“I’m always kind of amazed that people want to come and see us live,” said Will Menaker, “because we’re talking. I’m not Slash, y’know? But then I have to tell myself— no, we’re good at what we do. We put on a good show.”
About six years ago, Menaker and his cohosts Matt Christman and Felix Biederman—Twitter mutuals who shared a scabrous sense of humor and an unapologetically leftist political bent—got together on Google Hangouts, ripped the audio of that conversation, and posted it as the debut episode of a podcast called Chapo Trap House. The show’s angle of approach set it apart from other comedy/politics podcasts almost immediately. Menaker, Christman, and Biederman were political commentators fluent in the argot of Weird Twitter and the more irony-poisoned provinces of Reddit. And although they threw plenty of darts at conservative columnists and other right-wing types, they also delighted in mocking Democratic fecklessness, to the point that when Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in the fall of 2016, some commentators accused Chapo and its acolytes on the so-called “Dirtbag Left” (a term coined by writer and frequent Chapo co-host Amber A’Lee Frost) of being part of the problem.
“We—along with Russia—provided a narrative of how this happened that excluded any responsibility for the Democratic Party itself,” Christman jokes. “We were part of the rogues’ gallery of those responsible for Trump winning.”
But for listeners inclined to view the events of 2016—and Donald Trump’s ensuing reign as shitposter-in-chief—as a massive, tragic and hilarious unforced error on the part of clueless centrists, Chapo was also a balm, not to mention a welcome alternative to the cautious liberal comedy of the post-Jon Stewart era. From the beginning, Chapo has been unabashedly partisan; all three hosts pulled hard for Bernie up through 2020. It’s also proudly vulgar, frequently esoteric, and laughably low-budget—many of its early episodes sound like people attempting to communicate via several different non-compatible walkie-talkies. Despite or because of all that, it’s become a lasting hit. The show has never taken advertising, but has been raking in six figures a month on Patreon since 2018; it’s currently the fifth-biggest project on the platform.
Chapo might be the only socialist media outlet that can count Slavoj Zizek, David Cross, and Gangsta Boo of Three 6 Mafia among its past guests. And when the Chapo team performed live in early October at L.A.’s Theatre at the Ace Hotel—one of the biggest venues they’ve ever played—the show was a natural outgrowth of that eclectic purview; Menaker, Biederman, and Christman were joined onstage by comedian Tim Heidecker (sitting in for a deep dive on Maggie Haberman’s Trump bio), the goth-garage trio L.A. Witch (playing tunes fit for a Russ Meyer roadhouse), and union organizer and Democratic Socialists of America member Hugo Soto-Martinez, a City Council candidate who would soon unseat corporate-backed incumbent Mitch O’Farrell. But early in the night—after the Dragonball-inspired animated short where the Chapo team battles anime-villain versions of Trump and “Dark Brandon,” but before the extended riff on “histrionically anti-gay” American Conservative columnist Rod Dreher, which included a reference to Dreher “crying in the back of a Budapest taxicab because Blue’s Clues has gone woke”—Menaker made a surprising announcement, referring to the show as “the Los Angeles-based podcast Chapo Trap House.”
It’s not 100 percent true—Menaker and Chapo’s longtime producer Chris Wade are still New York-based. But Biederman and Christman have both made the move to L.A., and the night before the Ace show Menaker admitted he’s also feeling the siren call of California (“This is the headline: Will Menaker, New York sellout, thinks Los Angeles is better.”) They may not be in line to take over Trevor Noah’s time slot, but they’re beginning to explore the open question of just how big a media empire you can build with a deeply impolitic politics podcast as the foundation.
On the Friday night before the Ace show, I sat with producer Wade along with two-thirds of the core Chapo team—Menaker and Christman—in a booth at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip, an L.A. institution so iconically dirtbaggy I felt guilty for suggesting it. As Christman sipped Merlot and Menaker drank Modelos and took covert puffs on a Juul, we discussed the show’s surprising rise to prominence, the open question of whether a comedy podcast can also be a political project, and Wade and Christman’s upcoming spinoff series Hell on Earth, a deep dive on the bloody 17th-century conflict known as the Thirty Years War.
