Barats and Bereta for life (Jesu-WHAT?!)

I interviewed two local celebrities as a baby journalist for my intro to journalism class at Gonzaga University in 2009. If you’re not familiar with Barats and Bereta, either you didn’t watch much YouTube in the mid-to-late 2000s or you didn’t go to Gonzaga. In any case, I’ve provided some of their videos within the piece. (The first one was an especially good recruitment video for Gonzaga back in the day.) Enjoy!


If there’s one thing Gonzaga students know about that doesn’t involve Ira Brown’s thunderous dunk last season or Demetri Goodson’s last-second bank shot that sent the Zags to the Sweet Sixteen, it’s Barats and Bereta.

Luke Barats and Joe Bereta, graduates of Gonzaga, are legends on campus for their Internet videos that took the school – and the nation – by storm.

“I think both Joe and I figured our YouTube channel was a fun little thing that would eventually go the way of the dinosaur as we grew up,” said Barats.  “But as it turns out, [it’s] still going strong.”

Despite the pair’s current fame, today’s Gonzaga students are of a new breed.  Very few of them ever attended school at the same time as either Barats or Bereta.  This means that much of the student body is unaware of how the pair got its start – and even fewer, it seems, know where they are or what they’re doing now.

Both men were very active in Gonzaga University Theater Sports (GUTS) and still regard it as one of the pivotal experiences of their lives in comedy.

“GUTS was the first outlet I found for my curiosity,” said Bereta.  “[It] quickly became the activity I was most passionate about in college.”

“It was a lot of fun,” added Barats, “[and] probably the aspect of Gonzaga that has stuck with me most since graduating.”

Both men were GUTS council members – Barats in his junior and senior years, and Bereta in his senior year – and were very active members in the program.

After Bereta graduated in 2005, the pair began doing improvisation and stand-up comedy around Spokane.  Bereta found a job editing and writing at Corner Booth Productions in the city, though this was not his first post-graduation job.

“I like to claim that Corner Booth Productions hired me right after graduation, but I actually worked my way up the restaurant hierarchy at The Old Spaghetti Factory,” said Bereta.  “I actually served John Stockton one night.”

The pair continued making videos periodically following Bereta’s graduation.  When Barats graduated the following year, he joined Bereta at Corner Booth Productions.

Although the pair thoroughly enjoyed comedy throughout high school and college, neither of them saw it as a practical career option until after graduation.

“I think the pursuit of comedy was always disguised as a hobby,” said Bereta.

At Corner Booth Productions, the pair mainly shot and edited television commercials.  But in 2006, they were presented with an opportunity that would change their careers forever.

“[That year] we received an e-mail out of the blue from NBC,” said Barats.  “They had seen our shorts online and wanted to know if we’d like to create a sketch show for them.”

The pair responded immediately with an enthusiastic “yes, please” and six months later they completed their pilot, “This Is Culdesac.”

Although NBC did not air the pilot, the duo submitted another pilot the next season.  That one wasn’t picked up either, but they aren’t giving up.

“We’ll be pitching another pilot this fall,” said Barats.

The pair developed their craft immensely in producing “This Is Culdesac” and learned an enormous amount about the entertainment industry in a very short period of time.  According to Bereta, some of their best shorts were included in the episode.

Since their stint with NBC, Barats and Bereta maintain the YouTube channel as their main collective focus.  A typical day on the set of a film shoot is a tumultuous, emotional ordeal, insisted the pair.

“By noon [on the day of the shoot] I will have pissed everyone off by demanding take after take, causing us to fall behind schedule,” said Barats.

“Yeah,” agreed Bereta, “but don’t forget waiting for airplanes to pass, equipment trouble, and my inability to act.  All those things take up time.”

Aside from their immensely popular Internet videos, the pair is also trying to establish themselves in the live comedy scene.  They moved to Los Angeles six months ago and have performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, ImprovOlympic, and various other theaters in the area.

