Sam Pocker is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and musician. Pocker’s songwriting catalog covers over 8 albums worth of material, released by his bands The Pretty Colors, The Pregnant Vegans, and The Agoura Hills PTA. He has worked with producers such as Geza X (Black Flag, Dead Kennedys), Paul Kostabi (White Zombie, Psychotica), Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Silver Jews), and Michael Eisenstein (Letters To Cleo, Beck). His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Redbook, US News & World Report, Publisher’s Weekly, WPIX 11 News, Everyday With Rachael Ray, The New York Daily News, SiriusXM Radio, New York Magazine, and countless other media outlets. His most recent book “Where Do Incorrect Ideas Come From?” was released in January 2020. In March his new single “Can’t Stop Thinking About Me” premiered with a music video that is a meticulous frame-by-frame recreation of the video for “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung shot entirely in his living room.
Sam Pocker was born January 1977 in Brooklyn, NY. When he was seven years old his parents moved from the Upper East Side to New Rochelle, NY. He attributes this move as seeming “profoundly traumatic at that age” and influencing most of his work in one way or another.
As a child he always had a business of one kind or another. His mother recalls picking him up from kindergarten to find him standing on the sidewalk trying to sell the other student’s artwork. In primary school he sold candy, In middle school he was well-known for renting movies on VHS out of his locker, and in High School he ran a paid BBS (bulletin board system) out of his bedroom.
His parents urged him to be involved in sports and group activities, Pocker wanted to be a filmmaker. His parents enrolled him at a summer camp for sports where he was presented with a trophy they created just for him for stagecraft. He attended Buck’s Rock Performing Arts camp where he first encountered graphic design and was then sent to one more year of sports camp before being sent off to boarding school where he briefly sang in a band, was part of a choir, and took ballet. Later in life while recounting how bad he was at dancing in a Las Vegas nightclub he wrote “I came to the realization that I’m probably the only person in this room who has performed at Jacob’s Pillow.”
In 1994 Pocker visited the offices of the now defunct 1-800-SOLD-OUT in Connecticut to purchase a ticket for a Beastie Boys concert at Madison Square Garden. When he arrived he found only one person working in an enormous office. The phones were ringing off the hook and the employee offered him a job on the spot. Within two years Pocker had reverse-engineered the entire Ticketmaster system and knew the inner workings of many major box offices in the Tri-State area. He applied for jobs at Ticketmaster many times and rarely granted an interview. He began doing consulting work for ticket brokers, ticket agencies, and ticketing startups. Eventually he would start working as a ticket broker and liquidated his company’s assets when the industry temporarily collapsed after 9/11. In 2009 after a long absence, he attempted again to work for Ticketmaster, was told he was hired, and then never received a call back. Shortly after he went to work as a ticket broker and consultant again for a couple of years but then quit again when his personal life made the work too demanding.
Stand Up Economist Career
In 2004 Pocker was hospitalized for approximately three months and was unable to walk without severe pain. While recovering at home he became aware of a website called “A Full Cup” which was about thrifting and coupon shopping. He became engrossed with these subjects and began a new career as a “Stand Up Economist”. In 2009 he explained to The Wall Street Journal “Anyone can call themselves an economist. You don’t need a degree or a license. I thought, “That’s perfect for me.” At first it was a joke. But people started taking me seriously.”
Shortly after getting involved with the couponer community, Pocker began broadcasting a live radio show from his bedroom using the Winamp software. He would post his phone number on FatWallet forums along with a link to tune in. Other members of the site would call and discuss things they had purchased or interesting advice for other listeners. Pocker went to the local Guitar Center and price-matched a starter kit that included two microphones and a mixing board. He told the security guard “I’m going to be a radio star!” on his way out the door. Over the next few weeks Pocker invited other people in his life to co-host the show including Damien (his upstairs neighbor), Jerome (his UPS driver), and Anu (the cashier at his local bodega). The radio show was popular but the presentation was still not very good. After reading about the then new format of Podcasting, Pocker got a third microphone and convinced Jean (his then girlfriend) to co-host the show along with Alex (his best friend). In order to make the show more dynamic in perspective, Pocker added two imaginary characters which were voiced by himself and Jean. The inspiration for doing this had come from the Z100 morning show that his mother listened to in the car when she drove him to school as a child. “The Z-Morning Zoo” featured an imaginary character known as “Mr. Leonard” which took on a life of his own. The format involved Pocker recounting stories of their weekly adventures while Jean and Alex reacted or added information he had omitted. This format proved to be extremely popular and lead to an article in the New York Daily News about Pocker’s exploits. The show was titled “YMMV Radio” (an abbreviation for “Your Mileage May Vary”, a common expression among couponers). Pocker used YMMV as the name of the show because it was a four-letter abbreviation that could plausibly be the call letters for a radio station on the internet.
Originally intended as “the longest message board response to a stupid comment ever”, Pocker’s first book “Retail Anarchy” was conceived while talking to his friend Lynn (a social worker) while in the balcony of the Beacon Theater during the filming of The Rolling Stones’ “Shine A Light” film. After completing the book in two months, Pocker asked his girlfriend (a literary agent) to sell it every single day when she came home from work. The book was written from Pocker’s experiences of sitting on the “husband bench” at retail stores while waiting for his girlfriend. Using the map of a shopping mall, he intentionally visited every single store and wrote about them in detail. Interwoven are some stories from the podcasts, some crude attempts at sociology, and a lot of bad jokes. Pocker was frustrated with the editing process, and calls the final product “a document of everything that was wrong with my marriage.” He also stated that “What I’m most proud of with [the book] is that I got NPR to play a Red Lobster commercial and present it as a work of art.”
