June 1st, 2011

Brandon Stroud: The Interview!

When you hear the name “Brandon Stroud,” you probably think of the New York-based entertainer who also loves Working in the Fun Fashion Industry. But did you know there was another Brandon Stroud, who is arguably even more talented? Hard to believe, but possibly true. 

This Brandon Stround is one of the co-creators of The Dugout and is currently the Managing Editor of With Leather, a blog that focuses on placing a humorous spin on sports gossip and sports-related video clips. Ian and Riley have loooooooong been fans of The Dugout, and were very pleasantly surprised when Brandon not only graciously agreed to an interview, but also took the time to provide long and hilarious answers to our long and unfunny questions. Those questions and their answers follow.

What the hell is a Progressive Boink? What’s an Uproxx, for that matter?

Progressive Boink is a website I started with my friends back in the long long ago before the Internet had turned into the sucking vortex of immediate gratification its become today. The intent was to push the boundaries of what a comedy website could be, so we messed with formats and presentation and all that stuff nobody cares about. The name comes from the Calvin and Hobbes collection “Scientific Progress Goes Boink.” We stopped updating it when it became the most frustrating goddamn thing in the world to get over.

I think an Uproxx is that mineral Rocky and Bullwinkle were always trying to protect. 

How did the Dugout Chats originally come to be?

The Dugout was born from one of those experimental Progressive Boink articles, which was a look forward at the first year of the Jeter/A-Rod pairing in New York using The Sims. Jon Bois (now of SB Nation) built a Sims house to look like a baseball diamond and had a fake Jeter and fake Rodriguez live inside of it. He needed baseball players to talk to each other on the Internet, so he included a little comedy bit in the middle he called “The Dugout,” and it was basically just Barry Bonds typing dicks in ASCII. That’s where Jim Thome’s character was born. He called it “The Dugout” because it was a boring generic name and he never thought he’d mention it again. 

A little while later we were looking for ways to improve the look of our main page, so we did a little Dugout chat in the bottom righthand corner about Kyle Farnsworth going on the DL by kicking a metal fan. People liked it, so we kept doing them. Then AOL paid us to make fun of them for like four years, and we’re all sports blog editors. I don’t understand it either. 

Are you surprised that Dugout Chats have seemingly outlived actual chatroom technology?

I’m not. Well, I am, but I’m not. I’m not surprised that they’ve outlived chatroom technology because chatrooms were terrible, and because I very rarely allow the strip to exist within the confines of an actual chatroom. They’re sort of like one-act plays with a chatroom skeleton. That’s why we’ve got so many strips with the guys interacting with each other in real life, hurting each other, throwing each other into pits and running each other over with space shuttles, because they’re talking online but in real life at the same time. It doesn’t make any fucking sense, but it’s always worked, so we just keep it that way. 

I’m surprised it’s outlived chatroom technology in that I’m surprised anybody likes it or reads it, because I just write 20,000 puns in a row and expect to get bricks thrown at me. Somehow people think it’s funny, and that continues to be the most surprising, coolest blessing in my life. 

Many of the recurring characters in the Dugout are superstars – The Mannys and Jeters of the game. But you seem to be obsessed with journeyman reliever Kyle Farnsworth. He made his first appearance in the second Dugout Chat ever and has been a staple ever since. What’s so fucking funny about Kyle Farnsworth, besides everything?

Kyle Farnsworth is what Brian Wilson is trying so hard to be. He’s a goddamn middle reliever (née closer) who throws nothing but fastballs, he’s got a 69 tattooed on his arm (don’t try to convince me that that’s a zodiac sign), he wears goggles, he bakes for fun, he has Intermittent Explosive Disorder… he’s just this fantastic, bizarre human being who happens to be a fitness robot baseball player, and he doesn’t even realize it. We tried to get an interview with him, but he “wasn’t interested.” That’s when I realized he knew we existed. If he didn’t know the shit we’d talked about him for the last six years, he would’ve probably talked to us. 

But yeah, Farnsworth’s inclusion came from our first ever use of chatroom dialogue on Progressive Boink. Jon was doing a recap of the Cubs fucking up in the playoffs, and one of his screen grabs made it look like Farnsworth was checking his phone. So he wrote up a bit about Kyle wanting to write for our website (in that same Kyle Farnsworth voice we use today) and having to “brb” because he was pitching. Pudge singled, and we’ve been stuck with this guy ever since. 



Originally we had broader character models (like Chris Carpenter typing in abbreviations for no real reason), but some of the styles become so iconic we couldn’t give them to anyone else. Farnsworth became the “random words and misspellings” guy, Thome became CAPITAL LETTERS AND WELL-MEANING DIALOGUES, Bill Pecota started using misplaced exclamation points, and so on. If we had too many characters doing the HEY GUYS thing, Thome wouldn’t be special. We’d be like every other webcomic on the Earth, writing the same character for 30 different guys in t-shirts. It would be awful. 

Now that MannyTheTorpedoes has “retired” who will carry the torch of MLB “Functionally Retarded Man-Child” for The Dugout? Can we bring Pedro Guerrero out of retirement?

Manny will carry the torch. We’ve had Ty Cobb getting kicked out of a chatroom for spamming the n-word, Manny doesn’t have to go away just because he’s gone away. I actually skirted the Manny retirement Dugout for that very reason. I couldn’t figure out a way for him to go, because why the hell would he go? He was barely doing anything anyway.

What DO spies do?!?

i duno u wan play them

What’s your favorite screenname you’ve come up with?

That I’ve come up with? Probably “DeshaiesStandsAlone” for Jim Deshaies. Not that I have a lot of reasons to use Jim Deshaies. Recently I gave Josh Thole of the Mets “KeepTheDevilDownInThole.” That was a good one. The best Dugout SN of all time is Mike Hampton’s o_captain_mike_hampton, but I didn’t come up with that one. 

