There are quite a few web-based, Lovecraftian homages, but few have received such an immediate, powerful response as one the one we are about to explore. Cultivating humor, wit, and delightfully twisted pop culture innuendo, Calls for Cthulhu is a lovingly parodic entry in the canon of cosmic horror that has something for everyone. Warning: NSFW!
We are pleased to publish our recent interview with Brand Gamblin, the writer and director of this popular web series.
LNN: Tell us about yourself in general.
BG: For the last decade, I've been a video game computer programmer. I've
worked for Microprose, Acclaim, and Firaxis. I worked on ten games,
and shipped seven. Now I'm doing interface work in Flash for a network
security company. Big fan of sci-fi and fantasy, as is probably
LNN: Tell us about your original intentions for CFC. Did you have big plans
right from the start?
BG: C4C started out as a one-off joke. I mentioned at lunch one day that
it would be fun to put the puppet behind a desk, Larry King style, and
have him answer questions. As soon as I said it would be Calls to
Cthulhu, instead of Call of Cthulhu, one of my coworkers dropped his
fork. He just stared at me, saying, "We have to do this."
So, we made the video, put it up online as a joke, but for the joke
to work, we had to have a phone number/e-mail address. Even though it
was a one-off joke, people started writing in with questions. Some of
the questions were really good, so we decided to make another one. Now
we've got more than ten done, and I guess the joke is becoming
something real, huh?
LNN: How did your interest in Lovecraft's fiction begin?
BG: I'd read most of Lovecraft's work before I ever picked up the puppet,
but I certainly wasn't well versed in it. It was just one of those
names you try and read, like Poe or Dickens or Wells. In fact, when I
started the show, I didn't really know much more about Cthulhu than
that he was "ultimate evil." However, since starting the show, I've
been challenged by so many true Lovecraft scholars, I've had to go
back and re-read everything, taking notes and reading scholarly works
based on his stuff.
LNN: H.P. Lovecraft had a great sense of humor, but he was also known to
take his work very seriously. They weren't merely stories for him but
a method of addressing and exploring many of the difficult
philosophical questions he faced. Despite its overt silliness, CFC
often shows a greater awareness and interest in philosophy, religion,
and ethics. How does CFC reflect your personal beliefs and reactions
to American culture?
BG: From the beginning, the basic joke behind C4C has been that Cthulhu
has a human side to him, while still being a horrible, rampaging
monster. Everything from the fight he has with his rapid-fire round to
the way he browbeats his underling, Tim, is all planned to make him
sound just a little more petty, a little more realistic, and a little
If Lovecraft had a single message, it would be that man is
insignificant and impotent when compared to the vast, shocking power
of the cosmos. If I had a single message, it would be that the vast,
shocking cosmos still has a human side to it.
Lovecraft never meant for Cthulhu to be a god. At least, not the way
we think of the Judeo-Christian God. So part of the joke behind C4C is
that if Cthulhu were a real god, all the others had to be real, too.
Odin, Ra, and my favorite, Xenu. In that context, Cthulhu does upset
devout believers, but only the ones who consider theirs to be the only
possible answer. I've received quite a few letters from angry
believers, who want Cthulhu to admit he is not the real god, and I've
had to fight the impulse to go on the show and say, "You know you're
talking to a puppet, right? You know this isn't real, right?"
LNN: When you aren't making videos, what do you do for fun that doesn't
involved cyclopean horrors?
BG: As it happens, I'm currently producing a podcast novel called
"Tumbler." Last year, I wrote a book about a young girl who gets a job
mining in the asteroid belt. It was heavily inspired by Robert A.
Heinlein's juvenile fiction, and features adventure, danger, and
excitement in the deep dark of space.
This year, I'm releasing the book in episodes, as a free audiobook.
Once the show is finished, I'm going to try to get it published.
Also, I've been working on writing a video game for the Android
operating system. It may be Cthulhu-based, if I can get the design
LNN: Do your friends, family, and coworkers know that you play with
handpuppets? What do they think?
BG: My very close friends and immediate family know about it, and they
generally love it. My extended family doesn't quite understand (how do
you explain a plush Cthulhu to your grandmother?) but they try to
support me in it. My co-workers, if they know about it at all, think
it's just kinda weird.
LNN: Sorry to hear about the Parsec awards. How did Cthulhu take it?
BG: I had a lot of fun with the Parsec awards. Honestly, I don't think I
would have had as much fun if I'd won. I should point out that I knew
Earl Newton from before the Parsecs. We were already friends, and he
had a much more professional show, with a cast and scripts and special
effects and everything. Once we found out that we'd lost to Earl and
his eminently qualified TV show "Stranger Things," I tried to figure
out how Cthulhu would take it. The most obvious answer would be that
he just didn't care. After all, why would an ancient amoral
human-devouring creature care about winning a silly award?
