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A Conversation With the Genius Behind the ‘Mike Zaun’ Videos

From “Mike Zaun 1776.”

Many of Mike Francesa’s listeners can do an impression of the long-time WFAN host, but only Bill Buchanan has thought to do an impression of Francesa broadcasting his show during major historical events. (The name “Mike Zaun,” for those unfamiliar with Francesa’s show, is a play on its current title, “Mike’s On.”) The 24-year-old Buchanan, who lives out in Massapequa, has Francesa’s voice and mannerisms down cold, and his first two videos are brilliant: One is set during the Revolutionary War, the other during the Civil War. Buchanan spoke with Daily Intelligencer about what makes Francesa so easy to goof on, and what he has in mind for future videos.

How did the idea for these videos come about?
There’s a big community of Francesa fans on Twitter who joke around about him, and me and my friend Mike were also big fans, and we just have a weird sense of humor. So we’d always sort of do impressions of him, and put him in different situations and different scenarios. And then one day I was watching the movie The Patriot, with Mel Gibson, and I just thought how funny it would be if he was a British loyalist. It would be perfect for him. He would fit that part so perfectly.

How long have you been listening?
I listened to Mike and the Mad Dog probably around 2007, but I started really listening to him religiously, I’d say, in 2011.

Have you ever called in yourself?
Yeah, one time. I called in about the Jets. It was right after the season ended, and he didn’t want to talk football, so he was just like [slips into his Francesa impression] “Let’s wait till, you know, it’s spring and the flowers are up, okay? Before we start talking about the draft, okay?”

I just read a book about WFAN, and the author spoke with Mike. And Francesa talked about how he sees callers differently from how he sees other listeners, because callers have to kind of bring their A game and rise to his level. It’s an odd mind-set, I think.
Yeah, I actually heard him explain that once. I think he explained it on the air. The thing is, half the comedy of the show — and you can see that in the second video I made — is the callers. So I think he’s right about that, because he wants the callers to be part of the entertainment. And they absolutely are, whether they’re prank calls, or just people who are dead serious coming up with really stupid trade proposals. Things like that. That is entertaining crap. The callers are half the comedy.

What’s the process of making one of these videos? It seems almost like you have a list of things he’s said or done — spilling his Diet Coke, not knowing who Al Alburquerque is — and check them off as you go along.
Exactly. Obviously, I pick the time period, I pick certain events, and then I pretty much just mix these in with things Francesa has done that have spawned their own little meme online. Some funny little thing he did. Exactly — spilling the Diet Coke. When Ulysses S. Grant hangs up on him, that’s when he had that big argument with Darrelle Revis. It’s pretty much everything that’s happened to him, so there are a lot of things to work with, obviously. He’s done so much.

Are there any you haven’t used yet that you’re waiting to slip in there?
Yes. Everybody keeps asking me when I’m going to work in the him falling asleep thing. That seems to be the big one.

Is that one coming soon, you think?
Yeah, probably the next one. It sounds a little ridiculous, but I’m going to take a break from making these for a bit. I’m still only 24, and I’m still trying to move out of my house. So I can’t keep blowing money on costumes and things. By next summer, I’m gonna be moving out of my house, so I gotta get some stuff in order. But yeah, when I make the next one, which is supposed to be World War II, I’ll probably work him falling asleep into that one.

What’s the deal with Barstool Sports? Are you getting some money out of that association?
It was just an agreement. He e-mailed me after the first one — KFC from Barstool — he really liked the video and my friends really love the website, and I know it’s pretty popular, so I figured, sure. Basically our agreement is that they put it on their YouTube channel and then after 24 hours, I can put it on mine. And they compensated me, obviously. They’ve been very nice to me.

Looking ahead, what else do you have in mind besides World War II?
Well, obviously, I love history. But I’m also a Christian, and I really love Christian history, so I might do, like, a New Testament one, where maybe he has on one of the apostles, I dunno.

A couple of people have called into the show and tried to get him to talk about your videos. Have you heard them?
Yes. It just adds to the legacy of all the funny things he does. I love that he just assumes it was me calling up [slips into Francesa voice] trying to promote my video to his large audience. Which was hilarious, because one of the first times somebody called up and pranked him about it, I was literally taking a nap. And then the other time it happened, I was eating lunch. I’m not telling people to call up to promote it, trust me. And actually  —I don’t know if I’ll ever meet Mike one day, but I will tell him that people who have never watched his show before started watching his show because of my video. So I’m promoting him!

You really see the difference between Mike and Chris with stuff like that. Francesa clearly hates when people have fun with him on the Internet, whereas Chris was involved with Mad Dog sound-alike contest not too long ago.
Yes, exactly. Mike could never do that. That’s what makes him so funny. People who can’t laugh at themselves automatically make themselves a target to be made fun of. That’s just the way the world works. And his reactions to it are amazing. The way he views the Internet is — he literally views the Internet as one person, and that one person has made fun of him, and he does not like that one person.

So what’s the timetable for the next video?
I’d say at least two months. This month, I got a lot of stuff I gotta do, personally. Maybe in a month.

Q&A: The Man Behind the ‘Mike Zaun’ Videos