After Credit Bonus Scene: The Prodigal Pt. 3, Pt. 1

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Just your typical


story that is just sooooo done to death these days.

I’ll try to have a more original take on deconstruction next time.

Sorry to let you all down.

If my brains were demolished by the time I got to LunaticCamp™… I don’t even remember the next months of my life.

The new, new cocktail of medication and the new, new diagnosis and even newer therapy schedule with new therapists will obliterate whatever memory function or personality or thought processes I had left.

The holidays arrive– which means it’s time for another Barclay Family Adventure!!

The day before Christmas 1994

Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 294 – Unto Us a Child is Born

airs worldwide.

This is the episode where Mary’s Uterus™ produces the final Barclay Family kid, Stewart Reed. I believe this is the episode where I am first told that all the Barclay family members were named after the characters and actors from It’s a Wonderful Life.

George and Mary are the characters Jimmy (Stewart) and Donna (Reed) play.

I have remarked over the years that the character of Stewart Reed is totally forgotten in my brain. This is mostly because his arrival occurs right in the middle of my mental health breakdown where I’m overloaded on meds and whatnot and weeks away from a massive suicide attempt.

So, I always forget L’il Stewart™ exists.

But, I also was so checked out on the storylines at this point. Like most family sitcoms, the inevitable arrival of the new baby in season 6/7 is the familiar sign that the writers have effectively thrown in the towel.

And is that the case here? Were they just out of ideas? Were we becoming too teenagery and they needed a young kid again?

Or was one of their actors melting down and they needed to wrap up the family arc?

I’ve always wondered what role my health issues caused for the logistics of a creative team that doesn’t believe these are actual health problems.

I felt that Jimmy kinda got sidelined at the end of my tenure on the show… maybe that was just my perception. I definitely wasn’t at the top of my game for that last year. Did they decide to wrap up the storylines that were hanging because Donna and I were getting older? Were the writers tired of the characters– again they never tired of other characters they had for decades.

It’s hard not to feel that it was specifically my health problems that brought about the end of the Barclay Family on the show.

Because… no Jimmy… no Barclays.

Which would confirm the theory that the family was built around me.

Why not recast the kids?

They recast the parent characters multiple times.

Remember, though…

I am one of the rare actors in the history of show business, where the audience demanded the actor back after I was first written out of the show.

How many actors has that ever happened to in the history of recorded media?

And how many child actors?

And I believe that the reason they had to write us out is that the health problems I had… FOTF specifically did not/does not believe are real and that they felt it would have been a bad look for their “family focused” organization to have one of their star kids smoking cigarettes and killing himself as a prodigal sinner.

So, hurry up and sweep the kid away.

Hal just died… reboot the series with a new family… this is my theory.

Nobody will ever remember Dave Griffin anyway


Nobody will even notice.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Whichever backroom decisions were made, on the mic side of things the new baby was a signal to me that the timeline of my character was probably drawing to a close.

These sessions occurred before the massive suicide event. But, it had been the year from hell and each session I was booked in was becoming more awkward and uncomfortable.

The tsk-tsking of my smoking addiction– which I cannot stop— is killing me because people I cared about are giving endless StillFaces™ and pestering the world’s greatest voice over artist Corey Burton because they think he’s a bad influence on me— which is craziest fucking sentence of all the crazy sentences I’ve written in this project.

I think I’m realizing for the first time in 30 years just how sad I was knowing that things were dying in slow motion. These relationships that had sustained me and made me excited to come into the studio… now everything’s changed… or has it?

Maybe I’m just paranoid….

Mental health is a total mindfuck, btw. If you weren’t crazy before all the shit happened, the reality of being a mental health patient would turn you into one even if you weren’t already mentally ill. It’s utter crazymaking how being a patient in these scenarios and the way people treat you destroys your sense of self and security.

Needless to say, there was a lot going on in the fog soup that was my brain during these final recordings and I don’t remember a lick of them.

February 4, 1995 is the debut of

Adventures In Odyssey: Episode 300- Preacher’s Kid

Episode 300.

7. years. later.

This was the final episode I recorded before the massive suicide attempt. I have no idea what this episode was about other than that it was a Donna-centric storyline.

When this episode airs… I will have recorded 23% of the series over 7 years.

Not an insignificant contribution for a child actor.

No. other. kid. gave. more.


35 years later.

While this show is airing

my life has totally fallen apart

and now is about to get even worse

It was decided after the massive attempt and subsequent hospitalization that I am deemed too severely ill and unstable to be living at home.

After all the experts were consulted– nobody of course realizing that I had a misdiagnosis– it is determined that I must be moved into a longterm group home for adolescents with severe mental illness that I will affectionately call SadolescentLand™.

This decision is made earlier during the holidays– but during the airing of this episode I am visiting group homes and numb to the reality that I’m about to effectively be locked up and institutionalized for months/years.

Read. that. sentence. again.

I have been sentenced to SadolescentLand™

I can’t remember how many places we visited.

I do remember one place and it was frightening.

At this point, I am so overly numbed out on meds and brain damage and spiritual confusion that I resign myself to the inevitability. I can’t control what’s going to happen and forces more powerful than me are making decisions I have no input on.

I am a desiccated leaf

carried downstream

headed over the Niagara F








At some point in the winter or the spring my friends actually hold a going away party for me after the place was decided on. I was expected to move out and leave everyone behind.

