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.
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?
me: See you, man.
2:36 PM Alibaster: Take care.