Tue, May 24, 2016 - Page 12 News List

The god of geekdom

Lucifer Chu has a well-earned reputation as an iconoclast, but in real life he’s actually rather cuddly and nice

By Jules Quartly

It’s not all black and white for the TV star and social commentator Lucifer Chu.

Photo: Jules Quartly

You know that feeling of disappointment, when someone isn’t what you thought: the well known philanthropist is actually self-serving; the actor you looked up to is much smaller than he seems on the big screen; and the radiant cover model is anorexic, with terrible skin.

So it was with the TV entertainer, fantasy novel translator, social commentator and media bete noire Lucifer Chu (朱學恒). With a name that gives the devil a nod and a reputation for shooting off at the mouth, I was hoping for brimstone and controversy. He did make an effort, but at the end of the day he’s actually rather reasonable. He even drops me off at the end of our interview, despite having an Era TV appointment.

We meet in the lobby of his Neihu apartment building, at a spot not far from where the military top brass polish their battle plans. Near some NT$300 million villas, the kind that Sotheby’s International Realty have on their books. It’s a swish place and the concierge has that Hong Kong service mentality that’s hard to find in Taipei.

But it’s not palatial. Lucifer rents and if he drives, it’s a second hand car. He’s a family man, with two boys, whom he’s obviously devoted to — possibly another disappointment for those who see him as some kind of iconoclast tearing down the establishment walls.


So, what’s all the fuss about? He’s what we call in the business a “rent-a-quote,” someone with something to say about everything. For instance, a couple of days before we meet there’s a news story about a woman caught out by loan sharks. The reporter from ETtoday wants to spice up the court judgment with a quote from Lucifer, which loosely translated reads: “That makes me laugh, how can this out-of-touch dinosaur judge blindly apply the law without regard to justice” — and that becomes the story.

Other times, all the reporter has to do is check Lucifer’s Facebook posts. Instant news. As a social media presence he’s a bit like AC, a current that periodically reverses in direction and popularity. A supporter of capital punishment, like 80 percent of the country’s electorate, nevertheless it’s one of those touchstone issues that gets his liberal friends and followers frothing at the mouth.

For instance, there is Freddie Lim (林昶佐), the artist formerly known as the leader of heavy metal band Chthonic and a former chair of Amnesty International Taiwan who is now a legislator.

“(Lim) was against the death penalty on March 1, but a month later when the 4-year-old girl was killed he didn’t have anything to say. He’s a fucking politician, he’s not brave, I can’t respect him,” Lucifer says.

He’s dismissive of Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) too, comparing him to Donald Trump and a “fallen angel.” He believes the Taipei mayor’s poor decisions like shutting down the Taipei Dome (台北大巨蛋) and putting porn stars on MRT cards show a “lack of common sense.” Basically, Ko is an academic with no idea about real life, surrounded by “brownnosers who come up with bad decisions and then say, ‘I’m a joker, but my king will protect me.’”

So, Lucifer does have some good lines. But for the record, what you see is what you get. In the flesh, so to speak, he’s fairly tall, well built and dressed all in black (which is an important detail because he has a clothing line and a web store selling gear for geeks). He speaks from the hip, is funny, but listens too.

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