Which goes to show you that I did have people that cared about me! However, this friend group was not affiliated with any of my christian/evangelical spaces which is why I got some love instead of shunning.

Fucking Evangelicals™ never did shit for me and still haven’t 30 years later.

Apt name.

And then…

Deus Ex Machina…

At the last minute before I’m scheduled to be shipped off to SadolescentLand™, I luck out because my 18th birthday is occurring soon and this disqualifies me from living in SadolescentLand™.

And so plans to kick me out of the house are put on hold for a few more months.

A new therapy regimen is added. More meds. I drool often and am a total zombie.

I battle this therapist for months eventually going the silent treatment route. This is the part of my life that resembles the montage in Good Will Hunting where the kid is being bounced from therapist to therapist because nobody can figure out what the problem is.

At some point… I am moved out of the house and sent to live in the back of a church in some rent-by-the-room apartments.

And this is how the year 1995 and being 18 will go.

I’ve been kicked out of the family home.

I’ve had to quit school. Again.

Btw… college is attempted again in the Spring and again in the Fall of 1995 and I’m unable to finish both semesters and have to keep dropping out after trying to start classes. This is a cycle that will repeat for several years.

This takes a terrible toll on my self esteem which is gone… and just keeps going lower. Every failure piling up.

More glass shards from other Broken Mirrors in my life.

At some point after nearly a year… I get the call.

Focus called.

They want you again.

Drive down to Burbank.

Through the front doors.

Hey look, there’s another new celebrity on the wall with Marc Grau!

Next to the pictures of Hal…

and Earl Boen…

and Janet Waldo…

and Dave Madden…

and Alan Young…

and everybody.

Into the Lounge of Legends where I get my script(s).

Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 340 – Pokenberry Falls R.F.D. Pt 1

Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 341 – Pokenberry Falls R.F.D. Pt 2

I remember it had been nearly a year. And just like the year I had been written out of the show 4 years earlier when my voice changed… I figured after the massive attempt that I would never hear from them again.

Not like anybody from the show ever bothered to call and check up on how I was doing or anything. No get well cards. No passing the hat at the Chapelteria for sick L’il DaveyBoy™.


And so I was super excited to go in again… but I suspected this was the end.

And I was right.

As soon as I read the script I knew.

It’s. over.

The basic plot is that George gets a job to be a pastor at a church in a town called Pokenberry Falls. The R.F.D was a nod to The Andy Griffith show spinoff Mayberry R.F.D. and they even brought in the actor who played Ernest T Bass on The Andy Griffith Show… the one and only Howard Morris.

And you want to talk show business legends…

Howard Morris was responsible for the longest recorded laugh in the history of television during a sketch on Sid Caeser’s Show of Shows. It’s old school improv.

^ enjoy some classic nostalgia.

That sketch is written by Mel Brooks, btw. Who liked to hire Howie, too.

Howard Morris IMDB

Howard Morris Wikipedia

As soon as I read the script my heart broke. And it confirmed all my worst fears that it was my fault for being sick. And all the broken parts of my life that made me hate my illness… knowing in my gut that it was responsible for finally killing off the one thing I enjoyed doing more than any other thing in my life.

This was the second time I was being exiled from the show.

I know this feeling.

Been through it once before.

And just like the first time, there’s no warning. The script is a surprise that you can’t prepare for. So you can’t prepare emotionally.

And. I. was. devastated.

And everyone knew it.

But I don’t think they knew why (or bothered to care).

I remember as soon as the reality hit me and I asked– with dread or gallows certainty– “so you’re moving the Barclays out of Odyssey….”

And then somebody… writer? Producer? Some new face maybe?

There’s the suggestion that The Barclays are being moved to Pokenberry Falls and that the AIO production team are going to do a spinoff show for teen audiences because the Barclays are getting older.

The Barclays are going to get our own show!!!

Except this is a totally rehearsed lie from the pit of hell.

They are telling me this to lift my spirits. They can tell I’m devastated. I can barely hold in the tears that I can’t cry. Feel like I wanna puke.

The final death of all the things that died off because of this stupid Depression crap.

I will never see these people again.


Ever had to say goodbye to everyone you love and care about all at once?

For the second time?

Now do it while not fucking up 2 thirty page scripts.

The story isn’t even about Jimmy anymore. The shift of the family narrative is George. Perhaps I’m too much of a mess to be a main character anymore. Or they’re just trying to bury the character so the audience isn’t paying attention. Or who knows… maybe they were getting letters wondering why the actor sucked.

At some point I am so upset… I go outside to have a cigarette.

And while I am out there trying my hardest to not cry– which considering how much medication I’m on and how numbed out I am, even though I want to cry that would not be possible for awhile at this point.

Most of my emotional state is 1,000 yard stare. Mental health patients go through traumas much like war veterans. It’s all encompassing and lasts for years of non-stop devastation and trauma. The way that fucks up your nervous system and brain and soul… at some point part of your humanity dies. And you just never stop hurting.

And so there I am staring into space… kicking parking lot pebbles… sucking down a cigarette. Feeling everything and nothing simultaneously.

And then something astonishing happens.

I’m hesitant to share this story and so it may not make it into the final draft… although I guess vomiting my rough drafts into the internet will mean I can’t take this story back…

I hope she forgives me.

