That One Time I Interviewed Rick Doblin With A Puppet of Himself

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    Rick Doblin has done thousands of interviews over the 37 years since he launched MAPS in 1986, but this is the only time he’s ever been interviewed by a puppet doppelgänger of himself.

    I call the puppet “Rick Doblinganger”.

    The backstory on this one is rather unique, as one may imagine – I included a throwaway line in a piece I wrote for Psychedelic Alpha imploring anyone reading my article to finesse a lifelike Rick Doblin puppet for me to be used exclusively for shenanigans. It was the type of off the cuff improv humor remark that often gets peppered into my writing, but this time someone from Rick’s team actually read the quip, reached out to me, and made it happen.

    A few months later I found myself emceeing Cannadelic Miami in February of 2023, where Rick was one of the keynote speakers. The puppet was delivered to me in a burlap sack, with true to form Birkenstocks sticking straight up out of the bag. An interview time was arranged on the fly, and soon I found myself in a room with Rick and his assistant.

    This was the second time I had interviewed him, but certainly the first time I had ever tried anything like this before. It was a bit of a high wire act; I had to simultaneously make sure my arm stayed out of the camera frame, we stuck to a baseline interview script, and my puppeteering was convincing enough while staying on top of the Rick Doblin impression I had come to develop after hearing him talk a few times. Traditional puppeteers in various cultures incorporate impersonations into their act, and I did the same in this case. My friend Kevin recorded us on my Lumix FZ1000 camera like a champion in true guerrilla documentarian fashion. We didn’t have a tripod, and since Rick was seated on the carpet the whole time for some reason, it was a bit of a balancing act for him to crouch down and maintain a relatively steady angle.

    Rick was genuinely thrilled with the humor and fun we brought to the interview, and particularly appreciated the eccentricity and unconventionality of it all. It was actually hard to get him to stop talking, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s interacted with him before. He asked if we could do it again sometime.

    In particular he was really happy that Rick Doblinganger asked about his former pet wolf, which he insisted was more of a spirit guide than a prototypical pet. His last remarks during the interview expressed that he felt like the puppet ‘really understood’ him. It was a heartfelt and sincere gesture which the puppet appreciated very much.

    The total interview ran 17 minutes or so before I had to put the kibosh on it after my arm started feeling like it was going to fall off from the extended puppeteering without rest. The overarching ‘Moon Shot’ , or ‘Mars Shot’ of the MDMA on Mars subject matter was the rather grandiose idea that Elon might see the interview and get a kick out of it, and then… I don’t know, maybe invite me or the puppet to go to Mars and do MDMA there, or amplify the interview somewhere. Stranger things have happened. I know they do, because a close friend of mine got Elon Musk to participate in an event he was organizing by producing a similar, yet much better, mars shot video invitation for him. And another close friend of mine is orbiting the moon on a SpaceX rocket with the Dear Moon project after producing a similar compelling video application for the project.

    I remember sending off this video segment for final sign off from MAPS while I was on a layover in the Tokyo airport. I was angling towards having everything completed and publicly released by March 21st, which in addition to being my birthday also happens to be International Puppet Day. This interview first aired on March 21, 2023.

    There are various other clips from this interview floating around, as the full length has been chopped into short social media length pieces as shown here.

    Yes, I still have the Rick Doblin puppet, and am very much looking forward to hopefully interviewing him with it again at some point in the future.