In her new webseries The W5, comedian Bonnie McFarlane promises to tell you the who, what, where, when and whys of comedy. And in this, her third episode with Cringe Humor, McFarlane goes where? Jim Breuer's mother's basement in New Jersey. Why? Because that's where Breuer has set up a radio studio and shop to help produce and distribute his material -- and also McFarlane's upcoming documentary about women in comedy.
When can you watch it? Now, or whenever you hit play. Roll it.
Jim Breuer was between gigs in Iowa this fall when I spoke to him over the phone. Breuer has spent the past couple of years hitting the reset button on his career, returning to the road for stand-up gigs in comedy clubs across America, after having cleared the air on everything that had come before -- from "Goat Boy" to Half-Baked -- in both a 2009 CD/DVD called "Let's Clear the Air," and a new memoir, "I'm Not High."
"I've never seen so much corn in my lifetime," Breuer tells me.
You mean to say you haven't played Iowa before? I find that hard to believe.
"I guess during my hazy days, I played Iowa State, but that doesn't count. You fly in, do a stadium, fly out. This is, I'm here. I've been driving around, and yeah, a lot of corn."
Though his book comes off as corny itself at points -- at multiple instances, he writes about coincidences and faith -- his stand-up remains cartoonish, and I mean that in a good way. Look at him in footage he shot at one of those Iowa gigs in September at the Des Moines Funny Bone, talking about his desire to be Batman for Halloween. The voices, the facial expressions, the bursts of energy. He can go from calm and collected to maniacally animated in a second.
Roll a clip.
In the book, you describe how Steve Harvey gave you valuable advice when you were just a young comedian. He's still in the game, and now hosting Family Feud. Is that something you'd be interested in doing someday?
"That's a nice little, that's the way, some people grow up in the Northeast...if you're a comedian, you're ready to retire you do Family Feud, you do a game show, it's a sweet little way to end it all, 20, 30 forty smackers a week, just to say, 'Let's see if it's on the board!'"
What was it like getting advice from him?
"It really freaked me out, because I wasn't sure, it seemed like what he was trying to say didn't really come out. I didn't really understand why he pulled me aside. And the intensity of it. I was surprised because onstage he didn't curse, but off he was m-effing this and m-effing comics that."
Did that experience rub off on you, in terms of you giving advice to young comics today?
"Oh yeah, I always do. It depends where they're at. Work work work work. It doesn't happen overnight. Just because you got Last Comic Standing or Comedy Central Presents, it just means you have three more fans. Chris Rock had a special? He already had been doing it for 20 years. He had to take a whipping first."
Do you think YouTube and the Internet has made it easier for comics to break through?
"My kids are 11, 8 and 5. They say you've got to see this video, Dad. And it's an orange. It's a sarcastic orange. I'm busting my rear-end trying to come up with stories and jokes, and this guy, he's probably in Iowa, he's just an orange and he's got 50 million views. He's got more people following him than Miley Cyrus."
In the book, you name names when it comes to comedians you've worked alongside, but you give code names to other people in the industry. It certainly would appear that "Leon" is Barry Katz, who managed both you and Dave Chappelle. If that's the case, then who is The Rat?
"I will not throw a name under the bus. I can do a great impression of Leon, though. (He launches into a voice that sounds suspiciously like Katz) 'Jay Mohr is on fire. I don't know what to tell you, between him and Dane, I...Dave Chappelle left me, Tracy left me.' The Rat you'll have to do your own investigating. You'll have to ask people like Andy Kindler. The Rat used to book the Tri-State area. He was more of a booker."
There's an article shown in the photo pages of you and Chappelle as breakout stars from Just For Laughs Montreal's 2004 festival, but you don't really describe that experience in the book. How did you guys get the buzz that summer?
"I wasn't accepted to Montreal, though. Leon, though. None of us got into Montreal Comedy Festival, but because it was weak that year, Leon got us a hotel and his own room and he aced the house with industry. I mutilated, Jay (Mohr) mutilated, Dave (Chappelle) destroyed. But I had a whole other pickle going on with CBS though, which was great. All I got was a $5,000 holding fee, which I eventually did a pilot for Disney for. It was a whole year or two later, though, that things really popped."
