If HGTV ever launches an adult channel, who better to host “Do-It-Yourself Sex” than Brian Posehn, the apparently frequent star of his own, well, one-man sex show. The virtually shameless longtime comedian takes the modern comic’s staple joke, masturbation, to a hilarious new high — or is it an incorrigible new low? — on Fart and Wiener Jokes, his new CD from Relapse Records, available on April 27.
Pulling himself away from his pastime long enough, Posehn speaks to Punchline Magazine about fatherhood, his longevity in the business, and the nearly limitless boundaries of comedy.
The last time we spoke was four years ago, when Live In: Nerd Rage was coming out, and at that time you were newly married. Now you’re a new father. It’s nice to see that you’re one of the few comedians who get married, become a father and don’t go all introspective on us. Is that conscious on your part?
Yeah, even before I had my kid I did this joke onstage about how I hate when comics have a kid and change — become as you said all introspective, or the word I use is “pussified.” I mean they’re no longer edgy and talking about abortion or whatever it was they talked about before. The next time you see them onstage, they say, “And then I looked into my baby’s eyes and saw how precious life is.” I kind of hate that, and I used to say, “If you ever see me doing that onstage after I have my baby, I want you to punch my baby.” Now that I have a kid, that bit has changed to where I do the setup, but then I say, “And now I have a baby, and I’d like for him to remain un-punched.” So it’s kind of about staying edgy…but there’s still the concern that someone’s going to hold me to it and punch my baby in a mall.
But it definitely is conscious. It’s not just about having a baby — I feel like I’ve always tried to do my own thing, and I’ve always tried to be a little more pure to myself, oh not always, but since I’ve become an older comic — in the past 10 years at least — I try to be more pure to who I am and to what makes me laugh and then I hope the people that like that will continue to like that. The friends I really look up to or the other comics I really look up to are guys who are really pure to themselves. I used to hate when comics would do bits about their kids and then I saw Louis C.K. do it, and he made it OK. And there are guys like Greg Fitzsimmons…and now watching Patton [Oswalt] going through the same thing I’m going through. Not that I think I’m as strong a comic as Louis or Patton, but, uh, I like to think I try like they do. Those two are just two of the best comics out there, in my opinion. One of the reasons I love them is that they’re themselves.
Off Lucky Louie and his stand-up, I don’t think we have to worry about Louis C.K. ever becoming a squishy, gooey-centered comic.
Or hacky at all either. But I think that comes from us really being aware of who we are and what we’re saying and constantly wanting to put our spin on things, even if we take a hack topic…I’m definitely guilty of that. I take topics that have been used before, but I always try to put my own spin on it, so if it’s not completely original, it’s mostly original, if that makes sense. Part of that comes from being around these guys and their purity rubbing off on me a little.
Is there a time limit on that sort of comedy — being you?
I hope that there isn’t a time limit on it. I feel like I wasn’t always that way. I feel like when I started, like everybody who starts, you don’t know who you are onstage. Some guys find it in two years, but most guys find it five or 10 years later. I feel like ever since I found it, I’ve been pretty true to that, and I just hope that people will grow with me and as my life changes, I’ll always be able to find what’s funny about myself or at least what I think is funny about myself. Like 20 years from now, when my kid’s in college, I hope I’ll still be able to talk about it. I want to be doing stand-up down that road. I feel like guys who pull away from stand-up…that’s what makes them not fit in anymore, you know what I mean? I don’t know if that totally makes sense, but if you stay into it, I think that shows.
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Exposure on television, like yours on the Sarah Silverman Program, is what lures many stand-ups away from the stage. What makes you want to continue to tell jokes?
For me, it’s my main source of income. Being on Sarah Silverman [he says, laughing] only goes so far. Nobody’s getting rich off any shows on Comedy Central, other than the guys that already have: you know, your Dave Chappelle and your Matt [Stone] and Trey [Parker, the creators of South Park]. But nobody else is getting rich at that network, well maybe [Stephen] Colbert and [Jon] Stewart — so five people. The rest of us are not getting rich there. It just is what it is: It’s a fun job, and it’s been great, but I can’t count on it, you know. But stand-up I can, so I just continue to work on that and stay visible and stay in the clubs and hope I stay relevant or at least stay relevant to my crowd. I feel like I definitely have my audience, and I hope they stay with me.
