What Was the Jesus Chatline
Sometime in 2011, Steven Chilton and Richard Burnish made an astonishing discovery-that they could, in fact, form a satirical (not to mention fictional) branch of Christianity, one which would go by a flowery name and host plenty of webcasts and streamed shows. It was out of these moments of epiphany that the name Church of the Neon Bible’ was born. And no, it had nothing to do with noble gases. In fact, the only thing noble about it all was the not-so noble way in which trolls inundated the show with all manner of calls, mostly from 4chan’s /b/ random forum board. Said shows ran under the equally creative name. Jesus Chatline.
Deeply inspired by the Neon’ idea and full of ‘win’ (much like Charley Sheen in his interviews from back in the day), the two ‘televangelists’ started off the first wave of internet broadcasts in May of the year 2011. At the end of June, 2011, Burnish suddenly decided that Chilton was dead and hosted a mock funeral for his beloved brother in the ministry. Members got the opportunity to take a look at the ‘corpse’ of Chilton, who was really, really dead and lay on a sofa. Over time, the news of these shows Spread across the internet and got picked up by forums, which then passed the word around on YouTube, where the trolls were waiting for epic showdowns and hilarious comebacks.
The ‘Holy’ Bible
Richard had actually written a bible, one that carried hilarious messages and promised buyers that they would go to heaven if only they bought themselves a copy. From time to time, he updated this book, often with hilarious little additions like why God chooses Firefox’. In some episode, news filtered in to the effect that, sadly, Steven had been blown to smithereens by lightning. The good news was that the televangelist was painstakingly put to back together by a bunch of scientists who, quite understandably, could not stand aside and let the pioneers of this new wave of thought fade away. What would happen is that those who called into the show always thought that they was pranking the hosts, only to find that they were actually the ones on the other end of the joke-literally.
This year brought more hilarity into this chat line, in which they now started mimicking cable news programs and discussing hugely important issues such as the freedom of speech and a bunch of others like the state of race relations in the US. Richard seemed to be the funnier one, in one instance even being shown in bed with Angelina Jolie but looking really calm and not at all interested in making sexual moves-pretty much what we expect from the honorable leader of the Church of the Neon Bible.
At some point in July 2012, the two discontinued the chat line (maybe to mull over the future of the church and update the bible?) and faded off the spotlight. Their Facebook and Twitter handles however remained active sometime after that. The duo were highly popular due to their trademark broadcasts, some coming with full testimonials filmed in churches and open lines from where calls could be made.
Trolls Pranking Trolls
In 2011, when the first wave of prank calls made their way into YouTube as video excerpts, they were soon picked up by varied forums and distributed to places such as Reddit, where the trolls now came down in full force. However, one Redditor eventually pointed out to those in the thread that they were actually poking fun at a show that was poking fun at them and pretty much everyone else. This was a turning point in the history of trolling (if I do say so myself), where a whole bunch of trolls found themselves slugging away at two actors who were just basically pranking regular televangelists.
Over the next four years, the legend of Burnish and Chilton only grew, spearheaded by mystery and the fact that these two were no longer around to answer some serious questions like ‘are you being serious?’ or ?’where is the mic?’
Following the demise of the Jesus Chatline, Chilton decided to go solo and started a show of his own known as Rumbled Feathers. It was hosted on Justin.tv (now twitch.tv ) and was also frequently pranked by trolls from 4chan.
As far as we know, Burnish and Shilton were the only hosts of the show. They however did have an imaginary producer, someone they shouted at all the time when technical issues arose in the middle of broadcasts.
Jesus Chatline was short-lived, but it sure did serve up plenty of epic moments that live up till today.