It doesn’t matter whether you give him a 250 seat club or a 2500 seat theater, Bert Kreischer will deliver, dammit. And deliver he does. Since the last time we’ve seen a special from him, which was Secret Time back in 2018, Kreischer has gone from being the guy that people in the tight knit comedy community felt that everyone should be talking about to the guy that everybody is legitimately talking about. All of us hardcore comedy fans knew how great Bert Kreischer was. So we’re not surprised by the fact that the rest of the world is starting to catch up. But we’re happy as f*cking sh*t that it’s finally happening.
As he walks the stage, head held high, confident as all hell, with his signature shirt off and beer nearby, he has this natural instinct about him. He can make a room full of thousands feel as if they’ve known each other for years. Nobody in the crowd personally knows Bert Kreischer, I reckon. But everybody sitting out there feels this intense connection to The Machine himself. He is the guy we all know. The wall that usually exists between the performer onstage and the guy in the crowd is non-existent at a Bert Kreischer show. It’s all out in the open, and all for you.
Bert Kreischer: Hey Big Boy encompasses it all. It has the guy we’ve seen, the guy we know, and also the guy who is evolving. The joke that he is proudest of is a story about the time he went into a Starbucks. It has nothing to do with his wild partying days or his wife or kids. It is about him. And as we get into in our interview here, it is a bit that best reflects his personality trait. The guy who stops at nothing until he’s won you over. And of course, there is plenty else in there that we’ve come to expect, including talk about his guns, his wife catching him watching porn, his father smoking weed and calling owls, and a 15 minute story towards the end that brilliantly caps off what is a pretty flawless special.
Whenever you interview Bert, as I’ve now done twice, you get precisely the guy you want to get. The guy you get is definitely the funniest guy in the room, but he’s also sharp as hell, says the things you least expect him to say when you least expect him to say it, is humble, and the nicest guy you could ever imagine. So many comedians have this persona that they wear when they’re onstage. Not Bert Kreischer. This is who the f*ck he is.
Good to talk to you again. I’ve watched your new special, and I must say, it is fantastic. The last 15 minutes alone had me crying laughing, which almost never happens.
That is the nicest thing you could ever tell me. You have no idea. You make these specials, and you have no idea how they’re going to be received. This is a very weird analogy, but I imagine it’s like giving a child up for adoption. Like you know it’s going to be better, you hope it works out, but you have no idea what happens to it because you have no idea how it’s going to be perceived by people. You know the material works on the road. Because the second you do it, you do all new material. When you start from scratch, your self esteem is horrible while you’re touring, like “This new stuff isn’t as good as the old stuff.” And you know the old stuff kills but to hear that means a great deal. Thank you very much.
Absolutely. The last time we talked, you were just starting to do theaters. And obviously it’s been a successful transition from what I’ve seen. Was there a fear of transitioning to theaters given how intimate your shows are and how engaged you are with your audiences? Does that go on in your head at all?
You know, it does. It definitely does. Someone said to me two days ago in New York “You know what I love about your shows? It seems like you’re just coming up with it on the fly.” And that was like the greatest compliment because that is literally how I performed when I did clubs. Everything was on the fly. And then when I do theaters, you’re not really given that luxury. You can’t really go up there and wing it in a theater because the second you lose a theater, you lose them for good. (Laughs). I could tell you the exact theaters that happened in. But I got really lucky in that a few of my friends made the leap into theaters first and they kind of gave me the heads up of like “Hey, just so you know, an hour in a club is like 30 minutes in a theater.” So I think I went in over prepared. Over prepared to make it what I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be intimiate, I wanted it to be fresh. I wanted people to feel like we were all in the boat. And so I’m very lucky. And when I say friend, I’m speaking specifically about Tom Segura. He was so integral in helping me prepare for these theaters.
That is so great to hear he helped you with that. And let’s talk about the special. When you approach doing a new special, are you the type of comedian who has a specific goal with the special in mind? Or do you just want to commit what you’re doing onstage to film? How do you approach it?