The duo’s plans for the future are at this point unclear, much attributed to the “fickle” nature of the entertainment industry.

Both men agree that a career in comedy would be favorable, but they have not quite dismissed their individual expectations.

“Besides trying to compete on G4’s Ninja Warrior,…I’m still a freelance editor and I’ve started doing some commercial acting,” said Bereta.  “I’ve joined ComedySportz LA and am enjoying it immensely.  I’m gonna keep doing comedy even if I’m not cashing in on it.”  He also expresses interest in starting a production company in his home state of Montana.

Barats’ aspirations are slightly different, but not completely off the mark.  “I’ve always enjoyed writing and it’s my hope to get my foot in that door somehow,” he said.

However, both agree that there’s nothing they’d rather be doing at this stage in their life than their collaborative comedy.

Barats and Bereta, the comedic geniuses out of a small Jesuit university in Spokane, Washington, embody the spirit of anyone hoping to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

In the near future, we may see the pair on the silver screen, or we may not.  But all should rest assured that they will continue to revolutionize comedy for as long as they are able.

“And,” Bereta reminds us, “there is always Ninja Warrior.”

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Final Sentences II

Welcome to my own personal hell! Again!

This is a list of final sentences of papers I’ve written, from graduate school in 2013 to bachelor’s degree #2 in 2017. It picks up where my last edition of this post left off, and while I can’t say I’ve gotten any more interesting, maybe I’ve gotten better at writing? Maybe not. Maybe I’ve just gotten more wordy. You tell me.

(Also, here’s a fun game: See if you can guess which program/class each of these was written for. It gets especially entertaining near the end.)


While the current approach toward mental health appears to be geared toward merely diagnosing and treating the PTSD itself, addressing adverse health behaviors such as substance abuse and sexual risk-taking may lead to better outcomes for those suffering from the disorder.

But if the health educator maintains their foundation, that open-mindedness and basic awareness of cultural issues and norms are the keys to good communication, then they have a much better chance of seeing positive health outcomes.

It is not enough to wait for change to arrive organically – as long as it is needed right now, the overhaul of women’s and LGBT healthcare must come with the force it deserves.

Considering the glaring issue of suicide in this age group, not to mention among female veterans, it seems to be obvious that further outreach is a necessary step to take.

By maintaining an open mind in the face of large-scale legislation limiting women’s healthcare options, the Center truly saves lives by maintaining a comprehensive view of women’s health.

While practicing prevention and aiming for the enigmatic “healthy lifestyle” are theoretically sound principles, affordable health care is what people need most.

In order to truly have an effect on the rate of workplace harassment, changes must be made both at the public policy and organizational levels so that harassment that remains can be reported safely and without risk of the harassed losing their job, simply for wanting to work in a safe environment.

Since it is unlikely that diseases that can be caught with BSE will be cured in the next few decades, there will always be some semblance of need for this program, especially in areas where health care access is limited.

However, the comfort I found that year in writing provided an ample foundation for my enduring feats of communication.

As long as powerful humans keep creating monster stories and are able to convincingly assert that it is “them,” and not “us,” to which the stories refer, the unconscionable divide between humans and monsters will persist.

Indeed, the true “plague of meaning” is what befalls those who look for meaning in popular commodities, and are instead met with the harsh truth that meaning only exists when one is first willing to critically examine one’s heroes.

Likely, the aim of continued talks is not to come to a solution that every side supports, but to make the best of the current conditions by analyzing the arguments in play.

I hope that future meetings involve nuanced discussions of these issues, along with guest speakers who represent a more diverse audience and who take these issues into consideration.

It was a true pleasure to not only share space with these reporters, but to hear them relay their work directly to us in a one-of-a-kind setting.

On the other hand, Crest initially used the incorrect hashtag in their tweet, and chose to remedy it by hastily replying to themselves with the correct hashtag.

