Comedian Jim Breuer grows up, clears the air
Comedian Jim Breuer first rose to prominence as a “Saturday Night Live” cast member in the mid-1990s, specifically as the heavy-metal-crazed Goat Boy. He is equally well remembered for his turn as über stoner Brian in Dave Chappelle’s pot-smoking romp, the cult classic Half-Baked. But, as evidenced by his new tour titled “Let’s Clear the Air,” at 42 Breuer is now a different, dare we say more mature, comedian than the guy who portrayed a Tourette’s-suffering satyr on SNL. Well, mostly.
Seven Days recently caught up with Breuer by phone at his Long Island home, in advance of his upcoming performance at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland.
SEVEN DAYS: OK. I have to ask. How often do people ask you to do Goat Boy?
JIM BREUER: [Chuckles] Every show. Goat Boy drove me out of late-night areas. I don’t go out at all, because anyone with a couple of drinks in them wants to hear Goat Boy.
SD: You did standup for a long time before you were on SNL. Did you ever have any inclination that Goat Boy would be the thing that broke you?
JB: No. That was the furthest thing from my mind. You’re talking about a guy getting baked at the zoo with Tourette’s. That’s all that was. I thought it would be funny to have Tourette’s, but instead of cursing you have a goat noise.
SD: If I have the story correct, you and your buddies used to go to the bar and use Goat Boy to scam free drinks, right?
JB: Yeah! Yeah! Goat Boy was one of the things [we did] to get free drinks. Pick up chicks.
JB: Yeah. They feel bad for you.
SD: Well, I guess there’s nothing like pity sex.
JB: It would never make it that far, though. I could only get so far with it. You’d usually get to first base and then, after that, the Tourette’s would go away. It would be like [in a female voice], “Hey, you’re not … wait a minute. And you’re not Australian? Hey!”
SD: In addition to Goat Boy and Half- Baked, you’ve become something of a YouTube sensation with the “Party in the Stomach” bit. What are your feelings on the Internet as a vehicle for the entertainment industry?
JB: I think it’s the greatest thing to ever happen, because we never have to rely on networks or Comedy Central. I mean, you still have to kind of rely on them. But you take a guy like Jeff Dunham or even Dane Cook, who couldn’t buy a TV spot. Dane Cook is solely a star because of MySpace. He built up that amazing arena.
Now, a guy like Jeff Dunham, he built up his thing because of his clips. He’s got, like, 50 million views worldwide. And that’s a guy who couldn’t get any TV time, but people loved what he was doing. So when people like you, then it’s on. And the Internet allows you to do that.
That freakin’ bit [Party in the Stomach] was dead and buried. It’s not like bands. Bands can put out music and they’re classics forever. But a comic puts out a bit … there are a lot of bits where I’m, like, aw man, I wish I could bring that bit back. And now it’s starting to happen. People are discovering them on YouTube and they start shouting out bizarre bits that I did 10, 15 years ago … It’s awesome … As a matter of fact, because of that clip, I’m touring Australia and Europe next year.
SD: I’ve always been curious about the difference in process between writing for something like SNL and your own material for standup.
JB: Well, standup is easier. You come up with what you think is funny and then try it onstage. You see what works and doesn’t work and you have many times to try it out. You’re your own writer, creator, director and everything.
On “Saturday Night Live,” you have something you might have created that’s funny, but now you have to convince 30 other meatballs that it’s funny. And four of them can’t stand you; another four of them are competing against you. It’s just not as fun. It’s a very exhausting process.
SD: You’re married with three kids now. And most people still associate you with Goat Boy and the stoner from Half-Baked. But your new material is … I don’t know if “mature” is exactly the right word…
JB: No, no, no. It’s coming of age. It’s the ex-stoner wild man who now has kids and he’s gotta find ways to still be cool. And also be a dad. And I love being that guy. A lot of comics put out “kid” material, “kids suck.” And [kids] don’t suck. They’re freakin’ awesome. They’re better than drugs if you watch them and play with them. That’s my attitude and that’s what I present onstage.
The coolest thing I ever get, is every time I play a place, someone goes [stoner voice], “Oh, man, when we heard you were coming, we all just wanted to get high with you.” And then they’ll go, “But now I have a totally different respect for you and I can’t wait to be a dad, because I like your look on life, maaaan.”
SD: That’s gotta be oddly flattering and sorta scary at the same time.
JB: It’s very oddly flattering. And it is flattering to know I can take someone who thinks in that direction and now they’re thinking, Wow. I can conquer the future. It’s not gonna be that bad. I think the younger generation fears parenthood.
SD: I know I do.
JB: Aw, there’s nothing to fear, man.