Donna comes out to the parking lot.

She comes up to me and asks me for a cigarette.

This. has. never. happened. before.


Donna smokes, too?!?!

Never seen this ever.

If there is a person over the course of my life who I had the most confusing relationship with…

it is the actor who played my sister for 7 years on Adventures in Odyssey.


Jimmy’s older sister.

And I’ve mentioned earlier in Volume 1 my feelings about naming the other child actors so I’m sticking to “Donna” to protect her privacy.

My relationship to Donna was the strangest of all the relationships I ever had.

In studio or in real life.

I’ve never spent that much time around someone and barely known them.

I have a hard time recalling a single conversation with Donna.


I don’t know that we communicated that much.

I mean, I’m sure we did… but I can’t recall any.

And the biggest reason is that most of the time I spent with her, was in the recording studio on the mic side of things.

We were almost never in the Lounge of Legends at the same time together.

Usually in family sitcoms that are child focused… there’s an A storyline and a B storyline. And the A storyline features one kid. And the B storyline features the other kid.

So, when I’m in the Lounge waiting my turn, Donna is recording. And when Donna is in the Lounge, I’m recording. And on Jimmy stories… she spends more time in the green room than I do. On Donna stories I get to hang out with Hal and Corey and Katie and Howie Morris.

We were always passing each other.

And the times that we are in the same room, it’s usually IN the recording studio on the mic side. And so you don’t have time to talk or hangout and get to know each other. You’re too busy spitting lines into mics.

And one of the things that made our dynamic weird for me… is that Jimmy is the annoying younger brother of Donna. And so most of the time we are together, we’re arguing. Or she’s mad at what Jimmy is doing. The vibe between the two of us is often us acting out the squabbling dynamic of arguing siblings.

Which sucked. Because I was always somewhat fascinated by Donna. She was smart, talented as heck, and a lovely person. And it sucked having to always be her bratty little brother that bugs her.

And in the same way that my relationship to the executive Producer was somewhat odd, because there was a fatherly dynamic at play… because again, the emotions you are experiencing in your brain when you are acting if you’re doing the job right… your brain pings those same sensors that say “this is dad this is sister”. And so, I always felt like our relationship was somewhat strained because I thought she couldn’t stand me. I always assumed I annoyed the crap out of her. And so I often avoided her. Didn’t know what to say. Plus she was a couple years older I think… and I was slightly intimidated by her.

Maybe that’s in my head. I was always nervous and uncomfortable and never quite knew how to bond or communicate with her.

In a way, she occupies the space of a total stranger in my head. I know nothing about her. She was a fairly quiet person. Or maybe we just were always two ships passing. I dunno… Maybe I really did annoy her.

So, it was beyond bizarre that she is now standing front of me in the parking lot asking for a cigarette.


Is Donna coming out here to console me? That was the vibe for a second or so. Or was Donna also frustrated/sad/awkward… is this the second time she’s being written off, too? Is that something that bothers her? (I always got the sneaking suspicion she never really cared about being on the show… but not sure where I got that vibe from)

Or were things being said in the green room after I left to smoke a cigarette and she came out in smoking solidarity with me? Or to piss the production team off, too?

No idea

She was always an impenetrable wall of mystery to me.

I’ve never spent so much time around someone and known so little about them.

Maybe she thought I was a rude person.

I dunno.

But here we are… I give a cigarette and a light… and there in the parking lot of the Marc Grau studios… the actors who play Jimmy and Donna Barclay are sharing the world’s most heartbreaking and awkward cigarette in the history of tobacco production.

My brains were also mashed potatoes so I may have remembered the few grains of memory wrong, but my grains of brains have the feeling that she was trying to show some empathy to me. I was upset. I was very upset.

Recording was my favorite thing to ever do.

Every other part of my life was regular and boring and full of mental illness and pain and destruction.

And this was where I shined. And I was losing it. Again. A pattern that will repeat forever in my life.

I remember it seemed like Donna wanted to say something but didn’t really know how or what to say because we weirdly don’t know each other. The adults get to go out and have drinks afterwards. They had wonderful friendships and relationships.

The kids barely knew each other. I never really had a relationship with any of them.

We were familiar strangers, effectively.

And with Donna it’s so bizarre because literally… we spent significant time together over almost a decade of our childhoods. In some ways she is like an extended family member. But one that is totally estranged.

The most vivid memory I have of that moment is Donna leaning against a car across from me and the two of us just staring at each other not knowing what to say but knowing this is probably the last time we will ever see each other and it’s the weirdest shit ever.

Do we hug?

Shake hands?

We never have before… how do you say goodbye to someone you barely know but in a weird way was a psuedo-sibling?

The sunlight glints off her tongue piercing as she exhales a plume of smoke…

my sleeves hiding my cigarette burns on my arms…

the Barclay kids ain’t in Odyssey anymore.

Of all the people I miss and have hoped to reconnect with over the years from my time on the show, Donna is the one I miss most. How I would have loved to have ever gotten to know her.

She’s like some odd cousin that you saw at family reunions but never managed to spend time with on any significant level. There’s a connection, but it’s superficial and limited by circumstances beyond both people’s control.

Donna… I wish you well in life wherever you are. I hope happiness and health and a great life are being lived by you. I hope some day we get to have a conversation again.

