Brian Posehn was at Just For Laughs Chicago to perform The Nerd Show with fellow comedians Pete Holmes, Brent Weinbach, Dan Telfer, Hari Kondabolu, and Mike Lawrence. We caught up with him the next day to talk nerd jokes and metal.
I saw the nerd show here yesterday. So what really makes a ‘nerd’ comedian?
It’s such a weird thing, I mean now… I don’t feel like I started that whole thing, but I was one of the first to do that. But for me it was always just about, I prefer- when I first started doing standup I would just talk about anything and I would just pull jokes out of the air and just write anything that I could write, you know? And so things wouldn’t be that close to me, I wrote jokes that didn’t really happen to me, or a lot of guys when you’re first starting and you’re finding your voice, you’ll just use anything. And as I got older, and as I saw other comics, I figured out that I liked people who were themselves onstage, you know? Like when I came up in the ‘80’s there were people that were doing fake personalities like Emo Williams and you know… NOT Emo Williams I was combining that with something else… Rema Williams– Emo Phillips! My brain… yeah nerdy. So I got away from that and got more into people like Louis CK and other friends of mine that were themselves. And I wasn’t doing what they were doing- I wasn’t going through what they were doing.
My reality was, I’m, at the time, in my 20’s or 30’s and I still care about things like heavy metal, and I still care about things like comic books and horror movies. So I just started talking about those things on stage. And then realized there were a lot of other people that had the same likes as me, or they were married to guys that were like me, or had boyfriends that were like me, or they were the female version of me.
Then I realize, it wasn’t like I found a “niche” but I just found people who related to what I was doing. I feel like this “nerd comedy” thing has come out of what some of us were doing. Myself and Patton Oswalt, not being afraid to talk about the things we love on stage, and then other comics have just kind of gone with it. But I feel like you can kind of screw yourself. I’m real careful because I still play regular comedy clubs and do regular shows, that I don’t do too much nerd heavy stuff. I don’t wanna just go, “Hey you guys anybody have a level 7 dwarf out there? Who else plays D&D?” I can’t just talk about it. I can’t ‘cause I still have to make a 50 year old lady in Dallas who’s never played D&D, I have to make her laugh too. So you can’t go heavy on that. What I do now if I’m playing regular clubs and about a band like Slayer, I have a bit about Slayer, I’ll walk people through it. I feel like many of these young nerd comics kind of love that they don’t give a shit. Uh, you can bleep me.
No, no! The more the merrier, please.
Oh… Fuck! Cock! Balls!!
Wait let me get a quote there…
But I feel like some of them don’t care. And I come from the old school still. To where I started in front of a brick wall and feel like I still have to please the customer. That’s the reason you’re there. But being able to do a nerd show, like last night, is pretty freeing. I don’t have to worry about that stuff. I can just say whatever I want and know they’ll be able to follow me.
You’ve said that a couple times, “finding your voice” and trying to find that meaning. Do you feel like you’ve had to let go of your own integrity sometimes? Or your own passion? I compare it to drowning puppies. I have to kill that joke, or kill that bit. Or I have to get rid of the script here…
Well sometimes, yeah. Sometimes playing those clubs, I mean. I have an audience, luckily, but sometimes they’re not there. Sometimes I’ll be in a city where there aren’t a lot of fat nerds in black t-shirts with facial hair and pod tits, and then I’m like, “Oh God, what am I going to do?” But I’ve made my act relatable enough and my life is relatable enough now that I am a father. I’m a weirder father than most people in the audience, so they walk away going, “That guy was weird. He talked about weird things.” But I still hope that there’s enough relatable laughs in there for them.
With your last record being on Relapse a couple of years ago now. What new metal bands or records have you been listening to recently?
There aren’t a lot of new bands. I’m still listening to 3 Inches of Blood, bands that have been around a little while that I really like… Municipal Waste. One of my favorite records recently is from an old, old band that I grew up with, but I feel a lot of old metal bands are making some of their best music now. Last year my favorite record was from one of my best friends – Anthrax. They put out one of their career best records and they’re dudes in their late 40’s and still making great metal. Yeah I like all that, I love Lamb of God. I like the same stuff I’ve liked for a while. There’s newer bands like Skeletonwitch, that only have a couple records under their belt, but I can’t think of anybody who’s brand brand new. Ghost last year was a record I got into- their first record. I really like them a lot. Are you familiar?
I love that they kind of have that Mercyful Fate kind of spookiness, but then mixed with an almost Blue Oyster Cult musicality and melody. I like that.
A sister website to The Laugh Button is Metal Insider so we’re heavily involved in the metal music scene as well.
Oh nice. Yeah I still stay on top of it, I still read magazines. I’m still the same 15-year-old kid I was. I listen to a lot of the same shit I grew up with, but then I also still am looking for new bands. I’m not the old guy that’s like, “All new metal is dumb.” I have some of those friends. My friends in some bands won’t listen to new bands, they’re like, “why would I listen to that if I could just listen to Iron Maiden. They just sound like Iron Maiden.” And it’s like well… grandpa.
You take your kid out to shows yet?
No, he’s too little. He’s three, so we went to Yo Gabba Gabba last year, and we’re going to go see Batman live this year.
I’ve got a six and a two year old, so I know exactly where you’re coming from.
I can’t wait till he can see Rush, like that’s the one that I’m going to groom him towards. ‘Cause I go to Rush shows and I see guys with their kids and I’m like, “Oh I can’t wait to be that guy!”
Few more years. Not far away. That’s great.
But I know he’s going to be like, “Rush? Really Dad? These guys are like 60!”
“These songs are 10 minutes long, man. What’s going on?”
“These guys are nerds!”
Brian Posehn is on the road through most of the summer. You can find dates and get all the latest on his website.
Photos: Linda Matlow