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Mike Burns, the comedian who created arguably the most unique and one of the funniest accounts on Twitter, @DadBoner aka Karl Welzein, is currently on a cross-country tour to promote “Power Moves,” the new book authored by the comedian’s fictional creation, at least according to Burns. Though Burns may have had more of a hand in the book than he cares to admit (seriously, Karl is essentially a real human being in his mind), as a fan of @DadBoner I can’t help but wish it actually was Karl undertaking this great American tour. Unleashing Karl upon more than the greater Michigan area would rock this nation with the heat of a thousand suns, you guys. Not really sure we’d be ready, but when it was over, we would all definitely feel like we just drank a thousand beers.
In reality, though, with the release of “Power Moves” and Burns’ tour, @DadBoner has been unleashed on the country, and he’s about to give America a real good look…at themselves. Because, in truth, we are all Karl. Somehow, that seems okay.
The tour is currently in our neck of the woods, Austin, Texas, and plans to roll on for at least another month. Here are the dates and locations:
10/23/13 – @DadBoner LIVE with Special Guest Matt Braunger & More – Austin, TX – The North Door
10/24/13 – @DadBoner LIVE with Special Guest Matt Braunger & More – Dallas, TX – Sons of Hermann Hall
11/05/13 – @DadBoner LIVE with Special Guest Matt Braunger & More – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
11/07/13 – @DadBoner LIVE with Special Guest Matt Braunger & More – Washington D.C. – Black Cat
11/08/13 – @DadBoner LIVE with Special Guest & More – Allston, MA – Great Scott
11/19/13 – @DadBoner LIVE with Special Guest Matt Braunger & More – San Francisco, CA – Cobb’s Comedy Club
11/20/13 – @DadBoner LIVE with Special Guest & More – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
11/22/13 – @DadBoner LIVE with Special Guest Matt Braunger & More – Seattle, WA – Sunset Tavern
I had a chance to chat with @DadBoner creator Mike Burns, and fortunately before his (and Karl’s) beloved Detroit Tigers were eliminated from the playoffs. I’m pretty sure the loss has both character and creator living in seclusion in the bottom of a bottle.
Bad news: You can’t booze away the reality of loss. Good news: You can still try, you guys.
— Karl Welzein (@DadBoner) October 20, 2013
Karl is kind of a combination of people I knew or observed as a young man in Michigan, mapped with stories of things I had done or my friends had done, and filtered through my own fear of becoming a version of him due to the path my life was headed down. But at heart, Karl is America.
2) Why do you think the long form story telling, as compared to joke telling, works so well for you as a comedian? And why do you think your character in particular caught on?
As a performer, my brain just doesn’t work very well at telling short form jokes. Some people think in pictures and some people think in words. I think in pictures, and it’s easier to just describe what I’m seeing in my head without using specifics. Building a world around what I want someone to see or laugh at. Most people think Dave looks a certain way, but I’ve never said specifically.
I think the character caught on because people could see a bit of themselves in Karl Welzein. He does what a lot of people wish they could, but know better. He’s like a super hero who does really dumb, shitty, things, but always has a rational excuse for it based on his own philosophies. Or they knew “that guy.” He felt real, because there’s a ton of Karls out there.
3) We know Karl’s current dreams, he talks about them all the time, but where did he envision himself when he was younger? After high school or once he was past the college age (22/23)?
I don’t think most people really find themselves until their mid-30s. So, in his traditional Midwestern environment, Karl did what most people there do. You marry your girlfriend whether you really like her or not because she’s your girlfriend and that’s just how it is. You get her pregnant and have kids. You go to work. You pray for the weekend to come. It almost never lives up to your expectations. Then you go back to work. It sucks. Etc.
Karl decides he wants something “more,” but has no idea what that is, so he uses his family as a reason for him never becoming a rockstar, baseball player, actor, restaurateur, etc. I think one of the most entertaining things about Dadboner is watching Karl Welzein tell lies about his life to no one other than himself. Like he’s rewriting his own life to impress his own ego. It’s fucking insane.
4) I know you wouldn’t want to reveal anything if this is the case, but do you have a specific plan for Karl’s future? An ending in mind? Somehow I envision him finally reaching a moderate level of success, celebrating uncontrollably, and then dying on the motorcycle he bought himself as a success gift.
I’ve thought about endings, yes. Personally fantasized about it. But no, I have no plans to end it. Sadly, the feed is really stagnant right now because of the live tour, and I’m spending most of my day in a car, the venue, onstage, or sleeping. Before that I was writing on a tv show, so that caused a problem also. I’ve started to look at the feed differently. It used to kill me to not write it everyday, but now, I almost love that he just pops up here and there randomly.
