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in an article about Channel 5, a desk covered in leaves
Illustration by Mi Young

One man, a microphone, a big suit, and even bigger dreams.

From Jimmy Kimmel to Billy On The Street, most people are familiar with man-on-the-street interviews. Some, like Jimmy Kimmel, are meant to entertain, while others, such as interviews conducted by local news stations, are intended to gauge public opinions on issues that affect the community. Man on the street interviews, also known as vox pops or “the opinion of the majority of the people,” refers to short interviews done with members of the public to assess public sentiment on a particular topic. Vox pops have fallen out of favor with many journalists; although it is absolutely important to include the perspective of community members, not just politicians and officials, vox pops target random community members who may be uninformed and caught unaware, rendering their opinion as … kind of useless.

Social media has provided a new landscape for vox pops, for better or for worse. Now, anybody with access to a cell phone can conduct their own street interviews. Some have used this new power for good, while others have done anything but. On social media, you don’t have to ask thoughtful questions or possess an iota of charisma to get people talking. You shove a microphone in their face, turn the flash on, and wait for the content to begin churning itself. It’s so easy, a monkey could do it. As a result, street interviews have attracted wave after wave of completely talentless individuals with repellent personalities.

YouTube, Instagram and TikTok have become inundated with awkward men holding iPhones up to their mouths as microphones, accosting random people in malls or public beaches and asking them meaningless questions. Some of these interviews are staged, but regardless of their authenticity, most of these interviews are utterly dull and devoid of any actual meaning. One popular interview tactic is to interview pairs of girls, asking them to “make me [the interviewer] laugh for $100 to prove that girls are funny.” The resulting interview is usually awkward and uncomfortable at best, and deeply unfunny and painful to watch at worst. Another popular question to ask is “kiss or slap,” meaning, would the interviewee prefer to kiss or slap the host. Most of these interviewers rely on misogynistic jokes and recycled humor. There is no uniqueness, no innovation. It requires no actual skill or thought. The worst part about these videos is that people actually watch them — many rack up millions of views.

From the dark depths of this content cesspool rises Channel 5 with Andrew Callaghan, an independent news team that travels everywhere and covers everything, from the war in Ukraine to Miami Beach spring break and everything in between. They are independently owned, and supported by Patreon subscribers, YouTube revenue and ad deals with companies like Cash App. Channel 5 originally began as All Gas No Brakes, where Callaghan and his friends traveled the country in a dirty RV intending to document the most outrageous aspects of American society. The All Gas No Brakes era focused more on the absurd, filming events like the so-called “raid” of Area 51 or doing full profiles on random weirdos off the street, like Florida Man. During these interviews, Callaghan always donned his signature oversized beige suit, sweaty and slightly uncomfortable, and spoke very little. In an interview with Hot Ones, Callaghan said he uses an interviewing method he refers to as the “toddler nod,” which means nodding very slightly throughout the interview to make the interviewee feel like Callaghan is agreeing with them, which keeps the interviewee talking — or rapping. (Almost every video features a random person breaking into a freestyle rap.)

“All Gas No Brakes” started in 2019 after Callaghan graduated from Loyola University, where he received a full-ride scholarship to study journalism. The show was inspired by a summer Callaghan spent hitchhiking across America, after which he created a zine about the experience called “All Gas, No Brakes: A Hitchhiker’s Diary.” He partnered with Doing Things Media, a company that specializes in creating ads masquerading as bad memes, to source the funds for an RV and all the basic living essentials.

Throughout this partnership, Callaghan and Doing Things Media butted heads over the direction of the channel. Callaghan wanted to create more political videos about real events, like the protests in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd. Doing Things Media wanted the channel to focus on lighthearted party videos. After the Minneapolis video, Callaghan and his team began to establish themselves as a legitimate news source, showing angles that mainstream media is unwilling or simply unable to access. As a result, Callaghan and his team decided they had to part ways with Doing Things Media as long as the company continued to suppress their vision.

Unfortunately, this meant that they had to abandon All Gas No Brakes because Doing Things Media owned 60% of their profits and all branding associated with the channel. The business relationship ended explosively, with Doing Things locking Callaghan and his team out of the channel’s social media profiles, and eventually attempting to replace Callaghan with a new host. At present, the channel is completely dormant — it is nothing without Callaghan’s vision, so as soon as he walked, so did the success of All Gas No Brakes. Enter Channel 5.

From the start, Channel 5 had a different energy and vigor than All Gas No Brakes. The first video covered spring break in Miami Beach, immediately followed by “Derek Chauvin Trial Verdict.” They mastered the ability to treat real news stories with the respect and gravity they deserve, without losing the independent, off-the-rails zeal, while still being able to cover ridiculous nonsensical events like “Miami Beach Spring Break” with the old All Gas No Brakes energy. This is only the beginning for Channel 5 and Andrew Callaghan. Their current project is more mature than All Gas No Brakes, but by no means does the ride stop here. Callaghan and the team are working on a full-length feature film following the right-wing “Stop the Steal,” which is to be produced by Abso Lutely Productions, a production company founded by comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.

In the social media age, human connection is more important than ever. Through Channel 5, Callaghan endeavors to understand every kind of human, from the people who live on the outskirts of society, to those at the top of the chain making the decisions that impact the lives of the little people. Callaghan brings an anarchist edge to a format that historically (and currently) is rarely used in an exploratory, imaginative way.

Writer Profile

Maria Merlo

Eastern Michigan University
English with a Creative Writing Concentration

Maria Merlo is a fourth-year English major at Eastern Michigan University with a variety of passions: unhinged female protagonists, Fiona Apple lyric analysis, and talking through movies. Oh, and writing. Lots of writing.

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