Talking With the Man Who Cut to the Core of Jeb Bush's Late Campaign, 6 Seconds at a Time

Jeb Bush
Over the past eight months, Vic Berger became known for his Vines of Jeb Bush. Vine/Vic Berger IV

From the moment he announced his run for the White House by slapping a bulbous exclamation point to the end of his first name, the low-frequency presidential campaign of Jeb Bush has been widely mocked by comedians, journalists and, of course, Donald Trump. The best word to describe the former Florida governor's last eight months, just like his name, contains three letters: sad. After a poor showing in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, Jeb put himself out of his misery.

No one, not even Trump, was able to isolate the essence of Jeb's sadness with more poignancy than Vic Berger IV, the comedian and video editor whose Vines have racked up over 85 million views. Berger's most popular Vine of Jeb, which features the former presidential hopeful expressing his love for Apple products, has amassed nearly eight million loops, most of which are due to Jeb himself tweeting the link in an effort to force Berger to get a "Jeb 4 Prez" neck tattoo. The stunt was a hoax, although a convincing one, and to Berger's delight the media took the bait.

By excerpting video of Jeb's most contrived lines and awkward gestures, Berger portrayed Jeb as an emotionless robot, an enraged mad man, a dance machine, a tender mama's boy and more. Perhaps in reality, Jeb was all of these things. Perhaps his monotone, low-energy persona was only an ill-conceived facade meant to court conservative voters. And perhaps by willfully distorting clips of Jeb, Berger came closer to nailing what really makes the big Bush boy tick than any pundit could have dreamed. Now that the campaign is over, though, we sadly may never know the truth.

On Monday, Berger memorialized his fallen muse with a tribute video (below). Minutes before the clip went live, we were able to catch up with Berger to remember his last eight months with Jeb.

What was your reaction when you first heard Jeb was suspending his campaign for good?

I was kind of shocked. I thought he would stick it out for a little bit longer, because he's so well-funded. For my benefit I was hoping he would stay around for another debate. But I guess he saw that the writing was on the wall, and he had to step out. I was also just bummed. I was almost mourning, in a way. I'd been working with him for so long.

What drew you to Jeb in the first place? What was it about him that first got your attention?

I think it started around the time all the announcements were happening. I just started following all of the candidates' YouTube channels. I would see how they were trying to paint themselves and how they were trying to make themselves look to the public. Jeb was the only one.… He had a series of videos called #JebNoFilter. These are all 30-second to minute-long clips, doing things that are supposed to be behind-the-scenes and show the "regular Jeb." The ordinary old guy just like you and me. One is him using Uber, and there's no way he should really be using Uber. He doesn't need it.

All the Apple stuff. "MacBook Pro, baby."

And then the one of him putting on his hoodie, and you can tell it was actually probably the first time he put on a hoodie. He didn't know what he was doing. I just found it so comical on its own, but when you show it in 6 seconds, it's even more awkward and painful. It just focused in on the worst moments of those.

Right, I think some of the best Jeb Vines are the ones where the context is completely inexplicable.

His people are urging him to do it. You can just tell it's not his idea. It's whoever he hired to do this. "You just gotta do it, Jeb. It'll help. Just do it."

I love the one where he drives away and just says, "I like keeping our country safe."

I think it was from an ad for the circus show. I think Showtime has a show called The Circus. I just watched an ad for that, and that was in it. Of course I took out the part where he asked him a question, and I added in all the car sounds, too. There was silence before it, so it's just this non sequitur of him saying that and just driving off. It was so bizarre.

Were any of the hallmarks or techniques you use in your Vinesthe air horn, for instancedirectly inspired by Jeb?

I'm not too conscious about what I'm doing with these. With Jeb I'm just trying to get more to the human aspect of it. I've kind of done that before with Chubby Checker, who I'm somewhat obsessed with, where I just want to cut through the public image. I think Jeb is the one I've gone the farthest with. He's a Bush, and I remove that part. The airhorn is more based on Trump. In my mind that is one of his bully supporters in the crowd. Since Jeb is gone, I might try to focus on another candidate for that.

Have you had any contact with the Jeb campaign other than the tweet about the neck tattoo?

I'd like to make Vic get a #Jeb4Prez tattoo. He's halfway to 1mil, give this Vine a few views... https://t.co/iIGFSDB4Pm

— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July 26, 2015

After that initial tweet of them urging me to get this [tattoo], I was getting messages from one of his social media people, and there were a couple of other people. I forget their names. They were just saying to come on down to Florida and get the tattoo, urging me to do it. But as soon as the tattoo "supposedly" happened, there was dead air, which is what they should have done from the start. But they kept it together, and nobody contacted me after that. Some people blocked me.

What about Jeb's fans?

Actually, his followers are probably the only ones who haven't contacted me on Twitter. If I put something out that's Trump, within 5 minutes I have people writing me. Nobody that I can remember has stuck up for [Jeb] and said stop it or anything like that. I don't know what that says about his campaign.

Is there a part of you that feels sorry for Jeb?

There is a certain sadness to him. You can see him trying to live up to his name. His dad was president, and his brother was president. He wouldn't say it, but I think he felt he deserved it. He worked hard or whatever. But he's going to be OK. He was still the governor. He's going to be all right. But watching his final speech where he's choking up, that's sad. But then you remember he's Jeb Bush.

Do you have a favorite Jeb Vine?

I started getting into some of these where he's a loose cannon, where people will ask him a question and then he goes off on them, like he's real pissed off. There's one where he's yelling at this guy, and the mic is shaking. I like that one. There's one where I make it look like he hits a girl. I was nervous to post that one at first because I was thinking it might offend people because it looks like it's real. That was ridiculous.

I really like the shoe one, where he taps the guy's shoe. It's so awkward. That might be one of my favorites.

You work with a lot of disparate personalities including Jimmy Fallon, Chubby Checker, [televangelist] Jim Bakker and others. Is there some sort of unifying element between all these people that can explain why you've been drawn to them and why you've run with making Vines of them?

I've been thinking about that. I think right now my answer is that all of them are seeking power, or trying to keep power. Chubby Checker wants to be back on the charts, and he doesn't understand why he's not No.1. Jeb obviously was going for the presidency. Jim Bakker almost wants you to worship him in a way, and send him money, because he knows what God wants. Fallon is trying to keep his power while just making people happy and agreeing with everybody and laughing at whatever people say. I think he is nervous about losing his job. I don't know if that's true, but that's how I see it.

What is next for you? How are you going to fill the Jeb-sized gap in your life?

I'm probably going to focus more on one of the other guys. I've done a lot with Cruz already. Rubio, I haven't done as much. I just think he's a boring guy, really. He's so rehearsed that it's almost not fun to work with him. But I'm going to find an angle to go at with him, I think. Trump, I want to focus on a little bit more. I don't like that I'm getting so many Trump supporters liking my videos. It's kind of weird to me. I might try to go at a little bit of a different angle with Trump and reevaluate what I'm doing with him.

For now, though, let's revisit the last Jeb Vine Berger made before his muse called it quits. This final six-second expression of Jeb-ness seems fitting...