Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Brian Posehn: interview with a nerd

Bearded and bespectacled comedian Brian Posehn has appeared everywhere from episodes of Seinfeld to the Sarah Silverman Program, and is an original fixture on the Comedians of Comedy tour. His stand-up routines draw from observations about things that most dudes don’t really like talking about in public. His hulking, 6-foot. 6-in. frame, self-embraced nerd persona and unapologetic love of heavy metal and horror films make him all the more endearing and awkward. Posehn draws strength from his attributes with Samson-like finesse. His low-energy delivery and casual demeanor from joke-to-punch line make his skits all the more genius.

Chad Radford: A lot of your material comes from observations about male insecurities regarding appearance, sex, drugs, Slayer, masturbation… Have you ever been in the middle of an act and noticed that the crowd stopped laughing at your jokes?

Brian Posehn: Yeah, it happens. Now the trouble spots seem to be smaller and more isolated than in my early years where I would lose the whole crowd. Now it’s one lady with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face while her husband is losing his mind laughing at my fart and wiener jokes. Or it’s a Bachelorette party who thinks I’m gross. Or a dumb hammered guy with a brand new baseball cap who just decided to have a bad time. And now he’s daring me to make him laugh.

How do you save it?

I just have confidence in the material I save for the latter part of my act. Especially if it’s someone in a couple I know I’ve got some relatable relationship material. If that doesn’t get her, she sucks. Just kidding. And sometimes I never win them back. The guy in the baseball cap will hate me no matter what I say.

Where do you draw the line in terms of how far you push the limits each night?

I usually feel it out. If they are tight, I won’t do certain jokes. I’ll do bits that are proven crowd-pleasers. If it’s a rock club or a Comedians of Comedy show I usually have a little more room and can do whatever I want.

Do you have any favorite comedians whom you think of as role models?

Oh man, so many. I’ve loved comedy since I was exposed to it at an early age. My mom never really monitored my TV or movie watching or record buying so I was trolling for new comedy at all times. I was a ten-year old kook obsessed with repeating Steve Martin bits and scenes from The Bad News Bears to anybody with ears. Carlin, Pryor, Freddie Prinze, Robin Williams. Later in life I got into comics that were before my time like Lenny Bruce and Bob Newhart and Don Rickles. Before I started in the eighties I was inspired by a lot of the current big acts like Bobcat, Dice, Kinison and Eddie Murphy. When I first started getting stage time and watching club comics I looked up to San Francisco locals like Greg Proops, Jake Johannsen and national acts like Janeane Garofalo, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart and Drake Sather. Then there are my friends and contemporaries like Louis CK, Mitch Hedberg, Chappell, Dave Attell, Patton Oswalt and Zach Galifianakis. They all do their own thing which is what I’ve always loved about stand-up.

Do you find audiences in rock clubs to be more difficult or even different from comedy club audience?

No, the opposite of difficult. My Comedians of Comedy experience made me love rock clubs over comedy clubs. In Rock clubs people generally know what they’re going to see and with Comedy clubs people just walk in because a shiny sign said Comedy. I’m not really worried about the Mastodon crowd; I expect them to be very cool. How bad can they be? They’re there to see me and one of the best bands out there…

What is the greater George Romero zombie classic, Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead?

I prefer Dawn simply because it took it up a bunch of notches. Bigger scope. More blood. More guts. In Color. Better weapons and kills. Loved it as a kid and I still do.

Brian Posehn opens for Mastodon in Athens on Sat. Oct. 11th at The 40 Watt as part of Chunklet Magazine’s 15th anniversary shindig. It’s Casual and Brent Weinbach also perform. $20-$22.

The following night, Sun., Oct. 12th, Posehn comes to Atlanta to headline at The Earl. Fellow comedians TJ Young, Dave Stone and Brian Weinbach also perform. $22-$25. 8:30 p.m. The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Rd.

This interview was originally published on Creative Loafing's Crib Notes music blog. Photo by Ryan Russell