I was conceived following an amorous, alcohol-fueled encounter between Mr. and Mrs. Mendelson somewhere in the Borscht Belt. (Who knew the Joan Rivers show my parents attended at The Concord in August of 1982 would be such a powerful aphrodisiac?)
My family moved to Monroe, New York, from Massapequa Park in 1987 to get away from the jerks that inhabit Long Island. When my parents moved there from Westchester, they were greeted by a bunch of white supremacists who didn’t take kindly to “The Jews” moving in. The only thing I kept from my brief time on Long Island was my love for the New York Islanders, a team that embodies mediocrity. Ok. In April of 1983 I was also born in the same place Teddy Roosevelt was, but nobody ever shot me during one of my presentations. At least … not yet anyway.
While in Monroe, I went to North Main Elementary. I got beat up every day by people who hated the Jets, Mets, Nets, and Islanders. The teams I grew up cheering for. To get even for the constant harassment, I later convinced Mr. Diana’s fifth grade class that I invented Mortal Kombat, and my sixth grade class that I was insanely wealthy. I figure, if they’re going to beat me up, I’m going to give them a damn good reason to do it. It was around this time I figured out that I was good at getting a reaction out of people. (But it wasn’t until high school when I realized I could just be funny to accomplish that and not be a dick about it.)
From there, I made my way over to Monroe-Woodbury Middle School where nothing exciting or funny happened. Unless you count the time Magic: The Gathering was banned from the school because the assistant principal thought playing the game was a subtle way for children to worship Satan.
I barely graduated from Monroe-Woodbury Senior High School in 2001. I had no commitment to academic success, didn’t want to be there, and didn’t like almost everyone I went to school with. Part of this had to do with the kids who had picked on me for being a Nets, Jets, and Mets fan were all now, conveniently as the teams were doing well, Mets, Nets, and Jets fans. But the other part had to do with the fact that I was always the poor kid at the rich kid high school. And if there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s snobby white people and frontrunners.
Put another way, I got along with almost everyone because I was funny and made people laugh, but I just didn’t like most of them for those reasons. I had my friends, and I even had a girlfriend if you could believe it. And to the surprise of everyone, that relationship didn’t happen because of my hours playing Magic: The Gathering in order to appease the dark lord either.
All told, high school sucked like it does for most people, but I was also never really myself. During my senior year, I was diagnosed with Mitral-Valve Prolapse, and little did I know that from that point on, I wasn’t entirely in control of who I was.
While at M-W, I held the stupid belief that being involved in a ton of extracurriculars would get me into NYU, despite having a piss-poor GPA of 77.0. It didn’t. Alfred State was the only college that accepted me, and I didn’t even apply there. My Dad sent them an application after I told him I wasn’t applying elsewhere because “other colleges were bullshit”.
That exchange was a rare moment between my Dad and I because my parents were not always around growing up. Dad worked. Mom drank. My older sister, who is not the brightest crayon in the box, raised my three brothers and I. For every good thing my sister did, my older brother, Brad, undid. Born dead and later revived through magic, my older brother has issues, many of them, including severe OCD. Brad’s daily routine consists of throwing everything out, putting what’s left away to be thrown out later, going through your stuff, checking the mailbox twenty-seven times, and carrying conversations with himself. If you did anything to disrupt his routine, Brad would get angry, Hulk-angry, so none of us did anything. Between the MIA parents and Brad, I was functionally retarded until college.
While at college, I met my ex-wife Amanda in 2005 at SUNY Potsdam. I had transferred to Potsdam from Alfred the year before because my parents had informed me “there were Jews there”. There were not. My ex-wife, who was not a Jew, was my resident on the 6th floor of Lehman South. I was her Resident Assistant. It was hate at first sight. When we got divorced in the Summer of 2012 it was legally decreed that I had been upgraded from functionally retarded to “quasi-retarded”.
Now that’s what I like to call progress!
