By Tim Mahoney
This week, rather than highlighting a single student, I had the opportunity to speak with the group of English majors responsible for publishing The Hall Monitor Herald, a student-led press, whose articles can be found in the Collegian on Fridays. Their work can also be found at thehallmonitorherald.com, and booklets of their work can be found on campus, being handed out by a man in a gorilla-suit as part of their “guerrilla marketing campaign.”
As a senior, I wish that I would have been involved in something like this earlier on in my collegiate career. The Hall Monitor Herald, and other writing communities like it, give students a chance to work with other English majors outside of class, and creates a community in which new writers can hone their skills and gain valuable experience. Any student interested in being a part of this publication can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. They’re looking to bring new writers on as soon as possible.
I first experienced The Hall Monitor Herald in the third floor restroom of Allison Hall, where copies had been taped to the walls. Then it was known as The Water Closet Weekly, and would appear intermittently throughout the semester, always in the same place: the restroom. Before the end of my first year, I moved across campus to Newsom Hall, where the sounds of perpetual construction could not disturb me, leaving behind the mysterious Water Closet Weekly and the talented group of writers whose quick wit and eye for comedy made it all possible.
Flash forward to last semester, the spring of 2014. I left Eddy Hall (back when it was more than a shell of building) and was headed to my next class when I was stopped by a man in a gorilla suit handing me a pamphlet. As a general rule, I do not take things people try to hand me while on campus, but then again those people are not usually dressed as gorillas. I took the small booklet and continued on my way, unaware that that I had discovered something truly special. That night I read the entire booklet cover-to-cover, only pausing to wipe away my tears of laughter and catch my breath. Still, I had no idea who the gorilla-man was, or the true value of the booklet in my hand.
Gorilla Marketing: Chris Vanjonack
It wasn’t until I met English major Chris Vanjonack, one of the minds behind The Hall Monitor Herald, that I was able to learn more about this amazing community of writers. Chris had this to say:
We started in Allison Hall the spring semester of our freshman year. Niles Hachmeister, one of our writers, and I had been kicking around the idea of writing something together. One day he knocked on my door and said, “I have this crazy idea: what if we started putting work up in the bathroom stalls where everyone has to read it.”
So we got a couple other friends from our hall including Patrick Hoehne, an incredibly funny person, who still writes for the Hall Monitor Herald, and eventually we settled on writing a weekly bathroom newsletter that we called The Water Closet Weekly. We’d tape them up in the stalls in the dead of night on Tuesdays, making sure no one (especially the RAs) would catch us doing it. For the first few months, no one living in Allison Hall had any idea it was us, so it had a really cool, anonymous vibe to it. We had to keep switching up the nights we’d distribute it because a few hallways were literally staking out the bathrooms to try and figure out who was putting them up.
We were finally caught one night and were almost written up for it, until we agreed to tone down the bathroom humor. That’s how we started moving into broader, satirical articles about CSU.
From there we started a partnership with ASCSU — who to our tremendous surprise were really excited, enthusiastic, and supportive about the work we were doing. I can’t say enough about the support they show for student organizations.
Our sophomore year they bought us monthly ad space in College Avenue to run articles. Nobody knew who we were back then. We didn’t know how to promote ourselves, and we were distributing it in coffee shops and bookstores around Old Town, in a really kind of desperate hope that it would take off somehow.
Our junior year, ASCSU made a deal with us that they’d print a full booklet of our work, and pack it in with the dining hall newspapers once a semester. That got the attention of The Collegian, and now we have a column that runs every other Friday, in addition to the once-a-semester-booklet. So really this whole time it’s just been a weird passion project for us that has inexplicably gotten off the ground. We like to call it: a rags-to-slightly-nicer-rags-story. Our humor is considerably better crafted than it was when we started, but the thrill of it has never worn off. It still feels like we’re getting away with something.
One word on the name – we held onto the name The Water Closet Weekly until last spring, when we found out that we had accidentally stolen the name from another, now-defunct DIY news parody. The guy behind it started calling ASCSU, The Collegian, and CSU Legal threatening to sue us. It was crazy. So, under threat of violating someone’s intellectual property rights, we folded and changed our name to The Hall Monitor Herald. We were bummed about the name change, but it really reinvigorated us. The whole sequence of events was so absurd that it sounds like one of our articles.
It’s been a ride. This whole experience has been inexplicable, and has led to so many weird adventures. Once, in the dorms, we were chased by a mob of people when we were caught taping copies up in their bathroom. Having legal action threatened against us was certainly interesting.
It’s all great though. I love meeting up with these weird, funny people once a week. I love staying up until four in the morning trying to hit our content deadline for the booklets. I think we’re all better writers because of it. We all have a good idea of the publishing process. If you’re interested in comedy writing, it’s a great thing to be involved with right now.
Meeting a deadline. From left to right: Andrew Walker, Patrick Hoehne, Niles Hachmeister
It’s a great group. There’s four of us writing it at the moment: Niles Hachmeister, Patrick Hoehne, Andrew Walker, and myself. We’re looking for new writers this year because three of us are graduating and we want it to continue after we’re gone. If there was something like this to join our first day freshman year, we absolutely would have, and we don’t think we’re alone in that. So long story short: The Hall Monitor-Herald is hiring. Please apply.