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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.

I Will Destroy Your Child’s Drawings For You

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I know exactly what happened. You made a baby.

Years later your progeny formed the muscles he or she needed to hold a crayon. Immediately, your adorable little creature started drawing stuff.

Since that time, your darling child has been creating works of art. Precious works of art. So precious that you can’t bear to throw them out. Any of them.

I know. I’ve been there. I’m still there.

Now your home is filled with cardboard boxes stuffed with paper. Paper blighted by jagged lines. Squiggles. Blotches. Hapless attempts at rendering human forms. Oh that’s a hand? I thought it was a circle with five lines coming out of it.

You knew in your heart it was terrible but you went ahead and gave it value — to you and only you. Why? Because Jayden was four when he drew it. Having invested emotionally in that scrap of paper you’re now paralyzed when it comes to doing the right thing. You can’t bring yourself to toss his portrayal of “Santa on the roof” — even though you know it will do far more good when it’s recycled into a gum wrapper or sanitary napkin.

That’s where I come in.

It’s easy. I come to your door. We don’t need to talk. I know where everything will be anyway. We parents are all the same.

You hand me an envelope with our pre-arranged fee. Then go sit in your bedroom. Close the door. Watch Netflix or something. You don’t want to be present. You shouldn’t be present. I will be ruthless.

I’m going to get rid of everything. I don’t care if you consider it Becket’s best work. It’s not. And I don’t care that you named your kid Becket. Or Kobe. Or Story. I don’t know why you’d do that, but it’s not my job to care.

My job is to get rid of everything — with zero emotional attachment. Wholeheartedly void of conscience.

Think of me as a hit-man for your child’s artwork.

Nothing will keep me from tossing dearest Melody’s depiction of Frozen’s Elsa into the bin. Nothing. It served its purpose. You did everything you were supposed to do. You held it up, you looked at it, you smiled, you said, “Great job, Melody!”

And she was happy. So happy.

That’s all Melody wanted, and you — good parent — came through. But now that piece of paper with sixteen yellow lines and some blue dots for eyes serves no purpose. None. It’s not even close to Elsa.

Yet you put it on the coffee table.

I know what happens next. So do you. Eventually it will be moved to a pile on a bookshelf or side table. That pile will grow. When it eventually becomes an eyesore, you’ll put it in a box.

I’ll sort through it later, you’ll lie to yourself. We all lie to ourselves.

And there that box will sit. Forever. Taking up valuable space in closets and cupboards. The boxes will grow in number and size as your dear son or daughter broadens their tools of expression to watercolors, paints and, god forbid, paper maché.

Don’t fool yourself. You will never be strong enough to do what should be done, what must be done.

But I can help. Call me. Let’s end this. Now.

Why Are These Zombies So Brittle?

Hey Gang,

I know it’s been a crazy few months with all the running for our lives and the collapse of society and all that. You’re family to me and I love you, but something’s been nagging at me and I just need to put it out there.

Why are these zombies so brittle?

Anybody notice? You can just prance up and jab a pen knife into their craniums as though they were over-ripe melons.

That’s weird right?

I ask because in the glorious pre-zombie years we all got punched or whacked or fell off our bikes. Did our foreheads shatter like florescent bulbs? No they didn’t. They were resilient. You couldn’t just push objects into our heads. That’s why we’re alive today.

Now suddenly every zombie skull has the structural integrity of a Frito.

What gives?

I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s a good thing! The fact that a petite gal like Isabella can lobotomize a walker with plastic salad tongs — that’s definitely gotten us out of a few pickles!

But why? Why are these zombies so brittle?

And before you shrug it off as a zombie thing: Remember Bruce, the quiet guy who was with us for a couple weeks? He head-butted that renegade biker and knocked him out cold! Then he gets bitten, turns into a zombie and Tommy has to dispatch him with a can opener to the temple. One minute he’s head-butting bikers, seconds later the same skull is a cheap piñata.

That’s just messed up.

So what is it? You die and get osteoporosis? That’s almost as weird as the zombie plague itself. It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s driving me nuts.

