BRYAN BRUNER INTERVIEW
Las Vegas doesn’t immediately jump to mind when people think of comedy hotbeds. For Bryan Bruner, though, that’s where he got his first gigs and where he jumped the first hurdle of stealing people’s attention from the slot machines. Since then, Bryan has only been improving, crafting his own style that’s a blast to listen to on his debut album, Welcome to Djibouti. We recently sat down with Bryan to talk about some intense (and violent) heckling, Kal Penn’s relationship with cheetahs, and the comedic muse that is Florida’s swingers’ community.
Rooftop Comedy: What was it like to get your comedy start in the Vegas scene?
Bryan Bruner: It was tough because it still is a very young, tiny scene. It’s not like New York, where there’s six generations of comics and an established way of doing things. In Vegas, it’s starting. It’s creating itself. You’re doing video poker bars. People’s attentions are everywhere but being geared up for comedy. People are figuring it out though. They’re figuring out how to set up the room and how to give comedy a fighting chance. Coming from Vegas definitely gave me the chops to have the fighting chance to survive in New York.
RT: So how about that one time a Marine attacked you while you were performing onstage?
BB: I think I was doing stand-up for six months and I was hosting this show and it was in the back of the bar. I’m dying on stage. I’m getting nowhere. My mom’s in the audience. My grandma is there. It’s her 80th birthday. I’m eating so much dick. I’m getting no laughs and one of the jokes tanks and I turn and I repeated the punch line at this guy or whatnot. Out of the blue, he comes out of nowhere and spears me from the side, knocks me into the TV and into the wall. Just a few minutes earlier, his buddy had heckled me and I made fun of him. It wasn’t anything mean. It was kind of a shitty comeback. Anyway, his buddy heckled me and I went back into the bit and then after that bit is when he just charged me onstage. It was a weird thing where I got stuck in the wall and I had to unplug my ass out of the wall. After that, I think I quit doing stand-up for quite a long time. [Ed. note: you can watch the incident on YouTube]
RT: How was it going on a U.S. Army tour overseas?
BB: We were in Djibouti and our tour—we were just a bunch of no-name comics—but there was also a USO tour called the Hollywood Handshake tour. It was Christian Slater, Kal Penn, Zachary Levi, and Joel David Moore. So their tour meets our tour and we’re in Djibouti and they take us to this cheetah refuge. Some of them are contained behind a fence and there was one cheetah that was actually domesticated and you could pet the cheetah. I’m a little stand-off-ish about this and I’m sitting next to Kal Penn and some military officer was like, “Hey Kal, don’t try to ride this cheetah”, because in Harold and Kumar, they have to ride a cheetah back to White Castle. So they start fucking with Kal Penn and Kal Penn for a second was like, “Dude, I don’t think you guys understand. I really fucking hate cheetahs. When we were filming the movie, they purposefully didn’t feed the cheetah, so it would come across meaner”. So when Kal Penn wouldn’t go into the cheetah refuge, these military guys would just give him shit the whole time. I’m glad I’m not a movie star.
RT: Your album features a few stand-out long-form stories, including one about your introduction to the swingers’ community in Florida. Are these bits pretty polished at this point, or do you continue to develop the delivery?
BB: Yes and no. It’s got to change and it’s got to evolve. I can’t do the same thing every time. My problem that I have is sometimes I load it too much with detail and it loses focus. I’ll know I have a good story, if I feel like I’ll be embarrassed to tell it. If I’m like, “I don’t even know if I should be telling you about this”, well then that’s a story everyone wants to hear. For me, the hardest part is just getting out there and saying it. The more I say it, the more comfortable I become talking about it. What I’ll do is I’ll just go to some open mic and I’ll take my five minutes or whatever I’m allotted and I will just tell the story. I don’t care if it works or if it doesn’t. I just need to get the beats down. I’ve always been a storyteller for my friends and whatnot. Honestly, though, it was something I just started getting into before we recorded that record.
RT: You also produce the Sorta Secret Comedy Show. How did you decide to host a comedy show in your New York-sized apartment?
BB: Obviously, like everyone in New York, I have two roommates and they’re stand-ups. I wanted to do a show in a parking garage or in an auto shop and I started coming up with all these weird places I wanted to do it. We wanted to do one in our living room, but our landlord is a dick. We have a really big place. We kind of looked at each other and were like, “That’s so crazy of an idea that it just might work”. We started taking tape measurements of the room and started figuring out how we could line up couches and where we could get chairs. We charged $10 to get in the door and then it’s free beer—all you can drink. I think at our first show we had 45 people. The biggest show in our living room we had 55 people. Now, we’re taking it elsewhere. We’re working on getting into a laundromat. We just did the top of a hotel. Brown Paper Tickets totally sponsored us and rented us a sick as rock star suite at the top of a Holiday Inn. We really want to get into a Planned Parenthood.