Utah theatre director was fired for claiming to be humanitarian of year

The man who can’t stop lying! Utah theater director fired after claiming to be humanitarian of year, chair of Mensa and telling his wife he had an affair with Kourtney Kardashian – but got $175K payoff after ‘being diagnosed with compulsive disorder’

  • Christopher Massimine was fired for lying extensively about  his resume, only to be paid out $175,000 after he claimed to suffer from a compulsive lying disorder
  • Massimine resigned from the Pioneer Theater Company at the University of Utah in 2021 after the school confronted him about his numerous fabrications
  • Massimine claimed he had been nominated for two Tony awards, and also that he had received a humanitarian award from an organization that did not exist
  • After his ousting Massimine sought psychiatric treatment, where he determined that he suffered from a pathological lying disorder

A Utah theater director was fired for lying extensively about his resume, only to be paid out $175,000 after he claimed to suffer from a compulsive lying disorder.

Christopher Massimine resigned from the Pioneer Theater Company at the University of Utah in 2021 after the school confronted him about numerous fabrications on his resume, including a phony humanitarian award he claimed to have won.

Soon after he was ousted, Massimine went to a local psychiatrist, Dr. Jordan W. Merrill, who said he engaged in ‘benign lying’ which served as a way to cope with ‘his internal fragility.’

Massimine’s lying went far deeper than mere flubs on his resume, according to his and his wife’s account, and comprised a life of mistruths and outright fabrications that included claims he had climbed Mount Everest, was a chair at MENSA International, and even that he’d had an affair with Kourtney Kardashian.

The diagnosis that his lying was a mental illness led Massimine and the University of Utah to reach a settlement agreeing that neither had committed any wrongdoing in his ousting which resulted in his six-figure payout. 

Christopher Massimine was fired for lying extensively about resume, only to be paid out $175,000 after he claimed to suffer from a compulsive lying disorder

Christopher Massimine was fired for lying extensively about resume, only to be paid out $175,000 after he claimed to suffer from a compulsive lying disorder

Pioneer Theater Company at the University of Utah where Massimine worked

Pioneer Theater Company at the University of Utah where Massimine worked

Massimine joined the Pioneer Theater Company at the University of Utah in 2019 after a promising early start in theater. 

By 29 he had become the chief executive of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in New York City where he had organized a hit production of Fiddler on the Roof.

He was hired by the University of Utah, who was impressed by Massimine’s many accolades which he claimed included two Tony nominations.

Once at the school, however, Massimine quickly became dissatisfied with the work.

‘The people who were supposed to be listening to me weren’t listening to me,’ he told The New York Times.

In response to his frustrations, he decided to fabricate an elaborate lie that he had won the Humanitarian of the Year Award from an organization called the National Performing Arts Action Association.

The award and the organization were both completely fake, but Massimine nevertheless came home one day and excitedly informed his wife of the news.

‘I felt like, you know, this was a very big lie, and I want to make sure I got everyone on board so that it feels like it’s a real thing,’ he told the Times.

Christopher Massimine and his wife Maggie. The two have dealt with his lying throughout their marriage

Christopher Massimine and his wife Maggie. The two have dealt with his lying throughout their marriage

Christopher Massimine while serving as the CEO for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

Christopher Massimine while serving as the CEO for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene

Massimine’s wife, Maggie, had dealt with her husband’s lying for years, and was skeptical. But when he took a trip to Washington and returned with an award medal and photos of him at a White House podium, she cautiously accepted that the award was real.

‘I was like, OK, I guess he really did get this award,’ she told the Times. ‘Like, he came back, and he’s got an award.’

His colleagues also raised their eyebrows at the award, and one became convinced it was fake. Pioneer Theater Company director of marketing Kirsten Park said she did an internet search for the organization and the award and came up with nothing.

‘I absolutely thought it was a lie,’ Park said, but ultimately decided not to report her suspicions that Massine’s trip to Washington – which the university paid for – was entirely fake. ‘Maybe the only worse thing than lying is accusing someone of lying who hasn’t,’ she added.

