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Arts & Life

With 'Drunk Neighbor' Video, Kansas City Comedians Seize The Trump Moment

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A scene from Friend Dog Studios' 'Your Drunk Neighbor: Donald Trump'

Kansas City comedian Brian Huther is only half surprised that the flag-dressed front-porch beer-drinking character he created has grown exponentially more famous over the last four days as the "Your Drunk Neighbor: Donald Trump" video went viral.

The stupefied drinker on the porch next to Huther is Seth Macchi; Ben Auxier directed and edited the video. After working together as improv actors for a couple of years, the trio formed Friend Dog Studios at the beginning of the summer and began producing web videos. They posted "Your Drunk Neighbor: Donald Trump" to Facebook late on Sunday afternoon.

"It has 40,000 shares as of right now, and it’s been growing by about 10,000 a day on average," Huther says.

Because Facebook videos play automatically in people's feeds, the analytics are telling him that about 1.2 million people have seen part or all of the video.

"Right now I'm looking at the total number of people reached, which is a number Facebook gives me, and it’s approaching 5 million," Huther says. That's not counting more than 36,000 views on YouTube.

They knew they were making a political statement, but they also know they aren't political experts — unlike the character Huther portrays.

"I woke up one morning and was scrolling Facebook, and there was this post about a Trump speech in Alabama," Huther says of his inspiration. "And he was talking about how he was really good at the military. And I thought, 'that's a ridiculous thing to say.' It's the kind of thing you'd hear from a guy who thinks he's great, but doesn't really know anything."

That kind of talk coming from a rich guy in a suit might sound tough and confident, Huther notes. But Huther and his partners knew putting him on the porch surrounded by beer bottles would be funny.

"Recontextualizing him makes you think twice," Huther says, though he adds that some responses have been: "This is why I love Trump! Because he's the guy across the street from me and we can get drunk and talk about how to make America great again!"

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Credit Julie Denesha
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Brian Huther out of character during his time in the spring 2015 Artist INC course.

Huther was one of the fellows in last spring's Artist INC class, where he found out about a creative crowd-funding site called Patreon. Through pledges from supporters on the site, Friend Dog Studios receives $117 for each video (as of now) and the team has been trying to post one video per week.

The success of the Trump video is not random. Knowing that lip-syncing to audio tracks is a popular trend in comedy (fueled partly by the Dubsmash app), the Friend Dog guys spent two or three hours searching for audio clips from Trump speeches, and another two or three hours filming on the porch.

"We had a lot of discussion between takes," Huther says, "talking about how drunk we should portray him — how much needs to be acted, or do I play pretty much sober and let the sound and visual do the work for context."

Even after putting real thought into the project, though, they didn't expect this much response.

"We thought it would get shared for a couple of days, maybe a couple of levels from our immediate friend group, maybe we'd get a few more likes on our Facebook page and a few more pledges on our Patreon page," Huther says. "But right now it doesn't show any signs of slowing down. It's a weird feeling, seeing our name showing up in 5 million Facebook feeds."

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR. Follow her on Twitter at @cjjanovy.

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