Doug Benson talks 'Doug Loves Movies,' 'The Benson Interruption' and watching movies in Ybor City
Let’s state the obvious: Yes, Doug Benson still smokes weed.
This fall, the star of the documentary Super High Me and former High Times Stoner of the Year headlined a “Pot the Vote Tour,” dedicated to raising awareness of California’s medical marijuana ballot measure. (The measure, Prop 19, ultimately failed; insert “stoners must have napped through Election Day” joke here.)
But in the past year, Benson has continued pushing his comic persona beyond that of droopy-lidded pothead. He’s in his third season of hosting Doug Loves Movies, a hilariously geeky podcast featuring pretty much everyone in the L.A. comedy scene. And in November, Comedy Central began airing The Benson Interruption, a filmed version of Benson’s long-running L.A. stage show. In it, Benson perches himself onstage during other comics’ sets, chiming in with jokes and commentary when he feels like it.
This weekend, Benson pops into the Improv in Centro Ybor. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $16-$18. Click here to purchase.
We recently swapped e-mails with him about The Benson Interruption and the emerging art of podcasting. Here are excerpts.
You’ve been doing “The Benson Interruption” live around L.A. for years before it made it to TV. What’s been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make in converting the stage show to a television show?
Having to edit stuff. I’m used to just doing the show, and what happens, happens, and then I go home. Now decisions have to be made about what gets into the TV show. The live show was about 90 minutes, and had a lot of cursing. The TV show is just 30 minutes, and has a lot of bleeping.
How much behind-the-scenes work are you responsible for on each episode? Is the overall workload what you expected?
Yeah, it’s what I expected, because I’ve had a hand in the producing process on a couple of things before. But since this one’s got my name in the title, there’s a little more pressure on me to make it as good as I can. I like being involved and I have input into every part of the show. But I really get involved with the editing, because I want to make sure that the funniest parts make it onto TV. All the guests on the show are friends of mine, so I want to make them look good. Otherwise they might not speak to me again.
Doug Loves Movies is part of this galaxy of podcasts that have originated from the Los Angeles comedy scene in the past two years — Comedy Death-Ray Radio, The Nerdist, WTF with Marc Maron, Never Not Funny, the list goes on. You’ve appeared on pretty much all of them. As both a podcast host and frequent podcast guest, can you give me your brief “State of the Podcasting Union”? What have you learned about podcasting as a comedic art form? Has it changed your approach to your day job as a stand-up?
I love podcasting. Because I can do and say whatever I want. I appreciate Comedy Central giving me the opportunity to do a TV show, but while making it I always have to answer to them. On podcasts, there’s no such thing as Standards and Practices, which is the division of a TV network that decides what’s appropriate to say on their air. And podcasting has been a great thing for my stand-up, because podcast fans come to my shows in theaters and comedy clubs around the country, and they are open to whatever I want to do on stage. It’s like from the hours of listening to my podcast, they have gotten to know me and really know what to expect from my live performances. They want to play games from the podcast, and so do I, so it works out great.
Your dream guest for 2010 was John Lithgow, who turned out to be a fantastic panelist. Who’s on your wishlist for 2011?
I don’t have one yet. I’ve been getting pretty lucky with the bookings lately, and I have a deep bench of comedian friends to draw from, so I’m just sitting back and seeing what happens.
Say you’re the most powerful man in Hollywood. Who’s your dream three-person Doug Loves Movies panel?
One of the greatest love triangles of all time, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Chewbacca.
Have you thought about what you’ll say if you ever bump into Willem Dafoe?
I’d say, “Have you heard my podcast?” And if he says yes, I’d explain that I was just having fun when I’d call him names, and that the joke was he seems like the kind of actor everyone respects and doesn’t say bad things about. If he says no, I’ll say okay, and hope that he never does.
One thing The Benson Interruption and Doug Loves Movies have in common is they’re both personal projects. Is that a conscious choice? And by that, I mean, are you actively pursuing work on projects that AREN’T your own? Or do you take work where it comes, regardless of who’s running the show?
I’ve done lots of things I have no control over, and most of them have turned out okay. But being in charge and having the freedom to do what you want is priceless. The Benson Interruption and Doug Loves Movies came from a honest place, from just doing things that I have fun doing. Which I hope translates to the audience. Because if they’re not having fun, I’m done.
Planning to see any movies while you’re in town?
You know I’ll be taking in some matinees in Ybor City!
You’ve talked about playing the Leonard Maltin Game on the road. Will you be doing it in Tampa? Should fans wear nametags? Do you do it at every show?
The podcast games get played at my live shows when the audience demands it. Sometimes a comedy club is full of people who came to see “comedy,” not me specifically. Or I’ll get audience that knows me from other things besides the podcast. So I have to be careful about when I launch into the games, because some people just paid to hear jokes, not arcane movie trivia games. So we’ll see how many peeps wear nametags in Tampa and take it form there.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo: Frank Micelotta, Getty Images