GQ: You’re playing a 1600-seat theater tomorrow. None of you had any kind of a performance background to speak of before the show happened, right?
WILL MENAKER: No. Just a need for attention.
MATT CHRISTMAN: The aching, aching void at the center, that’s crying, Look at me. I received a letter in drama in junior high. I remember I was surprised at the assembly, because I didn’t think you could get one of those that wasn’t for sports. And I was annoyed, because I was worried I was gonna take it home and my dad was gonna see it and he was gonna think I was gay. That was my big concern, in my early teens, was convincing my dad I wasn’t gay. And man—a letter, for drama?
WM: The scarlet one.
MC: Didn’t help the case.
The first time the three of you appeared on a podcast together was back in 2016, when you were the guests on an episode of the podcast Street Fight Radio about the movie 13 Hours. Listening back to that episode now, what strikes me is that the dynamic you’d hear on a Chapo episode from 2022 was already there, right away—everyone seemed to instinctively know their role.
WM: Yeah. We’d all been on Street Fight independently of each other, and we’d each been on in different combos. But never all three of us, until the “13 Hours” episode. And from there, the chemistry and the rapport were so good, we were like, “Why don’t we start a podcast?” And I know it sounds stupid, but I never really had any ambitions for it, other than that, like, a few dozen people we were friends with on Twitter might get a kick out of it.
MC: I don’t know how many Twitter followers I had at that time, but I think it was, like, sub-1000, or something close to that. And I was like, “Oh, man—I’m gonna get, like, 500 followers out of this. This is gonna be awesome. People will talk to me.”
Matt, there’s a point in that Street Fight conversation where you talk about how mainstream film critics saw 13 Hours as even-handed and surprisingly apolitical. And you point out that it’s because they couldn’t recognize how many Easter eggs of deeply-online right-wing grievance are threaded through the movie, if you know what to look for.
WM: The esoteric truths.
That’s part of what Chapo brought into political media—in 2016, before things like 4Chan bubbled up into the mainstream, practically no one with a real job in journalism was paying close enough attention to the extremely-online world and extremely niche conservative media to recognize those dog whistles for what they were.
MC: Because those people had better things to do with their time! That was the advantage that [Chapo] had. That’s the brick we brought to the fistfight—that we had been spending our miserable, thwarted lives looking at this shit. While [journalists] had been going successfully up a ladder that left them unable to reckon with a moment that was being shaped more and more, culturally, by people in [our] position, not theirs.
But the weird part is, very soon after you started doing this show, all that extremely online discourse came crashing into the mainstream. Suddenly regular people had to know who Pepe the Frog was and what he’d come to represent.
WM: It’s insane. Right place, right time. We started right as the 2016 election was gearing up, and everything we were interested in talking about that seemed marginal or weird just exploded when Donald Trump became president.
It was obviously an inflection point for Chapo, too. Did it make you question if you could continue doing a show like this?
WM: I was thrown for a loop like everyone else. I never doubted that we would continue doing this show, because it’s basically the only thing in my life I’ve ever had supreme confidence about—[being] the steady hand on the ship of state, here at Chapo Enterprises. I just didn’t want to be another left-wing comic voice—being like, “Hey, news flash. Fox News? They’re lying to you.”
MC: I imagined, like, if Trump wins, then it’s gonna be this united front against the bad, racist game-show President, and that’ll mean there’s no differentiation to be made between any critiques of Trump. But what I didn’t anticipate was how much the victory of Trump would crater the remaining institutional faith that existed in the [Democratic] party and its media superstructure. So that way more people were willing, even in the face of Trump being President, to still say “Fuck the Democrats,” and critique them, and not feel disciplined into an alliance with them.
The fact that you were willing to keep saying that didn’t make you a lot of friends among centrist liberals, especially once Trump got in and people started talking about career politicians as “The Resistance”– but I assume that was a net positive for a show like this.
WM: That’s really what blew us up. We got so much more attention, and so much more criticism from the liberal media, than we did from the conservative media. So I was like, Well, obviously these are our best customers. I want to keep serving them.
