Comedian Brent Terhune Hopes You Know His Rants About NASCAR and the Confederate Flag Are Satire

In the current sociopolitical climate, it's easy to roll your eyes as soon as you see a bearded white guy tweeting a video with the caption, "Nascar wants to ban the CONFEDERATE FLAG??? I DONT THANK SO." But viewers who watch until the end will recognize that the video is a hilarious satirical take on people who get outraged about companies making progressive changes.

Comedian Brent Terhune—who's 30 and hails from Indianapolis, Indiana—has been making funny videos in which he plays the part of an outraged man who spouts knowledge from the front seat of his pickup truck. His videos often reflect the sorts of faux-fury that people vent over cultural and political issues—like, say, Looney Tunes creating new episodes without guns or a Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick.

His most recent video is about NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag from its races. "It's heritage, not hate. It just so happens that my heritage is hate, and I'm like Linus from Charlie Brown, and that treason rag is my security blanket, and I don't feel safe if I can't have it," he says in the video, which as been viewed more than 4 million times. "They're taking the Confederate monuments out of the park by my house that I just learned we had and all of a sudden care deeply about."

Assuming the role of a ticked-off NASCAR fan, Terhune shows just how contradictory people can be. Take this sly reference, a swipe at people criticizing Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello for being outspoken about the political messages in his music: "I wish all these bands would just shut up about politics, and play their songs about politics."

Terhune spoke to Newsweek about his new viral video and the power of satire. This interview has been edited and condensed for the sake of length and clarity.

Brent Terhune
Comedian Brent Terhune went viral with a hilarious satirical video about NASCAR banning the confederate flag. Timothy Steven Sewell/Courtesy of Brent Terhune

What sparked your interest in making a video about NASCAR banning Confederate flags?

I had been doing that character and those types of videos for three years already. So as soon as they announced it, I was getting links sent to me by people, because they're like, "Dude, you gotta talk about this." And sometimes I get certain links, and I'm like, "Yeah, I mean, it's a story, but it's not like big news." But then I saw it was NASCAR banning the Confederate flag and I was like, "Well, this is a big situation." It's on the scale of NFL games and taking a knee during the national anthem. I do these videos maybe once or twice a week, and they do okay, but nothing like what this one has done.

I saw you've done a bunch of these about different things. When you see some sort of outrage, kind of like this about NASCAR banning the Confederate flag or someone telling Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine to stay out of politics, do you sit and think, "OK, this is something I have to make a video about?"

There's usually certain ones where this is such a big topic that I have to at least talk about it. The thing with the videos is it's super-topical. Because you know as well as I do with the news cycle, if you don't talk about it in a day, maybe there's already something that comes along and bumps that out of the news cycle. So you got to be on top of it, and then some stuff is more evergreen news-type stuff. Like, the first one of these I did was, you know, Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during NFL games, and then a year later that came back around when he signed a contract with Nike. And, I essentially did a very similar one [to what] I did in the first place. So it just depends on how big the news story is.

The day before I did the NASCAR one, I did one about Looney Tunes. It's just a ridiculous thing to make fun of. And it's more like I'm making fun of cartoons literally. And that was more fun to do that one because there's like different levels of intensity that some of these will have. Some of it is standing up for Asian people, because they're calling the coronavirus "the China virus," and that one was way more intense than the Looney-Tunes-no-guns one, because the likelihood of somebody getting hurt because it's called the the "China virus" versus Elmer Fudd not being able to have a gun in a cartoon.

What's been your reaction to this one going viral with over 4 million views?

It's just weird what will hit and what doesn't hit, because if somebody could manufacture a viral video then you'd be able to just make tons of money all the time, but sometimes stuff just hits for some reason. Who knows? I don't know. Maybe this one, if you actually watch it, you can tell that it's a satire video. Some of them, the jokes are so subtle that people are like, "I know what you're doing, but it's hard to tell even when I know what you're doing." Maybe it's that right level of satire plus a big news topic.

Why do you think that satire works so effectively in comedy, when you're pointing out hypocrisy and things like that?

