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Making Comedy During A Very Unfunny Time

Andrew Callaghan is in the middle of the Portland Protests. He's interviewing a group of young activists, faces covered because of the coronavirus, carrying a leaf blower to fend off tear gas. They talk passionately about their reasons for protesting. The camera pans in on a totally normal couple a little ways behind the protestors, enjoying a nice day in the park, furiously making out.

Everyone gets an equal say on Callaghan's YouTube show with over a million subscribers, All Gas No Brakes. Serious community organizers, people who just want to wreck things, people who don't realize there's a protest going on and just want to make out in public all appear in his video on the Portland Protest.

It isn't easy to categorize what Callaghan does. "I think that I walk the line between comedian and journalist," he says. It kind of depends on what I'm covering. Imagine if I went to the Midwest Furfest with the same attitude I went to the Minneapolis protests with?"

Before 2020, All Gas No Brakes showed up at events like the raid of Area 51, an adult entertainment expo, and Burning Man, and just let people talk. They talked about butts, aliens, drugs, a lot of them rapped. Whatever they wanted to say, Andrew Callaghan was there to listen. Then coronavirus happened, and according to Callaghan, "When the pandemic started, the fun events stopped."

Callaghan suddenly found himself covering much more serious topics, like lockdown protests, a Proud Boys rally, and the protests in Portland and Minneapolis. "When the protests started, it was like both these tides came together to give me the opportunity to do a totally different style of coverage. Without 2020 being so shitty, my career would have been totally different."

All Gas No Brakes body

The genius of All Gas No Brakes is Callaghan's ability to get people to open up to him and to keep a straight face as they express some pretty wild opinions or just make a variety of motorcycle noises with their mouths. All the while, he stands beside them, silently nodding and holding up a large, old-fashioned microphone so that his viewers can properly hear every "uuuungh nugh nugh nugh."

When asked about his ability to remain stoic in the face of all kinds of wild behavior, Callaghan shrugs. "I'm just so jaded to everyone saying everything that I just don't react. I sort of feel like I'm just a vessel for other people's thoughts at this point."

All Gas No Brakes has been compared to The Eric Andre Show and the work of Sacha Baron Cohen, but Callaghan isn't playing a character. He's turning the microphone on a group of people who don't usually get a chance to express themselves. Concepts like All Gas No Brakes that are difficult to label can be difficult to get off the ground, but in August of 2019, Callaghan joined forces with Reid Haley and Derek Lucas, co-founders of Doing Things Media who helped scale All Gas No Brakes’ reach across social media, and directed him to Patreon.

"I wouldn't have been able to do anything without the support of the patrons. Patreon cash flow is the only reason the show's been able to be profitable and to carry on for so long. It's our main source of revenue. It's always been number one."

All Gas No Brakes supporters get access to exclusive content, discounts on merch, early access to new posts, and more personal interaction with Callaghan: "I respond to almost all the messages." Patreon has also encouraged Callaghan to experiment with new ways of presenting his comedy. The All Gas No Brakes podcast is getting ready to launch soon, exclusively on Patreon. Callaghan will interview people from the renovated RV that he's been traveling the US in, which he recently converted into a podcast studio.

He also recently tested out live streaming for the first time. "We did a Patreon exclusive election live stream where I reacted in real-time to the first presidential debates between Trump and Biden. I wouldn't have done that on YouTube or Instagram, but the fact that I knew it was a smaller, more intimate audience who wasn't haters, you have to kind of pay to play, so no one's paying five dollars to hate on you, and if they are, they've kind of lost already."

In early November, Callaghan returned to his roots with a video about Bigfoot hunters. He waded into the Minnesota woods with nothing but a group of Bigfoot enthusiasts, a camera, and a jar supposedly containing the pheromones of a female great ape. Unfortunately, Bigfoot won't be appearing on the All Gas No Brakes podcast, but Callaghan manages to paint a hilarious portrait of Remer Minnesota, a small town with mixed feelings on their status as a Bigfoot tourist trap.

This video, with nearly two million views on YouTube, shows that Callaghan's keen sense of the absurd was not a causality of 2020. His hopes for the future of All Gas No Brakes include traveling internationally, building the podcast, possibly adding multiple correspondents to the roster. "I couldn't see myself doing anything else," he says with a grin.

Wherever All Gas No Brakes expands to, I'm sure it won't be boring. Andrew Callaghan will continue to let us listen to what the most fringe people in society have to say, even if all they have to say is, "uuuungh nugh nugh nugh."

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