Park had been spurned to suspect Massimine by his previous behavior, which included claims he was a keynote speaker at a United Nations conference, and hearing him describe an especially extravagant career to reporters whenever he encountered them in work. 

Massimine's many lies included one to his wife that he'd had an affair with Kourtney Kardashian

Massimine’s many lies included one to his wife that he’d had an affair with Kourtney Kardashian

Massimine claimed that he had served as a consultant for soul legend Aretha Franklin

Massimine claimed that he had served as a consultant for soul legend Aretha Franklin

Massimine had also posted a number of articles online which made fantastical claims about his career – Massimine was vice chair of MENSA; he had produced The Legend of Zelda and Resident Evil video games; he had served as a consultant for Aretha Franklin; he owned a diamond company; he single-handedly comes up with the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World ad campaign. 

He later revealed that he paid for the articles.

The lies came to a head shortly after the award story, when Massimine was told by his superiors that employees had filed a grievance against him for absenteeism and mismanagement. 

They also informed him that a local reporter at a FOX affiliate was compiling an extensive story on his fabrications.

In response, Massimine resigned, and checked himself into a psychiatric institution to deal with the ensuing psychological breakdown and to examine the pathological lying which had led him there.

A list of purported accomplishments of Massimine in an article he paid somebody to write about him

A list of purported accomplishments of Massimine in an article he paid somebody to write about him

Massimine told the Times that he had started lying at an early age, and that for him it was a sort of ‘defense mechanism’ to deal with his anxieties.

‘It was just something where I kind of pulled the trigger and hoped for the best,’ he said.

His lying became known among his friends, who thought of it as the harmless habits of a theater kid who was prone to performative acts.

But upon marrying Maggie, the weight of years of lies – which included a tale that he’d had an affair with Kourtney Kardashian – began to fray their marriage. Well before his fiasco in Utah, things came to a head and they separated for a few months, then came back together and were left ‘just figuring out fact from fiction.’

Then in October of 2019 – the same year he would fabricate the humanitarian award – Massimine took a trip to Cambodia, but then sent his wife a picture of himself at a Mount Everest base camp alongside a group of people he said were Sherpas.

‘I’m in tibet,’ he wrote in an email to Maggie. ‘Please don’t be mad.’ He then explained that he’d managed to smuggle himself into China with the aid of Buddhist monks, and despite the days required to acclimate to Everest had made it as far as the 21,300-foot Everest Camp 2.

 ‘At first, I thought, Why is he posting this when it could get him killed?’ Maggie told the Times. ‘And then, the crazier his posts got, I was like, This isn’t real. None of this is real.’

An ensuing deep dive into her husband’s Facebook and email accounts revealed a slew of falsifications, including fake accounts, and fake interactions with fake people.

‘Who is this person?’ she told the Times she thought ‘Who did I marry?’ 

After resigning from the University of Utah, Massimine's lying was diagnosed as a mental illness

After resigning from the University of Utah, Massimine’s lying was diagnosed as a mental illness

Massimine and University of Utah ultimately reached a the $175,000 settlement in the case, with both sides agreeing neither had committed any wrongdoing

Massimine and University of Utah ultimately reached a the $175,000 settlement in the case, with both sides agreeing neither had committed any wrongdoing

After resigning from the University of Utah, Massimine met with Dr. Merrill, who diagnosed the lying as a mental disorder.

‘It’s not seeking to take something from you, it’s about just trying to cope,’ Dr. Merrill said of sufferers like Massimine. ‘I don’t know if they know they’re doing it. It becomes reinforced so many times that this is just the way one navigates the world.’ 

 In his official resignation letter, Massimine wrote he was leaving “to address issues in my personal and professional life, stemming from untreated and at times an incorrectly treated mental health condition,’ according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Massimine and University ultimately reached a $175,000 settlement in the case, with both sides agreeing neither had committed any wrongdoing.

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