Photo by Tony Valainis
Until recently, Roncalli High School grad Brent Terhune was doing fine in the humor biz. The Bob & Tom Show writer toured comedy clubs around the country 40-plus weeks a year, and was making a middle-class living. Then he began filming a series of videos depicting himself as a hardcore Donald Trump supporter offering not-so-deep thoughts on Colin Kaepernick, gun regulation, and other right-wing talking points. The result: a few million online views, a place on Variety’s list of 10 comics to watch, and a career boost that most road comics only dream about.
“On social media, I saw video after video of people burning their stuff,” Terhune says of the conservative reaction to Kaepernick’s activism. “There was a guy in Carmel saying, ‘I’ve been a lifelong NFL fan, but no more,’ and he sets his tickets and Nikes on fire. The character is just a reaction to that craziness—the guy who sits in the front seat of his truck and wants to fix the world. Nobody else has been able to figure it out, but he can do it from his Silverado.”
Not everyone gets the joke. Terhune says only a third of the people sharing his videos seem to understand that it’s satire. The other two thirds either leave angry comments or share it because they agree with the character. Online, Terhune avoids clearing up any confusion. “I’m a professional-wrestling fan, and those guys don’t break character on camera,” he says. “Never give a wink or nod. If you don’t like me, it doesn’t hurt my feelings.”
If it weren’t for COVID-19, Terhune might be capitalizing on his newfound fame with bigger road bookings, more headliner appearances, and folks coming to see him rather than just going out for a night of comedy where he happened to be appearing. Thanks to the pandemic, not only did those things not happen, but six months of comedy-club bookings were wiped off his calendar.
Terhune isn’t too worried, though. “Not spending time in the car driving to a show means I have a lot more time to do those videos,” he says. Plus, fans have gravitated to his goofy merchandise, including T-shirts of Mike Pence howling at the moon and “Emotional Support Beer” koozies. He found time to finish a new comedy album, Bluff Creek, released last month. And there’s now ad revenue from YouTube. He’s also playing himself on two podcasts: the pop culture–focused Field Trip and the bro-show The Cafeteria.
Even if Trump loses the election this month, Terhune sees a future for his character. “If that happens, I think the character pivots,” he says. “He always has to double down. At least for a while, it will be deny, deny, deny. It’s rigged! That front-seat philosopher is never going to go away. He’s always going to be mad at something.”