Do any major leaguers read the Dugout? Have any of them ever contacted you about it?

No, nobody likes us. We do sort of slander them on a regular basis, so I don’t blame them. I tried to get Jim Thome an XXL Dugout shirt when he on the White Sox, playing in Cleveland. Security supposedly took it to him, but I never heard anything. If anyone knows a major leaguer, please, alert them to the strip and give my life some kind of rounder meaning.

When something “important” happens in baseball and the world needs a Dugout Chat about it, how do you approach it? Do you try and figure out a way to get LadyCop and WordUpThome in, or do the circumstances dictate who shows up in the chatroom?

I approach it like I approach every Dugout: I sit down and start typing it. Usually the right words come. I can’t write a Dugout on paper or on a word program, I have to actually have Dreamweaver open and build it as I go. That’s the only way to create the proper rhythm. Dugouts are more about rhythm than content, I think. Although yeah, if somebody commits a crime there’s a 90% chance LadyCop is going to show up and get bats thrown at her head. I think I care more about the LadyCop than some members of my family. That poor lady, who is also a cop. 

What happened with AOL/Fanhouse? How did you end up at Uproxx? I assume Deadspin made you an offer but you turned them down in order to “keep it real,” right?

Nothing, for me. I was the very lowest person on that totem pole. We got bought out and used for a purpose beyond my paycheck, and I just kinda had to be laid off with everyone else. The good part is that it wasn’t personal. We were doing some really high quality stuff there, even if nobody could tell because of Terence Moore and his fucking paragraph breaks after every sentence. We’d just gotten FanHouse Pro Wrestling rolling, too, and that hurt more than losing a spot for the Dugout. I thought that was going to really grow into something. 

As for Uproxx, I’m there by the grace of Mr. Matt Ufford, who I met when I spoke with the other Dugout guys at Varsity Letters a few years back. Matt has always been a huge supporter of our efforts, and he was nice enough to say “hey, let this guy write.” I posted one article to Uproxx, and they figured out I was probably better to write about sports than memes. Although frankly I should be writing about TV or movies, because I grew up in a video store and my only real grasp of sports is “yay we won, oh no we lost.” And we is the Indians. 

We did “Football Guys” for Deadspin a long time ago, and it went over pretty well, but that was my only resume point there. The Dugout doesn’t really fit what Deadspin is going for these days. But yeah, I totally turned them down because I don’t want to write books or be on TV ever. 

What’s a day in the life like for the co-creator of the Dugout and bigshot over at With Leather?

I don’t know, every day is different. My work day is just sitting in front of a computer, trying to time article publishing so I can eat lunch. I’ve gotten deeply acquainted with a lot of really bad sports blogs. Reading other peoples’ stuff makes me uncomfortable. I’m a strange brain, I either read it and hate it and feel bad, or I read it and love it and get jealous that I didn’t write it. It’s not healthy. And I’m also the type to assimilate what I’ve read into what I’m writing, which is why I reference shit that has no business being referenced on the reg. I think I reference Ghostbusters 2 more than any human being on the planet. 

Every moderately clever jackass with a twitter account has a book out. When can we expect yours?

About eight years ago. I published a novel called Seven Hill City about growing up in the super religious town of Lynchburg, Virginia. It’s about trying to fall in love and be a normal person in a city full of people waiting to die. It’s also about being bulimic, is a retelling of Charlotte’s Web and involves tons of wrestling references. It’s the kind of book you write when you’re 22, if you’re me. It put me into a deep depression for a few years.

Chief Wahoo is horribly racist, and the new road uniforms seem to be the first step toward an “evolved” Cleveland Indians identity. And yet somehow the new block “C” caps are even more offensive than the racist caricature. Discuss, and show your work.

I don’t have work (I don’t ever have work), but I like Chief Wahoo, because he reminds me of a baseball team I love. I understand how racist he is, and I understand why he shouldn’t be there, but I’ve completely detached him from any negativity. His horrid, prejudiced face makes me happy, I don’t know what to tell you. I do kinda wish they were still the Cleveland Spiders, though. Or the Naps, that would be fun.

I haven’t watched wrestling since I saw an Ultimate Warrior/Sgt. Slaughter match at the Cow Palace in like 1990. What am I missing? Why wrestling?

I saw a Ring of Honor show at the Cow Palace a few years ago. “Chaos at the Cow Palace.” It was the saddest, best experience.

If you ask “why wrestling,” you’re either hopeless, or you’ve got to sit in my living room and watch tapes. The most succinct answer is that I’ve spent my life in this cycle of self-analysis and agony, reading thick Russian literature and watching nine hour silent films, obsessing about the ramifications of a religious rapture or the nihilistic world of human life, and wrestling exists as this stupid, stupid thing that expresses the basest of human emotions with the most base of human actions. It’s fighting, but not really, and emotion, but not really, and love and hate and fear and respect, but not really. By being a huge carnival lie, it’s one of the most honest things I’ve found. By being an industry full of greedy scumbags, it’s given me a group of people with which to identify. It sucks, but it’s great, and I’m okay with that.

Are Steve Balboni and The Iron Sheik the same person?

No, but there were were two Undertakers and like five Ultimate Warriors.

You’re vegan, right? How do you get your protein? Just kidding.

I am, and through non-stop quinoa. I would swim around in a Scrooge McDuck money bin of that stuff if I could. I’m the best vegan. My favorite foods are like, lettuce and dirt. 

Read Brandon’s stuff, including The Dugout, at With Leather each and every day. And like them on Facebook. And leave comments. Because Brandon is as needy as he is talented. 

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Two musicians who love baseball, but don't take it too seriously.


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