Has that crowd grown through the years?
For sure, yeah, yeah. It’s been great, and it’s not just metal heads. It’s people who like me and a handful of other comics, and then it’s your comedy nerds, and I also appeal to nerds who maybe don’t love a lot of other comedy but like what I talk about. Then I’ve got the metal guys that don’t like anything else other than me. They like me and they like metal, then they hate everybody else [laughs].
How do you come to the determination that you have enough material to put out another album?
Once I realized I had another 45 or 50 minutes of nothing off the previous CD, I knew it was time to record this and start working again on new material. I recorded the CD almost a year ago because it took so long to do the music part of it [Fart and Wiener Jokes wraps up with two metal songs, a parody, “More Metal Than You,” and a surprising rendition of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”] and a couple of other things sort of slowed it down. Since recording, I now have 25 brand-new minutes, so hopefully a year from now — or less — I’ll record another one.
Some of my friends, like I was already mentioning, are more prolific that they’re able to turn it around in a year. I don’t know how anyone can write an hour of brand-new stuff in a year. It just seems, how do you do anything else? How do you see movies? How do you sleep? Have sex with your wife or do anything else?.
So the biggest process on this was the last two songs?
That’s what kind of slowed it down. I’d originally hoped that the record would’ve been out this past Christmas. We kind of got pushed because I took awhile with the music, and we also went into production on Sarah.
I was totally thrown — not in a bad way — by the inclusion of the “The Gambler.” Was that a tribute to Kenny Rogers or what? In short: Why that song?
It just came from me making my friends laugh doing karaoke, when my wife has dragged me to that type of establishment. I always try to make it funny because I don’t really think of myself as a singer. So what I’d do is take a song like “Vacation” by the Go-Gos or some random pop song or whatever and then I growl it death metal–style, and it’s made my friends laugh. I’d done “The Gambler” once at a restaurant or at some karaoke joint. Last year when I wrote “More Metal Than You,” I was trying to think of other original ideas, but nothing was really making me that happy.
|Preview – Brian Posehn – Where Do I Know You From|
But one day I was driving, and, I don’t know, I thought of this song and thought of getting Scott [Ian] to do the music metal-style, and it made me laugh. So I called him and said, “Hey, what if we do ‘The Gambler’? I’d growl the whole thing and get someone like Jamey Jasta or somebody to make it hard-core,’ and Scott just laughed. He was like, “That’s awesome. I can’t believe no one’s ever done a metal version of ‘The Gambler.’” I went home and got online to make sure, and nobody had. It doesn’t totally fit in with my comedy, but it fits in with me being at this metal label and being with these metal friends and kind of being able to do whatever I want. It just felt like something that needed to be done.”
Its unexpected presence on the album is really what makes it funny.
I could’ve done a parody, but the lyrics are what really made me laugh. To me, it is sort of a metal song. If you know the band Hatebreed, where Jamey Jasta is from, they’re all about these mantras. Every hard-core song is, “This is the way I do things. This is how I live my life.” That’s what “The Gambler” sort of is. It’s this life lesson put to music.
Did you need permission from Kenny Rogers?
Only to shoot a video, so we’re not doing that [laughs]. He’ll get a piece of it — there is licensing — but I don’t know if he had to actually OK it; I don’t think he did. I’d love to hear that he heard it at some point. I think he would just be completely puzzled. I don’t think he knows who I am or Scott or Jamey, so I think he’d just be, “Who are these assholes? What did they do to my song, my beloved [song]?”
How has your life changed since the birth of your child?
Without getting too boo-hoo about what I do, it’s made it tougher. I’m very lucky to be able to do what I do, but sometimes it’s not that fun. I’m not a road dog, I don’t love being in a different place every night. I don’t love being around a ton of strangers. I kind of have my comfort zone, but being a headliner, it’s important to be out all the time or be out a good deal of the time. I am very thankful that I have crowds that come see me, but sometimes it’s not that fun, and especially when you have a little guy who you just want to be around. Without being too mushy, it is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me, especially now in the past couple of months when his personality is forming, and it’s new, it’s different every day.