Let’s not get fixated on it because we have bigger fish to fry, but it’s something to think about next time you’re gingerly thrusting a nail file through back of someone’s head.

Your Comrade-in-Arms,

Kevin

Bad News from Mars

Hi Houston. Bad news. Mars is inhospitable to bees. Commander Orinsky was convinced that some of our science bees “might enjoy” some fresh air, but as soon as the airlock door opened they did this thing where they stopped flying and fell down.

We thought it might be a trick but it wasn’t, so we’re down a lot of bees.

Not all 1110 bees mind you! We still have two left but we don’t know what their gender is because all we could see was the stinger. Karlopper thinks the stinger can make babies but the rest of us don’t think so. Can you send us bee information?

We’ve been playing romantic music in the hopes that they will make more bees. We have to assume they probably won’t be in the mood for a while because they’re mourning their bee friends. No idea how close they were.

Science Officer Salvato named the surviving bees BEE Arthur and Justin BEEber, even though we don’t know their gender. That really helped to lift our spirits on this bee-centric mission.

Obviously, this complicates our bee-related experiments, which was all of our experiments. We have plenty of free time if you want more rocks or pictures of things.

Commander Orinsky wanted me to convey his deepest apologies. He really meant the best for the bees. He’s been kicking himself all day. I haven’t seen him this down since Palmer died.

Also, Palmer died.

Memo to My Campaign Staff

Adored Campaign Staff,

With my presidential offensive in full swing, we need to be two steps ahead of the “gotcha” media in every way. Preparedness is key. It’s imperative that we wargame how we’ll handle them in any situation.

For example, let’s imagine photos emerge where I’m standing in the middle of a Harvard frat party wearing nothing but a blue UN helmet and pointing to whipped cream on my penis.

That’s a terrible scenario. Terrible. The only way we’re going to recover from it is to have a solid game plan worked out ahead of time. We don’t want to be caught off-guard if I’m on Meet the Press and Chuck Todd holds up a picture of me buck naked in a UN helmet, pointing to a major dollop of whipped cream on my penis.

That’s something we’d need to be prepared for. As a team.

Relax! I’m not saying such photos exist. I’m just saying it is in the realm of possibility that they do: I went to Harvard, I was in a frat, and we had parties. We also had a UN helmet that my frat brother Chase stole while interning for a charity in Borneo. I liked to wear it during blowouts.

So, yes, I can say I definitely was at frat parties wearing a UN helmet.

But was I ever naked? That’s the big question. And of course the answer is a resounding almost never. Nine times out of ten I was fully clothed when running around in the UN helmet, providing “urgent Jagermeister relief” to the alcohol-deprived citizens of Sigma Chi.

“Wait, almost never?” I can hear you asking yourself. Yes, there was one time when the Jagermeister got a hold of me more than I would have liked. Not having any presidential aspirations at the time, I thought it would be hilarious to wear nothing but a UN helmet. Wouldn’t you know it — despite all the booze, I managed to have a powerful, lasting erection that Tina Mensford put half a can of whipped cream on.

I know what you’re thinking. “Are you talking about the same Tina Mensford who just became campaign director for rival candidate Jason Hawbers in this close race?” Yes. It is the very same Tina Mensford. I wish it wasn’t, but I’m glad to see she’s done so well for herself. Go Tina!

Again, I’m not saying there are photos out there that show me buck naked with copious amounts of whipped cream on my very erect, abnormally large penis. I’m just saying there could be and that my bitter rival’s campaign director might remember her part in putting it there back in ‘83.

A battle plan. That’s what I want just in case photos like that ever surfaced.

Will they surface? I strongly doubt it. Was Tina a photojournalism major who carried a professional SLR camera with her at all times? Yes. That doesn’t mean she took any photos that night. Even if she did, maybe she lost the negatives to a house fire, or bandits. We just don’t know.

Plus it was mostly dark, except for the flashes.

