The Writer Once Known as Danger Guerrero Is a Temple Grad — and He’s One of the Web’s Funniest TV Writers
Danger Guerrero was a name you might know. No, not the Cuban League baseball player, but the writer for pop-culture site Uproxx. He’s done hundreds of posts there and written countless hilarious tweets. He’s one of the funnier writers working today. He’s also very popular: His post about Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow was shared more than 22,000 times.
Danger Guerrero was, obviously, an alias. And, in March, Guerrero revealed himself by writing: “My name is Brian Grubb. I am 33 years old. I am in a wheelchair.”
Grubb, grew up in Berks County and Allentown and went to Temple. He flunked out his first time. His second time, he did better in school — but fell off a loft bed one night and fractured the C4 vertebrae in his neck. But he eventually returned to the school, got his undergraduate degree and later graduated from Temple Law School.
I recently interviewed Grubb — who now lives in Allentown — about his former alias, his injury and how he became a writer.
Let’s just talk about Danger Guerrero, what made you finally want to stop using that name and reveal your true identity? I feel like you’re a super hero.
There are moments when it did feel borderline super hero-esque. I’d be out to dinner with a friend or something who knew both [of my identities] and they’d say, “I saw this thing you wrote,” and I’d be like, “Yo, shut up, be quiet, be quiet!” Which is ridiculous.
I had started out writing under the fake name for fun, for shits and giggles, for friends. As it became more of a professional thing and I started doing more semi-legitimate criticisms of TV shows, I started feeling weird doing it behind a name that wasn’t my own at all. The other thing that happened there was I had been waiting for some government programs to come through that would have … I was on a government program for awhile where there was a hard earnings cap where you can only make so much money before you would lose all your healthcare, all your everything [so he was doing the job part-time]. I was [eventually] able to get onto another program and take the job full time. Once it became a full time thing I realized, if you’re ever going to do it, this is the time to do it.
The other part of it is, Brian Grubb is not the most common name in the world, and there aren’t a lot of law students who are in wheelchairs like I am. It would have been really easy to put two and two together had I gone to a job interview and they Googled me and they’d be like, “Oh, well, this is what’s happening.” While I was still really in law school, had the notion of becoming a lawyer batting around somewhere in there I wanted to protect that a little bit.
How did you come up with Danger Guerrero?
I wasn’t thinking about it much at the time. I was either logging in to comment somewhere, or I was starting up something and they were like, “You need a name,” but I just panicked. So I just opened up the Name of the Year bracket and picked.
If I had any idea that I would have been using it professionally six or seven years later, I would have put 30 seconds of thought into it. Instead of just being like, “Uh, Danger. That’s funny. ‘Click.'”
You grew up in Berks County, how did you end up at Temple in the first place?
I went to Temple before my injury. I was 18, I went to Temple with the misguided hope of being a film major, and that lasted about 30 seconds. I took one class where we were breaking down some black-and-white film frame-by-frame and I just said, “This is not for me. This is not for me at all.”
I actually failed out spectacularly my first year of college. It was almost impressive how well I failed out. Then I went back home, I was at Berks County for two years doing community college. Then I got back into Temple and I was doing communications, and I was there for a year and a half. That’s when I had the spinal cord injury.
Why go back to Temple after failing out in the first place?
That was always the goal; that was always in my head. Part of it was just a matter of, there was no reason I should have failed out. It had less to do with the quality of the work I turned in than the fact that I wasn’t turning in any work at all. It was an unended chapter that I wanted to put a period on and close and move on.
Can we talk about your fall? What happened, do you remember it?
I was at a party — an all-day, all-night party with some friends of mine. I had just turned 23, I was back at school and I was a little more serious, but I was in the middle of a four-day 23rd birthday party …
It’s college. We were out partying extremely hard all day, all night. I went back to the apartment that I lived in, which was at Broad and Jefferson. It was a big, nice, fancy row home and the landlord had cut it up into as many apartments as he could.
In order to do that a lot of the bedrooms were real skinny, so because they were skinny he built lofts up into the wall, eight or nine feet up there. I had this crappy extension ladder leaning up against the wall to get me up there, so at some point in the night — I’m not exactly sure how — I came down and broke the C4 vertebra in my neck. I don’t have a lot of recollection of it … I wake up on the floor and I can’t move very well.