CW: I’ll also say that in those immediate post-election months, the show did a great job of, yes, taking on and welcoming the hate and reflecting it back, but also genuinely giving the perspective that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are different models for things like health care. There are different models for engaging the electorate. That’s always been an element of this show—that there’s a different story that can be told.
WM: Which brings us to 2020, because as it turns out, actually, no, there isn’t.
MC: We were fully, fully committed [to Bernie Sanders] and fully believed. Because why wouldn’t we? Every incentive in us—to have a show that was successful, to become more popular and make more money and also participate in a virtuous political project that had the chance to actually make the world better and prevent a catastrophic social collapse, everything was aligned in the same direction. We proceeded from what we thought were totally objective observations of the situation. But it was also the only viable course forward for anyone.
Listening to the show around that time, in those weeks when it was possible to believe Bernie was going all the way, it seemed like another example of you guys, the most cynical people in the room, particularly about electoral politics, being taken by surprise.
WM: Well, scratch the surface of a cynic and you’ll find a romantic at heart.
CW: It was certainly a very emotional time for the show. [We felt] genuine love for the people we were meeting on the road [performing Bernie benefits.] We saw people who were working minimum wage jobs who had taken their one week off a year to drive four states over to knock on doors in the freezing cold. These were the people we were talking to every day. It was very inspiring but it was also very easy to get caught up in it.
WM: And how could you not be inspired by that? We felt like Bernie represented the hope of people like us, and many people we didn’t even know, and we were very heartened to discover that our show really meant something to them, as part of, like, the hope for having some kind of control over their future. And I think that’s been pretty much comprehensively removed from anyone under the age of 40 in this country.
MC: I think one of the things that’s been very tough for people is weaning themselves from that feeling that we all had about the power of media consumption and posting. Like, This stuff actually matters, I’m not just wasting time, I’m not just sublimating my frustrations in life by being on the Internet— I am participating.
The real wake up call for me from the Bernie campaign was that people are paying attention—significant numbers of them, enough to raise a ton of money, enough to create, like, an alternative media infrastructure, that we’re part of—but not even close to the number of people who would need to change the balance of power within these parties among primary voters. For that you’d need a huge infusion of people from outside of politics. But that means [people] outside of political media. What we found out [with Bernie] is that you can talk until you’re blue in the face about all this stuff that regular people want to hear, and stuff that would make their lives better— but they have lived their whole lives in this fucking country and they’ve never once seen any political promise brought to fruition. So there’s no reason for them to believe anything they might hear about something like socialized medicine on a TV that’s playing in a bar. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.
It’s part and parcel of how Trump won. It’s a progression of disillusionment and disenchantment with institutions. Meaning that there’s a smaller and smaller group of people who want to hear anything about the government helping them, because their experience is that that’s not what the government does. Some people talk about, y’know, Oh, we’re gonna eventually see nobody voting in this country. I think voter participation rates are gonna go up in the near future, but it’s gonna be because people are voting on who to punish. They’re gonna be voting on who they want the government to hurt in front of them, because they believe—because they’ve lived in this country their whole lives– that the government cannot help anyone, but the government can hurt somebody on your behalf, or on the behalf of somebody else, and you better vote to make sure it’s not you.
And we were sort of laboring under a delusion that our political message could get meaningfully into people who have seen this shit before. That was the real reckoning, for me. Like, OK, an entire aspect of myself that I thought was involved in this project, doing this show, I have to reconsider. This is no longer a political project. If it ever was. I can no longer realistically convince myself that I’m part of anything that has a political valence in the electoral space. There is hope for action, but it’s in the workplace, it’s in labor unions, it’s in organizing.
But the challenge for us is we’re doing a national program that is supposed to be for a national audience whose frame of reference will therefore have to be national. And that means we still have to talk about politics as spectacle, and it means we have to really assimilate– at least I know I had to—the moral implications of just being an entertainment at this point in history. Like, okay, this is still a political show, but not a show that is politics. And I always said that [about the show.] But that Bernie campaign, man, it gave me a minute where I was like, Maybe I was wrong about it being entertainment. Maybe I am saving the world with my words.