Maybe for the first time.

This business is weird to people.

I wish I had better people around me to guide me through it. I probably could have avoided most of the problems I ever had if I had been born into a show business family who knew what to do with a kid like me.

At some point towards the end of the day… I find myself sitting at the table in the Lounge of Legends with many of the other cast and crew as the day wears on.

And somebody, decides to start asking me and Donna what we hope to do with our lives now that we won’t be on the show anymore– wait, didn’t they say there was gonna be a spin off series?

Donna mentions college but had no desire for show business on any level.

They turn to me…

“So David, what do you hope to do with the rest of your life…”


I can barely squeak the word out.

I’m so close to crying THANK GOD for the psychiatric medication killing my ability to physically emote.


This was all I ever wanted.

I woulda made that show forever. And if not that show, just to work in the industry and be able to have a life and pay bills. That’s all I ever wanted. I wasn’t greedy. I wasn’t trying to become famous.

I was happy jamming in studio with the best in the world and cashing a paycheck when I got home.

All I wanted was that career. At the age when I need to find something it was at my fingertips… but always out of reach.

And my family had zero interest in supporting that dream.

Especially once the mental illness stuff hit.

My Religious Parent’s issues with Hypochondria, Medical Anxiety, Munchausen and Munchausen by Proxy (fictitious disorder)… once I got sick, I was thrust fully into the mental health system. There was no looking back.

And what part of that was because I was actually mentally ill? Or was I driven to suicide by a family that stymied my career interests because of their fears of Hollywood? And once the suicide attempt happened I could be trapped in the mental health system as a diversion?

Which came first? The chemical imbalance that destroyed my life? Or the life destruction that destroyed my brain chemistry? No idea.

Both paths lead to the same destructive outcome.

After I say “this” the conversation shifts to other topics.

And I believe it is here that there is a conversation that I first mentioned in the post I wrote about telling Hal Smith I loved him like a grandfather.

A question that is fair to ask as a reader: what are the odds that the production team didn’t know that Dave Griffin was sick with suicidal depression and severe mental illness?

Maybe they didn’t even know about the massive suicide attempt and writing the Barclays out had zero to do with any of that?

Correlation does not equal causation, right?

Perhaps they just saw a kid smoking cigarettes and thought I was rebelling.

Maybe the whole Prodigal Dave vibe they thrust my way is because they were not informed of what I was going through.

But… there was a conversation.

It was in the Lounge of Legends.

I remember because I was there.

(although the details are admittedly hazy)

I struggle to remember the context of the conversation and which session it occurred.

The day I told Hal I loved him I was super emotionally unstable and during that time of my life and in the years that followed I would go through phases where I don’t say anything to anybody about Depression and Mental Illness because nobody can handle it and everybody treats me like shit… and then I ALSO went through these periods of time where I can’t stop talking about it.

Like a new church convert. Or someone who starts AA to get sober. And suddenly that’s all they talk about for the next 2 years. Their language changes. the words they use. The phraseologies… little meme dialogue pieces that they’ve brought into their lives.

Same thing happens with mental health patients. At some point you over explain to everyone what’s happening to you, because you’re dealing with it so much it becomes normal to talk about and you forget that it’s taboo.

And emotionally unstable people sometimes can’t shut up or feel the need to explain to everyone why they’re acting so twitchy and have dry mouth and can’t emote.

And it would make sense I blurted this out the same day I told Hal I loved him because I thought I was gonna die… and I was being an overly honest blabber mouth.

But, I also have the memory that I was trying to use the idea of having the “spin off Pokenberry Falls show” deal with more mature subjects for a teen audience.

And even though I suspected the spin off show idea was them totally blowing smoke up my ass to manipulate me to get me to record those final two episodes… I held out hope it could be real.

And I was desperate for them to have a reason to keep me around.

So, in that moment of desperation…

I pitched the idea to the team of doing a storyline where…

*checks notes*…

Jimmy struggles with Depression.

I distinctly recall telling a packed Lounge of Legends… that they should do a storyline based on what I was experiencing “because I bet there’s listeners out there going through the same thing I am… AND IT COULD HELP.

A sick actor clinging to hope that his sickness can be used as fodder to entertain people so that he can keep doing the job he loves.

Even worked in the moral angle so it would be a public service.

I learned from the best of the best.

And I will never forget what happens next.

After I say those words…

the. room. is. dead. fucking. silent.

A pin could drop.

You could hear a mouse fart in the building across the street across 4 busy lanes of traffic on Burbank Blvd.

A roomful of christians got real silent.

I think it was the Executive Producer sitting to my left– but it may have been a head writer– and after I say these words and the deafening silence that follows…

This person just slowly nods and says some inane thing like “that’s definitely something to think about” which is industry speak for “absofuckinglutely not.”

So, if ever you find yourself in a situation where somebody may be arguing that there’s no way possible the crew could have known that Dave Griffin was dealing with suicidal depression… even if my Religious Parent didn’t tell them… which I don’t think that’s possible for one second, they’re the type to call them first thing.

But, maybe not, though.

Let’s say the AIO team truly had an information blackout from my family because of stigma or shame…

I, Dave Griffin, told everyone– blurted it out like an oversharing dumbass– that I was mentally ill to the crew of Adventures in Odyssey.