However, a critical examination of the piece in the context of mainstream media’s portrayal of white domestic terrorists and Muslims in general reveals much greater deficiencies in her chosen angle that were overlooked during the fallout of this piece’s publication.

And then, with sincere Texas geniality: “Now, bless y’all’s hearts.”

On another note, it is interesting that while the film is called The Hobbit and ultimately is about Bilbo’s journey of self-discovery, strength, and bravery under Thorin’s guidance, Thorin is the character that gives this adventure film its gritty, authoritative tone, making it all the more appealing to men watching it in the theater.

Overall, KCCI is probably not the only station in Iowa that features these demographics predominantly, and should likely work to increase diversity within their telling of the stories.

Therefore, I am unsurprised that an American correspondent would take the time to cover this story in particular; they wanted to maintain and uphold this small-town, almost fanciful view of Iceland.

The contrasts between racial dialects highlighted throughout “A Worn Path” thereby create separation rather than cohesive relationships between Welty’s narrator, Phoenix, and the characters with whom Phoenix interacts.

While dialect appears to predominantly reflect one’s class, it is clearly influenced by factors including race and social status, and “The Sheriff’s Children” edifies this idea in a manner that has aged all too well.

Trees may be inanimate objects, but to the pure and good, they represent an outlet for their veiled negative feelings.

As Jim vows to end his treasure-hunting days and Alice moves on with her life, likely only to “visit” Wonderland again as she tells stories of it to her own children, the tricksters’ purpose is complete: they have crossed boundaries of their own in order to affect these characters, and in the end, the characters are left within these boundaries, never to cross back to their past selves again.

In the end, it is worrisome that their story ends with such happiness when there is so much left in their seemingly new lives to examine and address.

In “Day Million” and “All You Zombies,” the gender binary is rightly and appropriately contested, giving life and providing acceptance to characters whose stories may not be entirely relatable, but whose lives are elucidated in a manner that normalizes their existence.

In the future, it is vital that this work be supported and allowed to continue.

As a result of this murkiness, the abstract idea of “free speech” seems to be prioritized over victims’ reasonable expectations of safety.

We hope the court takes our requests into consideration.

Who Likes Short Shorts?

Hey, everyone!

I recently put together and submitted these 18-word short stories to a publication. They didn’t want them, and I don’t really have a use for them outside of that particular outlet, so you get to read them here! (Some of these scream “high school,” so no, it’s not weird if almost feels like you might have been around when certain events took place.)

Freshman Year
College is full of new experiences. In the dorms, even going to the bathroom is a social ordeal.

2018
People tell me I should “shoot for the stars.” But what happens when the stars also have guns?

Cruciverbalists
They scoff when she mentions that gimmicky poster-size crossword puzzle from SkyMall. However, she’s solved it; they haven’t.

AP English
The teacher accidentally said “Yes, dear” to a girl. He then lectured the boys on respecting their wives.

Identity
Young adulthood: Always looked down upon, never sure when you’re old enough to do the looking down upon.

Hope everyone’s having a lovely weekend.

Modern Thanatopsis

One of my favorite longform pieces I’ve ever read is about Madison Holleran, a young woman who died by suicide about halfway through her freshman year of college. It discusses how her Instagram feed served as a façade for her true feelings and experiences, so those who viewed it could see the type of life she wanted them to see. After reading it again more recently in light of the book about her that was recently published by the same author of the article, Kate Fagan, I ventured to her Instagram account. It likely has quite a few more followers than it did before she died: more than 14,000. As a result, many of the likes and comments below each photo are from people who didn’t know Madison, though her story had touched them, like it had for me, to the point that they felt they needed their voices to be heard.

That day, I clicked on one photo, a striking yet heavily-filtered sunset. After the caption, she had posted the hashtags #finals and #someonesaveme. As if on cue, the barrage of over-thinking, over-analyzing, began:

“The hashtags in this picture speak volumes.”

