Dan Savage, left, and his husband Terry Miller in 2012. (Chris Pizzello, Invision/AP)

Dan Savage on bestiality, politics and how weed made him a better parent

Interviewing celebrities while stoned isn’t always as fun as it sounds. Earlier this summer I spent the day with Jeffrey Dowd — the real-life inspiration for the Coen brothers’ Lebowski character — and after several hours of smoking blunts and listening to his untethered conspiracy theories, I was ready to swear off cannabis until my 60th birthday.

Though it’s not always like this.

Sometimes getting a little sideways with your guest is just the ticket for avoiding the mechanized monotony of a high-profile interview. The standard questions suddenly seem boring, and curiosity zips around in unexpected directions. And if they’ve got their head in the clouds as well, it’s less likely that they’ll give you the pre-packaged responses they’ve been handing out like fliers to every other journalist.

From left to right, Cannabist columnist Josiah Hesse and Savage Love hero Dan Savage eat cannabis-infused edibles before sitting down for an interview. (Josiah Hesse)
From left to right, Cannabist columnist Josiah Hesse and Savage Love hero Dan Savage eat cannabis-infused edibles before sitting down for an interview. (Josiah Hesse)

When I heard that Savage Love columnist and It Gets Better co-founder Dan Savage was bringing his amateur porn festival, Hump, to Denver’s Oriental Theater, I figured the cordial thing to do was offer him the opportunity to get high with me and talk about bestiality, presidential politics and other dark corners of humanity.

Surprisingly, this was not difficult to arrange.

Savage isn’t much of a smoker, so the two of us split a 20-milligram edible — and then I ate another 10-milligram cookie. We then reunited an hour later once our stomachs had turned warm and our minds became loose. I was surprised that Savage would want to get so lit only moments before walking onstage to introduce the show, considering that I was so zonked I could hardly see whether the red light of my recorder was on or off.

Thankfully Savage’s years of dealing with America’s neurotic sexual peccadilloes has made him a very limber and patient conversationalist. We both hit a few neurological speed bumps during our nearly hour-long conversation, each of us getting lost in our own monologues as our cannabinoid receptors flashed like a Studio 54 dance floor. Savage’s endless curiosity and fearless pursuit of uncomfortable truths kept the dialogue snapping along, guiding us through a fog of absent-minded hyperbole and forgotten historical facts.

The Cannabist: It’s great to meet you, even under such heady circumstances. Though I suppose you often have heady experiences with strangers, since everyone you meet probably just wants to talk exclusively about sex. Does that get frustrating?

Dan Savage: People expect me to be into doing all the (sex acts) I’ve written about, and if not down to fuck at least down to talk about fucking, endlessly. Sometimes I’m totally in the mood, but sometimes in the airport with my 7-year-old son at 9 in the morning and I can’t talk to you about rimming at the moment.

Cannabist: In that case, let’s chat politics. It’s been interesting that opposition to same-sex marriage has hardly been mentioned in this election, since it was the cornerstone of the 2004 race. Do you think that those kinds culture warriors are a thing of the past?

Savage: The Christian-right, sex-negative bat-shit-ery? Absolutely.

Cannabist: But it doesn’t seem like they can campaign on it like they could a decade ago.

Savage: Well, we certainly see Republicans attacking Planned Parenthood and attempting to make that an issue. I recently profiled an anti-choice activist — I can’t remember her name, I’m really stoned — who admitted that even if Planned Parenthood wasn’t doing abortions they would still try and shut them down because people shouldn’t be given contraceptives.

Cannabist: And that’s crazy considering that most Republican families use contraceptives.

Savage: That’s it. Hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays virtue. People who campaign against doing the things that they themselves are doing, or have done, or wish that they were doing, they’re the most fervent anti-whatevers.

Cannabist: Like Newt Gingrich trying to get Clinton booted out of office for having an affair with a co-worker, while he himself was having an affair with a co-worker. Will we ever get to a point where politicians can be open about the dark corners of their sexuality?

Savage: I think we’re going to get there because of the Internet, because of the digital trail we all leave now. We’re all one hack away from being an Ashley Madison-style punching bag. And everyone today who is 14-years-old is texting or DM-ing or Snapchatting every perverted thought that comes into their heads. And sharing dirty pictures of themselves. A certain percentage of these people are going to go into politics, and enough of them are going to get caught that they’re going to have to diffuse that bomb themselves.

Just like people have had to do with pot. (Douglas H.) Ginsburg was nominated for the Supreme Court, but he had to withdraw because a photo of him smoking a joint surfaced. Clinton admitted that he smoked pot, but wouldn’t say he inhaled. George W. Bush would neither confirm or deny that he was a pothead. But then you have Obama saying, “Yeah, I inhaled, that was the whole point. I got high.” He was just blunt about it, and that defused the issue.

Anthony Weiner was destroyed by sexting, but later we’ll have someone come along and be all Bill Clinton about it, and try to pivot or triangulate it. And then we’ll have an Obama come along and say, “Yeah, that’s my dick. I took a picture of my dick and sent it to my girlfriend when I was 19, just like everyone else did.” That’s what defused pot. Everyone has smoked pot. So if no one who has smoked pot can hold office or be a judge or work at a school, we should shut all of those institutions down. And 10, 20 years into the future, everyone will have sexted. Everyone will have dirty pictures circulating.

… I am so stoned.

Click through for more, including this tasty Savage tidbit: “We draw a very hypocritical line when it comes to bestiality.”