Just for the record, Vampire, Abraham Lincoln Hunter was not supposed to be homophobic.
When Chris Gethard, host of The Chris Gethard Show, announced he was looking for ideas for a new fictional character to join the cast, I knew I wanted to submit something. The show, which airs on the public-access Manhattan Neighborhood Network and live-streams on the internet, has a long history of fictional characters and audience interaction, and I thought there was an outside shot I could come up with something on the level of Vacation Jason.
Vacation Jason, developed and performed by Riley Soloner, is the world’s foremost vacation expert. He’s also an aspiring rapper (look for his mixtape, Coconut Berry Lemon Tree, to drop any day now) and a borderline-mortal enemy of Gethard.
It may have been a bit, but Gethard went on record early in the show’s TV run as saying Vacation Jason was the worst thing ever. And if you’re not on-board (no pun intended) with VJ’s brand of humor, it’s probably easy to agree.
Here’s a line from the Gethard Across America cross country tour: “I didn’t know the Southwest was a place, I thought it was just a direction to point my schooner.”
That’s juuuuuuuuust barely a joke, but it’s basically my favorite joke ever.
So maybe I was crazy to think I was going to come up with something that could hang (ten) with the likes of Vacation Jason. But I had to be able to do better than The Hintmaster.
During one episode of TCGS, Gethard had came up with an idea for a word game. The word game was not going well. The show’s always revolved around callers, and it was pretty clear they were going to need some help.
Enter The Hintmaster.
TCGS Writer Dru Johnston grabbed a snake-in-a-can, a pair of googly eye glasses, took on a monotone voice, and changed the world with his catchphrase: “No shame, only hints.”
Over the course of the next few weeks, The Hintmaster would gain a following among the show’s faithful, get a big head, and take over the show from Gethard with the help of the other fictional characters, before finally being killed by The Human Fish.
I forgot to write about The Human Fish.
He’s a half-man, half-fish, struggling to make sense of this world of man by pitting two things against each other. Stalkers vs. The Stock Market. Who wins?
The Stock Market.
The Human Fish, played by Dave Bluvband, is the breakout star of TCGS, especially the early episodes. While the rest of the cast looks like they could have been plucked from your neighborhood bar, The Human Fish wears blue swim trunks, flippers, and goggles.
He’s shirtless. And hairy. Super hairy.
The highlight of The Human Fish’s time on the show was when a kid, maybe five years old, called in and said he wanted to see The Human Fish dance.
Gethard stopped the show. The Human Fish danced. The kid giggled like a maniac. It was just this ridiculously sweet moment that no one could have planned.
No matter what fictional character I came up with, it wasn’t going to be as good as The Human Fish. But still, I knew I wanted to come up with something.
Gethard said they were just looking for the name of the character, and the show’s writers would come up with the rest.
My suggestion: Vampire, Abraham Lincoln Hunter.
That’s dumb. So dumb. It’s just the title of a book with a couple words switched around.
I’m still super proud of it.
TCGS streams every Wednesday at 11:00 Eastern, but danee and I don’t watch it live. We usually get to it the next night, after the podcast version has been uploaded.
So on my lunch break at work Thursday, when I saw a picture of a vampire on the TCGS Tumblr, I thought there was a chance Vampire, Abraham Lincoln Hunter had made the top ten. Or, more likely, someone else had a vampire idea.
That night, Chris Gethard introduced the first of the ten fictional character finalists, Vampire, Abraham Lincoln Hunter, and then thanked Alex Brown.
Hey, that’s me! Pretty great.
So, VALH comes out. Yes, he’s a vampire who hunts Abraham Lincolns. But… he’s killed more than 10,000 of them. And…he lures them by dancing with them at gay clubs. And then having sex with them. And then he kills them.
Vampire, Abraham Lincoln Hunter, the character I named, just kills gay dudes.
I’m still a little unsure how I feel about this. First, if I’m not attached to it at all, I think the character’s actually pretty damn funny, and not actually homophobic. But I knew it was going to be hard to link to on Facebook.
Now that I’ve had a week to reflect on it, I couldn’t be happier with how Vampire, Abraham Lincoln Hunter turned out.
The Chris Gethard Show works because everyone involved is willing to roll with the punches. Before it was a TV show, TCGS was a stage show at the UCB Theatre in New York, and the “yes…and” mindset of improv has been the basis of the show since the beginning.
That “schooner” line I quoted earlier is from the Austin, Texas stop of the Gethard Across America tour. The night’s winding down, and the audience is looking for an encore. Without anything planned, Gethard asks the audience if they want more Vacation Jason.
Vacation Jason goes on for twenty more minutes, and just kills the whole way.
“Do you ever go for just, like, ten days just eating shit straight off of skewers?”
It’s a little thing, and maybe he didn’t think about it as much as I have, but it’s a big gesture that Gethard’s willing to let the encore of a show with his name on it be a fictional character who mostly has jokes about fruit. And it’s huge that Soloner’s ready to jump in when Vacation Jason’s name is called.
As danee and I figure out how to make our own stuff, I’m so awed by Gethard’s ability to let other people play with this thing he made and not seem terrified that they’re going to break it. He’s surrounded himself with people like Soloner, Bluvband, Johnston, the incredible Shannon O’Neill (Gethard’s second-in-command) and Bethany Hall (the show’s absolutely adorable conscience) and they constantly rise to the occasion and create something totally different and (likely) better than what Gethard might have created on his own.
Meanwhile, I came up with this dumb play on the title of a book I hadn’t read, sitting at my desk at work. I threw it into an e-mail, fired it off into the internet, and then some people I respect the hell out of turned it into the world’s most prolific hate-crimer.
It’s not what I had in mind.
It’s probably better.
While it looks like Vampire, Abraham Lincoln Hunter isn’t going to become a regular on The Chris Gethard Show, thanks to the cast and crew of TCGS, he existed for a few minutes. And, even though he’s a homophobic mass-murderer, he taught me there’s something to be said for trusting other people with the ideas you care about.
He’s probably not all bad, that Vampire.
If you’re not already, you should totally be watching The Chris Gethard Show at www.thechrisgethardshow.com
Edit: The Internet is a crazy place. Chris messaged me on Twitter, and I feel like this bit should be added:
“Also – for your peace of mind, the actor playing VALH is a friend and without shari his story out of his hands, know that he is a huge supporter of gay rights, as am i and everyone involved in the show. Homophobia not welcome. An empowered comedic actor going for it and bringing his personal life and opinions to his humor? Always welcomed and encouraged. ”
I love this show so much, you guys.