Quirked-out stand-up comedy’s gentle giant and resident thrash metal fanatic Brian Posehn, has a new stream-able comic special, Posehna Non Grata, on the market, along with prepping for an April tour around the U.S. Beloved too for his acting chops and sketch comedy skills (Mr. Show with Bob Oedinkirk and David Cross alone makes Posehn into a hero), self-described nerd and comic book fan, Posehn has also entered the comix market with his own Holiday Party volume.
Before the start of his upcoming April tour showcase that begins in Tacoma Washington in April, Posehn and A.D. Amorosi hooked up for a delightful, insightful interview.
A.D. Amorosi: Unless you’re Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, many stand-up comedians are going the self-financing or independently funded route rather than just leaving it all up to Netflix. How did you get to your new stand-up showcase?
Brian Posehn: I did it with a production company, 800 Lb. Gorilla. hey were pretty hands off creatively and super easy to work with and the end product is one of my favorite specials.
A.D. Amorosi: You’re not, comedically, a political animal per se. But you slipped this is in regard to all-things Trump: “As I nerd I should have seen what was coming” – I wouldn’t normally quote an act, but I thought it was hilarious that you stated that you’re no longer political due to being comfortable with who is in office now VS who was in office during your last stand-up special. Taking you at face value…. what has the comedown been like for you, not having to always have to embrace daily politics in your act?
Brian Posehn: Well, I kinda messed with the audience on that one, saying I wasn’t political before doing a very left leaning take. At the end of the day, certain issues are always going to matter to me. So there hasn’t really been a comedown, I just stopped doing that chunk from the special. As I start to build my new act though now, it is nice to know I’m not gonna potentially lose an audience member on a joke that pokes fun at their belief.
A.D. Amorosi: Was the time away from the live stage one of woodshedding and developing material? Avoiding comic impulses with zero-to-little release sounds impossible.
Brian Posehn: I actually wrote material throughout the pandemic because I still had live shows on ZOOM and other platforms that I had to generate new jokes for. And at the end I was getting ready to go out again and record this new special. And the release always feels great (not gross at all), but this felt even better after the forced time off.
A.D. Amorosi: Can you talk about – during the pandemic and prior to that – developing your skills as a comic book maker with the end result being the nicely large-scale Halloween Party? I know you write, and this is not your first shot at creating a comic book? But, how was doing this particular comic book an extension of all of your obsessions, an evolution of craft?
Brian Posehn: Hmmm, getting to do comic books was not something I would have predicted on my career path. It happened organically, all through me being at San Diego Comic Con for the last almost thirty years and meeting people on the comics side of things and building friendships through nerdy bonding. So when I had a comic book idea, THE LAST CHRISTMAS I knew what to do with it, my writing partner Gerry Duggan and i had friends at Image Comics and some other independent companies, we pitched it and wound up producing it through our first choice Image. That was forever ago, but it opened the doors at MARVEL because the friends we made there knew we could handle the job or at least rooted for us. DEADPOOL was the goal and when the opening materialized there we were ready for it. We pitched a year’s worth of stories to them and next thing we knew we were the team. It was definitely a career highlight. As far as building the skills, it was like anything, you have to do the work. I read scripts from other writers I liked, just how I had done learning sketch and screenwriting. A lot of my ideas come in sketch writing, from taking something that annoys me and flipping it around to find what’s funny about it. With comic book writing I quickly learned the best way to generate stories and likable characters is to draw from things I love and put them in a blender. For the first six issues of DEADPOOL it was a combo of Kurt Russell, ASH from the EVIL DEAD series, our combined knowledge of former Presidents and GHOSTBUSTERS. With HALLOWEEN PARTY and the other Scotch McTiernan books, we took quite liberally from PREDATOR and COMMANDO, but Scotch is also soaked in all the other action movies I’ve watched my whole life, the good and the bad. As far as plotting we used tropes from those movies and then flipped them, how would Scotch screw this up, but still act like he’s helping? I hope I get to do more with this character, because like Deadpool, he’s a fun, mostly likable doof we can put through the ringer.
A.D. Amorosi: What is the thrill of coming up with designs and texts for comic books that differ from making comedy? What itch does it scratch?
Brian Posehn: It might be the most visual thing I’ve done outside of directing music videos because I’m thinking of the frame (or panel) and how to best show the action and comedic moments. By design it forces you to be more specific in the descriptions because you’re basically co-directing this thing with the Artist. So, it honestly scratches a couple itches, the comic itch and the directing and producing itch.
A.D. Amorosi: It was funny how you mentioned other comedians you have known forever during the new special – Dave Chappelle being one of them – and it got me thinking that with all of you love of/ideas toward other media. Do you see yourself in a real way branching out toward merging comedy and horror in the way contemporaries of yours such as Jordan Peele, Chris Rock and Zach Cregger have? And would you necessarily rely on your comic muscle if so?
Brian Posehn: Yeah, for sure. I have a horror movie or two in me that I want to get out there before I’m done, not that I’ll ever fully retire. And yeah, it’ll definitely involve my comedic muscle, but more in the dialog and crafting characters that deal with a brutal or scary situation, grounded and with a sense of humor intact.
A.D. Amorosi: Like green M&Ms in Van Halen contracts, you all but buried a story of yours at the end of the new special – that you opened for Don Rickles early in your career. One, I interviewed Rickles several times – nearly as many insults as when I interviewed Lou Reed for the Metallica collab – and two, I am old friends with Don Rickles’ personal valet on the road. Can you tell me what was good, great, bizarre about the experience?
Brian Posehn: I got to be around Don a handful of times, he was such a fantastic host and one of the pure funniest people I’ve ever been in the room with, so quick, so quintessential Don Rickles, he busted my chops whenever I saw him, which is all I wanted from the situation. I still quote his putdowns, “Hey Kid, next time I see you, can you at least put on a suit? I’d invite you to the house but the wife will think you’re a gardener. ‘Cute kid, where’s his rake?'”
A.D. Amorosi: This might sound doofus-y, but we know you all of these years, and you still refer to yourself as a Sasquatch/Jason Voorhees size character that scares people. Is this for comic effect or is this true – you’re both famous and beloved.
Brian Posehn: Both. I find it funny to lean into the self-deprecating side. For me, it was a defensive mechanism of trying to beat what a detractor would say about me, if my self-burns are harsh, maybe they’ll go easier on me. Now it’s become second nature to play up the whole “poor Sasquatch, what did he do now?” thing. And I would never call myself famous and “the beloved” thing is hard for me to embrace, because of my own issues with self-love and depression and anxiety.
A.D. Amorosi: You seem like a fairly settled gentleman with a wife, children and barbecues at home – did you foresee this for yourself when you were performing in punk rock clubs at your start?
Brian Posehn: Not when I was young, I was vocally anti-parent, maybe because of not having a dad myself (mine died when I was two, and my mom never remarried), it wasn’t really a thing I could even get my head around. This sounds hella corny, but only when I met my wife could I ever imagine being married or being a dad.
A.D. Amorosi: I was going to avoid this, but – why not, we’re here and you are the stand-up comic king of thrash metal. What is your most recent pick to click act/album when it comes to metal, and why that one?
Brian Posehn: Two bands I’ve enjoyed for a while but the most recent records by Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy are both accomplished, heavy, catchy and re-listenable. As far as new bands, End It out of Baltimore is a recent favorite, Hard Core, brutal, pissed off with a sense of humor.