitoring their wellbeing. Active UCs are evaluated every six months by a psychologist and veteran UC. I worked there, as a supervisor and later as Acting Unit Chief, from late 1998, until I went to Buenos Aires four years later. At that point, I had decided that my career as an active UC was over. Enough is enough. But it was in my blood, and when I returned to NY, I went back to the streets.