A Newport News native named Dennis Banks used a strange sort of alchemy to conjure a promising show business career for himself.
In no time flat, Banks and his comic alter ego Felonious Munk were racking up more than a million hits on the Internet and thousands of television viewers in the New York City metro area.
Banks, a 39-year-old former automotive finance director with a checkered past, said he's still trying to wrap his head around his own success.
"I just started doing comedy in Virginia Beach in December 2010," he said, speaking by telephone from his new home in Harlem. "Less than a year later, I'm on TV. I've done 'Imus in the Morning' a few times, I've been on CNN with Don Lemon. I was at the kick off for Fashion Week this year. It's still weird. I'm still Dennis Banks."
Meanwhile, his character Felonious Munk is charging ahead at a seemingly magical pace. He's now doing three on-air commentaries a week on New York's WPIX-TV (Channel 11), the flagship station of The CW Network. He's doing stand-up comedy gigs from Brooklyn to Miami.
He also has plans to continue his "Stop It B!" YouTube video series. Those clips, which feature Felonious ranting about his pet peeves ranging from deluded amateur models to the high gasoline prices, proved to be the key to his ballooning audience.
Last summer, he recorded one of the profanity-drenched YouTube segments titled "Obama, pay your &*%$#% bills!" In it, he unleashed his frustration about the government's debt ceiling crisis.
"Yo, $14.6 trillion, b?" he said, making use of black street slang. "All my credit cards would have been cut off a long time before that." Staring straight into the camera, his rage seemed to grow with each sentence. "All I'm asking y'all to do is balance a budget ... This is something every American has to go through ever month ... Listen. You're the best and the brightest? Harvard? Yale? Brown? Cornell? This is what we put out? You should have gone to Norfolk State. You would have got the same education and you would have spent a lot less money."
Libertarian bloggers and Glenn Beck picked up on the piece and suddenly the clip attracted 300,000 views in one day. The clip's cumulative total of hits has now topped 1.8 million.
"Once Beck played it on his site, pretty much my life changed," Banks said. "That video alone literally changed everything for me. I went from local comedian to a national comedian."
Don Imus, whose show "Imus in the Morning" airs on the Fox Business network, interviewed him live on his program. In October, the National Review sent a reporter to Newport News to interview this new, black voice of conservatism.
The writer came away with the impression that Felonious Munk's world view doesn't easily fit in one political camp.
"It's fantastically profane, and now and then wrongheaded, I think," wrote the magazine's Jay Nordlinger. "But it's something remarkable under the sun."
These days, Banks said some of the political right's enthusiasm for his commentary has died down a bit. He's OK with that.
He never had the desire to become the right's answer to liberal-leaning funny man Lewis Black.
"The right has figured out that I'm not going to be their black Republican poster boy," he said. "I'm not going to lean to any side. I don't favor anybody … That's just who I am. Arguments are always on a particular issue, never on a party line."
And while he loves politics, he's a comedian first and foremost.
"People say I'm a commentator on TV," Banks said. "I'm a comic. At the beginning of the day and the end of the day, I'm still a comic. It's all funny to me."