AFTER THREE YEARS with Jeff Bezos' troubled Amazon empire, Mike Daisey took some time to write about what that particular workplace's torment meant to him. The result was a successful local one-man show, 21 Dog Years: Doing Time@Amazon.com, which netted him a run in New York and other cities, and a fleshed-out book version from Simon & Schuster's Free Press next May. Daisey's incisive comic melancholy concerning the dot-com disaster feels true because he has no qualms about holding his own hungry naﶥt魭and that of a whole generation of ambitious young Americans—up to the same kind of bewildered scrutiny he grants Bezos himself.
Seattle Weekly: Did creating your show feel like release or revenge?
Mike Daisey: Neither, actually. No revenge because I'm not angry in a personal way, and no true release because it also makes me relive my corporate lackey days over and over again. The pleasure is in telling a twisted and fascinating story, which is work I can really get into.
Has it changed at all since the last time around?
It has become a lot sharper and more defined—I work without a script, and the opportunity to perform in a variety of venues and with wildly different audiences has taught me a lifetime's worth in just a few months. And it's funnier. We added a dancing robot sidekick on the advice of some L.A. movie people and that's really working out great.
You describe several horrors of the Amazon.com workplace, but what was the worst facet of the job? Do you still feel emotional repercussions from the experience?
The biggest horror is realizing that you are giving yourself over to an idea, a dream, and a leader completely. As we move forward from the dot-com crash I think that will be the lesson that stays with me. We wanted to change the world, but I learned you need to be careful what you wish for . . . and how you plan to pay for it. I also learned to only accept cash for payment instead of stock options, baseball cards, or Star Wars figures. Even if it's Boba Fett.
What kind of response have you received from others who have toiled in the dot-com dungeon?
I've received thousands of e-mails and letters from tech workers and dot-commers, but also military personnel, and teachers. I think the show speaks to anyone who's lived in Cubeland, or dealt with the bizarre behavior of Human Resources, or had their Post-Its taken away by the woman who orders the office supplies. It is a universal phenomenon brought into focus by the lens of dot-com mania.
How much did you really deal with Jeff, and have you heard anything from former co-workers about his reaction to the show?
I saw Jeff all the time, almost every day. I'm certain he doesn't remember me very much from those days. I spilled coffee on him once, which was probably our moment of greatest intimacy. Some of Jeff's friends have seen the show—they've recommended it to him enthusiastically. We always keep a seat saved for him, and I want him to know I'll always love him.