Lyle Drescher and I were supposed to meet at a vegan restaurant called the Jungle Cafe in Brooklyn. It would have been perfect — interviewing a man known for dressing up as a gecko in a restaurant named for its natural habitat. But after a few minutes of waiting for him to arrive, I got a text asking if I could meet him at the McDonald’s across the street instead.
There, leaning over the table, Drescher showed me a video on his phone called “HELP HELP HELP HELP HELP HELP.” In it, Drescher wears a gecko costume and dark green face paint, and runs away from his owner “Curtis” after learning of his true intentions.
“I thought Curtis loved me,” he yells. “But he had nothing in his heart but lust!”
That, Drescher says, is partly how his Therapy Gecko streams came to be. A $60 GoFundMe campaign to buy the suit that only raised $40, an AdultSwim internship that had him cutting clips for social media, and a few streams on the Reddit Public Access Network in June 2020 that made the site’s front page, all led Drescher to where he was one year later: sitting in Brooklyn during a July heatwave with over 600,000 followers on TikTok and tens of thousands on Twitch, getting ready to do his first-ever live show as the Therapy Gecko.
Drescher’s streams are simple. It’s a talk show, except the host is a 23-year-old Baltimorian in a gecko getup and the backdrop is stock footage set to smooth jazz. There’s really no telling what to expect when someone calls into Drescher’s show. Callers are frequently stoned and shocked when he picks up. Others are looking to vent and share a vulnerable moment, or to simply shoot the shit with a gecko. I told Drescher he might be able to do my job better than I can: he’s an expert interviewer, always knowing when to ask questions and when to sit there in silence to create an awkward moment. Guests have included romance ghost writers, warring roommates, and someone who exclusively pees in showers and tubs. Drescher streams as the Gecko full-time, and produces his own TikToks, YouTube videos, and a podcast edit of his VODs.
“I’m helped by the fact that I’m wearing a giant green gecko costume, which makes people stop and go, “what is this?” Drescher says. “I know it’s a gimmick, but if I just got up there and was like, ‘it’s the Lyle Show, starring me, Lyle!’ everyone would be like, ‘who is this guy?’”
Inspired by shows like “Podcast but Outside” and “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People,” Drescher viewed the Brooklyn show as his next step — a testing ground for an upcoming live show in Chicago that would be part of a documentary he was getting ready to shoot called “Geck Across America.” Viewers had filled out a form offering to host Drescher and do something with him, like letting him officiate a wedding or practice with their women’s rugby team. Drescher says the form received over 400 submissions.
“It was actually really beautiful,” he says. “When you’re a streamer, you make your living by obsessing about the numbers. But this was like, ‘Wow, it’s a real community.’ The diversity of age and race and gender was super cool to me.”
The Gecko Goes Live
Later that night in an unmarked Brooklyn venue called The Vino Theater, hidden atop a narrow flight of stairs, Drescher got to work setting up the show with friends Shane Duffner and Asad Bokhari, who both work in New York as production assistants. Anyone watching them run cables could think they’d done it all before — because they had.
The three were students at Temple University in Philadelphia where Drescher and friends ran an underground comedy club out of their basement called Cave, where they’d often host sold-out shows and were featured in the Philadelphia Enquirer. Cave was eventually shut down when the landlord discovered it via Facebook, but it was alive again as Duffner helped Drescher set up audio during a mock call with Bokhari.
After joking during the test about whether they’d rather get $2 million at once or have an income, Drescher exclaimed, “Oh my God, this might actually work!”
In the theater there an hour later, as the Gecko walked out from behind the curtain, the mythology of an online community came to life. The sold-out crowd of 35, some of whom were community members meeting for the first time, passed around beers and shots of whiskey. The line between the live show and the stream blurred as audience members pulled Twitch up on their phones and began interacting with chatters. One caller with a heavy Canadian accent sent the crowd howling early on, and the stream, which soared past 1,000 viewers, filled up with messages calling this the Gecko’s best stream yet.
One audience member who came on stage had travelled from Virginia to see the show, and was revealed to be an infamous caller in the community known as “Washing Machine David” for once sharing the story of how he stole a washing machine. Another did a light-up hula hoop routine. Washing Machine David later made a comeback and arm wrestled another viewer while the crowd stood up in their seats whooping like onlookers at the Colosseum.
“It was awesome — one of the best experiences I’ve had,” audience member Ahmad says. He first discovered the Gecko on Reddit in November, and had brought his younger sister Rawaa, who had never heard of the Gecko, up with him from Virginia to visit New York and see the show together.
“It went really smoothly,” Rawaa says. “I’m definitely going to keep watching him.”
After the show, as Lyle took photos with audience members and made plans to go to a bar with them, Duffner was elated. “There was something I wanted to say to you — that Lyle is the hardest working lazy person I know,” he said.
When I told Duffner about my plan to interview Lyle at the Jungle Cafe, he laughed. “When you said ‘vegan cafe’ I was like, ‘This guy does not know Lyle.’”
Shedding the “Therapy” Moniker
The line between the “Gecko” and “Lyle” has always been thin. The green paint will often slide down his face as he sweats throughout a stream (his dermatologist says he’ll “probably” be fine) and his Twitch handle isn’t “Therapy Gecko” — it’s “LyleForever.”
But that “therapy” prefix has attracted more sensitive callers. At his live show in Seattle last month, an audience member came on stage and talked at length about his failing marriage. When the Gecko suggested he see a real therapist, the man shook his head at the floor. “How do you even begin to do something like that?” he asked.
“I have a genuine sense of gratefulness that people are comfortable enough with me to share these things, but I’ve had points where I’m like, ‘What the hell have I gotten myself into with this?’” Drescher says. “It’s one of the reasons I don’t like the name ‘Therapy Gecko.’ I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that I’m either here to give therapy or be fun — that the show is anything other than whatever it is at that current moment.”
In the two months since the New York show, Drescher has only gotten bigger. Today, he boasts over a million followers on TikTok and over 82,000 on Twitch. Last month, he made appearances on the H3 Podcast and HealthyGamerGG, did two more live shows, and just wrapped up filming for “Geck Across America,” which he hopes will work as a proof of concept to get funding for a larger project.
“I would walk around in public a lot as The Gecko [during shooting], and I would get recognized everywhere we went,” Drescher says. “It’s weird building something that’s digital because people become numbers. But when they become people again as you see them in real life, it’s really, really nice.”