Not to sound like I’m just a derivative comic, but I was really impressed with what Bill Burr was doing with his specials. A lot of my friends were doing specials, and I felt like they were doing the same special they did last time, just with new punchlines. Same topic, same structure, same joke structure, just with new punchlines. And I watched Bill and it seemed to me that Bill was always trying something new. Whether it was an act out or a monologue or a story. Something that he hadn’t done before. And I talked to him about it and he said “Yeah, you’ve got to challenge yourself.” So in this special, I wanted to do the stuff that I knew I can do. You’re going to hear the stories about my daughters, about me being a horrible parent, about sex with my wife, about all of those things that you know I can do from Secret Time or The Machine, but I also wanted to incorporate stuff I hadn’t done yet that I thought I could also do.
Like the Starbucks story. The Starbucks story for me was an attempt and I think I did it okay, of doing a traditional structured joke like “A guy walks into a bar,” except for me it’s a Starbucks. And then it’s a personal story. Or say the gun bit, where I talk about something that is topical and kind of a hot button issue but I don’t give you my take on it per se. I tell you my story about it and let you draw your opinion out of my story. I challenged myself this time a little more than I had in the past. And I think if you don’t do that, you get bored with stand up. And if I just went up there and was like “Ila’s crazy, Georgia’s crazy,” I think if I just did that people would just be like “Yeah, we know from Secret Time.” So I wanted to challenge myself to do something a little more out of my comfort zone a tad bit.
And can you walk me through the Starbucks story a bit? Because you’ve said it’s your favorite thing you’ve ever done. After that encounter happens in real life, at what point do you realize “This is going in the act”? Or do things like that have to simmer for a bit?
It depends. That Starbucks story, I walked outside and I literally wrote it down on a napkin. It was April 13th that it happened. I was like “This is gonna be a great bit.” Ila’s period? The second that I heard that she wanted to have a period party, I was like “Okay, this is a fucking bit.” And then, for Bag of Rice, which is what I call that bit where I take care of the girls, it made me laugh so hard. Just the words “a bag of rice” made me laugh so hard. I couldn’t figure it out. It took me so long to get that joke working because I couldn’t figure out all of the structure behind it. Sometimes you’re so tethered to the immediate truth of what happened in that story you as an artist have a hard time departing from it and pulling in from other stories. I was just in love with the idea that she said “a bag of rice”. “A bag of rice” is the funniest thing I’ve heard all year.
And then the act out and the pause that accompanies it just brings it into the home run territory.
Yeah, that’s a bit where you do it half-assed 20 times. And then one night you have a few drinks onstage and you take it onstage and you jazz it up and get loose with it and you hear the explosion of laughter and you’re like “I think this might be an act out.” The act out, as much as this is not going to sound like truth, I’ve always had a hard time with act outs. Like I’ve always had a hard time. I think because when I was younger I was better at them and I’ve steered away from them and leaned more into the words. But that act out, I remember the night I discovered it. And I went “Oh, this might be a little bit bigger of a bit. Oh, we could do this.”
And with that specific bit, with the camera closing in on you, it might be one of the few bits that may land harder at home than in the venue.
Yeah, that’s all a great Jeff Tomsic and my buddy Tony Hernandez, who produced the special. They watch it the first couple nights I did it. And they’re like “Yo, you can really milk that.” Tony said to me during Secret Time “Hey, when he shuffle f*cks her on the zipline, you can do that just a little bit longer and we can hold that on camera.” And you’re like “Oh, okay.” So yeah, it’s interesting. I bet if you wrote it for the camera, you can have a much better special.
And going back to that Starbucks story, where you have this urge to win this guy over, would you say that’s true to who you are? Where it doesn’t matter if it’s just one person who doesn’t think you’re funny, you have to win him over?
Without a f*cking doubt. That might define me more than anything anyone’s ever said about me. I could be making a room of people laugh, but if I haven’t made you laugh, I will zone in on you the entire night until I’ve turned you. It is 100 percent my personality. And I think I address in that moment that I laugh at my own jokes, which people have criticized me for, including that kid. And I go “I do that. I definitely do that.” It was such a great moment in all of it. And then to have that experience with that kid and do it a couple more times. That jokes has a special place in my heart.
Going off of how people perceive you, do you feel like you’re at a place now where you can be more than just The Machine guy? Do you feel like you’ll ever be able to live that down, if you even want to?