Also at college: I had a newspaper column / radio show / TV show called “The Brandon Show”, which for now, lives on in name only over at Tumblr. The picture above was taken backstage at Clarkson University while we were filming an episode of the show. Despite the name, the program was a sketch comedy show inspired by Alfred University’s “Friday Night Live”. It always had a large cast (21 at Alfred State College, 15 at SUNY Potsdam), and I was usually barely in the show, aside from an opening rant. The image and audio quality is really bad, and a lot of people in it have real jobs now where they could get into trouble with some of these clips, so I’m keeping everything offline from this time offline. However, you might see new clips in the future from me.
I graduated from Potsdam in December of 2006 with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Pre-Law. Since my ex-wife was still working on her degree at the time, I decided to take a couple of semesters worth of graduate courses in the Organizational Leadership program. I also worked for a syndicated ABC television show and CBS College Sports.
My ex-wife and I moved into 96 Market Street, Apartment 4, in Potsdam in the Fall of 2007. I liked the village of Potsdam and wanted to stay there. She didn’t. Our neighbor was an insane multi-millionaire chemist, and I thought if I stuck around long enough, he’d try to kill Superman.
In addition to writing a “college survival” column, also called “The Brandon Show” , that was syndicated to over 800 college newspapers, my CBS job consisted of sitting around my Potsdam apartment and making hundreds of stories I didn’t write more SEO friendly. It was kind of the perfect job because I barely had coworkers and I could watch all the superheroine-themed porn that I wanted.
Telecommuting is awesome!
The syndicated TV show? It got me a production credit in IMDB, and I got them into forty-million homes across America on ABC using viral marketing tactics. I guess that TV show came out ahead on that deal, huh?
I left the graduate program with a semester left to go once my ex-wife finished her degree.
I had thoughts about law school, but I flunked my LSAT. Wait. Flunk is too weak of a word. I bombed my LSAT so hard the walls shook in the scoring center and three law school admissions officers committed suicide in protest. I avoided the GRE after vowing never to kill again.
Since my job skills consist entirely of “talks good” and “writes better”, I decided to continue with graduate school elsewhere. Faced with limited alternatives, I went to UAlbany to work toward a Ph.D. in American History in the Fall of 2008. We moved into 1066 Washington Avenue, Apartment 4, in Albany, New York. We didn’t stick around Albany for long though. I wound up blogging for the Albany Times Union for a couple of years and working as a substitute teacher in William Hackett Middle School. She was also a sub, and while both schools were challenging, the one she had was nightmarish, so we left the city.
I did once write up a student “for being a douche”, which will remain one of the funniest things I have ever done.
Homeless Santa Strikes!
After leaving UAlbany in early 2009, my ex-wife and I traveled across America to promote the early detection and prevention of breast cancer for a small not-for-profit. It was around this time that Twitter placed me on their Suggested User List between February of 2009 and August of 2009. It was 28 celebrities … and me. This lead to a lot of hilarious and awkward conversations, mostly from people wanting to know who the hell I was. A conversation that ultimately lead to the creation of this ridiculous about page.
Halfway through the breast cancer tour, our car died in Las Vegas. You can insert your own “I guess they weren’t lucky in Vegas” joke here. (In my presentations I do! I also always prefaced any talk about this tour by saying, “I’m divorced, and now let me tell you why … Everyone laughs. I die a little inside. A good time is had by all.)
A year after the breast cancer tour, I organized a similar tour for another not-for-profit. This time, the tour was successful. What changed? We took the focus off social media. What a shock, right? What worked was all the old stuff, the unsexy stuff like good old fashioned PR that drove the sexy stuff (the online stuff), not the other way around. It was that shift in success between the two tours that would lead me to write my first book, Social Media Is Bullshit.
With one or two exceptions like NPR, I can’t really describe most not-for-profits in flattering terms, but I hope I can encourage you to donate to your local, no-kill, animal shelter. I’m also a big booster for NPR, but I won’t push for you to donate to them. That’s up to you. Personally, I used to think people who listened to NPR were latte sipping motherfuckers, but now NPR is all I listen to.
My how the worm has turned!
