Alibaster K. Abthernabther Unmasked: Meet Geoff Johnston

Today, an era comes to an end. Alibaster K. Abthernabther, who has written a humor column for Quick for, um, a specific period of time, is quitting his gig. Alas. His last column will go live on their site tomorrow. The man behind the nom de plume has agreed to out himself on FrontBurner — since, in a way, we gave Alibaster his start (which we’ll get to in a second). To my mind, the Alibaster character is one of the funniest things to come out of Dallas. Thank God the Internet will memorialize it in perpetuity. Toward that end, last week I conducted a professional journalism-style instant message chat with Alibaster alter ego, Geoff Johnston (pictured). Enjoy:

1:43 PM Alibaster: hello
me: Ahhh! So there you are!
1:44 PM Alibaster: here we are, face to face, a couple of Silver Spoons
me: Right. First question. Who the eff are you?
Alibaster: A big nobody.
me: Don’t toy with me. What’s your damn name?
1:45 PM Alibaster: Geoff Johnston
me: [sound of trumpets] Give me the other particulars. Age, marital status, from where, do what to pay the bills?
1:47 PM Alibaster: I am 33. Recently married. Born in Shreveport, LA, grew up in Queens, NY, settled in Dallas. My day job is as a client support tech and technical writer for a teeny tiny company that makes accounting software.
me: You file TPS reports?
1:48 PM Alibaster: Cover sheet and all.
1:49 PM can you change [sound of trumpets] to [symphony of farts]?
me: Nice. Okay, you know I’m a big fan of AKA. Some of the stuff you’ve written has made me laugh harder than I can remember since when I was a high-schooler laughing at Joe Bob Briggs in the Dallas Observer. Vulgar, poignant stuff. Like that like stuff about yelling into a woman’s rectum? God, that made me laugh.
1:50 PM Where’s the inspiration for AKA come from? Was that your first foray into such stuff?
1:51 PM Alibaster: Thank you, sir. You’re too kind. And thanks for all the support…
1:53 PM The first foray was actually that letter to D. It was just a one-off kinda thing. I’m not sure where the original idea came from, it’s certainly not an original one. But, ya know, you see things on tv or read things and you have a reaction that you know is not really based in anything but your own baseless opinion and you just want to get it out. I’m not a big fan of leaving angry blog comments ahem so instead i shot off an e-mail. And you guys seemed to like it, so I did more. So really, you are fully to blame.
1:55 PM I don’t think I realized that we gave you your start. So we posted that letter on our blog, and then the guys at Quick thought it was funny, too, and reached out to you?
1:58 PM Alibaster: Yeah, after that I got this idea that I would start writing to different newspapers and magazines and the local TV stations as AKA and just be a pest, but a vulgar, uppity pest, and then post those on the blog. For the first few months, everything i posted ot the blog, i actually sent to the people they were addressed to via e-mail or online submission. my wife thought it would surely get me blacklisted, which it probably will now. but Quick, and more specifically Quick ed Rob Clark came a-calling after the letter to Gordon Keith.
2:00 PM me: Did you have to reveal your true identity to Bobby Decherd in order to get the gig at Quick?
2:02 PM Alibaster: No, just Rob. For a while the only people who knew were my wife and Rob and then, later on down the road, he had to tell some higher-ups. And that was fine, because i’m sure they were just like, “Who? Whatever.”
2:03 PM me: Did one of AKA’s targets ever get pissed enough to cause you trouble at Quick or make them wonder whether they were doing the smart thing by publishing that stuff?
2:09 PM Alibaster: I have to be very careful about this ’cause even though we’ve killed AKA, i’m still doing freelance work for them. Let me say that I think it speaks to a certain amount of daring that they would OK a column to a nobody hiding behind a character. Rob could probably share some stories, so I’ll leave it to him. I will share that there was a particular incident that ruffled some feathers and the timing was particularly bad because Rob and I were planning to “unleash” AKA and start trying to go for the jugular a little more. then i ticked off some folks and we had to pull back even more. if you really care to, that’s probably enough info to figure it out.
2:10 PM And there were other instances…
me: Huh. So that come-on letter to Ebby Halliday didn’t go over well?
2:11 PM Alibaster: No, that went quite well. We’re expecting our third child in May.
me: And now you’re killing AKA. No more nasty open letters. Why is that?
2:18 PM Alibaster: I had actually been trying to get out of it for a while. Nobody thinks he’s worn out his welcome more than me. Or is it “more than I?” I think there’s a certain formula to the character that became real predictable real fast. About this time last year I was trying to do something where the blog would tie into the column and vice versa, with the whole kidnapping thing, but that didn’t really work. and i tried to write columns instead of open letters, and that flopped, too. I was trying to make it a two-trick pony, i guess. But I’ve always preferred things that sort of show up, do what they need to do, and then go away. Last summer I was practically begging to end it, but Rob got me to stick around. So when they started talking about trying to find space for things a few weeks ago, i jumped on that grenade. Rob resisted a little at first, but he had to make some decisions and Christ knows I’ve been ready to bury AKA for a while now.
2:19 PM me: I can see what you’re saying. Still, though. Don’t you think David Letterman is sick of the Top 10 List?
2:20 PM Alibaster: Yeah. And they suck now. And I’m a Letterman fan.
me: They suck, but they’re still needed. It’s just something you expect.
2:21 PM What I’m saying is: why not do it so long that it becomes sucky — yet highly lucrative?
Because everyone knows that comedians in Dallas are all rich. Ask Dave Little.
2:23 PM Alibaster: Right. i actually wrote and performed funny songs for about 10 years and quit a few years ago. Look up Savanteous Q Malmsteen on iTunes and I think you’ll agree that quitting was the right decision.
2:24 PM And I remember Paul Slavens giving me some advice once, I’m paraphrasing, but he essentially said, “Do it because you love it, not because you want to make money at it, because you won’t make money at it.” Again, i’m paraphrasing.
2:25 PM And i think a lot of creative people are just not very good at the business side of creativity. i know i’m not. mso, yeah you “could” make bank on your talent, but it leaves little time to excercise those talents.
what i’m saying is i need an agent.
anybody?
2:26 PM me: So you’re 33 years old and washed up. Just planning to file those TPS reports at your accounting software company, until you get to fed up that you burn the place down? What’s your plan?
2:30 PM Alibaster: A writer writes. Actually, I’m glad you asked, Tim. Everyone who liked AKA should point their interweb browsers to thehangingbrain.wordpress.com where i will get out what i need to get out, at least a few times a week. Everyone who did not like AKA should probably not go there, because it’s essentially the same old crap rehashed and served cold. but just because they don’t liek it never stopped them from reading it before.
me: Alright, Geoff. Thanks for the time. Good luck and stay in touch.
2:31 PM When’s the last AKA column run, and when can I post this chat?
2:33 PM Alibaster: Thank you, Tim. And thanks to all the D folks and the Frontburneruverians who enjoyed AKA. I had fun and I hope you did, too. Last Column runs the week of April 1st. You can go ahead and run it on April 1st, which i think is fitting. Also, i’ve been alluding to the upcoming demise on Twitter, so if you want to post about that and maybe hint that you’ll have an exclusive next week, feel free to do that. Also, this week’s column (out today/tomorrow) gets the death ball rolling.
2:34 PM Thanks again for everything, Tim! I gotta tell ya, my friend Jason, who encouraged me to write for the Observer, which sort of indirectly got us here, always said my writing reminded him of Mr Funny Guy and that was a huge compliment to me. So, kudos and thanks to you, good sir!
2:35 PM me: Kisass.
Alibaster: Also, you look very handsome today.
me: Yell in my rectum?
Alibaster: AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRYGGHHHH!!!!
me: See you, man.
2:36 PM Alibaster: Take care.