Do you remember way back when -- it feels like it was just yesterday, because it was just yesterday -- when I was telling you how the guy from e-Comic Branding was telling his industry peers and comedians alike how they reach out to "superfans" to do the heavy marketing lifting for them. Well. Ahem. This appeared in my inbox overnight. I was told that comedian Jim Breuer had filmed a special, unique, customized, one-of-a-kind greeting just for me to let me and my readers know how much he loved us and wanted us to watch his Comedy Central special "Let's Clear the Air" when it debuts on Saturday night (it comes out as a DVD with bonus material on July 28). See?
Oh, by the way, before I forget, Breuer's YouTube channel also includes similar greetings for Funny or Die, Effin Funny, Comedy Juice, General Parent, DIY Father, Ace Magazine, From the Back of the Room, AntiQuiet, Broken Headphones, Punchline Magazine, and even e-Comic Branding itself. Sausage got made! Do you like sausage? So I guess it's official. I must be a "superfan," a heavy lifter and a free marketer. But can I tell how you much it still made me smile to see Breuer look down at the piece of paper with the list of websites to hype to remember me, and then still find time in my ego to "gloat" about being the "featured" video on his YouTube channel? Silly, but true. I can't wait to see Breuer here in Montreal and then Tweet about it, then ReTweet it, and then wait for my residual check from e-Comic to show up in the mail. What do you mean there's no check?
Today we have multiple tidings of joy to relay your way...
HBO has heard us and listened, granting us with a second season of Eastbound & Down. What will Kenny Powers do next? We'll find out in 2010.
Comedy Central has announced that it's next roast "victim" will be Joan Rivers, taping in Los Angeles on July 26, and airing on Aug. 9, 2009.
Comedy Central also has announced a deal with Levity Entertainment to release 12 stand-up specials over the next two years. The deal includes orders for Christopher Titus, Gabriel Iglesias, Pablo Francisco, Jim Breuer, Mitch Fatel, Pete Correale airing this year, and six more to shoot this year and air in 2010, including ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. It's all business. Longtime Levity client Dunham recorded the highest ratings ever for Comedy Central with last year's "Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special." A couple of weeks ago, the network inked Dunham individually to a deal that included not just another special and DVD, but also consumer products (his fans love to buy his puppets) and a new series(?). All of this also means the network is moving ahead with Levity on a fourth season of Live at Gotham, the showcase for up-and-coming stand-ups (also read as comedians who have yet to appear on Comedy Central in a half-hour or hour). Casting is happening now for the new Gotham lineups.
And Netflix announced it has lined up the first nine seasons of South Park for immediate streaming by its subscribers. Which sounded great until I remembered that you can watch any past episode of South Park already via the show's South Park Studios site.
Did you know there are really two sides to the comedy of Jim Breuer? Sure, there is the Half-Baked, heavy-metal rock comedy persona Breuer has developed over the past decade, and certain to be in effect tonight in Las Vegas when Breuer performs with his Sirius "Breuer Unleashed" sidekick Pete Correale. But there's also this "family-friendly" comedy side of Breuer, which you can see in these two new videos...
Related: Breuer recently recorded a new one-hour Comedy Central special and DVD, "Let's Clear the Air." For info, go here.
Anyone who doubted whether TBS could or would pull together a full slate of A-level comedy talent for its first edition of The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas without HBO as a partner, well doubt no more. Over the weekend, TBS unveiled its first look at the official schedule for Nov. 20-22 at Caesars Palace, which includes Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, Dane Cook, Katt Williams, Jim Breuer, Kids in the Hall, Russell Peters, Jim Norton, a roast of Cheech and Chong, David Alan Grier, Jeff Dunham, Laffapalooza hosted by Tracy Morgan, Andrew Dice Clay, Mike Epps, John Oliver, and Caliente Comedy with Gabriel Iglesias, Pablo Francisco and Anjelah Johnson. The network also says it'll have 25 up-and-coming stand-up and sketch acts performing in a separate LOL Lounge. Full sked after the jump!
