If you live in California, you may have seen a new fitness guru named Jack Garbarino on your local news station sometime in the past few months, promoting his new book, The Movement: How I Got This Body By Never Going To The Gym In My Life. If you live in California and also watch the groundbreaking Comedy Central show Nathan For You, you soon realized that Garbarino’s self-help book was little more than one of the show’s publicity stunts, like “Dumb Starbucks” and the “Pig rescues baby goat” viral video before it.
The book and workout plan—where Garbarino claimed he achieved fitness by lugging around dressers, chairs, and other heavy household items—were designed to help a struggling moving company cut costs by convincing hopeful readers to load furniture into and out of moving trucks for absolutely no pay. In fact, the “movers” actually paid for the privilege. Such is the nature of Nathan Fielder’s many creative business plans featured on Nathan For You: find an unconventional and subversive way for a small business to make an impact in its market. For this particular scheme, the book was a key element of setting the plan in motion. But Nathan For You didn’t have a book—so that’s where Austin Bowers came in.
The freelance writer posted an ad on Craigslist that read, “Do you need a ghostwriter for your upcoming project. I can help with that. Contact me for more details.” That was enough to grab Fielder’s attention, so Bowers was brought in and with a (very) loose set of guidelines, he was given a week to write Garbarino’s life story, the self-help book that would later top Amazon best-seller charts.
We got in touch with Bowers and talked with him about how this all came to fruition, dealing with Fielder’s dry humor, and the nuances of writing a self-help book. He even wrote us a new original sentence off the top of his head.
Nerdist: So we’re doing this interview over email because you got too busy today to get on the phone. Does that mean the book has given your writing career a boost?
Austin Bowers: I have received lots of attention on LinkedIn, including your request for the interview, and I believe that more are to come. Some people have sent me messages of quotes from the book. It’s been enjoyable interacting with readers of my work.
N: So when did the process of writing the book and getting involved with Nathan For You start? When did the show reach out to you and what did they say they wanted?
AB: It all happened when I applied to the Craigslist post a few months ago. One of my short term goals in Los Angeles was to be a ghostwriter, and when I was approached for the show about the book, I couldn’t pass up the chance to get my name out there. I was proud of what I’d written, and am pleased to say they were, too.
N: Once you had their prompt, what was writing the book like? Did they expand on the prompt off-camera at all? I know they wanted you to make a lot of it up, and a lot of the parts of the story you created are a bit off the wall, like Jack’s Steve Jobs friendship and the “jungle children.”
AB: Writing the book was quite the challenge, because as you say, a lot of it was left to me. I was given a few key bits of information upon which to include in the book, but I put in a good amount of research to make sure certain aspects realistically lined up. As for the “jungle children,” I used them to represent the progression of Jack’s life, even after he left. His desire to help others was at its height when he was with them, and the dreams he had of them afterwards were to state that his desires and aspirations never truly went away.
N: Did you think the book would get as popular as it has when you were writing it? Did you think that anybody would ever have to answer for any of the claims you made in the book?
AB: I never hold any expectation when it comes to writing. It’s a profession that is very open to praise, and equally open to criticism. I write my best and I hope people enjoy what they read. And as for people having to explain what I wrote, I wrote and expanded on what was given to me. When sending the draft in, I was told it was great.
N: How long did it take you to write the book? The show made it seem like it wasn’t long at all.
AB: The length of the project came with a one week deadline. I was nervous about whether I could do what they wanted in so short an amount of time. Basically, for seven days, I only wrote and researched to make certain I could make Jack’s story as realistic and rewarding as possible. For self-help to work, it couldn’t all be about working out. I had to show that more than his weight was the issue. To do all of that in one week was challenging, but afterward, I felt I’d done my job. I may have written it quickly, but I also wrote it carefully and professionally.
N: What did you think when you started seeing Jack Garbarino on local news stations talking about the book? It must have been weird, seeing him share the life story that you made up for him.
AB: That was the funniest thing, because I had never actually met the man. I wanted to, but schedules around the time of me writing the story, given how much I needed to focus on it, left me little chance to meet Jack himself, which I am disappointed by. However, it has been amazing to see this man share his story to the world. What I wrote was based on his life, what I was told about him. He’s earned the chance to get his tale out there. He wants to help others motivate themselves to be healthier, and I think I captioned that desire quite nicely.
N: After the episode aired, how did that feel? What kind of responses or attention did you get?
AB: I felt happy to see myself on television. I had a friend who worked at Comedy Central this past summer, and he sent me a clip of the episode before I saw it myself. I followed the link and read many of the comments people had, both good and bad, but like I said, writing is open to both praise and criticism. To see my work, to any degree, receive attention like that is a blessing.
N: The Movement became the fastest-selling book on Amazon not too long after the episode aired, and is currently one of the more popular motivational books on the site. Are you seeing any of that money? I saw on Reddit that you got paid $500 to ghostwrite the book, but is that all you got?
AB: That was the deal, but with the understanding that the profits of the book would be donated to charity. I understand the profits are being donated to School on Wheels in Los Angeles.
N: So what are you up to now, in terms of writing?
AB: Right now, I have no other projects in the works aside from my own personal writing. I do still browse Craigslist from time to time. As it’s been proven, it is a great place to find work if one looks hard enough. I’m always on the lookout for new, different projects to be involved with. Writing comes in many forms, and there’s not one that I’ve found I do not enjoy.
I’d have to say that being on Nathan for You was a treat. To be honest, I’d never seen the show prior to being a guest on it. I wasn’t readily responsive to the dry, witty humor, given some of my slower responses to his jokes, but I’ve since watched several episodes, and I’ve warmed up to it.
N: Could you think up a sentence for me and write it right now, like you did for Nathan?
AB: Sure! “The sun shot a sharp line of light through Amber’s curtains, dashing a long scar across her face, followed by a hand hovering just above her throat.” Sorry if that sounded ominous.
New episodes of Nathan For You air Thursdays at 10:30pm EST on Comedy Central.
Featured image courtesy of Comedy Central