The irony here is that through this show, you guys have achieved one of the last available versions of the American Dream—you’ve achieved a degree of creative success that translates into class mobility, and you get to move from New York to L.A. and have a fruit tree in your yard.
MC: It’s true.
How does that feel?
MC: It’s incredibly weird and it’s very fraught, obviously, in a lot of ways. But what I’ve sort of come down to, reckoning with it, is it’s a job. And what do I feel about other people with jobs? For the most part, if you have a job it’s because that’s what you need. And I’m not gonna really judge you for what you do, if you’re not directly involved in high-level evil. And therefore I can feel like, okay, I’m just an incredibly lucky person. And I have to be like, What am I gonna do with that luck, y’know? And the answer—the moral question has to be private. What we would prefer, what the Internet give us, is the fantasy that we can earn our luck through the performance of goodness. And that’s just not true. And so you have to accept that your performance means nothing and that it’s up to you to express the gratitude you may have. And that’s a private decision. So what do you do with that? You can’t turn it into content. And if you try to, it’s ashes in the mouth. That’s how I think about it.
WM: Like, just speaking personally—from the moment that we first made a transfer from a Patreon account into like our various checking accounts, like the first dollar I made doing the show, it was the first time ever in my life, the only money I’ve ever made, that was 100 percent mine, entirely through my own labor, not working for someone else. It was a product of my own creative vision and work I did that was for myself and no one else. And that was the best feeling in the world to me. And I haven’t stopped feeling that way. I feel, like, extraordinarily blessed. God is good. The other day I was floating in a pool on a Wednesday afternoon. High as shit. I had just smoked a joint to the face. And I was thinking, like, 10 years ago, if I thought of what my life would be like pushing 40, I would be like, Well, if I’m lucky, I’ll be in an office answering emails and I’ll have health insurance. God is good, folks. That’s what I’m saying. Don’t let him hear my happiness, though. Because he will smite me. He will smoke me down.
MC: We’re all gonna get smited. But that’s fine. Everybody gets smited, basically. It’s not personal. I think we all kind of assume—at least I know I did—that Calvinist deal, that when you die…
WM: Protestant mindset.
MC: …it will be your fault, and it will be a judgment of you. But that’s not the case, because it happens to everybody. It’s nothing personal.
It seemed like a lot of the viscerally negative response to Chapo, and to the broader concept of the “dirtbag left,” has to do with who you were speaking to, and who this show was resonating with. It’s the image of bros talking to bros that some people seem to have recoiled from. And yet if nobody on the left is talking to young white men and making them think about, for example, socialism, the only people talking to young white men are going to be the Jordan Petersons of the world.
WM: I will push back on your characterization, lightly. There were literally fives of girlfriends who were also exposed to our show through those same young white men.
CW: Our Southern tour, we met the rare girlfriend who brought her boyfriend, who didn’t know the show, to the tour.
MC: That happened. You can’t take that away from us.
WM: But if you’re talking about Jordan Peterson for instance, and why he’s developed a following and has a message that resonates—I mean, you can laugh at him, and we do, you may think his politics are foolish or his prescriptions are wrong, but the reason people respond to him is because, yeah, there’s a large group of people, alienated young white men, and they’re floundering and searching for meaning. And their path to having a real adult life has sort of become more vaporous. Like, How do I live a life like the template I saw in my parents? How do I achieve that? A solid relationship, kids, a family, a home.
CW: Financial independence.
WM: That’s a huge problem. And if you’re saying that to appeal to that demographic is inherently malevolent or something, then you’re going to make sure that demographic only hears from people who are willing to talk to them. Whether it’s Peterson or any one of these other charlatans or frauds or risible figures, the need that they’re responding to is real. I think the prescriptions and the answers they’re giving to these people about why your life sucks are stupid at best and evil at worst. Because they’re saying “It’s all feminism’s fault” or whatever. But at the same time, these problems and the feelings that people have are real. And for the most part the left doesn’t have an answer for that.