But that's taking the easy way out, and it didn't really fit the
Cthulhu character I'd been building. Like I said before, I was trying
to make him as human as possible. So, in this case, I wanted to be
jealous. I wanted him to be petty and angry. So I made him rail and
cry against the unfairness of it all.
After that, it became a running gag that Cthulhu was going to swallow
Earl's soul. I was lucky enough to realize that goal at this past
Balticon, but that story will have to wait until our next episode.
LNN: Which leads me to my next question: tell us about the Balticon sex
scandal. What, why, and how?
BG: Yeah. Heh. The Parsec was given out at DragonCon, and Earl wasn't
able to be there that year, so even though he won it, he hadn't
actually received the trophy. And everybody knew about Cthulhu's
jealous hatred of "Stranger Things." So, the night before they were
actually going to present the award to Earl, I was approached by
Podcasting's Rich Sigfrit, who whispered to me, "I've got the trophy.
We're going to give it to him tomorrow. It'd be a shame if something
were to. . . happen to it." So we went back to his hotel room, and
made a couple of videos of Cthulhu stealing the trophy, as a kind of
joke to play on Earl. But then, once we were done, Rich and I both
said, "It's just not right. It's not enough." So instead, we made a
short video of Cthulhu defiling the Parsec, as a better gag to play on
But then I made a mistake. I was carrying the video on my phone, and
I thought it was so funny, I showed it to a friend. He thought it was
hilarious, so he showed it to someone else. Then they had to show it
to someone else, and before I knew it, people were coming up to me,
asking if I had the hidden Cthulhu Sex Video.
It went viral faster than I'd expected, and before long I was getting
e-mailed requests from people in the UK and New Zealand. So, I figured
I could distribute it better by putting the video on YouTube.
Then Cory Doctorow found out, and the video found it's way to
BoingBoing, where thousands of people were suddenly watching my hand
puppet have unnatural relations with an inanimate object. So that's my
fifteen minutes of fame. :)
LNN: Will we ever be able to see Cthulhu do street interviews like Triumph
the Insult Comic Dog?
BG: I've wanted to do that for a while, but I keep thinking that it
doesn't really work, with the mythos and all. It's hard to fit the
man-on-the-street interview in with a monster who is supposed to be 50
feet tall. Last year, they held the national "My Little Pony"
convention in my town, and I wanted desperately to have Cthulhu show
up and do the whole Triumph act with them, but it just didn't work
from a story standpoint.
I have thought about buying one of the "Chibithulhu" dolls, hollowing
it out, and making it into a puppet. That way, I could do a "baby
Cthulhu interviews" thing with it.
LNN: What is the current status and what are your plans for CFC in the
future? More DVDs?
BG: I'm not entirely sure. I've had a few ideas for another episode, but
I think interest is dying down. People don't send in e-mails as much
as they used to, and I'm working on other projects at the same time. I
may just make this an annual show, and only bring it out at Balticon.
But who knows? There may be a resurgence of interest, more good
questions, a movie deal . . . the world's a crazy place.
LNN: Tell me about your relationship with Scientology. How did Cthulhu's
beef with Xenu begin?
BG: I don't have any direct experience with scientology, but I've read a
lot about their procedures and ethics. I've read up on Xenu and the
nuclear bomb laden volcanoes. I know my way around Thetan levels. So
when I started thinking that I should have another god come on the
show, I wanted to pick the most ridiculous one possible. And Xenu's
story is, let's face it, pretty freaking ridiculous.
So then I started reading more about him, and the more I read, the
more angry I got. He was betrayed and trapped under the Earth, held in
place by a force field with an eternal battery. It was such an obvious
rip-off of Cthulhu's situation, I felt like I just had to say
something. It was no longer enough to just make Xenu look silly, now I
had to make him look utterly ridiculous, while still pointing out how
his whole existence was stolen from a penny dreadful author. So I did
to Xenu the same thing that I'd done to Cthulhu, I made him an
exaggerated version of humanity. I made him petty, weak, and silly.
And because of that, he was beloved by many watchers, and became a
sidekick to Cthulhu, like Ed MacMahon to Johnny Carson.
LNN: Anything else you would like to put on the record?
BG: Well, I'd just like to thank you for the opportunity to tell people
about the show. It's been great fun for me the entire way. This is
really more fun than a guy with a puppet deserves to have.
Check out Brand Gamblin's great site Calls for Cthulhu at the following link: