Monday, November 12, 2018
Stage

SNL alum Jim Breuer earned his comedy chops in local clubs in the '80s.

By Jimmy Geurts

Times Staff Writer

Jim Breuer says he doesn't remember his first Saturday Night Live show.

But ask him about his days starting out in standup in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, and suddenly the floodgates open.

"The days from '89 to '91 doing the comedy clubs down there — Ron Bennington's Comedy Scene, the Comedy Corner, Coconuts — I can probably tell you every one of my sets, half the shows I did," Breuer said.

Now the comic, radio host and SNL and Half Baked actor will return to Tampa Bay for a standup show Friday at the Straz Center.

Breuer, who still has friends in Holiday and until recently family in Palm Harbor, was the house emcee at Ron Bennington's in Clearwater. While there, he met comics like Brian Regan, Paula Poundstone, Larry the Cable Guy (then Dan Whitney) and Darrell Hammond.

"It was such an amazing time and I learned so much about everything — about life, about the road, about becoming a comedian," Breuer said. "Everything back then, I have nothing but great feelings."

Breuer reunited with Hammond when he joined Saturday Night Live in 1995. He became known for his bleating creation Goat Boy and Joe Pesci impression — culminating with an on-air confrontation by the real Pesci and Robert De Niro.

Yet his stint at SNL was far from smooth. Breuer said he may be the only cast member in the show's history whom the network wanted while creator and producer Lorne Michaels didn't.

At the first meeting with Michaels, there was a weird atmosphere as the show's head sat eating popcorn and not addressing him, Breuer said.

"Then I finally broke the silence by saying, 'Boy, you must really like popcorn,' " he said. "He had his feet up on the desk and then he popped his feet off and walked around me and stared out the window."

Michaels then started talking about Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, which further confounded him.

"I didn't really get the point of it all, but I do remember my agent then calling me up and saying, 'He thought you were high,' and that p----- me off," he said.

"I thought you were high" became a familiar refrain in Breuer's career, to the point that he named his memoir I'm Not High and his standup special Let's Clear the Air.

Not aiding matters was his role in the 1998 stoner favorite Half Baked. Making the film was memorable, he said, as star Dave Chappelle recruited friends and fellow comics like Breuer, Harland Williams, Steven Wright, Janeane Garofalo and Jon Stewart.

"The movie overall to this day, I don't think if I ever got to do a film, it would ever be such a great set like that," he said.

In recent years, though, Breuer has shied away from the stoner image. Having kids was the major factor that steered him toward more family-friendly material, he said.

"I found myself trying to appeal to the Half Baked crowd and I wasn't that guy," he said. "It's like dressing up as Batman every day. It's not Halloween every day. It's fun on Halloween, but I can't dress up in that outfit every day when I'm not that anymore or never was that guy."

Breuer is readying his next special for a June release on Epix and then Netflix. The title is And Laughter for All, which he said is something everyone can watch.

"I go from subjects from being a 45-year-old metalhead to being a parent to being married for 20 years to taking care of my elderly parents," Breuer said.

Jimmy Geurts can be reached at [email protected]

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