And to be away for seven days in a row or whatever — usually I’m gone only like four or five days, but occasionally a week will connect with like a couple of one-nighters, and the next thing you know, I’m gone for eight days. It’s hard, but my wife [Melanie] does really well on her own, so I’m really happy that she’s not calling me every five minutes wondering, When the hell are you coming home? She understands that I’m doing what I have to do, and she does her end. But the other part is, yeah, I feel like I’m missing out on certain things. So when I’m home, I really immerse myself in being a dad.
How old is he?
He’s nearly 11 months.
What’s his name?
Any significance to that name?
It came from the last name of Randy Rhoads, the guitar player for Ozzy Osbourne. But it wasn’t like we said we have to name him after Randy Rhoads. It came from my wife and me — she’s super cool — wanting to be original, but not wanting to be Hollywood assholes and giving this baby a [weird] name this poor bastard has to go through the rest of his life with. I came up with the idea of taking last names of writers and artists and comedians and musicians, and we were just saying all these names for a couple of weeks. At one point, we thought we were having a girl, and she would have been named after one of my favorite writers, Richard Matheson, who wrote I Am Legend and worked on The Twilight Zone.
Then we were looking for boys names, and there were some that would never work, like King — Stephen King is one of my favorite writers. And you don’t want to name your baby Dickinson. I don’t know, it just came from throwing out all these last names, and that one clicked. I said, “Rhoads,” and she went, “Hey, that’s cool,” and I’m like, “Yeah, no way. Let’s move on.” And then she’s like, “No, no I do really like that.” I like it because I said it, but then it stuck. At first my mom was like, “What is that? Can’t you call him something else?” But now everyone that knows him is, “He’s a Rhoads; that’s who he is.”
Talking about my kid makes me feel like what we were talking about: Being that guy. That’s why then I have to write jokes like masturbating while my baby cried. I’ve got to keep it edgy. Don’t want my baby to get punched.
You’re one of the few comedians I believe when you say, “True story.” Do you pride yourself on that?
Like I just did another interview, and someone’s like, “That Dennis Rodman thing [on the album] didn’t happen,” and I was like, “Yeah, it did.” If I say it’s a true story, it is. He walked into a roomful of people he’d never seen before, and he actually said, “Someone’s getting fucked tonight!” My friend and I just stood there looking at each other, like we can’t believe this is happening. As soon as we got into the car and were leaving this place, I’m like, “You know that’s a bit. Dennis Rodman just wrote me five new minutes, thank God. But that’s going back to ‘how do you stay relevant?’
My act has become so much about stories and then me kind of jumping off from these real stories and turning one-minute stories into a five-minute bit. You know at a certain point it becomes about living life or letting these experiences just happen. And I’ve even said to my wife, “Do something funny.” I’ve found that I can really get great material from her. So every once in a while I’ll say to her, “Hey, I’m running out of material, you’ve got to mix it up. Do something stupid or say something funny.”
|Preview – Brian Posehn – Where Do I Know You From|
I believe the Dennis Rodman bit without hesitation, but the one joke I might be a little incredulous about is the one early on in the latest release. You’re lying in bed thinking you’re going to make love to your wife, and it turns out you’re not, so you resort to, well, a solo performance.
My wife said, “Do I have to be here for this?” I swear to God. She should’ve been a comic; she’s
a funny girl. She also should’ve been a voice actress — she’s hilarious. She manages comics; she was around Greg Proops for 10 years. She loves me, she gets me, so just from that you know she has a sense of humor. So she said that, and then the fart joke. She actually farted in my car as the valet was coming up to the vehicle, and I said, “Did you just fart?” In the act I say, “Did you just beef?” And she actually said, “Yeah, but he’s just gonna think it’s you.” So perfect.
Do you ever hang you head in shame?
[Laughing] Yes, occasionally. I do have a line — I mean it’s in my head, I will step over it, but I know where the line is.
For more info, check out brianposehn.com. And to snag yourself a copy of Fart and Wiener Jokes, click the image below. Do it!