MC: There’s a belief—it was inchoate, but it definitely got more developed after Trump—that to be politically virtuous, any content must be, in its appeal, completely general. It needs to appeal to everyone equally, demographically. In reality, certain forms of address and attitudes are going to appeal aesthetically to some people more than others. And we showed up and we were the guys who appealed to the white guys.
CW: I would also say that part of the anger at the show has always been that the show was successful. And the hilarious tension is that we’re all—even myself, who I think the other guys would say is by far the most generally competent member of the show—absolutely enormous fuckups.
CW: And that’s part of the appeal—hearing people who come from the perspective of being world-class fuckups and then being able to become successful off of that. But it engenders a kind of anger…
WM: I mean, there are no greater believers in American meritocracy than liberals, because they’ve been the primary beneficiaries of a meritocratic system. And our success would seem to turn on its head all of the, uh, traditional vectors of how one becomes successful.
CW: But just to finish that—from the very early days of the show, part of the appeal was hearing three fuckups scream into the void about how fucked up and stupid their life was. And then that’s the audience that then comes to that, is people who are like, “Yeah, I’m also a fuckup, in the same way that these guys are.” You’re relatable to a certain type of person, a certain demographic.
I absolutely understand the people who were like, “Fuck Chapo, I don’t care what three white dudes have to say at this moment”—but at the same time, I’ve always imagined that the show was diverting at least a few white dudes toward progressive thought who might otherwise not have seen a place for themselves in those movements.
MC: And the white dudes—I’m not crying for them, they’re the ones who more than any other group of people who’ve gotten us to this position. So it absolutely makes sense. If politics are not to have a material base that points to capitalism as the cause of problems, it has to have a demographic scapegoat one way or another. But it means that, culturally, you have people becoming adults and doing media consumption and encountering a culture where they’re proscribed ahead of time. And that limits what their options are. I do think that, in general, I’d say that Chapo probably prevented, I’d say, three mass shootings.
I like that you thought about the number before you said it.
MC: I didn’t, really. But it’s more than one.
CW: I will say that the best compliment and one of the most frequent ones that we get when we do live shows is people coming up and saying “I appreciate you guys for making me not feel alone and insane.”
MC: Because when you feel insane and alone, what do you do? You start pricing bump stocks.
Matt and Chris, what can you tell me about Hell on Earth, your new podcast about the Thirty Years War?
MC: This was actually Chris’s idea. We’d done Hell of Presidents, this podcast about the Presidents…
CW: That came from us being on tour late at night, having a beer in the hotel room. I could just name any US president and Matt could do 20 minutes off the top of his head. So that was my original idea for Hell of Presidents— I would, no prep, come in and be like, “George Washington”…
MC: [free-associating] Fake teeth-havin’ bitch!
CW: …but then it developed into something more.
MC: And I loved it. Like, one of the things I want to do to make up for that lack of a political valence to the show is find some other artistic element to bring to it. I want to do more rigorous historical stuff. And Chris suggested the Thirty Years War.
CW: Sometimes I have difficulty sleeping, and when I have difficulty sleeping I read long Wikipedia pages, and one night I was like “Thirty Years War—that sounds good.” And then all these lights started going off in my head. Because I was like, This is a story about climate change. This is a story about financial collapse. This is a story about a pandemic. This is a story about decaying elites and institutions. More than anything, it’s a story about feudalism collapsing and the gleaming skeleton of capitalism being ripped out of its carcass. Like, all these little sinews knitting together to create modern state capitalism—in a cool Game of Thrones context where there are guys with halberds chopping each other’s heads off. There’s mysticism. There’s medieval QAnon. I thought it was a sandbox we could play around in.
A minute ago Will described the future he would have imagined for himself ten years ago. Ten years ago, Matt, where did you see yourself in ten years?
MC: When I would imagine the future, I would just see black.
[everyone else laughs]
Just, like, a fully black comic-book panel? Like you’ve died?
MC: Not even like I died. Just that the thought of “ten years in the future” was just inconceivable.