Especially nowadays with everything, it's already so absurd—talking about Trump, you might as well be talking about a cartoon character. The guys from South Park, I've heard interviews with them where they're like, "We tried to do crazy things, and then he would just turn around and do that thing and worse." I don't know why it works. But to me, that's always the stuff that I loved growing up as a kid, was seeing how absurd something was and then somebody would just take it even farther.

It's clearly a joke, but they're not breaking character and a lot of this character that I do goes back to being a wrestling fan. Wrestlers don't break character—that's what I like. I wanted to do these videos and never break character, at least in the video. I want you to decide for yourself—that's kind of the fun of it, too.

Was this character inspired by people that you know, or an idea of what you see online?

Definitely a reflection, because that first Colin Kaepernick one was a reflection of just watching people burn Nike things and Indianapolis Colts season tickets in their backyard and just being like, "I was a lifelong Colts fan, but no longer." I tell people it's that guy who would rant in his truck—I call it "a front-seat philosopher." Nobody's been able to solve this problem, but thank God this guy came along in his Silverado and was able to fix everything from his front seat. That kind of guy—a truck-rant type of guy.

That's such a perfect analogy, because that's something you see so often that I think everyone knows and is familiar with.

Yeah, there's a couple Facebook groups I belong in, like, "Republicans Ranting in Cars," or "This Guy Ranting in a Parking Lot Takes Us Back to the 1950s." Those types of things. Ranging from super-serious topics to somebody's like, "Why do I gotta wear a mask?"

How often do people just not get it when you post a video?

There's always people that don't get it. It also depends on the heading that I will write. Some people will just see that and then make an assumption and get mad, or some people will watch the whole video and never be able to pick up on it. That's worse where you can watch it and say back what I just said, but you're not understanding that it's the complete opposite. They're like, "You're contradicting yourself the whole time." I'm like, "Uh, it's—"

"That's the point."

Yeah, there's always people that don't get it. And it also comes with the political climate. With the George Floyd stuff, I didn't really—[it's] something you could just feel that it's not the right time to be saying stuff, and for a week or two I just didn't say anything, and do anything as "the character," because I don't change my name.

With a political climate, sometimes you just don't touch stuff, and it depends on how passionate people want to be about it, because sometimes you're so mad about it, you're so exposed to s**t that makes you mad all the time that no matter what I write... If you see this white guy ranting with no sound, you're just like, "What is this guy? This guy's an a**hole already."

Like you said, you've done a bunch of these. Do you ever get messages or see responses from people that say, "Oh, hey, you made a good point. I'm gonna stop complaining about that?"

Yeah, I do. One in particular, it was me blaming other races for my problems, but then it turns out it was just all back on me. I was just looking for a scapegoat. Some guy messaged me and was like, "I thought that way, but since you said it that way, you're kind of right. I just blame all my problems on everybody else." I don't know whether that was genuine because at a certain point I know I'm not going to be able to fix all the problems, right? You just can't. So you try to at least be funny and provide some levity to some people that actually get what you're doing.

In high school, I wrote a thing about comedians being the mirror for society. I like to show what people are doing, because a lot of people will be like, "Dude, you're so close to actually what these people are like." Well, that's what satire is. If I was not that, then it wouldn't be real. Maybe I'm helping people, but at least people who get it, it's some kind of levity. I get messages from soldiers with PTSD. And not [to be] like, "Oh, look what I could do," but some people are like, "Man, you make me laugh and stuff sucks."

Being someone that's worked at a comedy club for the past three years or so, I've seen so many people come in and be like, "Oh, you know, my brother died, my mom died, my whatever. I just needed a night out."

My wife and I, we have, like, the darkest sense of humor. Something about making a joke about such a heavy topic, it's such a reliever. You would never say it to anybody else in a public forum, but you say it to somebody else and you get the dark sense of humor, and it provides—it doesn't make a situation better, but at least we realize s**t is messed up, at least.

Comedian Brent Terhune Hopes You Know His Rants About NASCAR and the Confederate Flag Are Satire | Culture