For One Whole Year, I Invited Internet Trolls into My Apartment

This is what happens when you're somewhat famous and let strangers into your studio apartment via webcam for six hours a night.
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Publish date:
May 6, 2016
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Tags:
bullying, trolls, web series, internet trolls

For eight years, during my tenure in the band Cobra Starship and from my time being heavily featured on The Howard Stern Show, I'd had thousands of random people from different cities, states, and countries reach out to me to offer unsolicited (but sometimes helpful) life advice.

But sometimes it wasn't advice. Sometimes, it was insults disguised as advice. Sometimes, it was just mean. I wanted to create something positive within this negative kind of interaction, so I turned it into a show. I made the show about me, my dog Kermit, the interaction we had with the general public, and their relationships within the community that I built in the show. With my webcam and my emotional state of mind, Kermit And Friends, the interactive web series was born.

Every night at 7 p.m. EST, I would turn on my webcam using the video streaming website Spreecast and try to entertain whoever showed up to see me. On my first show, only one person showed up. I had, at the most, a few hundred live viewers, but in replays Kermit and Friends would hit thousands of viewers. The total view count from all my shows was 1.5 million people, just watching me in my apartment. If I was funny, I would get all the credit and if I said something stupid, I had nobody to blame but myself.

Imagine walking down the street one day and everyone that walked by you gave an honest assessment of your life. That was basically my show, except it was in my home, not on the street. People would turn on their webcams and tell me every single thought they had about me, my show, my life, and the other personalities that were featured when they turned their webcams on. But most of the focus was on me. I used to think of it as some kind of "free therapy," but then again, no therapist ever called me a delusional cunt.

There was a live chat to the right of the video player, where both fans and haters would get to write whatever they pleased about me. I would very rarely ban people unless they "doxxed" someone. (Doxxing is when you release personal information about someone without their consent — full names, addresses, etc., — this is a big no-no with live video streaming and is done by jerks.)

There were four boxes available on the video player if I wanted to fill it with guests (picture it as being similar to the beginning theme song of The Brady Bunch, where you can see the whole family presented on screen). Sometimes, I would just talk by myself in monologue form and other times I would put someone on if their webcam was enabled. I was less interested in booking "entertainers" than booking people who weren't used to any kind of attention at all. If you were ignored, felt disposed of, rejected, anything like that — you were the kind of guest I loved to have. That's who I'm drawn to for some reason. (I am in actual therapy now.)

Of course, if you were interesting and intelligent, I would have you on my show, but if you were mean, spiteful, and vindictive (particularly against me), you would be a regular! I always found it to be a great study of human behavior on how "fans" (people that didn't know me besides my work in the band Cobra Starship or on The Howard Stern Show) wrote to me on Facebook, Twitter, and even in personal emails. These people had major balls.

They loved "calling me out" on things. Why people do this, I have no clue, but I wanted to put a spotlight on these negative interactions. I wanted to know why the public is so bothered by someone they will probably never meet, talk to, or even casually see in person. So I had them on the show, one by one, trying to figure out what it all meant.

The only conclusion I came to is that we all have hurt, anger, and sadness inside of us, and many of us are trying to place it somewhere. It's harder to look within than it is to put all the hostility out, towards a stranger, that you do not know. That's what Kermit And Friends became — an outlet for many people to write mean thoughts, angry thoughts, and sometimes even violent thoughts.

I would interview anyone. I met men, women, children, animals (there were many dogs and a pig), and I let them ALL speak their minds. I did not censor one word. In the beginning, I did the show for six hours a night, every single day, because I was so obsessed with this kind of honest interaction. It was unpredictable. It was exhilarating. It was so exhilarating that I couldn't stop. I was addicted to it. There is something very thrilling about not knowing what is to come next. When you open yourself up to the world of online video streaming, you get everything. People have made me laugh, cry, and even be venomous myself. (I did not like some parts of myself that this world brought out.)

I let one guest call me a bitch. Then, the very next week, I saved that same guy from committing suicide. I called 911 on two of my guests. Many people that were involved with my show were in terrible shape mentally. I learned a lot about humanity and myself. I even dated few guests and threw parties for fans. But at the end of it all, I realized this....While it was very interesting to see how the general public treats someone they only know from afar, I think it's best for me to create further distance. Would YOU want to invite the Twitter Egg who called you a c&#* into your apartment?

"You have no job and you're just using Benjy"

"Ducklips."

"No career, no job."

"You look like a man."

Do I recommend it? I still don't know, but did teach me is to appreciate the real relationships I have in my life. My family, my dog Kermit, and my boyfriend Benjy have all stood out amongst all the bullshit I've ran into online. Luckily, when you shut the computer off, the trolls fade away but love doesn't. I sometimes wonder — will Oprah try this? Will Lady Gaga let fans video chat with her and say whatever the hell they want? Will the Pope start an interactive show on the internet? If so, I am scared for them. (But if the Pope is reading this, I would love do a show with you as my co-host. Hi, Pope.)

Could Oprah handle talking to Honest Frank, a presidential hopeful who is NEVER wrong and calls everyone he interacts with a "cyber-bully terrorist" and "pedophile?" How about the popular guest "Kleenex" — an Uber driver in his 50's who falsely claimed to be Tim Allen's cousin and lied about his dog dying (meanwhile we saw his dog on Periscope the next day with his tail wagging)? This particular guest also told the audience he was in jail with Charles Manson and made love to a fellow marine. (Both myself and the fans of the show found out these were lies only when he confessed later.) Or what about David Fuchs, a native New Yorker who dedicates his life to proclaiming that Woody Allen is innocent of all molestation accusations. David wears sandwich boards declaring Woody's innocence and is apparently "friendly" with Woody's driver. Heck, I don't even think I'd recommend that Woody Allen's driver start a show like this.

I haven't done a show since April 11th and I really miss it. I miss the relationships between the characters, the stories that are woven throughout the shows, the surprises, connecting with people from all over the world, writing jokes to work in during the opening monologue, and the inevitable drama. I never knew WHAT to expect or WHO to expect. But isn't that life, really?