A Brief History of Banterist

I started Banterist in 2003 on a whim, solely as an outlet for my humor writing. I figured it could possibly come in handy as a résumé of sorts, but I had no plan beyond that.

Having the blog and a burgeoning readership compelled me to write. In due time, and thanks to the exposure I received through high-traffic sites like Gawker, Banterist wound up with a nice following. The increased exposure resulted in me writing humor for a variety of newspapers and magazines.

At the same time, in the hopes of boosting traffic, I would contribute to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, which enjoys a massive following. They published several of my pieces, and two ultimately wound up in their “Best Of” collections: Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans (2004) and Keep Scrolling Till You Feel Something (2019).

In order to continue generating comedic content for Banterist, I looked for inspiration anywhere I could find it. This included listings for eBay and reviews for Yelp.

In 2005, one of the eBay ads I wrote went viral. “Men’s Leather Pants I Unfortunately Own” brought in over 3.5 million views. No easy task in the pre-social media days. I wound up being interviewed by New York Post, Women’s Wear Daily, NPR, the BBC, and elsewhere. As a result, agents, producers and editors looked for me, found my blog, and read more of my writing. I had a sitcom script go through several meetings, met with ad agencies and got invited to be on a comedy program. I think it was Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me but I can’t remember, and they failed to follow up on the invite after my 15 minutes of fame ran out.

I wound up on NPR and BBC again as a result of the eBay auction “Drive Someone Insane With Postcards.” In an incredibly ironic episode, eBay removed my listing for “Playboy in Braille” citing restrictions on pornography — despite the fact the actual magazine was just brown paper with Braille.

It was always fascinating to see where Banterist posts wound up. One reader informed me that “Your New Monkey” — which I created as a prank for a friend — was read by magician Penn Gillette on his radio show.

I continued plugging along with Banterist, though it was becoming harder and harder — especially with two kids and a variety of side gigs.

After finding Banterist, an executive from Mercury Radio Arts contacted me. They liked my writing style and asked if I’d be interested in writing material for a radio host I’d never heard of named Glenn Beck. He was described to me as “libertarian” and being a disenchanted centrist myself, I said sure.

Shortly afterwards, in 2006, Beck got a show on the Headline News Network. It was his TV debut. It turned out that Beck saw and liked a comedy bit I had done with musician John Mayer called The Paul Reddy Show. I wound up being hired as an ombudsman on the Headline News show — tasked with making fun of Beck as he struggled to find his footing as a TV host.

In 2008 Beck jumped over to Fox News Channel. That’s when he skyrocketed to national fame/infamy. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to come along for the ride — I did two bits on the new show before Fox News decided they didn’t want comedy. They wanted an armageddon days are here kind of show that brought in better ratings.

During that time, I worked with Beck’s fledgling online network. I created comedy bits under the guise of being the Czar-at-Large and was left to my own devices. I also contributed to several of Beck’s New York Times bestsellers on the side.

I wrote my second book, The B.S. of A.: A Primer in Politics for the Incredibly Disenchanted. It was published by Simon & Schuster in 2011. Later that year, I wound up being given a show on Beck’s new TV network, The Blaze. With my staff of seven, our mandate was to be funny without regard to politics or political party. We decided to call the show The B.S. of A. I thought that was pretty clever — using my book title as a TV show title. Sales! As it turns out, the title “The BS of A” confuses the living hell out of search engines. Those are all such common words that they don’t really register. Plug them in to your favorite search engine and see if I pop up. I don’t.

But I digress. By 2011, I had a non-partisan show on a partisan network. Not easy — but we managed to do it. In fact, we did it so well that within a week of airing the first episode, people were calling for my head because of a joke we made about Sarah Palin. One person in particular really had it out for me — his name was Steve Bannon. He rallied his troops and even generated fake news articles claiming I said things that I never said. It was über creepy.

To Beck’s eternal credit, he defended me and the mandate that he’d given my show — which was to be funny regardless of political persuasion. This did not go over well with Bannon. I do believe it resulted in a rift between the two organizations.

Next to making and having children, working on The B.S. of A. was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. I was getting paid well to hire and work with people I loved to work with, and performing with incredibly talented individuals from Upright Citizen’s Brigade. The show monopolized all of my time (just ask my wife), and that’s when my posts to Banterist fell by the wayside.

My third book, co-authored with my showrunner Jack Helmuth, was called The United States vs. Santa Claus: The Untold Story of the Actual War on Christmas. It made #1 on the Amazon humor charts, presumably because it was funny.

Unfortunately, The Blaze network was in its infancy, interestingly managed, and hemorrhaging money. By 2014, the shows were all canceled.

Anyway, as you can see, this blog that was created on a whim resulted in a lot of rewarding opportunities. Highly recommend!

I filed the most popular Banterist posts under Greatest Hits. Enjoy.

I also copied them over to my page on the website Medium, where I also posted some original material — including the Medium pick How to Talk to Your Child About Elon Musk.

On Soundcloud I have put up some of my radio commercial work.

My vanity page is briansack.com, which makes sense.

Thanks for stopping by.