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Comedy Fri Sep 09 2011
Brian Posehn, best known for his involvement in The Comedians of Comedy, is performing at the Cubby Bear this Saturday, Sept. 10. I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about comedy, fatherhood, the Insane Clown Posse and pot smoking. Here is what he had to say.
I was just re-listening to your most recent album, Fart and Wiener Jokes, in preparation for our call, and I was literally crying.
Nice. Out of laughter, right?
Definitely laughter, not sadness or regret or anything like that.
So what brings you to the Cubby Bear? That seems like an unusual venue for you.
I did the Lakeshore Theater a couple of times and now that that's gone... there are few good alternative comedy venues. When [The Lakeshore] went away, I was just kind of looking for another cool place. I do a lot of rock clubs, and I had a really great experience the last time I did the Cubby Bear.
I've had that conversation with a lot of people about The Lakeshore.
I love any place where the owner loves comedy. One of the few clubs I still do is in Peoria, and because the guy who owns it loves comedy, it's much better. Some of these comedy clubs are so much more of a business than anything... it's almost like a TGI Fridays where you just happen to have a microphone. I don't like that, that's one of the things I try to get away from in comedy. That's why I like rock clubs; that's a big reason why The Comedians of Comedy was so much fun to do. These people were there specifically to see us.
That's true. It's hard to see good, alternative comedy now. You're also doing Otto's in Dekalb this weekend, right?
Yeah, I did the same thing last year, both clubs back to back and I had a great time, so I wanted to do that again.
It makes me really happy that you're doing places like that. Comedy nerds can afford it; it's accessible and we can go see good comedy at a reasonable price, and not in a two-drink-minimum kind of way.
Right. There are always some people who wander in and don't know what they're going to see, but most of the people are there to see my show, which you don't get at a comedy club. There's no other form of entertainment like that. Nobody ever goes to a movie theater and goes, "What have you got?" You go to a movie theater because you know what you're going to see. You go to a rock club because you know what you're going to see.
That's actually a really great point.
It's so weird that people would walk into a comedy club and just go, "Well, I hope it's good!"
Absolutely. I also read about you doing The Gathering of the Juggalos recently. Can you talk about that experience?
You got some flack for that. A lot of comedy nerds are mad at you!
Yeah. I got some grief and, uh, I don't care. If you're no longer a fan of mine because I did 20 minutes in front of people that you don't like, then you weren't that good of a fan to begin with. I've had people say that they lost respect for me, and that's so insane to me. Louis CK is my favorite comic right now, and Louis CK would have to play for, like, the KKK for me to go, "Hey, I'm not on board anymore." It feels like some comedy nerds are just waiting for you to do something wrong, so they can turn on you. You know what I mean?
You know, I took it as a money gig, but I also took it as an experience. I called other comics, my friends, that these comedy nerds love. I called Patton [Oswalt] and said, "I just got asked to do this gig," and he said, "Holy shit, you HAVE to do that." Every person I talked to about it was like "HAHA, you have to do it!" And it's not my 35-year-old fans turning on me, it's kids in their late teens, early 20s, who hate that group so patently. I don't have that hatred for anybody. I don't care about anything that much to get that upset.
Well, despite all of that, was it a good set? Did it go well?
It wasn't, really. It's like, they're happy to have you there, but it was the same as it would have been if I had been performing at a frat party or any other place where people are out of their minds on drugs and alcohol. They're tired, they're wasted.
Juggalos like to party, from what I've heard.
They do. And, you know, I understand the Juggalos, I understand what it's like to be into something that people either really like, or they don't. I'm a Rush fan.
It definitely requires a certain level of commitment. And what a fun experience that must have been to watch.
It was, I'm sure. They were nice to me, but I don't think any of them went out and bought my album afterwards. They're not quoting my jokes.
Actually, one of your jokes has become famous amongst me and my friends.
The one about someone being so hot that it makes you mad. I've quoted that joke in conversation more than once.
Thank you! That's very flattering, that anything sticks with people. That's what you hope for. I always hate when comedians call themselves artists, but as a comedian, that's what you hope for. That people walk away and think about what you say.
You also have an Obama joke from right around the election, that I realized after listening to it again is sort of prophetic.
That's a rare thing. I don't do a lot of timely jokes, on purpose. I'm not as prolific as some of my friends, my jokes sometimes stay in the act for three years.
What is your writing process like when you're creating an album?
The process now is more organic. I let the jokes write themselves and I write more out of life experience and things that happen to me than I used to. The first half of Fart and Wiener Jokes is just things that have actually happened to me. Something will happen and I go, "Whoa, I have to write this down." Then the whole thing kind of just falls into place. I never go to coffee houses to write jokes anymore, which is how I started.
Do you think that's because you've been doing it for so long?
