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(Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Murfreesboro had an unexpected voice in the CNN/YouTube debate Monday night.

“For the first time in presidential debate history, user-generated video will drive two unprecedented debates,” CNN said in a press release.

YouTube, the video-sharing website, allowed users to upload video questions that the Democratic presidential candidates responded to during Monday night’s debate.

The most surprising voice was from Jackie Broyles and his constant companion, Dunlap, who addressed the candidates from a bunker underneath Jackie’s market in Murfreesboro.

“This here question’s for all you candidates …,” Dunlap said after they introduced themselves. “(Mainstream media) really wants to know if Al Gore’s going to run again.”

“Yes. Well, what we want to know is, does that hurt you-all’s feelings?” Jackie asked.

“I think the people of Tennessee just had their feelings hurt,” U.S. Sen. Joe Biden responded after the laughter and applause died down.

This was just one of the video questions Jackie and Dunlap, and the many other Americans, posted on YouTube.

Jackie and Dunlap are the stars of the popular video web log, “Red State Update.” And they are the brainchildren of Murfreesboro native, Travis Harmon, and MTSU alumnus, Jonathan Shockley.

And they weren’t trying to poke fun at the South or Southerners. Like all satire, they were trying to point to the bigger picture. CNN used this humorous video to point the debate to serious questions that Gore has raised about global warming.

“We’re not poking fun at home. We love home,” Harmon said. “We’re not trying to be Jon Stewart; we’re just trying to be funny. We don’t have an agenda; we just want to make people laugh.”

Harmon and Shockley started the video web log about a year ago and since have become Internet stars. Some of their posts have gotten as many as a half million hits.

“These are two young men who started on local cable here and are making a dent in the entertainment industry,” former State Sen. Andy Womack said. “It’s exciting to see someone who got their start in Murfreesboro.”

It’s exciting for Travis’s father Bud Harmon.

“I thought it was terrific,” Bud said.

Bud watched their follow-up interview on CNN this morning, where Travis and Jonathan spoke about the Democratic candidates and responded to Biden’s comments with Hair Club for Men jokes.

This is the first major exposure in traditional media for Red State Update. Shawn Hannity and CNN mentioned them before and Newsweek even has a story about them in the July 23 issue.

But, they’ve mostly been featured on many websites including salon.com, Comedy Central, Time and the New York Times, along with video sharing sites like YouTube and IFilm.

With this newfound fame came an opportunity to appear on satellite television. “Red State Update” now appears regularly on DirecTV’s “The Fizz.”

On DirecTV’s “The Fizz,” they rarely do anything political, however it could be described as social commentary.

“There some episodes that aren’t political at all, just funny,” Harmon explained. “I like being on that show on DirecTV… They gave us a chance to be funny.”

Harmon and Shockley use Murfreesboro, and the South in general, as a backdrop for their comedy. They satirize politics, pop culture and all sorts of things in their videos. And some of them aren’t satire at all, they’re just plain funny.

Harmon’s been making people laugh since he was a child, his mother Marty Harmon pointed out, a trait he gets from her.

“Sometimes when he was younger, he would try it out on me and I’d say, ‘This is your momma’,” she said proudly. “He’s always been funny.”

The 37-year-old started acting in high school plays at Riverdale and at the Murfreesboro Little Theater. He acted after graduation in several MTSU drama productions, but never officially enrolled in classes. In the late ‘90s, he performed with the Tennessee Repertory Theater and TPAC in Nashville.

“He’s always had a little acting in him whether it was funny or not,” Marty explained.

“I was very fortunate to be able to act seriously,” he said. But he’s always had comedy on his mind.

“Even while I was doing the Tennessee Rep stuff, I was in a band that was comedy-based,” Harmon explained. The band was Holtzclaw, best known for performances at the Boro Bar and Grill.

Harmon eventually left Murfreesboro and spent several years in Detroit and Chicago as an actor and comedian.

He 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 and MadTV.

Then in 2000, he partnered with Jonathan Shockley and produced a show for cable access channel 19 that quickly developed a local, cult following. The “Travis and Jonathan Show” was just as quickly cancelled, 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.

“In L. A., we perform out and do other things … We enjoy it more than anything else,” Harmon said. They’ve written plays and sketches for Second City – Los Angeles, El Sid and the Upright Citizens Brigade.

But, so far their most successful venture has been “Red State Update.” The video web log started out as just a name and they developed the characters from there.

“Jonathan came up with the name … and we thought that was very funny,” Harmon said.

The premise of two southern men sitting around and discussing politics and other current events came from a local market in Murfreesboro, where Harmon would go when he was younger and listen to the locals chat.

“In no way are we making fun of the South,” Harmon said. “We have a big fan base from the South. … You have to love something in order the satirize it.”

They rail on everything from the upcoming presidential race to more innocuous topics, like dates that ended up at church.

They discuss politics mostly “because politics are pretty damn funny these days,” Harmon said. But they also talk about pop culture, from Paris Hilton to Harry Potter, and produce country music video spoofs.

“Our main point is to be funny and we let both sides have it,” he continued. “We consider ourselves equal opportunity offenders.”

The recent exposure has also created a following outside of the South.

Harmon said that receiving fan mail from military personnel makes him feel most appreciated. When they can distract soldiers from the realities of war, they know they’ve accomplished their mission.

“When they write us, and seem to enjoy it, that makes us feel good,” Harmon said.

That’s the goal with this duo, to distract audiences from the realities of life and make them laugh.
Tagged under  Entertainment, Jonathan Shockley, Journalism, Media History, Politics, Red State Update, Travis Harmon

Members Opinions:
July 24, 2007 at 12:00am
I'm a long time fan. You should really check these guys out. They are hilarious. I knew both these guys when they lived here and they deserve whatever attention they get.