But, yes, it will go on, and hopefully when I’m off the road, we’ll hear what the fuck he’s been up to with Dave. A lot of it has to do with how well the Tigers do.
5) Has anyone you know from home ever gotten upset about Karl possibly hitting too close to home? Maybe being involved in a similar (and embarrassing) real life situation?
Some people have told me they had to “look away” for a moment or two, yes. But I think for the most part, it’s cathartic to hear about Karl going through some shit that hurt your heart. For me, there’s a lot of extremely personal things in the storyline that I don’t even like to go back and read. Things I went through that I’d rather forget.
6) Karl gives some, if not good, at least positive advice to his followers. If you, as someone who has known or seen other Karls, could give Karl advice about his life, what would it be?
You need to figure out something that’s real and makes you happy to work towards. Not just make up some shit in your head to chase that you THINK will make you happy. Toxic relationships and pipe dreams are a waste of time and will take years off your life.
Also, drink more water, Karl. You need to drink more water.
7) Despite being a positive and mostly friendly guy, Karl doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for his friends, though arguably they might not deserve it. Regardless, Karl isn’t actually very supportive, despite constantly craving support (or, rather, adulation). He idolizes the people he thinks are cooler than him like Peanut and Joseph, but constantly sneers at the “lesser” people in his life, like Dave, Crazy Cooter, his son, and Bean Tooth. Is this a sort of deep-seated schadenfreude wherein he actually takes pleasure in being superior to these failures of people, a small comfort because he actually knows how big of a loser he is? Or is Karl really just so far into his world that it all stems from these people not living life the way he believes it should be lived, thus he constantly disapproves of them.
Because Karl’s made up his own rules to live by, his idols and enemies aren’t categorized rationally. As the god of his own universe, I think he’s always desperately grasping for a hero that he could live with as a superior. But all of the people he knows are awful and miserable. So when Karl sees someone like Joseph that he perceives to be happy and have life figured out, he gets excited, thinking that if he emulates that person, he’ll be happy or “cooler” as well. Of course, from an ego standpoint, by surpassing that person, he can maintain his status as “god.” There’s a weird cycle there.
8) How do our dream chasing readers avoid becoming a Karl?
Get the fruit cup instead of home fries at breakfast once in a while and try not to get into the habit of drinking women off your mind.
But, personally, I like Karls. The world needs Karls. They’re a buddy for the duration of a beer when you’re lonely at the airport bar, or the guy who knows the best spot in town for the BBQ. They’re not always right. But a Karl is always more worried about his drink being poured heavy enough and his team winning than his relationship or excelling at his career. I wish I could be more like that. More simple.
9) I have no idea how long you’ll stick with Karl (hopefully a while), but with the success of that character, and not just career wise but more so with the amazing execution of the character itself, is the comedic biographical storyline the type of thing you’d like to pursue over stand up? Essentially, you’re an excellent storyteller and crafter of character, proven so by DadBoner. Has this in any way shifted your career focus?
My focus has definitely shifted more towards being a writer, and I’m looked at as such by the “industry.” But I still love stand up, acting, etc. and having success in another arena takes the pressure off of performing. Which makes it more enjoyable. I’ll never stop being a stand up comic.
But yes, I’m working on 3-4 other projects right now.
(FUCK!!!!!! Tigers just hit into a double play. Game 3. 2 out. Down 1-0 to Boston. Motherfucker. I’m watching in a Des Moines, IA Econo Lodge, screaming like an idiot. I can’t fucking stand this.)
10) Some people have called you a sellout for taking a character they loved and, essentially, giving him more exposure. I can assure you I’m not one of those people. Please share the gift that is Karl’s life with as much of the world as possible. Because you’re addressing a readership who would gladly sell out (see also: embrace success) should it ever come to them, could you explain why the people who believe you’re a sellout are assholes and morons? And why what you’re doing makes complete sense?
TIGERS FUCKING LOST. GODDAMNIT. SO FUCKING PISSED.
Those people are idiots. Fuck ‘em. They’re hilarious dumb little internet bunnies, pooping out words from their mom’s basement on the shitter. I used to hate it. Now I kind of love them.
I don’t even look at the book as mine. I look at it as Karl’s. Karl wrote a book. A fake guy. Sold a book. Holy shit. And I just love him so much. People need to understand: no one will ever love Karl Welzein more than I do.
Also, Karl’s whole story is about trying to become successful in an unconventional manner with an insane idea. Like starting a weird fucking pizza restaurant called, “Captain Karl’s Pizza Ship.” Or, starting a Twitter feed called, “@Dadboner.” It’s the American way. If you don’t like me doing live shows for fans who want more, or writing a book, or whatever comes next, I got two words for ya.