Secret time! Bert Kreischer is a man who lives in two universes. There are two versions of Bert, both of which you can get good glimpses at in his newest special Secret Time, which premieres on Netflix today. The first Bert Kreischer is the one that stems from the Rolling Stone article where he, at age 24, was named the number one partier in the world. He was the guy that would just go out and get blackout drunk and become the life of the party everywhere he went. Oliver Stone bought his life rights and that Rolling Stone article story was the basis of the National Lampoon movie, Van Wilder where Ryan Reynolds portrayed him. Bert was the party.
The Bert Kreischer you see today still has a little bit of that guy shining through, don’t get it wrong. You aren’t going to watch the special and be flabbergasted as to how THIS guy was the basis for the film Van Wilder. Yes, he still goes onstage and throws his shirt off. However he also isn’t living in the past. Almost everything he talks about onstage is about his family and who he is today. And not in the endearing “My family is so great” way (he literally calls his daughters dumb). His evolution is both necessary but also makes perfect sense to who he was and who he is. And he still remains the life of the party.
Secret Time is the perfect mixture of everything we love about Bert Kreischer. It’s as dirty and filthy and funny as you can imagine, but beyond all of that, it’s sincere. Honesty just seems to flow right out of Kreischer’s mouth, he doesn’t have a damn thing to hide onstage. Nor would he want to, he is himself 100 percent of the time and we wouldn’t want him any other way.
We recently spoke over the phone to Bert about the new special, what he fears his daughters will discover about his act, his stand-up act’s evolution, being unpredictable, working with Netflix, and introducing his fans to Otto and George.
Is there anything off limits for Secret Time?
There’s nothing off limits. I started doing it as a joke onstage where I would just say “Secret Time” and I would just tell people deep secrets. And they were like silly ones, too, but they were just secrets of things in my life. And I think the joke is that I’m saying it’s a secret, but I’m saying it out loud. And people started responding to it and doing it back to me. Ralphie May was one of the ones first to go “Dude, you’re not even telling a joke. You’re just saying you dry your asshole on the bed. That is so hilarious because it’s so who you are and you’re just saying ‘secret time.’ No one’s going to share that.” When I started doing the special, I started getting into obviously talking about my family no holds barred. I was telling things that I kind of had to clear with them after I started telling them. So I was like “F*ck, we’ll just call it Secret Time” Everything’s a secret in there, but nothing’s off limits.
And how did that go when you had to go back and clear that with your family?
I had to say to my daughters… it’s like I don’t trust people who frame their life in an Instagram or Facebook propaganda kind of way. I trust parents who are like “Oh, my kid’s a f*cking idiot.” And so that’s the kind of dad that I am. I’ll trash my family to let you know how much I love them. And they do the same to me, “my dad’s fat,” “my dad snores,” “my mom can’t sleep in the same bed with him.” Just honesty. But at one point, I literally had to say to my daughters when I was doing the special, “hey, I need to stop this now or change this wording now, but I call you guys dumb as f*ck in the special.” And my daughter Ila’s like “we’re not dumb.” And I was like “Perfect!” (Laughs) Sure, if you think you’re not dumb, that’s all that matters to me.”
It’s so great that you can be so open with them about this stuff. Do you ever worry that your daughters will one day go back and watch some of your stuff and hear some of the stories you tell onstage?
You know, in all honesty, I’m not worried about them hearing stuff I’ve said about them. Because as I’m sure everyone knows, they’re my daughters and they know I love them and I spend a life with them and I care for them. They’re my little girls, I love them to death. What really does stick in my craw sometimes is stuff I’ve said about their mom sexually. And that’s all stuff I’ve been doing for years. I have a joke on my last special about my wife squirting on my chin during oral sex, and my daughters will see that. Can you imagine hearing your dad talk like that about your mom? That’s the one thing where I’m like “Oh f*ck. I did not predict or see that wave coming.” But the stuff about them I think they’ll always be fine with. It’s all true stories. It’s sh*t they did so they better own their own honesty. But the stuff about me and their mom sexually or like me masturbating, it’s like (horrified sound). That’s the only thing that gives me hesitation, yes.
I totally get that. And for you to be conscious of that onstage would not be true to who you are, which I think is your greatest asset. You feel like this is really you, and you’re being honest 100 percent of the time.
Thank you very much. And to add onto that, I don’t really know another way to do it. I’m not like a joke-writer where I do set up-punch. I’m a storyteller and when it comes to stories, the closer you are to the truth, the funnier the story is. Because people go “Oh, that happened to me. I’ve got a kid like that.” I used to love on Howard Stern when Andy Dick would call in drunk and he would just tell the truth. And I’d be like “Oh my God!” In this world where everything is framed in a propaganda way, I was like “f*ck it, I just want to go up and be 100 percent honest and lay it out.” So if you’re a parent with a couple of dumb kids and you roll your eyes nonstop, you watch the special and go “Oh my God. We’ve got an Ila. We’ve got a Georgia. Me and you are just like Bert and LeeAnn.” I think it’s more accessible, and like I said, it’s the only way I know how to do it.