Because I wanted to keep my job.

That I loved.

It was actually one of those times where I learned that there were definitely rooms you could not say those words in.

I learned real fast that had been a bad idea.

I was not greeted with love and hugs and christian fellowship.


While someone nervously coughs in the corner.

A tumble weed blows by.

If laying on a cold cement floor in a psychiatric isolation room was where my faith in God was first shown to crumble…

This moment… here in the Lounge of Legends with the production staff of Adventures in Odyssey blowing off my mental illness struggles is where my skepticism of the system the Fucking Evangelicals™ push was born.

I gave 7 years of killer performances while being underpaid, not credited, ignored, never given fan mail or any pats on the head, not even a fucking pizza party, for an organization that made million$ off this show.

And L’il DaveyBoy™ is suffering a life threatening illness (and may be a victim of Munchausen by Proxy)…

And the people who claim Jesus’ name…

How do they show their love to that sick kid who did so much for them?

I did it cheerfully, btw.

As the years of pain multiply and the life destruction continues… a show will continue to be made for decades… the people who make that show calling each other “family” regularly.

But, not everyone gets to be in that family. Just like my own family.

And some of that is the nature of the business. I’m certainly not the only kid that they never talk to anymore. 1,000 actors over the course of 1,000 shows over 35 years.

But I wasn’t just some random kid actor.

Imagine if I never land in their lap for episode 002, 003, and 004.

Imagine if 3 of the first 4 episodes that ever hooked audiences didn’t feature L’il DaveyBoy™.

Imagine if Jimmy Barclay is never created 6 months later.

Does that show still get to 35 years and 1,000 episodes?


But I damn sure played a very significant part in that success.

And now the kid that you rode for 7 years… that you squeezed all those performances out of and benefitted from those episodes way more than I ever did…

The kid God sent you is sick


They quietly nodded.

We finished recording.

And I walked out the back door to the parking lot without so much as a slice of cake, card, pictures, promises to see anyone again, numbers exchanged, no “thanks for all you’ve done”… no closing cast party for 7 years of selling the entire concept of “FAMILY” to white evangelical kids all over the world… no appreciation for all the careers that were made off me… nuthin.

Didn’t even take me out to dinner for fuck’s sake.

See ya, kid.


Coldest shit of all time.










So if you ever thought to yourself over the years…

“Whatever happened to the actor that played Jimmy Barclay?”

Now you know.

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27 responses to “After Credit Bonus Scene: The Prodigal Pt. 3, Pt. 1”

  1. Joey Reichhoff Avatar
    Joey Reichhoff

    Dave. Wish we could have that coffee today.

    1. dave Avatar

      Let’s do it! Let’s have a zoom. Next best option.

  2. chanagon Avatar

    Gut punch.

  3. Kate P Avatar
    Kate P

    Wow. That ending. Gonna be thinking about that for a while. Doing some self-reflection as well.

    That was incredibly effective.

    1. dave Avatar

      Thank you for this feedback and data. I was aiming for an impact. Glad to know it hit for you.

      This brings me artistic satisfaction, I’m grateful.

      1. David K Johnson Avatar
        David K Johnson

        However obscure you may feel, know that I see you and appreciate all you’ve done. Both in voice acting and in pouring out your heart for this project. You’re one of the main, ever-present voices of my life, and I do not take that lightly. Thank you

  4. Kate P Avatar
    Kate P

    The picture made it even more effective.

    1. dave Avatar


      Thank you for this data point too!

  5. Jeremy Klipsch Avatar
    Jeremy Klipsch

    Yo man, I really appreciated your response to my previous comment. Turns out, I think I’m about ten years younger than you, and I’ve listened to most episodes of AIO multiple times through the first 340 or so episodes. I remember assuming you were the same kid who played Tim in Jurassic Park. Maybe you get that a lot. Regardless, I’ll try to share my perspective with you if you have time or interest.

    My parents were conservative Christians, and I rebelled against them pretty heavily as a teen/tween. I spent ten years as an undergraduate and graduate student at a HARD CORE liberal university, studying critical social theory, environmental science, indigenous cultures, masculine/feminine studies, race history, and I also used just about every psychotropic substance known to humanity. I don’t regret doing any of that, but obviously it led to some identity questioning and complete mental deconstruction, if you will.

    Anthropology was my primary discipline, and my passion is to travel and understand different cultures, so much so that I feel a complete outsider to conservative Christians in the US at this point. It’s interesting to look at these AIO stories as propaganda, and I don’t mean to disagree with you, but now I also just see them as these audio artifacts from the tribe who raised me. And some of these artifacts, i.e. the Prodigal Jimmy episode, are these icons in my consciousness still incredibly valuable. It imprinted the prodigal son story onto my mind, and maybe such things come around again when it has been the time of my father’s death and he needed my trust and respect more than ever.

    And what kid would easier remember from simply reading the Bible rather than hear it in a story about video games and bullies, etc. And where else would little white barbarians us we find such stories in our bastardized language? So bravo.

    1. dave Avatar

      Thank you for sharing your backstory. I have been hopeful that others would do that. That’s one of my larger goals eventually to have a reader’s space/portal/chatroom where others can share their stories as well.

      It is my hope that by sharing my story others will feel empowered to share theirs as well and we can finally knock down the walls of silence that prop the whole system up.