I didn’t even really grasp it much at the time. I was just thinking, “Well, this isn’t fun.” I was thinking, have someone pick me up and put me on the couch, and I’d wake up and be fine. Very quickly did I realize that was not the case.
How did you deal with it once the realization set in.
It took a long time for the realization to kick in — in part because when I went to the hospital I was still under the influence of everything from the party. Once I got there they had me hooked up on all kinds of … well, everything they had in the hospital. It took a long time for it to set in. Weeks.
I remember one doctor came in the room and told me I probably wouldn’t walk again. I was like, “Get out. Send in another doctor.” It was more of a gradual thing. You pick up on it here and there and you see, this sort of movement is coming back, this sort of movement isn’t coming back. What can I do to get around it?
How long did the initial rehab take? What happened after you were in the hospital and then you were released?
I was in the hospital for a few months, because there were complications. I had to have a couple different surgeries first. I was injured at the end of March, and I was in the hospital until May. I was in Magee for most of that summer, just doing rehab and everything.
When did you decide to return to Temple?
I decided I wanted to go back to college pretty early on. When I went back to Magee I did outpatient rehab for a little while. After a while, the insurance will only pay for so much rehab. They’ll say, “You’re getting to the max, you’re not getting as much return as our investment is being put into it.”
Once that ended I sat around for a little while, but I started going bonkers. I did a year of classes at the Penn State Berks campus, just to ease my way into it, just to see what I could do. I started realizing that it’s a lot easier to get good grades in school when you’re not staying out until 2 in the morning, and when you have a nurse coming in at 8 in the morning to wake you up.
Suddenly I started getting really good grades, and I went back to Temple the next year. Again, it was a matter of: I just wanted to get my Temple degree. I had started it, I had done it twice, this is a big long stupid process, I had so many credits there, I realized if I went back to Temple I could finish up and get my degree.
Plus, it was time to try to get out of the house. At the time I was like, “I got to get out, I got to do stuff, I got to try stuff. I’m not sure going to sit around like a lump and watch TV all day.” That was the driving force to going back to Temple.
What was it like going back to Temple, now in a wheelchair?
It was surprisingly easy. Easy might not be the right word, but they have a great disabilities services program there. You go and you meet with them. And they tell you: This is how you get your stuff for your classes, if you need notes you get them like this, you need these accommodations to take your tests. You get this handicap accessible dorm room, these are where all the entrances are on all the buildings, if you need anything call us.
I did that, and I got set up with an attending care agency in Philly, so I would have someone who came in in the mornings, and who came in in the evenings to help me get ready, to get me out of bed, get me moving. During the day I would be on my own pretty much. Just bum around, go to my classes, go to the cafeteria, grab lunch, head back, do my thing.
The disability services center helped a lot and the attendant care agency made it possible, but even with their help it was definitely still hard and scary sometimes — especially at the beginning. But that doesn’t mean you don’t do it, you know? It just means you do a thing that’s hard and scary. It’s good to do those things sometimes.
How did you end up deciding to go to law school?
Two things happened. One, I thought I was going to be at Temple for a year and a half, I ended up getting everything together and being ready to graduate in a year. That snuck up on me a little bit. I started thinking, “Well, I need to figure out what the hell I’m going to do.”
The other thing is: If you fail a class they’ll let you retake it and replace the grade. If you get a C-, you’re just stuck with the C-. I was actually better off because my freshman year I failed so many classes I could just go back and retake them, and replace all those Fs with As. Suddenly the kid who failed out in 2001 was graduating college with a GPA up into the 3s, far enough that I could start considering something like a law school, or grad school, or something. My doctor at Magee at the time, I was telling him all this, and he was like, “I think you’d make a good lawyer.” That’s when it dawned on me, “I might be able to get into law school.” So I fired off the application on a lark just to see what happened.
You were in law school when you started writing as Danger Guerrero. How did you start writing for Uproxx?
I think I was commenting on their websites while I was in law school. The guy who wrote their TV website at the time, Matt Ufford, he contacted me. This was back when the site had two people working there. He was like, “I have a dentist appointment, are you willing to cover a post or two for me?” I was like, “Yeah.” I became his fill-in guy while I was in law school.
