Karl Welzein, aka @DadBoner, loves Maui Jim’s sunglasses, Guy Fieri, Bob Seger concerts, and heading out to “Cold One City.” “Really lookin’ forward to the weekend, you guys,” he tweets weekly. The Grand Blanc, Mich., native (and his hapless hijinks) are so beloved on Twitter, he’s garnered close to 150,000 followers. Mike Burns, the recently outed comedian behind the feed and author of the new book “Power Moves” explains to us how “there’s a little bit of Karl Welzein in all of us.”
@DadBoner is one of the most popular personalities on Twitter. Did you ever expect that level of success?
I absolutely did not. But it’s so much fun how people love Karl Welzein as much, if not more, than I do.
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One question I've always wondered: How did the name DadBoner come out? The name Karl Welzein?
The character was constantly talking about things that give dads “boners.” Like a new Calloway driver, or getting TWO appetizers at Applebee’s, or some new Wrangler jeans just like Brett Favre advertises. Also, the word “dadboner” is hilarious and I’m childish and I’m a 12-year-old. “Karl” and “Welzein” are the first and last names of my two best friends from Michigan. A good portion of Karl’s friends are named after someone from my past.
Why would someone buy “Power Moves” and not just read your Twitter?
1. The book is written in long form the way it was intended to be; as Karl Welzein’s journal. It flows better. It’s more intimate. 2. I wanted Karl’s story to live on as a book, long after Twitter is replaced by something else. 3. This is Karl’s origin story, and a lot of people haven’t read back that far back yet.4. A major reason for this, is that I wanted people who aren’t on Twitter to read and enjoy Karl’s story. (Like, literally all of my high school friends and their wives. Most of them aren’t even on Facebook. And good on them. I wish I didn’t have to be on any of that garbage, but such is my life. Not that I’m complaining.) 5. The book makes you look f-cking cool to hot babes on the train. 6. I believed that Karl’s story was much more special, than me just pumping out a novelty book of “All Things Karl” filled with lists about chicken wings and his top Van Halen songs. 7. People still drop coin on "Breaking Bad" DVDs after they’re already watched them on AMC. It’s nice to own something you really like. The same way I’ll be buying all the "Game of Thrones" graphic novels. I know the story, but I want to enjoy it in a new way. 8. And this is the best reason: I thought it was hilarious to have a fake person who only lived on the Internet, get a real book published under his name, and now, you can physically hold it in your hands in real life. It’s so surreal to me. That fake guy you laughed at for the past three years is now a published author. It gives a whole other level to the story, having him deal with his own fake reality. It makes my brain hurt, in a good way.
Were you disappointed when Karl's "identity" was "outed" online? A lot of fun in the early days of the feed was that followers didn't know if you were a real person or not. Why is he so relatable?
I was kind of pissed off and heartbroken. But I quickly got over that. It garnered me a pile of followers who wouldn’t have known about DadBoner in the first place. And as a comedian, a bigger audience is kind of the goal. And also, to be funny. Those two things don’t always coincide, unfortunately. I think they relate because, there’s little bit of Karl Welzein in all of us. In some, more than others. Maybe you relate to how he likes to get drunk at Chili’s, or how you get mad when your sports team loses, or how it feels to lie to yourself about where your life is professionally, or how you need to lose weight, or what it’s like to go through a bad breakup and feel sad and alone. Or have to rationalize not killing yourself when things get really bad, if only for a brief second.
You really put Karl through the ringer. Divorce. The death of Peanut. Losing his job over and over again. Living in his car. And yet he always has this sweet optimism to him. Do you have that same level of hope deep down somewhere?
I think so. I’m divorced. I’ve lost friends. I’ve deeply hated a portion of the jobs I’ve had. Never lived in my car, but I’ve couch surfed. It takes longer for some people to find themselves than others. But, I hope that in the end, taking longer to truly find myself, will make me a happier person than if I just settled with a wife, 2.5 kids, a 9-5, and a two story in the suburbs at age 27 because I was supposed to. But who knows? Maybe I won’t be. And I won’t lie and say that I don’t envy that kind of life. I guess I shouldn’t say, “settling.”
I need a little Mike background. Are you from the Midwest as well? What's next for you now that the book is out? Will you continue on with @DadBoner? Has this led to other comedic opportunities for you? Do you think Twitter is the way for comedic authors to go?
I’m from Saginaw, MI, about 30 minutes from where Karl Welzein lives. Born and raised. Went to Michigan State University, then lived in Chicago for 7-years. I’m as Midwestern as they come. For the most part, my friends in Los Angeles are as well. We do a lot of complaining about how we can’t watch our favorite teams on television, and how hard it is to get a decent sandwich. We do not, however, complain about the weather. There are a couple things I can’t talk about yet. And I’d like to publish a total of 3 more books, but that’s not up to me. I’ll definitely continue on with the @DadBoner feed, until it naturally ends. I improvise 99% of it, so I never know where it’s going to go. I’m sure I’ll do more writing for television, which I’ve been doing for a little while now, pre-book.I don’t know if Twitter is the way for everyone to go. But there’s something to be said for being able to entertain a few thousand people at a time as opposed to 20-30 in a bar with standup. Unfortunately, some “favs” and “RTs” will never, ever, compare to rush or performing live comedy, even for a small audience.