      I appreciate your ability to reject the system at such a young age and get the education you did. I was trapped in it waaaaaaaaaay too long.

      Big fan of psychotropics. Might need to take a trip again some day…. haven’t done that in 20 years lol.

      Thank you for helping me see the episodes in another light. That means a lot to me. It’s been an unpleasant feeling to think my skillset was used for political agendas and helps me see that there was more to the show. I do love how much people love the character and that they still enjoy the work we did. I’m still very proud of it!

      The direction the fandom has taken since the Trump years has been devastating to witness… but maybe that’s just how far I’ve come. And I’m only focused on the glass being half empty.

      Thank you for sharing another perspective with me. That makes me feel better about the whole thing.

      1. Jeremy Klipsch Avatar
        Jeremy Klipsch

        Sorry for the Jurassic Park comment. That was meant as a complement: you’re an excellent actor, and I hoped to find more productions with your name on them.

        By the way, it’s a total coincidence I found your blog while you’re still writing entries. I searched the names of the cast because I found the cassettes while cleaning out my dad’s stuff…

        It would definitely be cool to chat more with people from this community. I was influenced deeply by all of you, and I’m still using the show as a tool to cheer me up and remind me of valuable ethical parables at age 35. It helps me fall asleep also. The funniest episodes are with Jimmy/Lawrence.

        Again, I don’t mean to debate you, but can I challenge you to mention some examples of Right Wing Propaganda in the episodes? I’m just curious.

  6. Kate P Avatar
    Kate P

    One thing I’ve found perplexing in reading through your accounts is that AIO staff seemed to have one set of standards for you and a different set of standards for the adult voice actors. They wanted you to be a good model Christian child, but they didn’t care if the adults were even Christians?

    Did you ever get a sense if any of the adult actors–Christian or not–picked up on any of those double standards or instances of hypocrisy?

    1. dave Avatar

      Fascinating question. I’ve been considering doing a special Q & A page where I delve into questions that deserve bigger answers.

      I have one more post to put out and then I’ll drop that and answer this question there.

      Good question!

      Short answer: I was a kid and these are Christian’s making a radio show to influence children… what does it say if their poster child for white evangelicaltopia is having the kinds of problems I am?

      And they need the adults. They needed the best in the world to pull off this show. And you can’t tsk tsk an adult the same way although I do have an anecdote about Corey being pestered—- I’ve said too much.

      *dramatically exits the stage*

      1. Kate P Avatar
        Kate P

        Somehow, I missed your response.

        Your thoughts here are making me think about something I often wonder about.

        AIO is pretty good quality, as far as I, as a clueless layperson, can tell. So was VeggieTales. But they’re about the only things within Christian culture that have ever been done with a level of quality that isn’t, quite frankly, embarrassing. Maybe DC Talk’s Jesus Freak album, too, now that I think about it?

        And I’ve always wondered why that is. If we are supposed to do everything for the glory of God, why doesn’t that apply to the arts?

        But then on the flipside, I also get uncomfortable when I see megachurches putting on these big elaborate shows and wonder why they are wasting so much money on all that.

        I’ve been trying to analyze those contradictions in my own mind, and I wondered if you have any thoughts or insight, as a person who is actually artistic and was involved in the arts in the evangelical world.

        It’s fine if you don’t want to tackle that question, though. No pressure.

        1. dave Avatar

          Ah this is such a critical core point of the whole thing I’m doing. Now you’re keying in on where the real problems lie.

          The way christians interact with art and their fundamental illiteracy on the subject is at the heart of the entire piece. I have a LOT to say about that in future volumes– it’s one of the main thesis of the piece.

          The lack of art literacy, the megatheaters churches megachurches and how the entire system is a system not understanding a particular work of art that they think is inerrant but is, in fact, a work of art.

          Art is the achilles heel to the entire cult.

          1. Kate P Avatar
            Kate P

            This is all going to be even more interesting than I thought. Ans I am already beyond interested.

  7. Jami Cowling Avatar
    Jami Cowling

    Just a thought about what you said about AIO writing you out of the show. In case you did not know in the official AIO club they have a weekly comic series where they bring back the older characters who were children characters before on the show or characters whose actors have passed away and they did two two comic storylines this year. One is about Donna getting married and the other is a sequel to Aloha Oy. Also just recently in the last two and a half years the show did do a story arc where a child character doubted their faith and almost walked away from what they believed because they believed that they were responsible for the death of their teacher in a skiing accident because they prayed for their class to go on the trip and that was a really good story arc

    1. dave Avatar

      Yep, I’ve seen the ones they share on social media– I don’t have an account so I can’t see the full thing. I assumed that was Jimmy with the goatee and red hat, lol.

      They have brought the character back occasionally and I’ll tell more of those stories in the next volumes of content… but they definitely won’t ever record with the actor who played Jimmy again which is why it gets the cartoon treatment like that.

      They do not want Dave Griffin around.

      I am not invited to the get-togethers w/ fans. Ever. Not once.

      And yeah… “doubt” is a common theme in the evangelical world and makes sense that would be a storyline at some point. Surprised it’s not a more common topic, actually.

      My story is not about “doubt”.

      Rather, it’s about what happens when “doubt” turns into “certainty”.

      1. James Avatar

        Would you even go if they invited you at this point?

