Could Zach Anner be any cooler? I mean, really? The guy is hilarious, has a slew of ardent Reddit supporters that even Obama’s recent Q+A on the site couldn’t generate, boasts 27,000 followers and over 3 million views on his YouTube channel, has overcome and even mocks his wheelchair-bound status and has inspired John Mayer to write a song for him! Plus, he’s met Oprah. Oprah! No, I’m pretty sure that the winner of Miss Winfrey’s “Search for the Next TV Star” reality show has more or less attained the peak of cool-ness, a rarefied air that only the likes of David Hasselhoff and Chuck Norris can enjoy.
So naturally, I was pretty excited to get the chance to interview the comedian and find out more about his current Riding Shotgun adventure (which HotelsCombined.com is proudly sponsoring). In case you missed it, Zach has embarked upon a whirlwind eight-city comedy tour across North America, visiting cities that Reddit users have recommended and voted upon. His voyages will eventually be documented in a series of YouTube videos that, from the look of released snippets here and there, are shaping up to be pretty damn funny.
Zach enjoys cuddle time with musician John Mayer.
So far along his journey, Zach has been living the good life visiting the world’s largest ball of twine, posing shirtless at a waterfall and reading sexy stories at the Virginia resort where Dirty Dancing was filmed – I won’t lie, I’ve often dreamed of doing the same.
Now just days away from finishing off his six-week expedition in my hometown of Vancouver (Canucks rule!), I ask Zach about his zany road trip experiences and discover many intimate details including his growing distaste for Demi Lovato ditties:
What are your must-haves while on the road?
Music is key. Having a great playlist to keep people in a good mood is essential. For the last two days we haven’t been able to find my iPod. All that’s on the radio is Demi Lovato, Katy Perry and that David Guetta character. If we have to hear “Give Your Heart a Break” one more time, I think we’ll be done for.
We’ve bought some things on the road that I now see as essential. I got a crown in New Orleans that I wear when I want to be bossy.
Also: I always travel with my own toilet seat!
What’s been your favourite city to-date on this tour?
…when you do end up naked in the street, there are people everywhere who are ready to help you out and bring you clothes. I appreciated that.
They all have their unique charm. It’s been really interesting going in with certain expectations and having those expectations turned on their heads. I couldn’t pick a favourite because they’re all so different!
We just finished up with New Orleans. I had an amazing time there. I thought it was going to be a really scary party city, where I’d get in trouble and end up naked in the street somewhere (which almost happened).
What I didn’t realize is that everyone is so supportive and so proud of tradition, that when you do end up naked in the street, there are people everywhere who are ready to help you out and bring you clothes. I appreciated that.
You and your crew (Brad, Aaron, Josh) look like you have a great time traveling together. But do you ever get sick of being around each other all the time?
Zach and his fellow Riding Shotgun cohorts.
I haven’t gotten sick of anyone, though I’m pretty sure everyone is sick of me! Everyone on the trip is doing much more work than I am. They’re working hard to make sure everything comes together. So on my end I’m so appreciative.
I make a lot of puns on the road and sing a lot of songs, and I have no musical talent! So everyone’s probably pretty sick of that.
You’ve been using HotelsCombined to search for your hotels throughout this trip. What’s been your best hotel experience so far?
The Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans hotel was fantastic. It was a historic hotel, and I splurged and got my first massage! We tried to live fancy in New Orleans, and we realized the hotel was almost too nice for the likes of us.
Zach with Oprah. Oprah!
What would you say you’ve learned most about yourself throughout the process of traveling?
I’ve been continually inspired by people and the pride they have in their cities. I’m amazed and inspired by the spirit that people have, and I realized how much more I want to do, to be a better person.
I’ve met people -Yvette in Savannah, for instance – who’s going back to Afghanistan…I feel like I haven’t done much to better the world yet. There’s so much more that I have to do to make a positive difference.Also I’ve learned I don’t like strip clubs. They made me go to one in New Orleans and I just sat in the corner and had a Shirley Temple, and didn’t talk to anyone because I was so awkward!
You have a very strong online support system. What has that meant to you?
It’s been incredible to have people care about us doing this, and support it. Honestly I wouldn’t be where I am without the online community. I wouldn’t have gotten any of the opportunities that I’ve gotten.
They’ve given me so much, and I feel like I’ve given them so little. It’s so important to me to do something that at least honours what I think the spirit of the Internet is, particularly the Reddit community. So this is our attempt to do that.
I have immeasurable gratitude for everyone who’s supported me.
A typical Zach Anner moment
If you had a travel motto, what would it be?
I used to say “Just roll with it.” But that might be trademarked now.
With this show, so many things have changed along the way. And we’re setting things up as we get into each city. Things fall through and change in the moment. You have to be ready to take everything as it comes and then make a show out of it. So yeah, that motto still applies (if it’s not trademarked by the Oprah Winfrey Network).