Right. It’s what you’ve been doing for years. And in the special, you talk a lot more about your family. Was it refreshing to kind of get to move towards a little closer to who you are now, as opposed to the character that everybody sees you as? Even though you do still tell The Machine story at the end, there’s a certain evolution there, no?
It’s all evolution in a weird way. And even telling The Machine story was an evolution, because before The Machine story, I was really kind of a mediocre comic. I was just doing what I had probably seen working, I don’t know if I was true to my voice. And when I did The Machine story, I learned to be very true to my voice and tell a 12 minute story and be comfortable in the quiet parts, punch up. I learned how to write a story and how to tell a story. So the evolution of that story, despite it projecting a persona on me, was still a growth period. And then when I got into this special, I was like “Oh my God. I’ve got so many stories about my family and where I’m at right now.” And what I’ve learned from telling The Machine or telling Flying Dildos or Fighting The Bear, or Skydiving With Rachel Ray, I can add to the stories. I think the zip lining story is one of my best stories to date because I go “That’s me right in the moment of who I am today and growing.” And I think you can’t really pick what you write, so you just write where you’re at or write what’s on your head. I think it’s connected when you share experiences with people. The average person has got two kids, drinks a lot, has a wife they love, they’ve both gained weight, and they’re just looking to have a few laughs. So for me, I can’t really choose what I write. It’s whatever’s going on or whatever’s in the front of my kind of list of shit that I’m inspired by.
Do you get people who are disappointed that you’re not the guy you were before onstage, being the guy that you were 20 years ago?
100 percent. There are people who I think would be very content with me taking off my shirt and just getting blackout drunk onstage and stumbling off. I think those people aren’t technically comedy fans, but they do buy tickets (Laughs). But yeah, you always get that, and there are certain people who say, “you should never tell The Machine story again. You’ve just got to get away from that.” And I say “I’ll just keep telling it. As long as people are yelling it out at shows, I’ll tell it. I’ll give them a little of what they want and I’ll give them an hour of new material.” So you’ve just got to hope that your audience grows with you and they’re just like “Oh, cool man. I can’t wait to see your journey or your path.” Look at Bill Burr. He just had a baby and I can’t wait to hear him talk about his baby. But I guarantee you, there are some misogynistic fans of his that go “Bro, why did you get married? Why’d you have a kid? Are you serious?” And it’s like “Yeah. He’s a regular human being, let him grow.” People would definitely pay $35 for a ticket to watch me get drunk, definitely.
You’ve always been this guy who is known as this wild unpredictable comic. Do you see yourself as unpredictable when you’re onstage?
(Laughs). Yeah, I like to call it impulsive. I enjoy chaos, I enjoy it. I get very bored doing an act, a beginning to end act or having notes. I like chaos and the chaos used to be fun as sh*t. When I was a younger comic, the sh*t that happened would be viral videos if people saw them, but thankfully no one had cameras. So now you have to measure yourself. You can’t get hammered and high like you used to and just go up onstage and just f*cking throw sh*t against the wall and see what sticks. You’ve got to have a little bit of a program in mind, but at the same time, they’ve got rooms for that. I did a room last night called Stand Up on the Spot, where you don’t bring any material onstage and they go, “Talk about this.” The crowd yells it out and I love that. Like if some guy goes, “The Machine!” instead of telling The Machine story, I’ll spend the entire time whittling down all of the nicknames I’ve given myself in life and why I earned them through my eyes.
There’s a very meta moment in your special, where you talk about how you were “higher than…” and you talk about trying to find just the write joke for that moment. I’ve never seen anyone completely break away and just talk about the writing process of that bit.
It’s interesting, I’ve been doing television for 8 years, so it’s not lost on me that this is a taping. In my head, onstage, I was just like “I’m just going to do what I normally do and I’ll make sure I’ll get the big chunks in that will all edit together nicely.” But in my head I was like “I can edit whatever the f*ck I want out.” So in that moment that I share that, I get to the special and I share the joke that I still never worked out. I then break the fourth wall and say that I never figured this out. And then when I saw it, I went “Let’s just leave this whole part in.” Like there’s this line about Chelsea Handler that I was gonna take out then I was like “Ah, f*ck it.” That’s part of what the special is. It should be what your stand-up is where you are fucking around. Because you can take things out, but in my opinion, that one show in its entirety was so perfect and what I wanted it to be, I was like “You can leave it all in. Beginning to end. Don’t edit anything out. Leave it in.” By the way, the one line that I wanted to use was “higher than giraffe pussy.” Which is something that we said is good, but one of my friends used it in his special, so I couldn’t use it. And of course I’m such a hack, I went right to animals and I kept going back to whales. And it made me laugh so f*cking hard that a whale would think “I’m high as sh*t right now.” Now I say that whenever I get super high. “I’m high as a f*cking whale.”
With this being your first special with Netflix, I want to end this by talking about the evolution of the stand-up special. What are your takes on what it’s become, and how it’s changed from the Comedy Central, HBO, and Showtime world you came up in?
