Yes, his last name is pronounced exactly like that. Rather than skirt around the issue, Johnny Beehner embraces his last name, which is the source of some of his best material, featured on his debut comedy album, Tiny Wiener. Whether he’s recounting Taco Bell pranks, illicit Olive Garden experiences, or just the funnier side of cat ownership, Johnny has an effortless storytelling style that has been winning crowds over for years. Rooftop caught up with Johnny to talk about brotherly influences, why his sex life is fair game, and how “Taco Man”—one of Tiny Wiener’s stand-out jokes—almost never was.
Rooftop Comedy: Why did you want to record Tiny Wiener at Skyline Comedy Café?
Johnny Beehner: I chose the Skyline because I started in Wisconsin. That club and its brother club in Milwaukee that are booked by the same booker, are kind of where I got my start and I went all the way from emceeing to being a feature to being a headliner at that club and I found out when I was there, [the Skyline Comedy Café] has recorded more comedy albums than any other comedy club, which is a testament to their quality. It was great. The crowds were very fun. I was hoping just to get one show that would be clearly the best and just have that be the CD with a couple of tweaks of fixing the sound, but all the shows were so great I had a hard time deciding.
RT: Your wife is somewhat of a central character on Tiny Weiner. Does she come to your shows a lot?
JB: Yes, she does. She’s a teacher, so she has the summers off, which is nice. So whenever I’m in Milwaukee, she knows more people than I do. She’s so connected so she’ll be bringing in parties of 50 to fill the place, which is good. She comes to the shows and she’s pretty honest as far as feedback after the show. She’ll just be like, “I don’t know if that’s really working…I hope that’s not what happened at the Olive Garden”.
RT: So she’s not too embarrassed when you talk about your sex life?
JB: No, she’s not hiding out.
RT: Tiny Wiener features some choice childhood anecdotes, including a poorly-timed decision to dress up like the Oscar Meyer hot dog. Did your family foster your sense of humor while you were growing up?
JB: I pretty much attribute my whole sense of humor to my older brother Scott, who I always thought was the funniest person. He always made me laugh growing up and I always made him laugh growing up. The first time I ever did stand-up was living with him—he’s about six years older than me—and so the summers between semesters at college I would go live with him. And the first year, which was 1999, he was living in New York, so I was living with him there and that was the first time I ever did stand-up at an open mic and then the next three summers he lived in Los Angeles. So that’s kind of how I got my experience going back and forth with New York and LA was through him. My parents were funny, but Scott was really the one who fed me my hunger for making people laugh.
RT: How was it being a featured on the second season of Last Comic Standing?
JB: Obviously it was eye-opening how the whole thing worked behind the scenes. When you’re in it, you definitely see it differently than people see it at home. It’s a credit. It was the first time I was on TV, so that was just exciting in itself. It’s funny because I wasn’t on it for very long. It was the second season. I was on the final round in Chicago, before they flew them to wherever. On posters or whatever, when I’m at a club, they’ll introduce me as “from Last Comic Standing” and people will say they’ve seen me on Last Comic Standing on a season I wasn’t on or they’ll say they saw my “Taco Man” joke on Last Comic Standing and I didn’t even do that joke on the show. It’s kind of weird.
RT: The Taco Man joke is kind of timeless I guess.
JB: What’s funny is I did that joke in college and it’s all true. Then, when I started doing clubs and I wasn’t quite as good, because in college I was doing it in front of my friends and I had already won them over before I started and I thought, “Taco Man—it’s a long story and nobody cares. It’s not funny to people who don’t know me”. So I didn’t do it for a long time. I think it was my brother who convinced me to just try it and I did. For a long time, that was my closer—it got such a good response. It’s pretty eye-opening how you never know how something is gonna go over until you do it onstage.
RT: Speaking for the Rooftop staff, I’m glad Taco Man has stayed a part of your set.
JB: There are certain bits like that and then there’s the story of the cats, Jack and Eddie, where it’s almost like it’s writing itself. I’d take that to an open mic and just tell the story and it’s done. There’s no polishing. I mean, there’s a little tweaking, but then there’s other bits where you totally gotta rework it every time you go up. It’s frustrating. You obviously want them all to be great right out of the gate. It’s a nice treat when you get one that’s just automatically funny.
Posted: August 1st, 2011 under Cool stuff from Rooftop Comedy, Interview, rooftop comedy productions.