Etrange 2013 Interview: Stephen Sayadian Is 'The Most Interesting Man In The World'

Contributor; Paris
Stephen Sayadian is just one of those 'Guys'. 

A born provocateur. A gregarious storyteller. A genre unto himself. He's been everywhere and met everyone. He may not be a household name, but name one in front of him and chances are he'll have a few stories about them.

The genre he created, dominated and left behind could best be described, I suppose, as surrealist nightmare art-porn. But, funny. With Nightdreams, Cafe Flesh and Dr. Caligari, Sayadian lifts from experimental theatre (where he has also worked extensively), silent cinema and absurdist comedy to create X-rated films that are anything but erotic, hallucinations that stick with you long after the leads have pulled out. 

And after making three of the very strangest films I, or anyone else, has ever or will ever see, he more or less vanished. His emergence at this year's Etrange Festival was the undisputed highlight of the whole event for myself, and many more. What follows is less an interview than a series of spirited monologues, where he talks about his equally surreal career path, from creative director of Hustler magazine to acclaimed poster artist to arthouse auteur.  I didn't get many words in edgewise, and didn't need to. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.


I started out as a young kid as a satirist, doing parodies. I used to send things in to comic books, to Mad Magazine. I started out at Hustler because I was trying to get a job at the National Lampoon. I met Chris Miller, who was their lead fiction writer and who went on to write Animal House, and he saw my work. He said to me, “if you were really smart, you’d discover this men’s magazine Hustler. It’s just in its infancy, but the word is, this things gonna go somewhere. We going down the hill, and they’re on the uprise.” He put me in touch with another magazine editor who told me the same thing. Then I had heard about it twice, so I got in contact with them.

The period spanned in The People Vs. Larry Flynt, I was there practically from the time the film opens to when it ends. Crispin Glover kind of played out a combination of four or five of us. I was there for every bit of that, more than I could even tell you.

When I first got hired there, Larry was getting national advertising from the cigarette and liquor companies. But as Hustler started to push the boundaries, they started pressuring him to change to magazine. Larry being the guy that he is, said from here on out we weren’t going to accept advertising. We’d make our own ads selling our own line of sex products. Vibrators, dildos, love dolls. I was a 20 year old kid, and he told me, “I want you to use all your humor, and I don’t want the reader to know if its editorial content or advertising. Even I sell only one product, it’s more valuable than just a cartoon. Do what you want, but know that I’m going to treat it like editorial.”

So I ran with that. We had coupons and 800 numbers. People couldn’t get enough. I remember being told by the guy who ran the division, that at one time it was as much if not more profitable than the magazine itself.

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CaligariEtrange FestivalLetrange FestivalNight DreamsStephen Sayadian

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