Bold flavors. Power moves. Chest beefers. A thousand beers, you guys. If any of those references are familiar to you, then you're probably one of the over 52,000 people who follow the DadBoner Twitter feed, which is probably the best Twitter feed ever written by an imaginary middle-aged Michigan man who is separated from his wife and loves Bob Seger. The identity of DadBoner, aka Karl Welzein, is one of the best-kept secrets on the Internet, and for the past few weeks, we've been trying to crack it.
DadBoner usually goes online sometime in the late afternoon. And once he gets rolling, there's nothing stopping him. He's not afraid to use multiple tweets to tell a single story, like so:
Went into Mickey D's last night for a showdown with the manager over my Van Halen cd reimbursement. Had to get it on.
The manager said, "I'm sorry, but my hands are tied. My super said spills on your stuff aren't our responsibility." Tried to play hardball
Told the manager, "I'm your huckleberry, and that's just my game." Acted like he didn't know what I meant. Went in the john to regroup.
Called the Mickey D's from the john. Asked to speak to the manager as, "Mr. Welzein's attorney." They said he was "busy." He was not!
Dropped a massive BM of frustration (NO flush) & came out to give the manager a real smack down. Guess he went on break, so I left a note...
...on a Mickey D's napkin: "Watch your back, kimosabe." Power. Move.
Now that's just fucking awesome. It's a pristine Twitter feed. DadBoner never replies to other people. DadBoner never posts links. DadBoner never does Follow Friday or deviates from the story. He's a little island that exists on your feed, totally separate from the day's conversation. DadBoner is such a fully realized comedic character that it already feels as if he has his own FX show (I'm sure he will soon). Most everyone I talked to for this post agreed that the feed must be written by a seasoned comedy writer—someone who writes for Conan or something like that. But I asked a handful of people in the TV writing world, including Parks and Recreation's Mike Schur, if they knew anything about DadBoner. All of them pleaded ignorance.
Then I had a small breakthrough. A literary agent sent DadBoner a tweet asking about a potential book deal, and he got a DM back saying he was already represented by the folks at Creative Artists Agency. The book agent told me that the CAA agent handling DadBoner was named C.C. Hirsch, so I sent C.C. an email asking if I could arrange an interview with Karl Welzein. C.C. sent an enthusiastic reply: "Thank you for this. Would love to discuss via phone. You avail today at 4 pm or tomorrow?"
My hope was to interview the real guy behind the feed and ask him about how he started the feed, how he developed the character, if it was based on someone he knew, etc. Failing that, I thought maybe I could talk to him anonymously, or maybe even do a podcast with him in character. I was ready to present all those options when the agent postponed the call and then never followed up. Nine days later, after pestering her, I was told through a second party that, "Karl isn't planning on doing any interviews at this time." SHIT! Not cool, you guys.
Then I got this tidbit, thanks to friend of the blog Luke Cunningham:
At the Comedy Store last week, an agent from William Morris said they just signed him. He's a guy in his late 20s from Michigan who works as a retail manager in West Hollywood.
This agent was almost certainly lying, because DadBoner is signed with CAA. Still, I desperately WANT to believe that Karl is a retail manager. At the end of my rope, I finally broke down the other day and tried to tweet at DadBoner directly:
Dear @DadBoner, I would like to interview you for Deadspin/Gawker. I'm offering fresh 'ritas and a case of BL Plats. Hit me up.
A zillion people on Twitter then instantly corrected me on my DadBoner catchphrases. It's "BL 'Nums" and "top shelf margs." I felt like such a moron. Karl never replied. Of course he didn't. Silence is the ultimate power move.
Anonymity is one of greatest assets of being online. Plenty of people use it as a shield to say whatever they want about anyone else without repercussions (I know that's why I wrote under a stupid pseudonym for three years or so). But others use it in a more constructive fashion. The man behind DadBoner has cultivated this fictional character that's so funny, and so hilariously real, that he prefers to keep everything else a mystery. For now, at least. At some point, there will be a DadBoner book and probably a DadBoner TV show. And then, the real Karl may decide it's a sound idea to come out to the world (NOTE: I tried looking up "Karl Welzein" and "Carl Welzein" in California, just in case he was hiding his real name in plain sight. No dice.).
Or perhaps he'll just keep on operating in the shadows. Plenty of people online use a screen name even well after they've been firmly established (Gawker's own Mobute is one of them). For most people, it's really hard to keep it all under wraps, to not jump out and scream IT WAS ME ALL ALONG! Those who manage to resist are possessed of a willpower that I'll never have. It's kind of admirable, really. Then again, COME ON DADBONER! SHOW YOURSELF! WE'LL MAKE IT A HUGE CELEBRAISH! Seriously, if you know the man behind DadBoner, give us a ring. We'll give you five bucks and some cold ones, kimosabe.
Update, March 12: Found him.