The standup comedian on growing up, reproducing, and stupid babies
Published: November 17, 2010
Brian Posehn with Jim Meyer, Tommy Sinbazo, and Peter O’Connell
Brian Posehn is a standup comedian and veteran TV-sitcom workhorse, having appeared on Just Shoot Me, Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, NewsRadio, and Friends, as well as appearing on and writing for HBO’s Mr. Show with Bob and David and Comedy Central’s The Sarah Silverman Program. He has also appeared in a bunch of movies and is a huge metal fan. After determining upon first phone contact that Posehn was operating an automobile, we decided it would be a Bad Idea to talk to him until he reached his destination, so we called him back.
City Paper: Now you are not driving your car?
Brian Posehn: Nope.
CP: OK, great, thank you.
BP: I crashed right after we hung up.
CP: (laughs) Yeah, it would have been too much for me because they just passed a law here in Maryland about working your phone while you are driving so it would have been super bad if something happened.
CP: So the last time you were around Baltimore I think was when you guys [Posehn, Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, and Maria Bamford] did Comedians of Comedy at the Recher Theatre and that was awesome and I was there and I laughed my ass off, and I just remember the visceral shock of hearing you say “Paris Hilton’s rat butthole” and I dunno, that made the night for me for some reason, I dunno why.
BP: I like to paint pictures with my words.
CP: You have your new Fart and Wiener Jokes record released. Is there anything you want to mention about that latest accomplishment?
BP: Just to let people know for the show, I’m in this transitional—I talk about it onstage—I’m like in this transitional period in my life and my standup act, still doing some jokes from the record, and then the rest is all new material about my new stupid baby. And then I go back and end up with some jokes from the record, but I’m in this transition where I’m working on new material and lately my baby is my muse.
CP: Congratulations on reproducing.
BP: (ironically exclamatory) We did it!
CP: One of the people you mention on your web site as being an influence is Louis C.K., who shocked everybody by calling his baby an “asshole.” So you’re going through that?
BP: Yeah, yeah, it’s such a weird thing as a comic, because, all my friends, when we were young, we kind of, it’s not that we looked down upon comics that talked about their kids, but that wasn’t our lives. We were all just writing about being in our twenties, and whatever, and now that I’m here, it’s just a strange thing, but seeing a guy like Louis has really helped, because he’s so honest onstage about it, so I’m just trying to do that myself—obviously not tread on where’s he’s been, or other guys that I’ve seen make the transition very well, like Greg Fitzsimmons and Patton Oswalt—Patton and I had our kids right around the same time. It’s been great to watch him go through this too, because you talk about your life, or at least the kind of comics I like all talk about what they’re going through, and now that just happens to be what I’m going through. But like I said, I’m trying to do my take on it.
CP: When you were younger and you were rolling your eyes because some comedian was talking about their baby, they weren’t talking about their baby the way you guys talk about your babies.
BP: Maybe the jokes were more accessible or a little more “stock,” and I think we’re all being honest. So far all my jokes about my kid are either stories or my perspective on what I’m going through, like I’m doing a bit on “when do I play Weird Al for my kid?” Do I play him the originals first or do I play Weird Al like it’s all completely original and then I screw him up so later on when he hears Michael Jackson he’s like, “What the hell is this? This guy owes Weird Al some money.” I’m real conscious about drawing material from real things, if that makes sense.
CP: I also like the folly of thinking you’re actually gonna influence your kids the way you think you’re gonna influence them.
BP: One of my friends, boy, he’s created a nerd, you know, he’s a nerdy guy and he’s got this kid into this stuff that no kid’s into. He’s like 8 years old now and he loves Abbott and Costello. That’s so wrong. He’s setting him up to be completely humiliated down the road, like he’ll probably wear a top hat to school and just be a total dork, you know?
CP: When does your kid get to death metal?
BP: That’s a real thing, when do I do that? Not yet, so far. I mean, he hears kid’s music. It’s Yo Gabba Gabba! around the house and in the car too, and no Disney rock. He’s gonna skip that and go straight to the real stuff.
CP: That’s cool. Yo Gabba Gabba! is pretty cool though.
BP: Yeah, it is, it’s better than a lot of the other kid stuff that’s out there. I don’t think I could handle the Wiggles in my car.
CP: Now I am obviously reading right off my computer screen: So you self-identify as being in the “Alternative Comedy” category, even though you are a “seasoned veteran of TV performing and writing,” and categories are necessary and stuff.