Because of my experiences working with not-for-profits, I have also sworn off all future charitable activities. That is, unless you ask me to come to your house and play “Homeless Santa”. As a former mall Santa at the Aviation Mall in Queensbury, New York, I’ll be happy to defecate on your lawn while wearing a santa suit. I think it’s a great way to send your children a chilling message about their future as a college graduate with just a bachelor’s degree.
After leaving Albany, the ex-wife and I split two years living with my former in-laws in South Glens Falls and then two years in the Glens Falls apartment. I wrote the book proposal for Social Media Is Bullshit at the in-laws house beginning in late 2009 and the book in our apartment in early 2011. In February of 2011, I sold the book to St. Martin’s Press. I’d like to think I was able to sell the book because I’m a good writer and have something interesting to say, but it could have very well been because I had over a half million people following me on Twitter. (And this is back when I actually tried with Twitter. Now I just recycle memes that I thought were funny.)
The book was written inside 136 Glen Street, Apartment 9, in Glens Falls, New York and went on to suffer a few production problems, but sold surprisingly well, all things considered. My favorite production problem? Have you tried dialing the number in the English-language edition yet? Kevin in Plattsburgh is super pissed! Stop calling him!
Let’s talk about what went right with the book though. The book hit shelves across the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. in September of 2012, was translated into Polish, Russian, and Spanish, and did way better than it had any right to. And the best part? The book sold well in spite of a total U.S. media blackout because the book had a swear word in the title. I’m not kidding. Employees at The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both confirmed that I’m not.
To the surprise of everyone though, the people of Canada also loved the book. So much so that I’m tempted to move to Ottawa, cheer for the Senators, and get high as often as possible with my fans up there. They seem like the sort that would buy me weed, which is great because I have no idea how to actually obtain or smoke it. I’m already halfway there, having started to cheer for the Ottawa Senators in 2013 after visiting the city a couple of times to do stuff for the CBC.
You can’t really blame me for abandoning the Islanders. If I wanted to be disappointed by something for nearly thirty years, I’d have a son.
Speaking of sports, let’s take a slight detour for a second: I used to be a huge sports fan, but these days I only pay attention to the NFL, NBA, and NHL when the playoffs role around. It’s not that I don’t care about the regular season, it’s that the regular season is often too long and all three of those leagues have major power imbalances. Like with the NFL, there’s five elite teams, and everyone else is mediocre, no matter how hard the NFL wants to spin that it’s an equal league with all the teams playing on a level playing field. It’s not true. So if my teams (Bears, Lakers, and Senators) are in the playoffs? Awesome! If not? I go back to not caring. The only sport I really go out of my way to watch and follow is baseball. Go Dodgers.
Life After Book
After Social Media Is Bullshit came out, I wound up traveling the world and living out of hotel rooms. My least favorite hotel was the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago, which is the same hotel Piper Kerman hates on in Orange Is The New Black. My favorite is The Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles. If you visit Los Angeles, check out that hotel. (If you’re looking for a cool hotel in Chicago, try the Dana at 660 North State Street.)
If you were wondering why I like the Bears, it’s because Chicago is my favorite city. I like it way more than New York, and I spent most of my life working and visiting New York. Chicago has the nicest people and the best food. Ok. Ok. Yes, the South Side (and part of the West Side) is extremely dangerous, and as much as I’m joking around in this bio, it’s really difficult to make a joke about that while telling you how great Chicago is. I guess what I’m saying here is, Chicago ain’t perfect, but you probably won’t get shot while visiting … Probably.
One cool thing I got to do after the book came out was speak at the United Nations. I was invited to debate the ambassador to Pakistan, Abdullah Hussain Haroon. I thought when I got the invite that I was about to be Punk’d or pranked or some other hidden camera nonsense, but instead of Ashton Kutcher jumping out and acting like an idiot at the UN, I did. Ok. I didn’t, but I totally should have. I’ve always wanted to be at the heart of an international incident. It was fun though, if not totally random and unexpected.
I also gave keynote presentations at the Word of Mouth Marketing Summit, The Do Lectures in the U.K., R.O.A.D. in Moscow, and SXSW Interactive to name a few. You can get more information on where I’ve presented, and some video, over here on my LinkedIn profile.