“Like that last hashtag. It wasn’t about finals.”

“God I wish I could’ve saved you and I never even met you.”

“You could have been saved!”

But what are these well-meaning people envisioning exactly? That they would take every (probably) haphazardly-posted hashtag so seriously that they might stage an intervention each time the common and often colloquial “someone save me!” appeared during finals week? That this young woman’s friends weren’t the type of friends she needed to help her fight her mental illness? That if these complete strangers been friends with her, she would still be alive today?

•   •   •

For me, going to Gonzaga University meant proving to myself that I could thrive not just outside my hometown, but far away from the state in which I’d grown up. Almost by default, all the friends I’d make would probably not be from California, but from states in the Pacific Northwest. And for the first few weeks, that’s how it was: my roommate was from Washington, a few other people I met were from the Seattle area, and even the Californians I came into contact with were either from southern California or way northern California – far enough from my hometown that in almost any other part of the country, they would have been from other states. We friended each other on Facebook, tagged each other in photos, and for a while, the illusion I’d wanted so badly, that I could leave my hometown and thrive, was intact.

When my depression that had been festering in some form since the beginning of high school got a lot worse very quickly, it wasn’t like I could let anyone back home know. Admitting that maybe Gonzaga wasn’t the right fit for me, that the friends I’d made those first few weeks of classes had found new friends, that I was more excited than ever for Thanksgiving break or winter break because those vacations came with a trip home, not only meant to me that I wasn’t happy, but that I might even be homesick. And admitting that I was homesick felt like a betrayal to the person I envisioned myself becoming in college: the person that was sad to leave campus because it meant leaving friends behind, who couldn’t want to get back to see those friends, and so on.

So even though inside I knew that being at Gonzaga meant fueling my depression – which wasn’t necessarily related to being homesick, but just being there – I kept up the charade on social media. I posted Facebook status after Facebook status about how excited I was for the next basketball game, how annoying the snow was, how prestigious the theaters downtown that I performed concerts in were. Every time a friend from home posted about their California college, the comment I posted would involve something about Washington, reminding them that I had left the state for no reason other than to justify my decision, to trick myself into believing I was happy.

Of course, I was drowning. But looking at my social feeds, aside from the occasional ambiguous sad song lyrics, even my closest friends from home (or the few friends at school) wouldn’t have guessed how bad my depression had become.

At the end of the fall semester of my sophomore year, after a lengthy hospital stay a few months before had essentially forced me to open up to people on both sides of my life – home and college – I was the most candid I had ever been online in a Facebook note I wrote titled “Ten Things I Learned in 2009”:

Never go to the emergency room on a Sunday night. Ever. Even if you have to. Wait until Monday morning or call an ambulance instead, so you’ll at least bypass the waiting room.

Reach out to someone who can help, even if it’s your professor. Even if they’re not technically allowed to handle the issue themselves, they’ll do everything they can and make sure that they hand you off to someone with whom you feel equally comfortable. Then after your issue is resolved, you can go back to your professor and become best friends and they will buy you coffee.

But while the hospital stay had taught me a lot about my mental illnesses and how to better address them, I wasn’t cured – and I will never be, as the clinical term for “depression that’s a little better now,” just like for cancer, is “remission” – but I still wanted everyone to think I was. Because even though many people had heard by then that things weren’t going well, all they’d have to do is read these items on this list and be content with the fact that things were, at least, better than they were.

In reality, for every #someonesaveme, there’s an #everythingisgoinggreat, and as much as we truly care about the people in our lives, by design, one of those expressions tends to outweigh the other in life, and one tends to outweigh the other after death.