After writing “Retail Anarchy”, Pocker bought a video camera and proceeded to make the documentary “Your Mileage May Vary” which featured some of his friends from A Full Cup, along with people who had been famous couponers in the 1970s and 1980s recounting their past successes. The film was not accepted into any festivals and Pocker began selling DVDs of it directly through couponing newsletters and websites. A special episode of “YMMV Radio” appears on the DVD’s commentary track. In 2018 after discovering the master tape of the film, Pocker uploaded a high definition version to YouTube.
* Public Speaking
As the result of his work Pocker was invited to speak at several conventions, and in some cases asked never to return to those conventions. One private convention in Washington, D.C. for the people who created many of the promotions he exploited resulted in many changes to the industry.
After several years of working as a stand up economist, Pocker was “tired of his apartment looking like a warehouse”. Forced to move after a landlord dispute, Pocker abandoned his coupon-shopping lifestyle and went back to art school (he’d attended the School of Visual Arts in the 90’s), enrolling first in night classes at Parsons School of Design and then at the Fashion Institute of Technology. This led to his renewed interest in making art.
* Graphic Books
Pocker began working with Adobe InDesign during his time at F.I.T. and started making a variety of zines. This expanded into a full book titled “WE CREATE INFORMATION” about the design of hot dog cart signage. The book was included in a group show named “UNPOP” in 2011. Pocker also completed but never released another book titled “Occupy Wall Street : Official Souvenir Program”.
During his couponing years, Pocker had photographed and documented many failed roll-outs of products and retail concepts. Pulling from his archives and using what were then new printing technologies, Pocker produced a series of images which he was invited to show in group shows in New York.
After taking a public relations class at F.I.T. Pocker became interested in the popularity of public relations holidays (National Hamburger Day, National Pizza Day, etc.)
Using shoeboxes as a medium, Pocker began to create a series of 365 dioramas, each one about a different public relations holiday. In the dioramas he explored themes that related to his life, his interests, his relationship to the holiday, new art techniques he’d been learning in school, or things that he had done on that day. After a few months he was forced to abandon the project due to a lack of space in which to store 365 shoe boxes.
In 2015 Pocker found himself bankrupt after a divorce and living with his parents. He acquired a student guitar for $25 and began learning how to play on YouTube. He formed several bands and recorded over seven albums in an eleven month period between 2017-2018. His Medium article “How I Wrote Seven Albums in Eleven Months” details the process extensively. His first single “Weekends With You” had it’s debut on his favorite radio show “The Evan ‘Funk’ Davies Show” on his favorite radio station WFMU. Selections from his first CD of operatic compositions made their debut on KXLU in Los Angeles.
* Open Mic
Pocker began attending a weekly open mic night at the Cock & Bull Bar in Sarasota, FL. During his time there he began experimenting with using his stage time for performance art works. Highlights included a 15 minute version of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s seminal work “Einstein On The Beach” performed with an acoustic guitar and using audience members as the cast, and another piece where he gave a guided walking tour of the bar.
Pocker has released several albums under the band names Sam Pocker & The Pretty Colors, Sam Pocker & The Agoura Hills PTA, The Pregnant Vegans, and Sam Pocker. He has recorded songs in punk, pop, disco, metal, and indie rock formats. He also composes operatic works under the moniker The Sam Pocker Ensemble. Whenever possible he works with artists who had an influence on him, resulting in working with people such as Mark Kramer, Geza X, Paul Kostabi, Michael Eisenstein, Kay Hanley, Tom Polce, Mark Nevers, and many others.
* Live Show
Pocker has performed with The Pretty Colors and The Agoura Hills PTA a few times. Highlights include a show at The Mint in Los Angeles which had no paid admissions and ended up in an argument with the sound engineer, a well-attended show at the Pig N’ Whistle in Hollywood that featured Pocker in an LED illuminated costume, and a record release party in his bathroom at home that was released as a video on YouTube.
Pocker has had a variety of careers, some of which include:
* Competitive Pie Baker
* Cookbook Author
* Website Designer
* Tour Manager
He launched “Sin City Speed Dating” around 2014, for which he was able to generate a lot of press and interest based on the posters he created for the events. One of his posters (“Chubs and Chasers Speed Dating”) appeared on the Comedy Central show “@midnight” on January 28 2015. In interviews with The Las Vegas Review Journal and Las Vegas Seven magazine, Pocker claimed a variety of successes with his events. After the company folded he admitted “We’ve never actually held an event. People love the idea and the dream, but they are too shy to actually attend.” He appeared on Nevada Public Radio on multiple occasions as a matchmaker. In 2017 he briefly assisted celebrity matchmaker Willie Daly at his annual event in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland.
Pocker was in a long-term relationship that resulted in divorce after thirteen years. He has lived in the metropolitan areas of New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Boston, and Los Angeles.