Yeah, and also, it's just more organic for me now. But on the other hand, it takes longer to create an album now, because I have to wait for funny things to happen.
That was going to be my next question. Do you just carry a notebook around and wait for funny things to happen?
Yeah, kind of. When I think of an idea I write it down and then I just go back to it and flush it out.
Can you tell, when you have a great idea, that it should be developed into something else? What is that process like?
For sketch writing, I've trained my brain. I can force myself to come up with five fresh ideas in the car. I had that experience recently on my way to meet with Nick Swardson. By the time I got from the Valley, where I live, to downtown LA, I had five new ideas. Maybe sketch writing is just a thing that my brain is better at, I don't know. I could never come up with five jokes in 45 minutes. That's just not the way my brain is trained anymore.
Do you have any plans of doing another show or more sketch writing in the near future?
I'm working on a sitcom pilot for myself right now, but after that I really would love to do a sketch show that I run. It's one of my favorite forms of writing and something that I feel fairly confident in. I love that writing style and coming up with an idea that you perform and then move onto another idea. I could never be a sitcom writer, I could never do the same character for five years. But I definitely could sit in a room and write sketches. It would be nice to have a regular 9-to-5 job, where I could sit in a room and write sketches and then go home to my son.
Congratulations, by the way, on becoming a parent.
How does the life of a stand-up comic change once children become involved?
My day-to-day life is insane. You wake up and it's about them, then when they go to bed, it's still about them, and then you have a couple of hours where you're exhausted, where you're not actively thinking about them. Every moment that they're awake, it's about them. It's the kid show. It's really strange. Being a comic, my life has always been about me doing whatever I want at any moment. For the longest time, it was like, if I want to go see a movie right now, I can do that. Little things like that go away, but I don't miss that stuff. I've had a full life of doing whatever I wanted. I stopped pot for my kid, and I don't miss that at all. I did 20 years of playing video games all day when I wanted to. I don't need that anymore.
I wanted to ask about you giving up pot. That's another thing that people are oddly obsessed with.
It's so weird to me. I talked about it on Marc Maron's podcast first and I knew his podcast was popular, but I had no concept of how many people listened or cared. I had never thought of myself as a pot comic. If you look at my act, I've done maybe two or three pot jokes in my recorded history. My material was definitely influenced by it, but I never did any real out-and-out pot jokes. I'm not Doug Benson and I'm not Cheech and Chong. It's funny to me that people care at all. People change, you know? People grow up. It took me until I was 40-something to grow up. It's not going to change my comedy or what makes me laugh, and it's not going to change my writing at all.
How strange is it to have people that invested in your personal life?
It's stranger than the Insane Clown Posse thing. It's like, whatever I'm going through, I talk about. And now I'm talking about quitting. People boo me sometimes when I say I quit pot and it's just weird to me. Why do you care? Go ahead, still do it, I'm not judging you. It's just like... what the f**k do you care? I'm still the same guy, and the same stuff still makes me laugh. Whether I'm high or not, the same stuff still makes me laugh.
I had never actually thought of it until I saw it on Twitter. There seems to be this very small pocket of frustrated pot smokers, who are your fans, who are mad about it.
I guess I'm sorry? I might be back, you know? Let it go. If you listen to my next record, I might go, "I'm back on pot, and here's why." I can't predict what I'm going to do. It's so weird to me.
It's very weird. You don't miss it, though?
Not at all. It's strange how much I don't miss it. A big part of it was that I loved it too much. It was not fun being me. I don't want to get serious, but... I was not happy, I used it every single day and it was no longer fun. I really needed to quit, to knock it out completely... I'm way more clear headed and in the moment now. It's funny to me that people are mad about it. (laughs)
Absolutely. I will print this verbatim and send it specifically to the angry pot nerds on your behalf.
I don't want to keep you for too much longer; the last note that I have to discuss with you is your metal voice. I really like your metal voice.
(haha) Thanks a lot!
Your cover of "The Gambler" is great.
Yeah, that was a lot of fun. That came from me doing "The Gambler" in karaoke and it made me laugh. It just felt like those lyrics lend themselves to metal. It's such a depressing song and it reminded me of a lot of hard-core music. It's all about this mantra, and this way to live your life.
Any plans to do a metal album?
I have a lot of things on my plate right now, but down the road I would love to do just a metal record. I'd love to get my friends that are in bands, who I've worked with before, to write a handful of originals and then do some more covers, like "The Gambler." I've talked about doing "Vacation" by the Go-Go's.
That sounds amazing.
"Dear God" by XTC is just waiting for a metal version.
Please make that album, I will absolutely buy it.
Posehn's album, Fart and Wiener Jokes, is available for download on iTunes. For tickets and show information for The Cubby Bear on Sept. 10, click here.