Did that come from a sense of an absence of prospects, or…
MC: Just full paralysis. I was at a point where I could imagine the negative consequences of any action. I was paralyzed and inhibited by the negative results of any move, which meant the only move was to stay in whatever was not making me happy, [because] that was not a choice. So, yeah. That’s why this show really did kind of take me by surprise, when Will actually figured out how to make a podcast and then went, “Hey, let’s do a podcast.”
CW: The show, I think we can all say, saved all our lives.
WM: Or as Felix would say, we swagged up each other’s lives. And that’s what heartens me the most. We were all, on our own, I think very smart, talented people who had something to say, who were feeling a sense of malaise or listlessness. The way I felt in my twenties, looking back, was like I was a passive observer of my own life rather than an active participant. And swagging up each other’s lives—this is something we couldn’t have done on our own. We could only have done it with each other.
MC: I was, like, wildly unemployed for a year before I started working on the show.
WM: And if you want to talk about, like, a political message there—nobody can change their life on their own. Nobody bootstraps themselves in America. We are social animals. We can only prosper and better our own lives with the help of other people and the help of a community. And if there’s a project that exists [for the show] it’s, like, expanding the parameters of what counts as that community, and how that can be made real, how some sort of a social body can be created.
Are Chapo fans like Beatles fans? Are there individualized fandoms within the broader fandom?
WM: It’s like the Beatles, except nobody is a Will fan. No—we’re like the Beatles, every city we go to, there are girls pulling their hair out, chasing us down the street, it’s A Hard Day’s Night, except instead of girls, it’s mid-twenty-something mildly autistic men.
Who has the most passionate fan base?
WM: Felix and Matt are the stars of the show.
CW: Matt has people who follow his blogs and stuff like that. Felix has the people who try to riff with him in [Twitter] replies and end up becoming reactionaries a year later….
MC: So many supervillains have been created in Felix’s replies, where people have just languished without a pity fave and then became reactionaries.
CW: Felix’s un-faved replies are like the vat of acid that the Joker gets dropped into.
We’re talking a few days after Joe Biden made his statement about marijuana reform. I’m fascinated by how much people want to believe in the idea that he’s going “Dark Brandon” and that this is an indication of that.
WM: [Legalization] is the easiest thing they can do. I’d always assumed, growing up—despite New York being, with California, one of the two mega, mega blue states, it’s like a Democratic Party Death Star—that New York State was gonna be the last state to legalize recreational marijuana. Because they have no reason to. Because Cuomo has a shitload of campaign contributors from pharmaceutical companies, private healthcare, private prisons. They have no interest in that. And New York is a very wealthy state and doesn’t need the tax base. But what happened? Cuomo sexually harassed a shitload of women in his administration. It’s like ‘Break in Case of Emergency.’ Marijuana legalization is one of those things: a sane, sensible policy that the overwhelming majority of people want to see happen, that they just keep in their back pocket. Oh, these midterms are looking pretty rough—break the glass. Hey, we’re gonna expunge the records of a few thousand people. I don’t wanna shit on that…
MC: Some people thought people were getting sprung from jail. Nobody got out of prison. Zero people.
WM: They said, “We’re gonna appoint a committee to review the Schedule One status of marijuana…”
MC: And we’re gonna tell those state governments, “Hey, you better do it, too.” I’m sure Greg Abbot’s gonna get right on that.
WM: It’s one of those things—the little crumb that they give. I’d rather have it than not have it, but at the same time it’s the perfect Democrat-brain thing. Like the student-loan thing. They just give you a little taste of what everyone wants. There are so many things that you wouldn’t even need Congress for, that they could do with the stroke of a pen, but they don’t do it unless it’s an emergency. They always keep dangling that carrot. If the Democrats give the people who vote for them the things that they want, then that creates precedent.
MC: Whereas the Republicans can give people whatever they want and affirm the base because the next thing [the base] will want is something they want too. There’s a symmetry of interest there that doesn’t exist on the Democratic Party side. And one of the things that makes it hard for people to understand what’s going on is that they sort of assume both parties operate the same way, but their relationships with the base are essentially diametrically opposed. Now at this point, there has emerged a real tension [on the Republican side] between the base’s desire to end democracy and the party’s desire to keep the grift going. They’re trying to manage that. But on all the other subsidiary issues, the non-electoral issues—Yeah, sure. Whatever you want. We’ll get it done. And then there’s a new horizon to fight for. Like, We’ll return to Roe vs. Wade. Now we’re gonna get a national ban, so they can’t keep [abortion] in the blue states. But the Democrats cannot give anything of significance because that creates a situation where things are on offer, things the Democratic Party base wants, that the Democratic Party cannot give, because the people in charge of it are given money specifically to prevent that from happening.