BP: I’ve just sort of reluctantly said “OK, all right, if you gotta call me something, call me that.” I mean, you call all my friends that, and I don’t necessarily think that Patton is, or, you know, David Cross I get, but I knew David when he was playing in front of brick walls, and my argument has always been what you just said. Yeah, I’ve been on TV a bunch so you can’t really call me “alternative,” and I had done Star Search in 1994 before they started calling us alternative comedy, so I always found that weird. It was like, how can you call me alternative? I was on Star Search and I won one—what am I an alternative to?
CP: Do you have anything to say about other categories of comedy?
BP: I don’t know that there are—you know, I think that there’s really, there’s blue collar, and then there’s everything else, and there’s ethnic divisions, and all that . . . I like a lot of that stuff, you’d be surprised. I love comedy. I watch standup all the time, still. I wish Comedy Central showed more standup, because I would watch it all the time. I’ll watch the bad stuff. I mean, there’s certain guys I don’t really like, but I still like to see what they do and how they get there, and what people are hooking into. It’s still interesting to me to see how you win these crowds over. Certain guys like Jeff Dunham, they’ve already won people over. I like to watch just to see, because it’s so different from what I do, a lot of these guys, but I still like to learn about it if that makes sense.
CP: I’m not gonna ask you to say anything about Dane Cook.
BP: Well that’s where Comedians of Comedy came from. It was Patton and myself—I actually named it—it was us, in reaction to these other comics labeling themselves: “We’re this, we’re the Latin Kings of Comedy, we’re the Original Kings of Comedy,” you know, all those names. Then the blue collar, and we were just saying, “No, we’re just comedians.” We could have gone, “We’re the nerds,” or “We’re the alternatives,” but that’s kind of the obvious thing. We always just felt like, “No, we’re just comics.”
CP: Do you see any kind of a future beyond Two and a Half Men, which is huge. Do you see any evolution?
BP: I don’t know. If anything, I hope three-camera sitcoms come back. That show is the most popular show—I mean really, the handful of comedies that are doing the best are still three-camera. Big Bang Theory, isn’t that still highly rated? I like that style of comedy, I really do, I grew up watching it and loving it, and then Just Shoot Me, whatever you can throw at that show, in the alternative world people will talk to me about that show, and they’ll be kinda like, “Hey, I betcha that was no fun.” and I’m like, “Hey, a lot of fun.” That’s one of my favorite styles, I mean I like doing single-camera stuff like Sarah. That was a blast, and it was a great experience, but if I was gonna do my own sitcom? I’d much rather do, in front of a live audience, just that traditional style. I mean, there’s a reason that Desi Arnaz . . . it works, there’s something really cool about getting that live reaction, and kind of doing it like this condensed play and just ripping through it. I love the pacing of sitcoms, I love the reactions you get. One of my favorite things I’ve done is being in that world.
CP: I’m disappointed Sarah Silverman’s thing got cancelled. If that had been live, maybe it woulda helped.
BP: Yeah, I dunno, it’s a weird thing. I dunno if you could’ve, it would have tonally changed it, so much . . . oh, what was my point—yeah, it’s a thing I miss. It’s a lot of fun as far as the Sarah show, we were lucky to get to do what we did, and so I don’t have any remorse over that show going away. It was so fun, but it was also one of those things where I couldn’t imagine it being on 10 seasons—like, what do you do after you’ve tackled all those, you know, just in the first three seasons we tackled every taboo there is.
CP: Then you start killing people. I’m trying to get the attention of the people who are doing The Office, to tell them to kill the Steve Carell character, to actually have him die.
CP: I think Steve Carell would like to do that, I think, I mean, if he’s an actor, a performer, don’t they all want to do a death scene?
BP: Well, yeah, funny you mention that, because the two shows that I’ve been on when we were going away. . . I did this show with Mary Lynn Rajskub and a couple other people on the WB, it was called The Army Show, and we did 13 episodes, and then when Just Shoot Me went away, both times, I pitched to any writer that would listen to me, and then even to the head writer, “Hey, kill me off.” Seriously, let’s end this, have Kevin jump off the building, because Maya won’t go out with him and then that ends on some morose note.
CP: Right! That would be funny!
BP: On The Army Show I wanted to have myself go out, you know, Full Metal Jacket-style, just walk out of the room and hear “Oh god!” and then BLAM.
CP: If you can talk to anybody in Hollywood to tell them to Kill Steve Carell’s character, you know . . .
BP: Start a Twitter campaign.
CP: Yeah, I have 300 followers. Nothing’s catching on fire from my Twitter.
BP: I’ll re-tweet it.