•   •   •

It feels like after someone dies by suicide, everyone who knew them – and if their story extends outside of their immediate circles, everyone who wished they knew them – begins philosophizing about what could have been. If their friends had done this differently, then this would have happened instead. If they’d known the person better, had reached out to them at the right time, they might have been able to stop them. Much of this is a natural part of the grieving process and the guilt that comes with it. But for those who simply want to insert themselves into a stranger’s experiences, it can quickly become a circlejerk of living, often able-bodied people proselytizing that they knew what was best for this person they didn’t know. It can quickly turn into a whole new list of grievances for the ones who did know the person, further compounding their guilt: if so many strangers see their dead friend as “saveable” now, how could those close to them not have seen the signs before it was too late?

The further removed you are from a person who’s died by suicide, like the strangers posting comments on Madison’s Instagram, the easier it is to wildly speculate. It is easier to assign meaning to someone’s life, to the hashtags they post with a seemingly benign photo, if the person is no longer here. It’s a morbid game played only by those who see it as such – a true-crime mystery to unravel. It’s House trying to figure out who killed Kutner, when all the signs of a suicide are right there, so simple and therefore so easily ignored.

You can be intimately familiar with the signs of suicide, from personal experience or research or both, and still not foresee this outcome. You can pore through a friend’s social media history, wondering where something shifted, if something shifted, if something could have been done, if there’s something you should have noticed. If there was a singular way to define mental illness, then perhaps fewer people would see suicide as an option, but there isn’t. Because of this, so often in the wake of a death by suicide, there’s only an endless supply of questions left that can never be answered. But equally often, the most authentic realization one can have is when to stop asking these questions and mourn in peace.

How I used “Lord of the Rings” to get into college

Did you know that your SAT essays are right there, scanned and posted on the College Board website, just waiting for people who graduated high school years ago to log in and relive the best 25 minutes of their lives?

I sure did!

In honor of the new SAT expanding the length of the now-optional essay section to 50 minutes in order to accommodate a longer prompt, I thought I’d share these excerpts from my two 2007 SAT essays. I believe they conclusively prove my demonstrated Lord of the Rings obsession trumped my GPA, letters of recommendation, and extracurriculars in helping me get into college.

Also, I don’t think context is necessary, do you?


March 2007 (with bonus Harry Potter):

“Literature has shown countless times that one should not set smaller goals if one will be displeased with the results. One should try to achieve a goal with an optimistic outlook, like Sam in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series. Both characters exemplified their drive to achieve their respective goals. Sam was able to think about destroying the One Ring throughout the journey, and his optimism led Frodo to ultimately destroy the Ring. Harry Potter kept the destruction of Voldemort in sight as he, almost subconsciously, achieved smaller goals while keeping the largest one in his mind. Optimism is key in achieving large goals, whether one’s imagination permits it or not.”

October 2007 (with bonus Beowulf):

“If one researches some of the most recently recognized films, one will discover that history plays a large role in crafting these epic tales. The ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy is a prime example. Not only is it based on a book, but a myriad of the costumes and battle items forged for the battle sequences were based on Anglo-Saxon and Norman mail and swords. Director Peter Jackson knew that he had the task of creating Middle-earth for the very first time, but instead of treating his viewers to novel costumes, he told the employees at Weta Workshop to research the 12th and 13th century’s clothing and mail and design the costumes for ‘Lord of the Rings’ based on those pictures and descriptions. Although perfected, Jackson’s attempt at creating an original view of Middle-earth failed as he chose to mirror the Anglo-Saxon battlewear. However, one cannot assume that Jackson duplicated every aspect of the Anglo-Saxons; J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the novels, borrowed material heavily from Beowulf. The monster Grendel, for example, is an almost exact manifestation of Tolkien’s character Gollum. Shunned by his family, Gollum delves into the mist and becomes an unfathomable representation of a human gone mad.”


Now that I think about it, these read so much like posts on Shit My Students Write and lol my thesis that I’m surprised I didn’t get zeros on each of these essays. At least it wasn’t as bad as what I wrote/pictures I drew on my AP Biology exam, I suppose (purposeful vagueness and/or harkening to inside joke lost to time entirely intended).