I don’t think I even want to. Like I really don’t care. And this sounds super silly, but the other night at the Beacon, I started into The Machine story, and they went nuts. And I was like “Hey man, I’m cool with that for the next 10 years.” If people will allow me to write new material, do an hour of new material, come to their city, do the show, they buy tickets, and if the trade off is that they bring 10 people and we go to bigger venues and they go “Hey man, you’ve got to hear this one story this guy tells, it’s the best story I’ve ever heard.” If that’s the trade off, I’m 100 percent cool with it. There’s comics who want to be bigger and depart from what whatever people knew them as. I don’t really care about that. If people come to my shows and they’re like “Dude, this guy was the number one partier in the country in Rolling Stone,” or “This guy is from Travel Channel,” or people are like “This guy used to do crazy hotel art and it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” or it’s The Machine, I don’t really care. I just want them to show up. (Laughs). That may make me sound shallow as shit but I just want people to show up. That’s it.
That makes perfect sense. And so then I’m assuming you haven’t gotten to a place where you’re tired of telling the story at the end of every show.
No. Not at all. And as a matter of fact, that’s the point in my show where… I pour a cocktail before I go onstage and I don’t touch it before I get to The Machine story… And so in a weird way, that’s my happy hour. And I f*ck around so much inside the story that I have a sip of Titos and soda, I tell the story. And anyone who starts any story and you hear three thousand people lose their mind, I say “When I was 22 years old I got involved with the Russian Mafia, here’s how it happened” and they go crazy, that is the best Prozac you could ever get. And anyone who hears that and rolls their eyes and goes “Man I’m done with this story,” I don’t know who that person is. I don’t get that person. It’s definitely not me.
Can you still find new little things in it to amuse yourself?
Oh every time. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Last night I got into a bit… I always find somewhere to dive off and entertain myself. I ended up writing this joke about big dicks in it. And I was keeping it in it because it was fun for me. And then in the new hour I have a joke about my wife accidentally cutting and pasting a link to this black dude with a big dick. So I stole it from The Machine story and I put it in my new act. So it’s kind of like a way to write new material. You get to what you know works so you can dive off and write a joke about having sex with coal miners. And you’re like “There we go.” That was just a sidebar and I dive off on it. I always f*ck around with that story.
And so when you’re doing a special, and you’re just about to walk onstage, do you ever have that worry of whether it is going to be a good crowd or a bad one? Because the last thing you ever want when you’re taping a Netflix special is a bad crowd.
I don’t think about it much, to be honest with you. I just want to be in the moment. When you’re in the moment onstage, you’re not thinking about anything else, you’re just kind of going with the flow. It’s a f*cking beautiful feeling. You’re just being in the zone. And if you stress too much about it going onstage you’ll never find it. So literally before I go onstage, I don’t really think about anything. At all. But I also don’t think about it before the show. I definitely filmed 4 shows in Cleveland so I didn’t have to worry about that. Back in the day when you did 1 show you’re like “F*ck, I hope it’s a good crowd.” But today you do 2 shows and you’re like “I hope one of them’s a good crowd.” And you do 4 shows you’re like “Oh, we’re getting it.” And then you get it the first night and you’re like “Oh, we got it.” And then you can just have fun the entire weekend.
Do you have a joke or something you can use to get the crowd on your side? A “break in case of emergency” joke?
(Laughs). No, not really. If I’m going into a hole, I’m going into a f*cking hole.
That seems to be something with certain comedians. If the audience isn’t there, they just keep going deeper into it, which is always fun to watch.
Yeah, there’s a coolness in the silence. When you lose an audience, you find your way out of the woods. It’s like I’m taking the audience on a journey through the woods and I have a flashlight and sometimes the flashlight goes out. And there’s moments where you’re banging the flashlight on your knee and you’re seeing a flicker of light and you’re still holding onto the audience’s hands and they’re freaking out. Those can be the most exhilarating moments where you come up with stuff on the fly. In a fight or flight kind of way it’s like “My brain is reacting to the panic in the moment in the best way possible.” So a lot of times that’s when you come up with your best Get Out of Jail lines. Like “Good call. Let’s all sit here and do cankle exercises real quick. Or just the silliest sh*t. That’s where that comes out of.
