Vic Berger IV Is Vine's Strangest Political Satirist
The Tim & Eric collaborator and Vine extraordinaire talks about his five greatest muses: Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Jimmy Fallon, Chubby Checker, and Jim Bakker.
Vic Berger IV is not a man with a Jeb Bush neck tattoo, but he played one on TV. During the mounting madness of the Republican presidential primary season last year, the video editor and Tim & Eric collaborator hoaxed the Bush campaign—and a news media all too eager to monetize awful decisions—when he promised to get #Jeb4Prez permanently etched on his flesh if his Vine of the family fail-son touting Apple products hit one million loops. "I still can't believe it happened," Berger says. "I was trying to show that he's just pandering and trying to prove how 'relatable' he is, but when Jeb and his people tried to make me get this dumb tattoo to reach the youth of America, they proved my point for me."
When it comes to Berger's take on America's most terrible famous people, the prank's just the tip of the iceberg. His Vine account is full of brutally funny six-second remixes of right-wing politicians, washed-up musicians, evangelical Christians, and pandering comedians alike. Berger's eye for absurdity, coupled with his disorienting editing techniques, coax out the uncomfortable ugliness beneath the surface of a host of smiling creeps. Besides being funny as shit, Berger's Vines also might be... important. "I feel like @VicBergerIV might be this election's Ralph Steadman, but with Vine footage instead of dripping pens," tweeted writer Dan O'Sullivan. "It's flattering," Berger says, "though I really don't overthink what I do. Basically, I tend to see something dumb that infuriates me and then instead of arguing with somebody about it, I make a video to point it out."
And throughout Berger's body of work, five men stand out as the dumbest, most infuriating of all: GOP alpha fascist Donald Trump and his cuckservative beta boy Jeb Bush; Chubby Checker, the lecherous 70-something singer of "The Twist"; eager-to-please Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon; and disgraced televangelist turned doomsday-prepper entrepreneur Jim Bakker.
"Those are my guys," Berger says. "Those five fine gentlemen give me a wide variety of material to work with, yet they are all so similar in many ways. They all crave attention and especially power, yet each have a unique way of attempting to attain it or keep it. Trump will do whatever it takes to be powerful even if it involves offending large groups of people, while Jimmy Fallon doesn't want to offend anyone because it might risk losing his job as the host of Tonight Show. Chubby feels he deserves to always be at the top of the charts with "The Twist," while Jeb feels he should be President because his last name is Bush. And Jim Bakker claims to be God's friend and has been told by Jesus that the world will be ending soon, so you better listen to him and buy his apocalyptic survival food that costs thousands of dollars and comes in 40 gallon buckets." Below, Berger serves up a bucketful of insight into each of his five favorite targets, illustrated with their greatest video hits.
I envision Jeb as someone who had been going to a shrink, and the shrink told him he needed to start doing things out of his comfort zone to improve himself, so he decided to run for president. But the shrink kept on pushing him to do more things that make him uncomfortable during the campaign, like putting on a hoodie or using Uber like the common folk do. I see this painful look in his eyes whenever he is interacting with everyday Americans. That's when his nervous blinking starts. I always think he is on the edge, seconds away from freaking out and punching people to escape the situation.
Trump is such an awful guy. For a long time, he was entertaining and unintentionally comical, but the longer he stays in the race, the less funny he is. He's a bully, so I typically push that aspect. I also mix his supporters into the videos: When I edit a GOP debate video, I always have someone in the audience that supports Trump blow an airhorn throughout. It's so stupid, but it's the one thing that I always find funny in my videos. I like to have Jeb talking and struggling to get these words out, but then the Trump guy in the audience toots the airhorn and interrupts Jeb to throw him off. And I always use the sound from Trump's rallies of the crowd chanting "We Want Trump!" It's scary.
Chubby is by far my favorite to work with. I first saw him about 13 years ago when I randomly showed up at a Borders Books and he was there signing his reggae "Twist" CD. It was pretty awkward and strange and even then. I could tell something was off about him. Maybe the first sign was that he had a reggae "Twist" CD out, but he just acted odd.
I forgot about him until about a year ago when I came across some videos of him talking about the importance of "The Twist." I ended up digging a little deeper and came across some rather disturbing stuff. He goes from town to town to be on all these local morning news shows and teaches the anchors how to Twist and do the Hucklebuck [Note: The Hucklebuck is a slightly more crotch-centric version of the Twist]. But he always ends up pushing it and getting very close to these unsuspecting women as he's Hucklebucking with them. He's grinding his pelvic region on these hosts while they try to remain professional and carry on with the broadcast. I think many of these stations just think, "Ah, it's Chubby Checker, he's a sweet old man! He didn't mean to be creepy. He's just old and didn't know what he was doing." Then they move on and forget about it. But Chubby keeps on traveling across the country, and always does this stuff on stage. I have a number Vines where Chubby brings up a lady that he finds foxy and then dances with her and as he sends her off the stage, he slaps her on the butt. Not just a light slap either.
I could go on and on about Chubby. I tried to convince him to star in a project that I was working on, but unfortunately his publicist knew how to use Google, so she looked me up and probably saw all of 300 of my Chubby Vines and videos and decided Chubby should not be working with me.
Fallon doesn't want to offend. I am sure he is the nicest guy, and would be super fun to hang out with, but his show appears to be this platform where anyone can come on and paint themselves however they want to appear. My annoyance with him started with Chris Christie constantly being on there, dancing around and doing his dumb skits about how much he loves Springsteen. Christie is such a gross and horrible person. I worked for a decade for the state of New Jersey and can truthfully say he's done way, way more harm for the state than he's done good. And the whole shutting down of the bridge bullshit? He denies it all, and then the next thing you see is him on Fallon making light of it and singing a song about it or whatever. Fallon lets these terrible people say whatever they want. Not that the host of The Tonight Show needs to be a hard-hitting journalist getting to the bottom of things—it's just that if he's going to have these people on, at least have some point of view. Don't just laugh nervously about it. I mean, one of his questions to Christie was, "Heard you hung out with the Romneys! So how are the Romneys? They're all awesome."
The other thing about Fallon that drives me crazy is how he will have a guest on and then bring out an iPad and try out some app with them. It's unbelievable. There are segments where there's like 30 seconds of him staring silently at an iPad wearing earphones. I've made a few Vines using those moments.
Jim Bakker is the most recent guy I've been working with, and I think editing his show has been the most enjoyable editing I've done. The footage alone is insane, even before I touch it, with all the gigantic buckets of slop being mixed together. But by tweaking it and adding awkward pauses and repeating certain lines, it can turn into a fun nightmare. He is obviously a terrible person, using religion and fear to sell products that nobody should buy, but the more time I spend editing him, I see more of the human side. At times, I can even see him making faces, as if "I can't believe I'm getting away with this." After hours and hours editing this guy, I almost start to like him, and can maybe begin to see it through his eyes. Yet it's very easy to take some distance and see that he is a very cruel man and should probably still be in prison.
Follow Sean on Twitter.