So, Will, you’re the lone survivor from Chapo who’s still toughing it out in New York?
WM: And Chris Wade. Chris is still in New York. Look, I’m still just a kid from New York. Please quote me accurately on that. Will Menaker, just a kid from New York.
Do you feel pressure to make the move?
WM: Oh, yeah. It’s gonna happen.
I haven’t spent much time in New York since COVID but my sense from what I read online is that all the hipsters have started tacking right politically. It just sounds dire—like there’s no transgressive position left except ironic fascism.
MC: Well, you got Peter Thiel out there sponsoring play dates for his little Renfields. And that is creating a scene because it’s an open bar. But, like, beyond that, there’s no politics anywhere, really. There’s scenes [made up] of people trying to have a good time and drown out the voice in their head telling them that everything’s about to fall apart.
WM: I think one thing we can agree on, though, is that it’s of the utmost importance….
MC: To establish the provenance of Shakespeare’s plays.
WM: People need to be very aware that the person we think of as William Shakespeare is not actually the person who wrote the plays. It’s actually the Earl of Oxford.
MC: Not some low-born son of a glover!
WM: This is the issue that’s tearing apart New York right now. I gotta get the fuck out of there.
Dimes Square is up in arms…
MC: You can’t have people walking around thinking a commoner wrote The Tempest.
CW: All I can say about all that is that it seems to be about seven people that have had 40 articles written about them.
Right. In the same way that the “Dirtbag Left” was actually a very small circle.
WM: Basically, walking around Brooklyn now, it’s like the Jets and the Sharks. There’s the Stratfordians and the Oxfordians and when they see each other, they’re wearing different bandannas to signify their allegiance to either William Shakespeare or Edward DeVere. And there’s rumbles happening, and I’m just trying to stay neutral on this. I don’t wanna get caught in the crossfire.
But the idea that the hipsters are going right wing just feels like an apocalyptic harbinger to me. However coarse Chapo was and is, it was ultimately idealistic. It’s about the idea that the world need not be this bad. Whatever’s happening now feels like people just saying, Whatever, let it burn down, LOL.
WM: I don’t know. I think you can look at the essential hollowness of, like, the liberal project, and you can determine that liberalism and liberals are the primary source of evil in the world. Or you can just think that they’re not adequate to the problem, to the moment. My point of view is that liberalism presents a certain set of manners that make a society closer to being a more polite, decent society. But at the end of the day it’s not something that can challenge power or change the essential meaninglessness at the heart of everything we feel and do. And you can go in two different directions there. Some people have gone to the right, and some people have gone to the left.
You guys are out here in Hollywood. It’s probably only a matter of time before somebody gives Chapo a blank check and a three-picture deal. What would you do with a giant budget? What does the Chapo version of Brain Candy look like?
MC: I think our dream project, if we could get a cool hundred million—and we won’t give too much away here—but it’s called Loop Jump. It’s a time-travel movie about Iran-Contra that includes quantum suicide.
CW: It’s like Quantum Leap. You travel back in time, but you have to kill yourself.
WM: If the agents for Gerard Butler and Mickey Rourke read this Gentlemen’s Quarterly article, please tell them to DM Chapo Trap House at Gmail dot com. We’ve got a hot script for Messrs Rourke and Butler that we’re looking to shop around this town.
MC: I would also like to make a movie about the Anabaptist seizure of the city of Munster. Where a bunch of millennial religious fanatics took over this city and governed it, under siege from Imperial Catholic forces, until they were, like, mass-marrying people. It’s mass orgies and then everyone gets executed.
WM: Our mission, here in Hollywood, our dream, is to produce a picture people will remember.