Comic Brian Posehn talks 'Mr. Show,' Tampa death metal and why TV ratings still matter
Brian Posehn is a weird, weird-looking weirdo.
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. It’s all right there in his act.
“I’m not a guy you would want to see coming out from the woods carrying a bag,” said the comic, actor and writer, who stands a beefy 6-foot-6, with thick glasses and a ruddy lumberjack’s beard. “I used to have a joke: 'I’m 6-foot-6.6 — the height of the beast.’”
Posehn’s unconventional good looks haven’t stopped him from landing a steady stream of gigs in Hollywood, from David Spade’s oddball sidekick Kevin on Just Shoot Me to gay pal Brian on The Sarah Silverman Program. But like Ferris Bueller, his fan base spans all scenes, from alternative comedy (Mr. Show with Bob and David, Patton Oswald’s Comedians of Comedy) to heavy metal (he’s performed with Mastodon) to stoners (he’ll freely admit he smokes pot).
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, he’ll be at the Improv in Ybor City -- tickets are $20; click here for details. He’ll also be signing copies of his upcoming CD, Fart and Wiener Jokes — yes, that’s the real title, and no, he’s not 12 years old — at Tampa’s Vinyl Fever on Saturday afternoon. Click here for details.
Posehn recently called tbt* from L.A., where he lives with his wife and 11-month-old son, to chat about his appearance, Mr. Show and the Tampa metal scene.
You get a lot of mileage out of your looks. At what point did you realize that your appearance could be the basis for a stand-up show?
I didn’t used to do that. I used to sort of frown on people that would open with, “Hey, don’t I look like this guy, or this guy and this guy put together?” Some of that stuff is easy. But I’ve found that as I’ve become more real onstage, it is a part of me. I’ve gotten great jokes out of it, jokes that I love telling. It kind of comes from being picked on as a kid. I always felt I was way better at making fun of myself than anybody else. You’re just going to find the obvious things, but there are other things that are deeper that are way funnier that I can make fun of.
On your CD, you compare yourself to a Yeti, to Frankenstein, to Sasquatch. Do you keep a list of funny things to compare yourself to?
(laughs) No. Whenever I think of new things — like, comparing myself to Muppets, that comes from being inspired by them. I noticed on Just Shoot Me that when I did a geeky voice, it sounded like a Frank Oz character. People always notice it and go, “God, you remind me of a Muppet!” Part of that is intentional. But the other part is nature. (laughs.)
Tampa, as I’m sure you know, is a breeding ground for death metal. Do you have any particular knowledge of the scene here?
Oh, for sure. I was working at a record store in 1990 when I first started to hear of bands like Obituary and Cannibal Corpse. It was strange, because at that time, I had never been to Florida, and I remember thinking, “Why does all this stuff come from there? Why is Florida the breeding ground for the darkest metal?” Florida, you think of as where Disney World is. But once you go there, you maybe see how growing up there, you might have a different point of view.
When you’re out on the road, do you ever get to sample the local metal scene?
It’s tough. Most of the time, I’m onstage, especially on the weekend, and it doesn’t work out. Actually, one of the best experiences I had last year was getting to see this band Red Fang in Tampa — they’re a Portland band. Normally, I don’t get to do that — by the time I get offstage, the metal show’s over too — but there happened to be a show at this club in Tampa, right around the corner from the Improv, that was going late. So I got to enjoy some metal.
The Sarah Silverman Program is still on the air, at this point (the season finale airs Thursday at midnight on Comedy Central). Have you gotten any feedback after being moved to midnight?
It’s a weird thing. We’ve actually done better since they’ve moved us, but I don’t think the whole thing bodes well for us coming back. When they move you around like that, it’s sort of like they don’t know what to do with you. But the whole network’s having trouble. It’s not just us. A lot of shows aren’t doing what they used to do. The show before us, Demetri Martin, they were having trouble with that. What I’m finding is, like the music industry, TV has obviously been changing for a couple of years. People don’t watch TV the way that they used to. So many people wait for the DVDs, and hope enough people will watch it that they make a DVD. I think people are in for a rude awakening, where they go, “Oh, I can just catch it on Xbox.” But if we’re not getting enough ratings, we’re gonna go away. You can’t count on the other way of watching us. If you’re not getting traditional ratings, Comedy Central doesn’t know what to do with you.
There is this revolution of people who believe you can make entertainment on your own, without a network or production studio behind you —
Yeah, but try making a living as an actor.
Right. That doesn’t seem like something that’s financially sustainable for anybody who’s actually making that stuff.
No. It’s great if you’re in your 20s — “Let’s go make some fun art!” But when you’re in your 30s or your 30-teens, it’s about keeping the money coming in, and your wife being used to a certain lifestyle, and having a baby that is used to having milk and food.
You’ve said that you’ve thought about trying to create your own program or vehicle at some point. Are you?
I’m talking about stuff for myself, but I want to write, and I want to direct and go behind the camera. I’m producing and directing a pilot now for Comedy Central based on this band Steel Panther that I shot a video for last year. It’s going to be reality-style, and I’m using Bob Odenkirk in the pilot, and I’m using guys like Rob Huebel from Human Giant to play off the band. It’s coming together great; I’m shooting in a couple of weeks. If it doesn’t work, I’m going to try to do more stuff like that.
Bob Odenkirk has talked about doing another Mr. Show tour at some point. But none of you are as young as you once were. Is that something you’d consider doing?
I would love it. I have so much fun being around those guys, and I don’t get to much anymore. David’s been in New York for a while. I would pretty much jump at any opportunity to be in a room with them. It just depends on how long the tour is. Being an old guy, being married and having a new kid, that makes it a little tougher. I’m where Bob was six years ago, when he had new babies.
Mr. Show Babies — there’s a show that writes itself.
(laughs) Yeah! Hilarious!
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*