Illustrious Central Southern Middle Tennessee State University professors Dr. Tony Cougarmouth and Brylon K. Tilgh, Ph.D., have partnered for the first time in “Let There be Facebook,” a book about human history interpreted through the lens of the social media website.
Harmon and Shockley perform in character as Jackie and Dunlap from ‘Red State Update’ during a taping. Photo by Robyn Von Swank
“The brilliant historians Dr. Tony Cougarmouth and Brylon K. Tilgh, Ph.D., are professors of social networking and history people at Central Southern Middle Tennessee State University,” Travis Harmon explained, adding “Go, Stumpjumpers!”
He said CSMTSU is a “very different school from MTSU, which doesn’t have a single class in history people.”
Which is true, but then again CSMTSU doesn’t really exist.
The university, as well as Cougarmouth and Tilgh, are the creations of Harmon and his partner in comedy, Jonathan Shockley.
The pair decided recently to take a closer look at history and came up with the idea to take a helping hand from the social media website Facebook.
“I’ve always wanted to rewrite history,” Harmon said. “It was either this or a job writing speeches for Sarah Palin.”
Speech writing for Palin may not be in the future for Harmon, but it certainly could be for his other alter-ego, Jackie Broyles.
Harmon and Shockley are the creators of the hit web series, Red State Update, which lampoons American culture and current events.
Harmon and Shockley started the satirical video blog about five years ago and since have become Internet stars. They’ve been featured on CNN, DirectTV and The New York Times, along with video sharing sites like YouTube.
The series features the characters, Jackie Broyles (Harmon) and his constant companion Dunlap (Shockley), talking about national news and other topics from a bunker underneath Jackie’s fictional market in Murfreesboro.
Harmon and Shockley use Murfreesboro, and the South in general, as a backdrop for their comedy. They satirize politics, pop culture and celebrities in their videos.
Their goal isn’t to patronize the South, it’s just to be funny, Harmon said in a previous interview.
And Harmon has been funny for a very long time.
He started acting in plays at Riverdale High School and the Murfreesboro Little Theater.
After high school, he acted in several MTSU drama productions, but never officially enrolled in classes. In the late-1990s, he performed with the Tennessee Repertory Theater and with TPAC in Nashville.
From there Harmon joined the Second City program in Chicago, the self-described “Ivy League of comedy.” Second City has produced some of the most notable comedians of the late 20th century, including Mike Myers, Tina Fey, John Candy, Bill Murray, and just about every other cast member of Saturday Night Live.
Then in 2000, he partnered with Jonathan Shockley and produced a cable access show that quickly developed a local, cult following. The “Travis and Jonathan Show” was just as quickly canceled, even with rave reviews from the local media.
The two friends decided to make a move to Los Angeles about five years ago and try to break into showbiz with Red State Update.
While they’ve developed quite a following on the Internet, Harmon and Shockley decided to write a book.
In their new book, the pair uses their unique take on society to take on human history, social media and America’s cult of celebrity.
“We start at the dawn of time and go up to Lady Gaga,” Harmon explained, “so we’ve got Facebook statuses from all of history’s most famous participants, when they weren’t enslaving or murdering each other, or dying of old age at 26.”
For those not familiar with Facebook, the social media website allows users to keep up with their friends’ lives through short posts. It even has an event page, where users can plan parties or other gatherings.
“We’ve got the event page for the Fruit-Eatin’ Party in the Garden of Eden, Cleopatra’s status update booty calls, and Gandhi posting pictures of his lunch,” Harmon said. “How much more self-involved would the hippies at Woodstock have been if they’d had social media? It’s all in there.”
It’s not just historic people who have a role in “Let There Be Facebook,” animals play their parts as well.
“Paul Revere’s horse gets in a line or two, plus we have a section on some decidedly anti-Davy Crockett raccoons,” Harmon said. “Oh, and the dog that talked to Son of Sam is in there as well, for all you true crime buffs.”