Now, I don’t know if they were camera flashes. Our frat house had a disco ball. Disco balls flash a lot. That’s their job. There’s no reason to think that Tina took a high-quality, semi-professional, horrendously compromising photo of a future presidential candidate. It could very well have been the disco ball flashing!

Memories are hazy about that night. It was long ago and I’d consumed more than 12 Jager shots in under an hour. That is the only reason you’d ever find me standing in the center of the room, naked but for a UN helmet, demanding everyone salute my Reddi-Wip-covered genitalia. The only reason.

Anyway, I’m just spitballing. I don’t want to waste our time with hypothetical damage-control scenarios. But I do want it to be something we think about — tuck into the back of our brains — and maybe discuss at length after we assemble a crisis management team by breakfast tomorrow.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

10 Common Résumé Mistakes You Should Avoid

I’ve seen a lot of résumés in my life and I can tell you they have one thing in common: All the people sending them want jobs. Nevertheless, some of those people are contenders and some of them are not. A well-trained eye can spot the difference in seconds – and has to because of the sheer number to be sorted through! Here’s my advice to anyone seeking to increase the odds of their résumé avoiding the “circular file” (slang for muscle atrophy).

1 – USING SWASTIKAS INSTEAD OF BULLET POINTS
Yes, we know, the swastika was originally a Sanskrit/Buddhist/Hindu symbol long before it was co-opted by the Nazis to represent unprecedented evil.  And that’s the problem. While you and I are both totally aware of the positive origin of the swastika, there’s a possibility your potential employer does not – and will assume you’re a Nazi sympathizer determined to rid her company of Jews.

2 – STAPLING A PIG’S EAR TO YOUR RÉSUMÉ IN CASE THE LONELY HR LADY HAS A DOG
We all know dogs find dried pig ears delicious to gnaw on, but that doesn’t mean the lonely human resources lady has one. Even if she does, stapling a dried pig ear to your résumé means that a large portion of it might be blocked by a dried pig ear. Not to mention, there’s always the chance that the person you sent your résumé to had a dog named Boswell who choked to death on a dried pig ear (or even worse, your résumé). You do not want to remind the person of their loss. It’s better to play it safe and just sprinkle the résumé with catnip in case the lonely HR lady has cats.

3 – INVOICE FOR THE RÉSUMÉ
Everyone knows writing, embellishing, printing and mailing résumés and cover letters is time-consuming and costly. Yes, you do deserve to be compensated handsomely for your efforts, but at the very beginning of the application process it’s a no-no. Instead, keep detailed records of the time and materials expended so that when you are finally employed you can deduct the equivalent amount in stolen office supplies.

4 – FILLING LONG GAPS BETWEEN EMPLOYMENT WITH CRUDE PICTURES OF OBAMA.
Politics can be divisive. Don’t believe me? Then ask my reTHUGlican uncle. It’s better not to stray in those waters. Instead, explain gaps between employment as periods where you suffered from severe depression or were imprisoned for “zoo crimes.”

5 – LISTING YOUR EDUCATION AS “mmmmm Asian girlz am I rite???”
A potential employer wants to know what your educational background is, not about your ethnic fetishes. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that’s the whole point of the “Education” section in the first place! Instead, list any colleges you attended, the degrees you were awarded, GPA (only if high!) and any distinctions. Your Asian girl references can go under the “Float My Boat & Whatnot” section.

6 – FIGHTING A HOBO BEFORE MAILING YOUR RÉSUMÉ
If you’re going to fight a hobo, make sure you do it AFTER you mail your resume. Fighting a hobo before you mail your résumé almost guarantees that it will wind up wrinkled and spattered in blood – things most potential employers do not want to see.

7 – ADDRESSING THE COVER LETTER “To Sir or Madam or Transperson With Or Without The Ladybits”
When you address a cover letter to a generic you’re saying that you can’t be bothered to do research, which guarantees that the only people willing to hire you will be newspapers. Take the effort to find out exactly who the cover letter should be directed to and you will stick out like a beautiful woman’s penis.

