Brian Posehn on His New Special, Mr. Show and Apex Nerdom
I’ll go ahead and say it: Brian Posehn is the biggest nerd in comedy. (And yes, I mean that as a compliment.) His new special, Posehna Non Grata premieres today on Moment, giving Posehn as good a reason as any to sit down with Cracked to discuss the intersection of comedy, comic books and nerd culture.
Tell us about the new special.
It’s available through Moment exclusively for two weeks, and the people that go (on December 7th) can purchase things like a virtual meet and greet. And then in two weeks, it’s going to be everywhere, all the usual suspects like Amazon and that kind of thing.
And it’s all new. Only one joke existed before COVID; everything else I wrote post-pandemic. I was supposed to do a special in 2020 and then the pandemic happened. I threw away almost all of the material. I kept one joke and then wrote another 45 new minutes.
COVID must have pressed the pause button on a lot of things for you.
It was so crazy. I feel worse for the comics that open for the headliners. No one was prepared for it. No one was prepared to not work for a month and then to have that month turn into almost two years. I joke in my act that I didn’t know what to do, so I just did five shows for my family every weekend. But it was practically like that. I got closer to my dog, I got closer to my son and my wife, and we just all huddled down. I feel bad for the people that don’t have families that just huddled down by themselves. It was such a strange time. I did a couple of those Zoom things so I felt like I could perform, at least I got to tell jokes, right?
We saw you do the Mr. Show reunion on Zoom, which was so fun on the one hand and so bizarre on the other hand. It was kind of a glorious mess.
It was a strange experience because Mr. Show is a thing that we hyper-wrote and hyper-produced. Every little thing was written. So you have this thing that’s more raw as a representation of it. I know Bob was cringing at all of the things that could possibly go wrong.
Was it a conscious decision on your part to go direct to fans with the new special?
No, but that definitely appealed to me. I’m so old so I don't really consume comedy outside of the normal spots. I watch Netflix like everybody else. So that’s where I see comedy. I’m bad at that next level, whatever the kids are doing next.
It reminded me of your podcast, Nerd Poker, that’s also supported by fans.
For sure. I’m inspired by other people that do that. You know, David Cross always does that. He’s the Fugazi of comedy. He’s always had his finger on how to get it directly to his people. He’s always been good at that. He was one of the first of us to do an independent record label, going with Sub Pop before anybody else. That’s why I went with Relapse for my comedy records because I figured that was a label that my fans were already a fan of, appealing to indie metal guys who would also like my dick jokes.
There are a lot of parallels between 1990s alternative music and what you guys were doing in 1990s comedy.
Yeah, sure. Without saying punk rock, there was always a more punk version of what other people were doing. We were the punk version of the Dane Cook thing.
Is there a secret origin story to the Comedians of Comedy, the tour featuring you, Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford and Zach Galifianakis?
You’ll get different versions depending on who you ask, but really, it all comes from Patton and I having the same manager, Dave Rath. He’s a guy that’s mentioned in a lot of books about 1990s comedy. He’s been Patton’s and my manager since ‘91 or ‘92, he got me on my first TV shows and Patton too, and we've never left him. So the Comedians of Comedy was his idea. “Let’s have Patton take out a couple of his friends and do the alternative version of Kings of Comedy, Latin Kings of Comedy, all those things that were going around.
I feel like I was the first guy to say “Comedians of Comedy,” but Patton might say he did too, so who knows? We were trying to name it, and I was like, “Well, we’re just comedians, so why don't we just call it Comedians of Comedy?” It was kind of a wink. You guys are the Kings or Queens and whatever else, but we’re just comedians, right?
Speaking of you and Patton, let’s talk about one of the great shows that could have been: Super Nerds, a failed pilot about two comic book store employees.
We were doing (a stage version of) Jerry Lewis’ terrible script, The Day The Clown Cried. Patton found the script. He cast everybody. We all have parts. Everybody you can think of, like Toby Huss from the Halloween movies, Bob Odenkirk, all these funny people have these parts. We were doing it in Santa Monica, and Jerry Lewis’ lawyers came that afternoon and told us, “No, you aren’t.” They shut us down. So instead, we did a live show for the crowd that was all completely improvised. And the first time we did Super Nerds, it was improvised that night. We just started characters of ourselves. I always joked, “It’s us being nerdy, but we are f***ing nerds.” So it was us just us riffing on Boba Fett in a nasal voice with our actual Boba Fett knowledge.
Comedy Central had a theater space at the time. We knew it was something that night, it was the standout of all the things people improvised. So we wrote it as three plays originally and called it The Trilogy, of course when they were doing the (Star Wars) special editions at that time. Comedy Central bought it, did a pilot, Bob Odenkirk directed it, we wrote it, Sarah Silverman is in it. It should have been on Comedy Central for 10 years, but I don’t love the pilot.
There’s an eight-minute version that floats around, and I feel like that’s the funnier version than the 22-minute version. Pacing-wise, if we could have tinkered with it, we might have had a show there. There was still some purity about it that we did love, the moments with Sarah and the moments with Patton and I just riffing. He is one of my favorite people to be funny with. There’s something funny about a 5-foot-4 dude with his 6-foot-6 gargantuan friend.
Do you have a favorite nerd moment that you’ve had in entertainment? Is there apex nerdom?
As a father, right now I can do anything and my son would still remember that I was in The Mandalorian. That’s the coolest thing I’ve got as a dad so far. I took him to the premiere. That was one where my wife was like, “No, you guys are going, I'll sit this one out.” And he went with me, and it was one of the best nights of his life, he’ll tell you.
He was a huge Star Wars kid, so to see that and for it to be good? It turned out to be kind of the best Star Wars thing they’ve done in a while. I felt like I was actually an Uber driver on an ice planet.
Switching over to comedy nerdom: The biggest laugh we ever heard on Mr. Show was the Titanica sketch. You’re part of the genesis of that, right?
(Chuckles) Sure, but my version has never been aired on TV. It was so dark. It got finessed by Bob Odenkirk and Dino Stamatopoulos. But it’s still one of my proudest moments in comedy.
Definitely the biggest live pop we got in our four-year run of that show. People lost their minds the first time they saw it. To see David Cross in that bed. I still have the puppet in my garage. I definitely take it out sometimes to make sure it still works.
Anything on the comics front?
I’ve got a couple of things in the pipe. I got two books from Image that are coming in the spring. And I’m currently writing a book called Axe that’s in Heavy Metal magazine. Heavy Metal is back, and it’s as beautiful as it was when I was standing in a 7-Eleven back in the 1970s, seeing all this inappropriate shit. It’s still inappropriate. There’s a lot of boobs — so many boobies. You’ll still feel like you’re standing in a 7-Eleven, looking at boobs.