Comments

  • TLS

    Good day sir! To my favorite hot-air balloon enthusiast, you were/are hilarious. Thank you for all of the laughs!

  • A sad day for us monocle-toters and rectum yellers.

    Like when I discovered that Superman is just ordinary teen shutterbug Peter Parker.

    Sigh.

  • Rawlins

    Geoff et AKA, Thanks for the mammaries.

  • *sobs* You will be missed.

  • I am Spartacus

    @Trey: Spiderman?

  • Daniel

    That ended on a disturbing note. (B-sharp?)

    AKA by any other name, you will make it to the toppermost of the poppermost. You’ll crawl like a viper through these suburban streets.

  • amanda

    I still say AKA jumped the shark at the precise moment the kidnapping video went up.

  • @Rawlins: please tell me your last name is “Gilliland.”

    @amanda: I wholeheartedly agree.

  • Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith

    NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Cynthia

    Recently married?? *sob*

  • Topham Beauclerk

    Bippity! Also, bappity!

  • @I am Spartacus:

    Nerd.

  • Daniel

    Does anyone else think that, ironically, Geoff Johnston is a moderately uppity-sounding name in and of itself? It sounds very much like a hot-air balloon enthusiast. Like a champion yacht racer. Like a man who would yell in Tim’s rectum — languid and bittersweet.

  • Who among us all wouldn’t yell into Tim’s rectum?

  • Tom

    I thought AKA was Marty Cortland.