If I had an afternoon off I’d be like, “Listen, I’m free this afternoon, I can take a couple posts off your hands if you want.” It would be maybe three posts a week. Just little fill in, freelance-y type of stuff. I feel bad because sometimes people say to me, “How did you get into writing?” My best answer is, “Wait for Matt to have a dentist appointment?”
When did you first think, “Hey, writing could be an actual career”?
When I graduated from law school, that’s when some of the government programs changed, which is why at the time I wasn’t really able to go look for jobs in the law field. If I would have made over — I’m going to get this wrong — but it was, like, $25,000 I would have had to pay for all of my home care out of pocket.
Exactly. At that point Matt had left. Uproxx approached me and said, “We’d like you to help out to whatever degree you can.” And I was like, “This is the amount I can make,” and they were like, “All right, then we’ll work you that hard.” As I was doing it I was limited by that, but I realized I had seen a lot of other people that I knew on Twitter or on the website landing full time jobs here or picking up a full time thing there.
The people at Uproxx had always been great to me about my situation and the injury and everything, so at some point I remember them saying, “Listen if this ever becomes a thing where you’re able to do full time let us know, I think we can make it work.” I said, “That’s sounds great, I’ll let you know.” It was a couple years before I was able to sound that alarm.
You talked about these government programs, how does dealing with the government work to get in-home care?
Let me say this, the programs are great. Without the programs I’d be totally screwed. The fact that they exist is wonderful. When you have a permanent disability you’re able to get Medicare. Then through Medicaid you’re able to get these waivers that will actually pay for the home care. It’s fully funded, to have nurses aids who are able to come in and help you.
The program I’m on now is a program called Act 150, which is a really great program. More states should have something like it. There’s not an earnings limit on how much I make. What happens is I have to contribute some small amount of money on a sliding scale depending on how much I make through home care.
I could make $200,000 and I would fall somewhere on the sliding scale to contribute towards it. It makes a lot of financial sense too, because if they do that, and they get me off of the programs, and I’m contributing, it’s a little less money that’s coming out of the state’s pocket.
How does your day work? Do you have a nurse?
Yeah, I have an aid that comes in the morning for couple hours. The aid helps me get ready, helps me get dressed, helps me get up, helps me get set up and everything. Then I have an aid that comes in for the evening for a couple hours too.
Again, in between I’m living at home with my parents, so it’s not like I’m completely on my own. When I was at school I mostly was. When I was at school I had the same set up, an aid was in for 3 or 4 hours in the morning and then a couple hours at night. Then in between I was just going around on my own.
How do you write? You have movement in one of your hands, right?
The way the injury works, it’s a C4 injury, the middle of my neck is where the injury is. I’ve gotten a fair amount of the movement and sensation back, its an incomplete injury. A complete injury would be like: The spinal cord’s severed, nothings going on, nothings happening. Mine is incomplete which means it just got whacked really hard on one side. I have sensation to touch up and down my whole body, and on my right side I have minimum movement of my right hand, not enough to really do anything. My right arm I can move shoulder to fingers.
How much movement do you have?
Really well, but I’m stiff and weak. Does that make sense? I can move everything but I can’t pick up a gallon of milk, it’s a little stiff. When I try to write, basically I do most of my writing just tapping things out with my right hand. It’s takes a little while but I don’t type that much different from an 80-year-old man using the computer.
You said you wanted to be film major at first your first time at Temple. Do you think it’s funny that now your job is basically writing about TV and other media?
When I was in high school I was in a TV program in our high school. I don’t know if they still do this but the TV program was so cool because the way it was run was basically give the kids the cameras and say, “Go out and create some stuff and then come back and we’ll put it together.” It was a lot of fun. That’s why I wanted to go into film school. I was thinking, this is a thing I like. When they’re sitting us in a lecture hall for two hours at a time breaking down silent films one frame at a time I’m thinking like, “Give me the camera, I’ve got stuff I want to do.”
I’ve always been interested in the field in one way or another. It’s a nice way to use something I’m interested in that would have been one of my hobbies anyway and turn it into a steady paycheck.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited.
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