by Ryan Meehan
Brett Eidman is an award winning comedian/writer/actor who is best known for his song parody of “Shaft, Barack Theme” which was played on thousands of radio stations and CNN. Comedy bits from his CD, “What’s So F#@k’n Funny?” released on the Uproar Entertainment label, are played regularly on Sirius XM. A graduate of The Second City, Chicago and the Upright Citizens Brigade, NYC, Brett has been seen and heard on several TV and Radio Shows including Saturday Night Live, Law & Order, Imus in the Morning, CollegeHumor.com and FunnyorDie.com. Brett’s one man show One Angry Man had a sold out run in NYC. Eidman’s improvisational background adds that extra special ingredient to his very exciting standup appearances, and he’s our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When you type your name into the Google search engine, the first thing that comes up is a Gawker article from 2012 with the title “Racist Comedian Who Was Attacked Onstage Is Possibly an Attention Whore, Definitely a Dick“. First of all, what happened that night and do you consider yourself to be either an attention whore and/or a dick? Do you think that when an audience member enters a comedy club that it should be sort of a natural thing to expect to hear jokes that might be considered offensive, and that they should kind of adjust their funny bone accordingly? And why do you think people are so quick to jump at using the term “racist” nowadays?
BE: I’m not thrilled that’s the first thing that pops on Google. My body of work includes a ton of stuff that I think is so much better and I don’t think that bit should define my career. However, a viral video being analyzed and discussed on a popular site makes it hard to knock it down the search engines. The video is a comedy piece that I wrote based on one of the characters I have done in my act for years. It’s a slimy character being disrespectful and inappropriate. It’s based on a real scammer named Tom Vu, who used to have a get rich quick infomercial on late night TV. The audience in my video is made up of comedian friends of mine who were nice enough to help me out- (I bought them pizza and drinks in return). Rachel and George are the two Asian folks I hired from a Craigslist ad, The ad said that I was looking for an Asian actor who knows martial arts for a comedy video. Once I had George, I asked him to bring a friend and he brought Rachel. The biggest issue we had was keeping Rachel and George from laughing, which screwed up the first few takes. Once they stopped laughing, we wrapped it up in couple of takes.
I think everybody in show business is an attention whore, including the writer of the Gawker piece. Publicists make money by drawing strategic attention to their clients. We are nothing if nobody notices us. I don’t think I’m a dick and my wife and family don’t think I am either, I can’t speak for everybody else. People should be open- minded in life and when going to a comedy club. If you hear something you find offensive, suck it up, it won’t hurt you and other material is on its way. When it comes to racism, we have become super sensitive. I think a lot of it comes from the fear of history repeating itself. We have extremists who rear their ugly heads once in a while and that can put many of us on edge. There are plenty of racists out there and we should be careful not to let them build up speed. .
RM: Your material can be most certainly classified as “dark humor”, particularly “The Ballad of Jerry Sandusky”. Do you think that most comedy fans would rather hear some of the heavier stuff; as opposed to guys who are squeaky clean? What’s your take on some of the clean comedy going around today? Are you necessarily against it; or is it just not for you and what you do on stage?
BE: The world is dark and that seems to sneak its way into my writing. However, I think funny is funny. I believe comedy fans don’t care if it’s clean, dirty, or dark, as long it’s funny. My favorite comedians run the full spectrum. Everybody has different tastes. My material is somewhat edgy, but when I write, I’m just trying to write something funny with a little edge. It’s the way I look at things.
I may lean towards darker material because that’s how I see the world. Finding the funny via dark material, helps me and I hope the audience deal with it.
RM: What is it about a one man show that makes it so much more challenging than just a regular 45 or 60 minute standup set? Do you feel like with the one man show that there is more or less pressure to always be delivering killer punchlines?
BE: I loved doing my one-man show. It was an enormous amount of work which took about two years or so to write. One of the great things about doing a one-man show is you can dive deeper into subject matter and you don’t always need a punchline. You have the freedom to make interesting points and statements without going for the laugh every second. One of the problems with doing the one-man show was I couldn’t find a place to work out the material. I couldn’t do the material in comedy clubs because it wasn’t set-up, then punchline. My first show was the first time I did the material live. Normally, you can work out sets and build your act 5 minutes at a time. With the one-man show, I didn’t have that luxury and doing an hour right out of the box scared the hell out of me. Having multi-media also created additional challenges which forced me to stay on script. If I didn’t, video images wouldn’t match what I was talking about and send the crew into panic mode. By some miracle, I pulled it off and had a successful run. I may do another one down the road.
RM: As an older comic, do you feel it’s difficult to relate to younger audiences; or do you view your age as a positive thing because you do have so much experience?
BE: I actually love performing for younger audiences. I talk about stuff that young people can relate to. I don’t talk about my marriage, my kids, or paying my mortgage. Young audiences don’t care about that shit, it’s not their world yet. I can talk about my iPhone, facebook, movies, and malls. Having plenty of experience is so important and I can shift gears at any moment. I also enjoy improvising with the crowd. That’s always fun.
RM: How can you tell that a room is going to end up being a really great audience when you get up on stage? Is there a certain look that you get from the audience members or is it more of a feeling…a “body buzz” if you will?
BE: I look for alertness and if they are focused on me. There should be a feeling of excitement or buzz. too. It’s a mood. Sometimes, you can sense the outcome of the show before you hit the mic. Once you feel what’s going on, you plan your attack. Many times my opening joke will change while walking onto the stage. You plan it, but you need to be able to change on the fly. No two shows are alike and you have to adapt to whatever situation you are thrown into. Most comedy clubs are setup perfectly for doing well. At times, I’ll perform in a makeshift room or hall and have to deal with obstacles. It certainly keeps you on your toes.
RM: In your opinion, what’s the most disturbing joke that you’ve ever written? Did it go over well; and do you still tell it?
BE: I have written tons of jokes that were disturbing to someone at some point. Those jokes usually become hit or miss jokes and eventually get taken out of the set. This kind of brings me back to question 1. When I would do the Dom Fok character, it would work most of the time and sometimes fall flat. You need jokes and/or bits that work 99 percent of the time or as close to that as possible.
RM: What would you say is your biggest achievement in all your years of working in the entertainment industry? How do you plan to work over the next decade so that in ten years the answer to that question is different?
BE: Along with doing 7 Questions, I’m very proud of getting in and graduating from The Second City in Chicago. Getting on SNL was also exciting. I’m proud of the way “Party All The Time, Let’s Celebrate!” video came out. Getting in with the CollegeHumor folks and doing several dozen videos with them was very cool. Right now, I’m seeking a new agent and manager. This is what is needed at this moment for my career to keep moving forward. I feel with the right agent and manager, sky’s the limit. I believe that I’m sitcom ready. I could easily be the father, uncle, coach, wacky neighbor, blue collar boss, or cop.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
BE: A filmmaker that I admire asked me to do a short film based on Question 1. We should have it completed this summer. I’ll continue doing my standup, sketch comedy, making videos, and whatever else I can book. Most importantly, I hope to sign with a new agent and manager very soon. Was that seven or eight questions? It felt like eight.
Official Website: http://bretteidman.com/
Brett on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/ComedianBrettEidman
Brett on Twitter: @BrettEidman
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