  • I shall never tire of reading AKA’s columns aloud in a clipped, uppity British accent. Makes for killer monolgues and it’s even, dare I say, funnier that way! Cheers, Mr. Abthernabther…..

  • Katie

    So now my monacle is a collector’s item. So sad. *tear*

  • Trey: *raises hand*

  • Daniel

    Tom,

    How do we know it’s not? That is, how do we know Geoff Johnston isn’t Marty Cortland. Given his middle-class job, that would make “Marty Cortland” an unmitigated fraud. What, you’re surprised?

  • Doc.. Emmit

    Trey, Glenn and Marty, sittin’ in a tree, talkin’ ’bout rectums, 1,2,3.

  • Greg

    *Checks calendar; glances at crowd of credulous, slack-jawed rubes*

  • Hey, I know Alibaster. Who needs a spiffy hat with awesome hair like that?

  • reader

    Good riddance. His columns were never funny, nor particularly clever. In addition, his vulgarity was irritating, in a child-like way.

  • @reader: You are absolutely right. On the other hand, your bitter comment is undeniably hilarious. Kisses!

  • mm

    @reader: I think vulgarity from children is hilarious.

  • Mr. Johnston is not I, as evidenced by the simple fact that Alibaster’s stuff is snort-one’s-Jack-through-one’s-nose funny.

    Mr. Abthernabther, I salute you.

    Best,
    MC

  • El Rey

    @ Trey
    Who hasn’t yelled into Tim’s rectum? Oh wait, just GJ/AKA, and the Vienna Boy’s Choir. The acoustics are surprisingly good!

  • Chris Chris

    I always thought Tim was AKA. Now I know….the rest of the story.

  • Grammar Police

    April Fool?

  • RayRayRay

    I hate it when you see columnists in real life and they look nothing like their mugshots.

    http://profile.ak.facebook.com/profile5/709/85/n770206068_3920.jpg

  • Peterk

    sad sad sad reminds me of the early days of the DO when they salted the personal ads with a fake tryst. had folks talking for weeks.
    AKA you’ll be missed

  • RayRayRayandRay

    AKA’s yell-into-rectum exchange ratio is hilarious, but he either stole it from Marty Cortland (http://frontburner.dmagazine.com/2007/12/03/christmas-tipping-for-dummies/) or he is Marty Cortland. Geoff, come clean with us. Or on us.

  • Wm. B. Travis

    Medium talent.

  • @Wm. B. Travis: Thanks! I’ll keep working on it. Maybe one day I’ll be as good as you.

    Maybe.

  • Rawlins

    @GeeeeeeOff
    Yep, in answer to your question………… Thanks for masking.

  • RayRayRay

    …and one day later, he’s forgotten.

  • @RayRayRay: Only ’cause you say so. Thanks!!! Kisses! Love ya! Mean it!

  • RayRayRay

    @GeeeeeeOff: Aww, I love you too! But love hurts sometimes.

    As a friend who loves you, let me just say that it’s sad that you’re the one who has had to defend yourself multiple times in this comments section.

    At least the bloggers here on FrontBurner have a loyal following who will come to their aid when someone hurts their feelings.

  • @RayRayRay: You are adorable. Looks like everyone has forgotten about me…except you. Thanks for stickin’ around.

    Nobody’s defending me because there’s nothing to defend, really. People have a right to their opinion. Even folks like you, who are obviously so starved for attention and companionship that they’ll go out of their way to engage someone they’re not particularly fond of. Which means, yes, I saw the comment you left on my new blog. And now I have your e-mail. You like unsolicited penis enlargement spam and dispatches from ousted Nigerian princes, right? You’re welcome.

    It would be real easy for me to cop the ole “I never claimed I was funny” plea. But that’s lame. I take this silly stuff seriously. People who write “humor” columns that turn around and say they “never claim to be funny” are super lame, deserving of ritual execution before a live studio audience. They know who they are. I don’t care how “popular” these goons are. If popularity is directly proportional to hilarity, then explain the eight-season run of “According to Jim.”

    Hells yeah, I think I’m funny. I am claiming right here and now that I think I’m funny. Not just funny. I think I’m hilarious. I think I am the funniest thing since sliced funny.

    So what?

    Here’s the deal, ding-dong. Humor is subjective. Always has been, always will be. So if you think I’m not funny or not talented or a hack or whatever… Guess what? You’re right. Congratulations, sweet cheeks. You’re right because humor is a matter of taste and personal preference. If we don’t share the same sensibilities and sense of humor, you are right to think I’m not funny. And while right, you’re also kind of a reused douche nozzle to keep harping on it like it’s a matter of any real importance.