Apologies in advance for the last-minute notice: This week is a busy one for new hourlong comedy special TV/DVD tapings, especially at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College here in New York City, where Robert Schimmel is taping his latest special for Showtime tonight, and Pete Correale, Adam Ferrara and Jim Breuer all follow suit with their own individual stage-to-screen efforts this weekend. Ticket info here.
If you happen to visit New York City anytime soon, let me put in a word for a stop at the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. Or is it the Meatpacking District? The site says it's in Chelsea, two blocks north of the Meatpacking District. Anyhow. I've already gotten away from the point. Point is, if you have several hundred dollars per day to blow on lodging here, you're likely to have casual encounters with celebrities. And not just all of the stand-up comedians who stayed at the Maritime last week. In a period of less than 24 hours, I exchanged words with Michael Stipe (whom I now realize was hanging around for Monday's induction of R.E.M. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!) and saw Tate Donovan hanging around in the lobby. I believe my exchange with Stipe went something like this:
5:50 p.m. Saturday, comedian Dan Boulger and I head down the steps and out of the Maritime. Just then, Stipe is heading inside. We almost collide. "Oh...hi!" I say. "Hello," he replies. Boulger stares oddly. And that was that. Stipe wore some sort of beret and was sporting a grayish brown beard.
And now for the rest of the weekend story.
Boulger invited me to hang out for Saturday night's tapings of Live at Gotham. During the day, all of the stand-up comics get to run-through rehearsal. They'll put anything on the teleprompter, even a word-for-word transcript of a comedian's routine. Odd to think you could get on TV and simply read your stand-up routine. Who does that? It's odd just to see a comic read off their notes during a major set. But I suppose Comedy Central might also offer this service just in case a comic gets a case of the TVs and freezes up. Plus, it turns out the teleprompter also can be used as an alternative to the light, sending messages such as "one minute left!" As for audience members, they're told no food, no bathroom breaks, the better to keep disruptions to a minimum. And the production hired a special audience coordinator to hand out specific seat assignments. Apparently, seating a comedy show can be looked at as a science. Put the best-looking best laughers front and center. Put industry people in the back corner. Audience members also got instructions on what not to wear (no logos, no whites). And then, as talent manager Max Burgos pointed out before the first taping began: "The smoke machine really does it, man." Suppose it adds an old-school comedy club feel, although it'd really be old-school if they let you smoke. The tapings also have an official warm-up comedian. Dan Ahdoot more than honorably worked this non-televised job, working the crowd (and adding another several minutes of material when the second show incurred technical difficulties) and helping establish pre-show shots of crowd applause and laughter.
Each comic got to work out about 10 minutes of material, knowing that Comedy Central might edit out a couple of minutes for the Web and other material for ad time. I'd think they might cut Callen's bit about wanting to change his own name to something along the lines of Meeeeowww Cah! (Um, didn't he see the whole online debate about Louis CK and Dane Cook?) Guess not. Also, Breuer had to come back onstage at the end of the first show for several attempts at pronounciating the Colbert Report. The second show had much more energy. Perhaps that had to do with the lineup. Goldman had so much more going on than when I'd seen her last year at a Laughing Liberally show at Jimmy Tingle's. Boulger, going up after her, looked nervous for the first time that I'd ever seen. Then came Andre, who blew the roof off the joint, took extra time out of his act to encourage the audience to make fart noises, just to see if Comedy Central would use it! Hoogasian, up next, tried to sound like Emo Philips but mostly sounded weird. And it seemed odd at the end when Scolaro went with a bit about cavemen having to determine what was edible (since in the previous show, Ramsey had a similar bit about the first guy to bite into a pineapple!). No matter. At least not for me to worry about. That's why they're on separate shows, right? Right. Anyhow, onto the after parties, first downstairs, and then out onto nearby streets and a place called Dusk which was small but had a good vibe, especially when a bunch of comedians and like-minded people took over the bar. Good times.