That’s a great question. I think all of us strived for Comedy Central, HBO, when we were younger, that’s where you wanted to be. We all did Comedy Central specials and they aired once, then Comedy Central never aired them again. Never. Then all of a sudden, that became the thing you did not do. People would be like “Do not go to Comedy Central.” I remember when Netflix came out and I remember my buddies Bill Burr and Tom Segura both had specials there. I remember saying to Tom, “I want to see your special. When does it air? I can’t find it.” And he introduced me to Netflix and I went “Wait, I can see it right f*cking now?”
When I did my last special for Showtime, you worked yourself up to a premiere date. Be at your homes at 11 o’clock on a Friday night, November 11th; that’s when my special airs. People just weren’t home and forgot to DVR it and missed it entirely. The majority of my fans are podcast fans (The Bertcast). My podcast goes out to other countries. People in like Australia and Canada and Ireland and Scandinavia are asking, “Dude, why didn’t you just put it on Netflix? We can’t see your special. Because Showtime wouldn’t let them see it.” Now you look at it and you’re like. “Oh. Touring is different. I’m going to end up doing a world tour because of this.” Because there will be people that I can sell tickets to in a comedy club in Scandinavia, just like the one in Omaha, to come see me do stand-up live. The goal of the special used to be, “How much money can you get?” Now it’s “How many people can see it?” It’s just an advertising tool. So now the goal is just how many people can you get to see it, how many eyes can you get on it?
When I got the offer from Netflix I was just like, “Hey, thanks for sharing this with the world.” Does that make sense? “Thanks for being a much bigger platform than Vimeo or YouTube so that people can find it. It’s really mind blowing when you see where it’s gone to. Then then when they [Netflix] says stuff like “Hey, we’re going to pick up your Showtime special and put that on the platform too,” you go like “Oh my God. I just got two specials? I’ve got one coming out on the 24th, then I’ve got the one with The Machine on it and that’s going to be shared with everyone? They revolutionized the game, people would do it for free. I mean, obviously, not everyone will do it for free for Netflix. It’s a game changer.
It seems like there’s now more of a demand for the stand-up special again because of Netflix.
Yeah, 100 percent. Not to get too meta on you, I did a Comedy Central festival in San Francisco called Clusterfest. A whole bunch of people did it, but the highlight was Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart performed in front of 10,000 people. It was outside, it was cold, it was night time, and he did probably an hour and a half. This was right in front of the capitol. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Jon Stewart’s talking about politics and the state of America and the state of affairs in America, and what’s going on with public shaming and our President and kneeling, he’s covering every topic. I watched 10,000 people if not more, stand in silence watching him, laughing at punchlines, and listening to what this man had to say. There’s not an artform in the world that allows you the opportunity to wax poetically about life or your position you might share in life with people than stand-up comedy. I looked at that and as a comedian I thought “Oh my God, I’m in a really cool artform. This is what this is.” Watching Jon Stewart, a master at the artform, just talk. And he talked about his family, he talked about his kids, and 10,000 people standing outside, listening. That only happens with fu*king politicians.
And then you look at the specials that have come out, like Hannah Gadsby’s, which is really an interesting f*cking fascinating special. I don’t want to say important, because I don’t ever want to say any special is important, but it was a different perspective on life. Then you look at Katt Williams and you’re like “That’s a different perspective.” Then you look at f*cking Demetri Martin and Bill Burr and John Mulaney. My kids were quoting John Mulaney on the way to a Dodgers game in the back of my car one day, and you’re like “Oh, there’s definitely a place for comedy.” The fact that Netflix has put such an investment in sharing that voice with the world, you just bend at the knee and go “Hey, thank you for including me in that group.” But yeah, I’m blown away.
I love your perspective on it. I can’t wait for more people to discover you through the platform and your special, which really is fantastic.
Brother, thank you. As you can tell, I could literally talk for hours like this.
As can I. Really breaking down comedy is always the highlight of my day.
Dude, we were breaking it f*cking down last night [in the green room of The Comedy Store]. It was me, Bill Burr, Bryan Callen, Sam Tripoli, Brendan Schaub, DeRay Davis. We were really getting into the nuts and bolts about doing theaters and becoming your own promoter, because that’s what DeRay does. He was really successful out of Chicago and just to sit down and whittle, “What sort of offers you got from AEG or Ticketmaster?” We were talking nuts and bolts of comedy last night.
That’s one of the main complaints I get from people who say, “We love the podcast, but sometimes it feels like it’s too inside baseball when you talk about comedy.” Because I’ll totally forget when I say a name noone’s heard of. Yesterday me and Jim Florentine talked about Otto and George for like 30 minutes. So today on my solo podcast, I’m going to have to introduce Otto and George to everyone. And everyone’s like, “Who the f*ck are Otto and George, and which one’s the puppet?” I’m like “Are you f*cking serious?” So last night I got back from the store and sat at my kitchen table watching old Otto and George clips last night f*cking dying.
Bert Kreischer may not be traveling Russia as “The Machine” anymore, but when it comes to stand-up, the man, the myth, and “The Machine” lives on.
Bert Kreischer’s newest special, Secret Time is available on Netflix now.