        1. dave Avatar

          Until recently absolutely I would have gone in a heart beat. If I was invited now… oof… that would be hard to say yes to, but it’s also the only rooms that exist where there are people gathered who are fans of the work I made. Where else can I find that?

          But, as a democrat active in the party, I don’t know that I could go without losing my position as a state delegate and local party exec. One of the only ways you can be kicked out is “providing material support to an opposing party” and AIO/FOTF are at their core a propaganda effort for the GOP.

          It hurts though… I dearly love… and am terrified of the fans. Probably be a super spreader event anyway. Post COVID it’s a room of people I would not trust to not get sick in.

          But I ADORE fans. The fan/artist relationship is one that is so important to me– hence why I’m baring my soul to help get my fans out of a cult.

          So short answer: No, I wouldn’t go.

          Longer answer: I still want to go and get face time with fans… even though I know I probably shouldn’t.

  8. Christina Avatar

    I just wanted to comment that I have read your blog from start to finish in about 2 days time. I discovered your page after seeing a comment on a Facebook fan page about something Barclay related.
    Your story was so powerful and it is something that people need to hear! I applaud you for your bravery in coming forward to tell it.
    I have always considered myself an avid reader and when I started reading your work, I had a hard time stopping.
    Dave, your writing style is out of this world! It provoked the perfect ratios of intrigue, suspense, heartbreak, humor and maybe most importantly, the raw and real facts about mental health (the world needs more of this in everyday literature!).
    You truly have a gift of writing in a way that connects to the soul of the reader.
    Please know that people both want to, and need to hear this story. I look forward to reading your future work.

    1. dave Avatar

      Thank you for this beautiful message.

      It means a great deal to me when people share about how much the blog is affecting them… and for awhile, those were the only notes I was getting and it was really frustrating me– isn’t anybody noticing the writing?!?

      I’m a Writer… I need Writing feedback!

      And a friend pointed out to me people were getting so absorbed by the story and content and the goals of the art piece were working so well that it was overshadowing the writing. So I was sorta resigning myself to going, “womp womp I did SUCH a good job of writing that nobody is noticing it…(except writers)”

      *sadly pats self on back*

      Like with acting, when you do it well, people get absorbed into the character and they don’t even realize you’re acting. They don’t see any of the technique or preparation and the audience can just FEEL. And the work invades their brain/heart/soul. That’s the gift to the audience. That’s why we do the art form (or at least why I do)

      And so when folk would tell me how a piece of art I created made them feel, but nobody gives notes on the acting itself… that’s usually a good sign.

      But it’s kind of frustrating. You want peers and those that appreciate the art to notice how well you did it, too!

      And here comes this beautiful message doing precisely that. You noticed!!

      “It provoked the perfect ratios of intrigue, suspense, heartbreak, humor and maybe most importantly, the raw and real facts about mental health”

      *nods vigorously*

      ^ That. is. not. easy.

      That is precisely what I am trying to do. Sweating at it, in fact. You nailed it. And I have to do the first 4 things on that list so thing #5 gets read. #5 is the point. But I need 1-4 so that people will read #5. And you are correct- “and maybe most importantly”– that’s the whole job right there.

      Add to that list: make it pithy, visceral, artistic… while also trying to get fans out of a cult… and end fascism.

      It’s quite the ambitious little project. lol

      And somebody sees it and appreciates it! *swoon*

      Thank you, NewFavoriteCommenter™.

      Btw, what was the Barclay related thing that lead you here? My numbers spiked hard over 12/27-29. Like spiked unusually (100x more than typical) that we were trying to figure out where everyone was coming from. If you have any data to share that would be appreciated of how you arrived here.

      And Welcome!

      Thank you so much for reading and giving time to the project. It’s an honor to have you here. I’m writing this hoping to make it a fun read so audiences can actually ride through The Horrible with me. Really means the world to me that you gave me this feedback. I am a happy artist the last couple days.

      Showed your comment to everyone I could!

      I’m grateful. 🙂

      1. Christina Avatar

        Wow my inner fangirl is hyperventilating because Dave Griffin took time out of his day to respond to my comment! 🫨

        I’m very happy my comment provided you some artistic encouragement/ feedback. I’m by no means a writer myself, my experience is limited to writing research papers throughout my time in university. But I take notice and appreciate the artistic intelligence of a writer’s work. It’s pretty incredible you have such a great talent for both acting and writing! Maybe you should start your own audio drama..

        I can absolutely confirm why you have had so much traffic in the last week. On the 27th in an aio Facebook fan group, a fan posted about other work one of the Mary Barclay actors did. And then in the comments, fan#2 mentioned how in Dave Griffin’s blog you wrote that Mary was written very one dimensionally etc and then other fans who had never heard of your blog (including
        myself) asked for more info on the blog. So I’m assuming many of the fans checked it out shortly after.

  9. Andy Avatar

    This one slipped through the cracks for me, but I got chills reading it. Solid close. Thanks, as always, for putting yourself out there as you do.