So in addition to this being your second special for Netflix, you also have an upcoming series you’re doing with them. And it really feels like, in the last year and a half, Netflix has helped you really take off and allow more people to discover you.
Netflix has been a f*cking angel in my life. Not to even mention that they don’t even give you any notes. They let you do whatever you want to do. But the notes they do give you always better you. Because they’re not really held to network standards. They’re only held to comedy. They just want it to be as funny as possible. JoAnn and Robbie, their notes are always to make things simply better, not to make things difficult. So they’ve been amazing. And they’ve changed my life. Doing a special on that service has been the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And with the series, the series they gave no notes. They’re like “All we want is comics in a cabin having f*cking fun.” So we did it. And by the way, people are going to see it, people will be outraged, people are going to get triggered. It is funny as f*cking sh*t. And I think the majority of my fans who love what I do, what Tom does, what Joey Diaz does, Nikki Glaser, Whitney Cummings, Chris D’lia, Joe Rogan, or Bill Burr, they’re gonna f*cking love it. But there are going to be those outliers that are going to have some problems with it. (Laughs).
There’s always those. But I always love the idea of being a fly on the wall and just watching comedians interact with each other.
And I think that’s what inspires us. Like what makes us giggle, I’ve always related it to cheese. If you go to a guy who sells cheese, all different kinds of cheese, what he enjoys you may not like. But if he gives you a little taste of it you might go “I see what you’re going for.” Comedians are a lot like that. What makes us laugh definitely doesn’t make everyone laugh. But I think it’s good for the soul, personally.
And now I want to leave it with this. Last time we talked, we ended the interview with you talking about Otto and George and how much you wanted to introduce your fans to comedians you think they should know. And I really loved that idea. Are there any others that you have now that you want your fans to know about?
Oh yeah. 100 percent. There’s always people that I’m fascinated with like Freddie Soto who passed away way too early and I thought was genius. And he was, I think, the king of talking about his dad. Sadly one day it’ll be Ralphie May. I’ll be explaining Ralphie May to people and they’ll be like “Oh, I think I kind of remember him.” But for the most part, guys like Chris DiStefano, Yannis Papas, Andrew Schultz, guys who are younger in New York. The young scene in New York is killing it. Getting Mark Normand to where he is now, all of us were fighting for and championing that guy because he’s so f*cking funny. And now he’s selling out clubs everywhere. I think that’s part of the responsibility with comedy. It’s finding what you find that’s cool and funny that you dig, and then sharing with your fans and going “Hey, I’m not selfish. I don’t want you to just buy my tickets.” That’s the cool thing about L.A. comedy right now, it’s like share the good sh*t, let them know what’s good, and they’ll keep coming back to us also. Don’t worry.
It’s that thing of “If I make you laugh, then these guys who make me laugh should be able to make you laugh”.
I’ve benefited from it hardcore. I’ve benefited probably more than anyone in this business from that. Joe Rogan, Tom Segura, Joey Diaz, Bill Burr. These guys were all far more advanced than I was and they all kind of put me over, if you understand wrestling terms. They put me over. And they said “Hey man, I know you’ll still buy tickets to my shows. You should check out Bert.” And so you pay it forward and you go “Hey, I know you enjoyed my special. One of the funniest human beings alive is Taylor Tomlinson. I think she’s absolutely fantastic. I toured with her for 2 years. Check her out. Go check out her special.” And I have that ability to say “Not only should you check out her podcast, but you should share it and tell as many people you know about it.” And I think that’s the coolest of what’s going on. It’s helping each other. It never happened in comedy and now that it’s happening it’s so f*cking bad ass.
And it’s so funny you mention Taylor because now it all comes full circle. On the Bertcast she just did, I was listening and surprised to hear her give me a shout out because I guess I had just interviewed her a few hours before that.
Well now I’ve got to give you a shoutout on the next Bertcast.
You definitely don’t have to, but I won’t refuse it, either. Thanks as always, Bert. I can’t wait for people to see this just so I can talk about how good it is.
Brother, you made my f*cking day. That means the world to me you’re even saying that. Thank you.
Bert Kreischer: Hey Big Boy is streaming on Netflix now.