I’m not terribly interested in doing these presentations anymore, but they were fun and I always had the audience laughing and remembering what I said.
The Near Death Experience
Remember that Mitral-Valve Prolapse thing I mentioned? It almost killed me. Well that and a really nasty blockage. As it turns out, the valve was so totally busted that, if I hadn’t gone in to get it fixed in July of 2013, I would have been dead that Christmas. As an added bonus, after the valve was replaced and I was recovering from the surgery, I suffered my first heart attack and flatlined in front of my parents. I don’t remember any of it. All know is, I went in for a valve repair and then I woke up more than a full day later. As it turns out, I had to get a second surgery, a coronary by-pass, after the heart attack. I must have brought a “Buy one, get one free” surgery card with me to the hospital.
Both heart surgeries were done at New York-Presbyterian’s Weill Cornell Campus on July 9th, 2013. The team and surgeons that did it are best known for doing that massive bypass surgery on David Letterman back in 2000. You can now add “saving my life” to the list of awesome things they’ve done.
What lead to the surgery was that I was suffering from the early signs of heart failure when I was at The Do Lectures in Wales, but truthfully I hadn’t been right in years. I just didn’t know it. I had a really severe, leaky valve that went mostly untreated for years, and the way I acted was how I just thought I was. It wasn’t. This will sound crazy, but you know what the best moment of my life is, so far? It was the day before the heart surgery. A doctor came into the room and said, “I see on this form you checked that you suffer from depression. That’s incredibly common with patients who have your condition. After the surgery you’re going to feel so much better.” And you know what? She was right. I’m a completely different person after my heart surgeries.
Anyway, that’s why with the divorce I said “right woman,worst possible time”. I was never really myself, but that’s also true for everything in my life between when I was born and when I briefly “died” between surgeries. It’s a bummer, my ex-wife is awesome, but what are you going to do about it? Nothing.
What I could do something about was my career. Because if you noticed one thing from this bio, it’s that I’m all over the place. After the near-death experience, I decided to quit marketing entirely. I had tried after the book came out, but then my family got wiped out financially from Hurricane Sandy, and I took every gig I could get in order to help them. The marketing stuff was something I fell into, it’s not something I wanted. I was good at it. I mean literally the first thing I ever did online was make a dumb site I made in high school “go viral” (see: The first chapter in my book for more on that one.) But if you’re a creative person, sooner or later you start getting antsy and ask, “If I’m so good at making other people’s stuff spread, why haven’t I done it for myself?” And if you’re me, and you look at how things with the book was handled, you go, “Man, I’d sure like to do that again without my head being up my ass.”
So, after being on the road for so long, I’m finally adjusting to being stationary and writing funny stuff. I’m not doing any standup, despite what I said at the end of Social Media Is Bullshit, and probably never will. I rather make movies and TV shows. These days I want to be more like a Dan Harmon or a Kevin Smith than a George Carlin.
If I’m going to be famous for anything, I only want to be famous for being funny. I don’t want to be known as a “marketing guru” because I hate people who generally get saddled with that label.
So that’s my goal now: Be famous for being funny. And if you have a goal, you have to have a plan to reach that goal. So right now I’m reading every book I can on how to make movies, and then I’m going to raise the money to make a short one. I thought maybe I’d start with a comic, but when you write comics your sense of timing and pace is completely different from how it is in a movie, and I found it’s a little too constraining for what I want to do. So I’m totally focused on movies right now.
I’ve also taken up praying, which is what one tends to do after nearly dying. But I don’t pray to God. He doesn’t exist. I pray to George Carlin whenever I feel like it. That seems like a schedule he’d endorse, you know? What am I praying for? For Liberty, my movie, to be self-released and perform well enough financially for me to make another one. Then rinse and repeat until I’m dead.
Hey, how do you think I’m going to make my “Fuck You Money”?
-Brandon J. Mendelson
P.S. The first thing I do after I make my “Fuck You Money”? Buy The New York Islanders and rename them “The Skating Dicks”.