Q:Is there an origins story to your pseudonym"John Cheese"?
There is! And it is incredibly stupid.
David Wong and I became friends in a high school art class. Both of us were considered excelled students, so the art teacher pretty much left us to do whatever. We were to turn in an art project every week, and then turn in one major piece each quarter. We also annoyed the living shit out of him because he hated teenagers, and we were a couple of those. So to get us out of his hair, he’d let us walk up town during class to “draw real world objects.” At the beginning of every class, we’d pack up our art shit and walk around town, not drawing anything at all, and instead use it as an excuse for me to smoke.
On rain days, however, we’d be stuck in class, so we’d pull out this gigantic roll of newsprint and doodle in the back of the class. These doodles are where the name was born.
See, the drawings we’d do on that newsprint weren’t actual projects. Dave would draw a stick man and tell me something like, “This is Ricky. He has a band.” Then he’d draw a stick guitar in his stick hand. I’d draw something else like a huge afro onto Ricky and say, “He has a massive fro problem.” Then he’d draw and add to the story until the page was filled with hundreds of the most ridiculous things we could think of: Clouds would be raining bacon, as the archangel Gallagher smashed watermelons on top of them — a smiling sun, licking off chunks of fruit from its face, exclaiming, “Mmmmmm… that’s some good fruit!” An army of Bret Michaels clones fought wars, using beard guns and rubber-band-grenades — not grenades made of rubber bands. Grenades that fired hundreds of rubber bands as ammunition.
It was in one of these drawings that Wong had drawn a band called “Ricky Cheese and the Ricktones.” They played horrible 80s hair metal. I in turn drew the band “Johnny Cheese and the Hambones.” In our story, the two bands played exactly the same music. Not only the same music, but the same exact songs, right down to the notes and lyrics. We’d then draw Rolling Stone reporters, asking them about the decision to play the same music, and we’d have the bands deny it, getting angry that the reporter was so out of touch with today’s music scene that they couldn’t recognize the subtle differences in tone and inflection.
One night, at two different sold out concerts, both Ricky and Johnny were playing a particular song, and right before the guitar solo, they yelled into the mic, “GUITAR!” The way that Bret Michaels did before a lot of Poison’s guitar solos. After yelling that, the entire crowds of 40,000+ people fell into absolute silence. The bands stopped playing. And both guitarists dropped their guitars to the ground, while staring at the lead singer in shock.
Without saying a word, everyone, including the bands, walked out of the arena, and nobody ever heard from either band again.
Years later when we got the internet, Dave showed me how to start a free hosting website. When it came time to name it, I had no idea what to pick. So on a drunken whim, I remembered that Johnny Cheese and the Hambones thing, and chose that name. However, the text box where they wanted me to put my name (for whatever fucked up reason) wouldn’t accept all of the letters for that name. So I shortened it to “John Cheese.” Years later, I found out that John Cleese’s real name was John Cheese, and he had changed it when he got into the entertainment industry because it sounded like a silly fake name.
I still get messages from people a couple times per week, either 1) asking me if I’m John Cleese, or 2) telling me that they misread the name as John Cleese.
And that may be the stupidest origin story you’re ever likely to hear.
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