Note: Not kid or work safe though for cursing and some subject matter
July 24, 2007 at 12:00am
It is a shame they selected this to represent the new Tennessee.
July 24, 2007 at 12:00am
I'm proud to be represented by 2 local fellows with such a good sense of humor and creativity, a perfect counterpoint to Joe Biden and other humorless stiffs of his ilk.

By the way, DMW37128, perhaps you can enlighten me and the other readers. What exactly is "the new Tennessee"?
I have heard Atlanta refered to as an example of the new South. This usually refers to increased urbanization, destruction or denigration of past culture
and traditions and an influx of immigrants of the "Northern" persuasion, i.e. carpetbaggers.
If this is your aspiration for our fair state, then I hope and pray that we do not become a part of the new Tenn.
July 24, 2007 at 12:00am
Considering what the rest of the country has become over the past 50 years, let's hope you're right.
July 24, 2007 at 12:00am
These guys have a good sense of humor. I don't agree with all of their views, but i can laugh at myself.

"It is a shame they selected this to represent the new Tennessee."

Well, I'm sure the reason they got on because it was a funny clip.. a solid non-funny question most likely wouldn't have made it on.
July 24, 2007 at 12:00am
Jackie and Dunlap are the best. If you don't understand their satire, you are probably one of the people being satirized. If you can't find something funny in @ least one thing that these guys do, you need a funny bone implant.
July 24, 2007 at 12:00am
I agree with r.inskeep. Forget the politics. These guys are a hoot. I'm glad I found their website.
July 24, 2007 at 12:00am
elguapo, what I mean is Tennessee is no longer "country hicks" and has not been that way for years. I had a job in Chicago for two years ( admit could not take the winters ) and often got asked about "being barefoot; marrying my sister; outhouses". This "cartoon" just gives the other parts of the country the "prejudice view" reinforcement about the area.

I am not in favor of the "Northern" persuasion but unfortunately it is here.

I just want folks nationwide to realize not all of us in Tennessee still live in double-wides.

With the importing of Northerners, players from the Titans staying - I am afraid our secrete is out about what a great place Tennessee is to live and work.
July 25, 2007 at 12:00am

They had a chance to seriously discuss Middle Tennessee & National issues, & instead opted for a cross between "Hee-Haw" and "The Red Green Show".

These guys we DON'T need.
July 25, 2007 at 12:00am
if'ns you be livin in a double wide u be rich.
July 25, 2007 at 12:00am
As a Murfreesboro native I'm gonna say that these guys are doing a pretty dead-on Murfreesboro Native. If you don't think so, then you're just in denial.
July 25, 2007 at 12:00am
inter, we must run in different circles. There are a few here like those guys - I see them pulling into Ryans everyday.
But like any other part of the county this action can stereotype all Murfreesboroans, all Tennesseans, to still be back wood working people.
July 25, 2007 at 12:00am
Last time I checked outside, there's a few trees out there and I'm at work.
July 25, 2007 at 12:00am
unfortunately, i think we have alot more rednecks around than some would like to admit. I was born and raised here in murfreesboro, and even though there have been some steps forward as far as social diversity is concerned, the majority of those who live in this community are backward ultra-conservative ultra-republican people who do come across alot like the Red State Update guys.

Dont hear me wrong, The ultra-right have every right to see the world in their way as I have to see it mine. And we have the freedom to express our dismay with each others views any way we want, which includes humor.

But I digress. This debate really isn't about what kind of person lives in Murfreesboro. Its about how and why the video clip of Red State Update got on CNN. Well, my opinion is that if they hadn't picked the one they did, then no Murfreesboro clip would have made it on. Most of you sound like there was a choice between a few different Tennessee clips on YouTube.. there wasn't. They just picked that one out because it was funny. And, even though some of you missed the joke, it WAS funny.
July 25, 2007 at 12:00am
and by the way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itjkK8d8wIg
July 25, 2007 at 12:00am
Travis Harmon liked to entertain since Riverdale when I went to school with him (class of '88). He and Dana Kunkel(Drama Club) were very funny and talented.
July 25, 2007 at 12:00am
The reason why Biden's comment was annoying is because he implies that we Tennesseans can't laugh at ourselves. The great thing about RSU's humor is that some people don't know quite what to do with it. Read the comments on their youtube videos. Most people from TN or other Southern states GET that it is a joke, or they don't get it and they think Jackie & Dunlap are real, which is even funnier. The sad thing is that we all know people here in Rutherford county who vote for president based on who they'd most like to have a beer with than actual issues. I'm not worried about Northerners looking down on us because of RSU, because if they do, they obviously haven't been to the south to see that it isn't all redneck. Way to go, RSU! I look forward to seeing more of you.
July 26, 2007 at 12:00am
WHAT "new Tennessee"?

When the local TV news does a live feed from somewhere outside Nashville you can be sure of at least three things:

o The persons interviewed will make "Jackie Broyles and Dunlap" look downright cosmopolitan!
o The will NOT have a full set of teeth.
o They WILL butcher the English language . . . "I was a just sittin' here when I seen the big cloud . . . ." (and some readers of this blog probably won't see the mistake!)

It has gotten so bad at times that I've even e-mailed the TV station involved, when they show something like that. It's no wonder the folks on the east and west coasts think we don't have indoor plumbing! Or dentists!!

And we're doing this to ourselves, thanks to the TV news folks!
July 28, 2007 at 12:00am
Actually this was noting more than a publicity stunt for CNN. The questions coming from "real" people still got the same canned response as the more formal "debates."

Jon Stewart (Daily Show) showed a clip of Senator Dodd (D CT) responding to a question almost word for word from a previous gathering.

Regardless of the format, candidates are trained not to give answers to questions, but rather to give campaign speech hype.

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