PW: The Big Bing collects 20 years of your business humor columns. Where did they originally appear?
Stanley Bing: Esquire from about 1983 or 1984 up to 1995, and then I joined the team at Fortune magazine, where I am now on the back page.
PW: So, you started in the pre-Dilbert era.
SB: I taught Dilbert everything he knows.
PW: What attracted you to business humor? It must have seemed like an oxymoron to a lot of people.
SB: But it isn't, people have a lot of laughs in business. Of course, they are usually drunk at the time, but it still counts.
PW: Was it frightening for you to dig back into two decades of columns?
SB: No, actually, it was interesting to me. I mean this is really not only The Big Bing, all egocentrism aside, it's the best Bing. This is about a third of what I have written over the course of 20 years. So after sitting agape in horror at some of the things I was doing back in '86 or something, there was plenty back then that was very germane.
PW: What didn't hold up over time?
SB: Topical references are hard. For example, people once had very strong feelings about Michael Milken. Now he is a bald philanthropist. So, what do you care about that? Other than that, the entire body of work was astonishingly relevant, cogent and beautifully written.
PW: There are several columns on dieting. How have your views on diet evolved since you recommended two Lean Cuisines and a large gin for dinner?
SB: I have lost over 400 pounds in the last 10 years and I am, in fact, about 10 pounds heavier than I was at the beginning of it. The key part of my diets is to feed yourself things that when you eat more than a little bit of them, you hate it. So, the quintessential diet food for me is halibut. You could order a mountain of halibut, because you can only eat four ounces of it. And then a bone gets stuck in your throat, and you die, and you are happy.
The other discovery I made in the mid-'80s and early '90s was that clear alcohol doesn't have any calories. You see all those fat guys drinking Scotch. All the thin guys drink martinis and look like Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan.
PW: You also seem to have a special place in your heart for pop business bestsellers, such as Who Moved My Cheese [WMMC]?
SB: Well, I particularly loathe WMMC. First of all, I resent the author's success. Second of all, the theme is odious and sadistic. The theme of WMMC, which by the way I read at a supermarket standing up, is that if you have a problem with the way you are being treated by senior management, that is your problem. It puts the onus of behavior modification on the employee and blames the employee for being brutalized. No wonder bosses love it.
PW: One thing that is striking about the columns is how little productive work bosses do in the world of Bing Business. Is that an accurate reflection of the executive world?
SB: Well, there is a humorous twist to it. The point is that when you are an executive, when the time comes to work hard, you really, really work hard. Particularly my bosses. And I, of course, am constantly at work, constantly, constantly at work. I am very undercompensated and I am working constantly.
PW: A final comment?
SB: I guess it would be that there are some books that are mandatory for anyone who is serious about career and about life. The Big Bing would indeed be probably number one on the list.