  10. S & E Avatar
    S & E

    Dear Dave,

    This is a fan letter. Holy shit. We have never done this before.
    We are those homeschooled kids who lived vicariously through AIO. We measured road trips by the number of tapes we would listen to on the way. We left family gatherings to sit in the car and listen to the radio when it came on. For our entire elementary education, we were raised in an isolated environment. Our curriculum consisted of a combination of A Beka Book and Robinson tripe, along with just about everything that Focus on the Family put out in the 80s and 90s. We were parented according to the guidance of The Strong-Willed Child and Dare to Discipline. The Satanic panic, homophobia, and sexism were the emotional rods that did more lasting damage than the actual rods. During much of that time, we had no other friends in real life, so you – both as Jimmy and as the real-life kid we knew was behind the character – were one of our friends. It is an honor to re-meet you. Your courage and creativity in sharing your story has inspired us to share ours. Thank you for creating a context for it.

    Our religious journey was a bit different than the typical Fucking Evangelicals. Our parents attended a non-denominational church until the early 90s when, along with many other evangelicals who had gone searching for “the original Church,” they converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. They carried with them the zealotry of evangelicalism – the desire to simultaneously run away from the world and conquer it. They blended that zeal with Old World hierarchical structures, The Bible set to depressing music, costumes (Russian peasant for the congregation, Byzantine court attire for the clergy), and “Holy Tradition” (which boils down to, “Because we have said so over the past 2,000 years”). Perhaps we can call them the Fucking Larping Evangelicals. This toxic hybrid took over many gentle immigrant churches and became the radicalized hellscape we ended up leaving in the early 2010s.

    One of us got out in the last year of college, after a slow chipping away during philosophy/religion/psychology classes and finally in a grand identity crisis after a semester abroad. One of us went all the way through Orthodox seminary, the only full-time female MDiv student in that year, finally leaving after having one of the only career paths open to women scuttled (whether by incompetence, or out of revenge for the uncomfortable questions posed during seminary, can never be known). Both of us watched in horror as the Church that was almost our entire world grew increasingly hostile. Since we left, we have heard that this trend has continued straight into supporting Trump, denying science through a deadly pandemic, and in all ways doubling down on oppressing anyone who doesn’t fit their straight, white-ish, male-dominated, conservative mold. Fuck. That. Shit.

    We discovered your blog in the midst of another shitstorm (crisis turned opportunity?) and it has become a landmark in our healing journey. We have a sibling who has also gotten out of the Church. They left earlier than we did, having become a scapegoat because of differences that were discovered rather than shared by choice (in order to respect their privacy, we will not say more about that). We were just starting to bond as adults and reflect on the extreme fuckery that we all managed to survive and escape. Then, a couple years ago, that sibling started showing signs of a major mental illness. Conditioned by the consistent (and consistently bad) advice of the religious culture, our parents were hesitant (and later outright opposed) to reach out to the proper professionals to get them a diagnosis and treatment. Instead, they fell back on the old stand-by: go to the Church leaders for support that they inevitably cannot (or will not) give. Not surprisingly, this did not help. We tried everything we could, researching and educating them on how far the field has come and begging them not to give up on the process despite the very real problems with the mental health landscape. One of us is a licensed social worker and added that perspective to the mix, although you have a pretty good idea of how much actual expertise is valued in such situations. Skipping over the finer details of that saga, we eventually made the painful decision to go no-contact with our parents and sibling for everyone’s safety. Reading about your experience with depression and trying to get support was like re-breaking a bone that didn’t set right, both excruciating and validating. There is no praise high enough for your bravery, both in living through all of that and choosing to share it with all of us.

    Recently, we have been re-listening to AIO as adults well into our respective deconstruction processes, and we have been experiencing a combination of giddy nostalgia and righteous rage against the propaganda that was intended to groom us to be the perfect Christians. We tried so hard for so long, not just to be perfect on the outside by following all of the rules, but also internally– by subjecting our thoughts and feelings to relentless scrutiny, trying to preempt and forestall the condemnation of the authority figures in our family and in the Church. What this looked like in practice was lonely children perfecting the art of depression and anxiety. It took hitting rock bottom with both our family and the Church to realize that we did not actually wish to die to ourselves. Choosing to truly live still feels new, strange, unscripted – exhilarating and terrifying at once – but 100% worth it. Every story we discover of others who were fully immersed in that world and got out adds to that feeling. We were not as alone as we thought we were. And you are not alone in your quest to wake people up, to speak truth in a time when the very concept of truth is on the ballot. To whatever degree you are able, please keep it up. We as fellow heretics/apostates/traitors to an unjust cause will be cheering you along every step of the way. And if you have to step away to take care of yourself, we will support you in that too. Either way, you will have given your readers an irreplaceable gift. Thank you.

  11. serrebi Avatar

    It seems to me that Donna could see at least what was going on with you at the surface. I hope you get to reconnect with her one day. I hate racism against smokers myself, so this entry struck a chord with me. Years ago, I stuck around with someone at a certain blind camp, so they could excuse staying behind for a session, because every other counsolor had a hate on against smoking/would have made fun of her if someone didn’t stay with her. I was disgusted, I mean how woke! Even though I wasn’t a smoker I couldn’t just sit by and have someone suffer for their self centerd reasonings.
    and now the part i’m not sure if I should write because of being human, I asume….
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Odysey wrote your character to your own story. I think they have done that to me in the past as a fan, but I don’t know for sure of course. Wish they would have let the idea breathe though. 3 parts and the whole point for me is forced into 10 minutes in part 3, rabble!

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