    The difference between people like you and people like me is that people like you think it’s enough to not like something. You think it’s enough to disagree. You think it’s enough to simply have an opinion and voice it. Like a baby or a monkey or a baby monkey. And thanks to the Interwebnet, you and your like are given a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week forum where you can pretend that your opinion actually matters to anyone but you.

    People like me; we take our opinions, however silly or misguided or downright dumb, and we create things. We take our seemingly meaningless guttural pangs, neurotransmitter synapses and behavioral impulses, siphon them through a song or a poem or a painting or a blog or a poorly devised, ridiculously named, one-dimensional fictional character, and we turn that into something other people can enjoy. Not all people, not even most people, but some people other than ourselves will enjoy it.

    I’m sure lots of people agree with your comments, but I’d bet very few truly enjoy them. Even though lots of people don’t like what I do, lots of other people do; the kind of people who don’t have to defend what they like.

  • [Putting down highball glass, forefingering eyeglasses back up the nose, and re-reading post.]

    [Grimacing. Sipping again from the cocktail and clearing throat. Pauses.]

    Dear Mr. Abthernabther/Johnston:

    You are indeed, sir, a funny man. You have entertained me, and I thank you for it. I know, as you do, that writing funny is like elbowing on one’s belly across gravel. In other words, unnatural and difficult and not particularly enjoyable. In other words, hard effin’ work. Made worthwhile, though, when you happen to drag your gut across a sparkling gem, an electrifying, flashing zinger. Thanks be to God for that fat, fleshy gut! That sweeper of gravel.

    But watch out for the curled, steaming turds! The RayRayRay’s drying and crusting in the sun. They are not worth a single square of toilet paper! They stink and steam and offend all that behold them. Let the rain wash them down the sewer drains, with the condoms and the smashed Schlitz cans and the hairless rat corpses. Down turds, down! Down your stinking RayRayRay River of Styx!

    And guard yourself against more than three double Jack Daniels after 9:00 pm on a Thursday night.

    There are fewer than 10 persons whose opinions I care about. Someone once asked me who my target market is. It’s those 10 persons. And the editors of Vanity Fair. And recently, 33.6 million Canadians.

    I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers . . . uh, cuffed and pressed. I do not share your self-confidence in my humor. Do I dare to drink a fuzzy navel?

    [Snorts, startles awake. Grimaces.]

    You need no defense, Mr. Abthernabther. Don’t wrestle with turds.

    Best,
    MC

  • Rawlins Gilliland

    Cut the crap. Geoff rules. AKA was a game. A good one. But I’m game for more Geoff. With a side of whatever a la carte. As I read it, the AKA persona is no match for the keen eye of his in-the-momentary-real-world inventor. I f__ing love gen Y commntary if it’s reasoned which is often the case. To my mind, it’s this century’ mother’s milk vs. last century’s canned formula…better known as the ‘I came here from somewhere to make a lotta money’ Dallas florid fauna.

  • amanda

    @ Geoff, Marty, and Rawlins…DITTO.

    AKA was and still is funny. If the measure of talent is defending yourself in the comments section of this blog…then I’m in good company.

    Rawlins touched on something, the Gen Y commentary. AKA has moments of sheer genius. Geoff’s character stumbled into something by accident. It was entertainment, not contrived in a focus group, not dictated by a board, but just silly often trivial observations that hint to a deeper significance. (Personal favorite line, the schtick about dolphin jerky for a church picnic. Still gives me the giggles…)

    Geoff is talented. Funny. And I can’t wait to read more.

  • RayRayRay

    @GeeeeeeOff:

    Wow, I didn’t think I would start all this!

    Please cut and paste the part where I said you aren’t funny. I never said that. I do think you are a great writer and a skilled humorist. You’re fighting a ghost here, man.

    But I must comment on your calling me “starved for attention.” Those words are funny coming from someone who posts their random musings on a blog for which they receive no income. If that’s not the definition of attention-seeking, I don’t know what is.

    Oh, and, GeeeeeeOff… as for your sleuthlike ability to find my e-mail, congratulations. Go ahead and spam that account. See if I actually use a real e-mail address for this pseudonym. It’s [email protected].

    Now everyone can play along!

  • Cord

    Amanda, Geoff cannot possibly top the defensive funny he unleashed in response to RayRayRay’s thoroughly pedestrian comment.

    That was the funny of a frog, barely caressed on the anus by a wire, rocketing into the sun. Unique. Unrepeatable. Now lost to eternity, though, no more frog to hop upon command.

    Fortunately we do have his new blog, comments safely closed, where we can follow the funny of our own man-slapping Borat on the Trinity with the same rapt wonder and joy with which we formerly visited AKA.

    “And now I have your e-mail.” Chortle! Priceless.