8 – CLAIMING CYNDI LAUPER’S DISCOGRPAHY IS YOUR RÉSUMÉ
If I had a dollar for every time someone handed me Cyndi Lauper’s discography and claimed that it was his résumé I’d have $87.50 (one person lost half his résumé in a hobo fight).

9 – INCLUDING SPOILERS IN YOUR RÉSUMÉ
I will never forget the time I was reading an applicant’s résumé and under “Objectives” they’d written “Kevin Spacey is Kayser Söze.” I was livid. I had a date that very night to go see The Ususal Suspects, so my evening was ruined. Nevertheless, that guy got the job because it was for a firm that ruins surprise parties.

10 – HAND DELIVERING YOUR RÉSUMÉ TO YOUR PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYER AS HE STEPS OUT OF THE SHOWER
Industrious? Check. Motivated? Check. But that doesn’t change the fact that your prospective employer will be wet and naked and screaming at you to get out get out who the hell are you get the hell out of my house I’m calling the police who the hell are you get out Margaret call the police.

Yelp Review: Barry’s Boot Camp

My dream was to pay a lot of dollars to navigate a tiny plot of sweat-drenched real estate in the dark while a tiny man with a microphone shouted orders over soulless uptempo music. I lived it.

The dark room is permeated by a red glow – just like they have on submarines. This is to get you used to the idea of a confined space filled with too many people.

An instructor walks around with a small public address system strapped to his head. His job in the dark is to guide you though the exercises by shouting indecipherable words that compete with the eardrum-pounding music. Sometimes you might hear words like “right hand” or “press” and you can try putting something in your right hand or pressing something. If that doesn’t seem right, try to find your neighbor in the dark and copy whatever he or she is doing because they may have understood a few more words than you did. If your neighbor looks very attractive it’s because red lights are like truffle oil and make everything more palatable.

The workout is a mix of treadmill and floor. The treadmill is your standard cardio routine. The instructor cycles you through jogging and running in the dark to simulate being chased through Central Park at 2am by a pack of feral teens.

The floor exercises use dumbbells and resistance bands in the dark. Depending on the day of the week there will be emphasis on butt & legs, abs & chest or full body. There is never an emphasis on light or audible guidance.

The floor space was allocated to maximize the number of participants while at the same time accommodating people Hobbit-sized or smaller. At 6′ 3″ I found myself constantly reminded of my height privilege as I stepped on dumbbells, towels, other people and myself.

Some Yelpers complain that instructors never critique their form. My experience differed, and in one instance a short man with a public address system strapped to his head emerged from the darkness to correct my jogging posture before disappearing into the sweet embrace of the night.

On the sweat scale I’d give it an 8. I burned a lot of dollars and calories. I give Barry’s additional points for not being CrossFit, so I didn’t once have to hear the words “paleo” or “WOD.”

 

[My Yelp page is here]

The Trailer for the Book

This is the trailer for my new book. You didn’t used to have to do trailers for books, but then something called the Internet came and completely changed publishing. So now books have trailers like movies do. I don’t know why. I don’t make the rules.
The book is available at bookstores. Hopefully at eye-level. It’s also available at Amazon like everything is.

As far as the timing of book releases goes, I’d like to thank the Republicans and Democrats for pissing off 88% of the population with this debt ceiling nonsense. You’ve really made my job easier.
And my job? That would be book promotion. Around the same time the Internet changed publishing, the publishing folks changed the way they do publicity for books by making the authors responsible for most of it.

Book: And Here’s The Kicker

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Vanity Fair editor Mike Sacks, who holds a dear place in my heart because of his efforts to promote my book, has his own book. And Here’s the Kicker is a collection of interviews with 21 comedy writers from TV, publishing, film and the interweb.
If you like humor, aspire to write humor, or write humor and want to know what the hell you have to do to get published in the New Yorker, it’s well worth reading. The insight on The Onion movie disaster alone is worth the book’s weight in gold – which would currently be $16,131 because I checked.
Obviously you can find it in bookstores, or online book behemoth Amazon.