On his new album, Criminally Posehn, Brian Posehn talks about strip clubs, man boobs, and drugs. He even incorporates metal. For most Posehn fans, this might seem like more of the same. But this is his fourth release, and he has the self-awareness that comes with doing stand up for 30 years. This time around, he’s fully at home in his curmudgeonly nerdiness, imagining hypothetical strippers that cater to ComicCon attendees and bashing on hipsters who haven’t “earned” their self-deprecating humor. I caught up with Brian about his new release, his upcoming tour, and why he may never make a fart joke again.
AG: Which metal records are you looking forward to in 2016?
BP: I always feel like such an old man when I get asked that question because lately, all the stuff I’m liking is bands I’ve liked for 30 years, and their recent records are actually good. Like my buddies in Anthrax, I really love the new record. The guys in Death Angel, I’ve been listening to that. There’s so much. I like some of the newer bands, like some of the Swedish stuff: this band Graveyard and Witchcraft. Graveyard had a record this year. Honestly, I wish I listened to more new music. I’m just listening to the same bands I’ve liked for 30 years.
AG: Criminally Posehn is your fourth stand up release – has your sense of humor changed since you released Nerd Rage?
BP: No. The topics do change. I feel like since I’ve been recording my sets and doing records, I’ve become more of a storyteller. So I definitely would see that as a difference from Live At: Nerd Rage, where I had way more tracks on the album, just because I would hit a topic and move on. Now, it’s not exactly storytelling, but I do longer chunks, if that makes sense. I’ve never been a thirty-second guy either. They’re either one-minute, or now they’ve become these five- and sometimes ten-minute pieces. That’s probably the biggest difference I noticed about my act in the last 15 years of recording stuff.
AG: With this album, which was recorded at San Diego ComicCon, do you think you’ve found your dream audience?
BP: Definitely. And then the one I’m going to record in October [BRIAN 25 X2], it’ll be the same thing. I’m playing in Portland. I feel like I know my people now, at this point. And the thing about that show in San Diego is that it wasn’t just the nerds. I feel like that’s just one of those cities, I have a handful, where I almost always, always do well. There’s another handful where I almost always have a rough time, but I’m not going to record in those cities. And ComicCon definitely helped. I even wrote a bit that day, which I would never do normally. I just felt so comfortable there. It was a ComicCon-specific bit. During the convention, it’s almost like the whole city of San Diego becomes ComicCon for that weekend. Normally at the bars in San Diego, it’s high-end, and there’s a few military bases there, so there will be a few military guys partying on the weekends. But for ComicCon, every girl that works at a restaurant is wearing a Super Girl tee, or Spider-Man or whatever. I did a bit about how even the strip clubs change for the convention, which, I don’t actually go, but I’m guessing a girl in a Lady Thor costume would be a hard thing for certain nerds to deal with.
AG: I know on previous albums you’ve discussed attending strip clubs…
BP: Right, it was kind of a topic for a while because it was part of my life for a while, sadly, but it isn’t anymore, and I think I’ve milked everything out of that subject at this point. I feel like on Criminally Posehn I definitely talked about some things I haven’t before, and I’m doing it even more now with my current act. It’s because I’m making a conscious effort. I don’t read too many reviews of my stuff, or what people online have to say about it. I have, and I try to stay away from that because I don’t want to spend all my money on therapy. That said, I kind of said to myself, “Dude, you had two albums with ‘fart’ in the title,” and it’s one thing to always talk about nerdy things. That’s not going away. But there’s certain topics that, at this point, I’ve depleted the humor out of them. I’m not going to talk about strip clubs because I don’t go to them anymore, and even if I wrote the most ultimate fart joke, I probably wouldn’t do it for a while. I’m like my own head writer, saying to the writing staff, “Hey, we’ve done that. Let’s try to think of other things.”
AG: Can you talk about your writing process when you’re working on graphic novels, like The Last Christmas?
BP: For me it was just another writing exercise. My favorite part of what I do is the actual writing process. And I wrote with a friend. It wasn’t just writing punch lines like I do, it was creating story. And that was my favorite part of writing that book. I got to do something you don’t usually get to do with sketch writing, I really got to spend some time with the character and develop him a little more. In the three years we wrote that book, we took him to a very different place from where he started. That was the most fulfilling part to me. And then, honestly, as a fanboy, it’s not lost on me that I have, in my own collection, next to a bunch of other Marvel stuff, my own Marvel stuff. It’s pretty cool. Because I collect and trade paperbacks, it’s really cool to have the big Marvel emblem and then my name. As a kid, I loved comedy, I loved stand up, and I loved sketch, but I loved comic books at the same time. But I never thought I would be able to do all three, along with the other nerdy things I’ve been able to make money off of.
AG: When you were growing up, who were some comedic influences for you?
BP: Well, I grew up in the Bay Area, so I love the fact that Steve Martin and Robin Williams both recorded up there. Steve was more of an LA comic, but he recorded in San Francisco. I had already heard those guys and thought they were funny, but that really stuck with me. And as far as sketch, I love the first couple of seasons of SNL, but what I really loved was SCTV. The first time I saw that, that became an obsession. I just liked the formatting of that show more than SNL, and I think it really shows up in my sketch writing, the stuff I wrote for Mr. Show and other things.
AG: When you were starting comedy in the late ’80s, there were a bunch of new spaces for “alternative” comedians to do independent comedy. Do you think this new wave of internet-based humor and the proliferation of comedy podcasts has provided a similar opportunity to new comics?
BP: Absolutely. In general, experiencing this “boom,” it’s totally unlike the first couple. I started at the tail end of the ’80s boom. I started because of that boom. I really had never thought it was something I could do, but at that point everybody was doing it, so I was like a 21-year-old kid and I was like, “I’ll fucking try that.” But the fact that there are so many big, big comics selling out arenas – Kevin Hart and Amy Schumer-level. In the ’80s, there weren’t that many – you had [Andrew] Dice [Clay] and Eddie Murphy, and that was kind of it, but I feel like there’s a ton of huge comics now – Brian Reagan. It’s more prevalent now than ever.
AG: Are there any cities you’re especially looking forward to on your upcoming tour?
BP: My top five is probably: San Francisco, where I started comedy. Cobb’s is a club there that I absolutely love. And then it would go, probably: Portland, Seattle, Austin. And then the rest are a little further away. I don’t know what it is, I think I’m just most comfortable in those places. I’ve never had a bad set in Nashville. Louisville, I like. Buffalo! I’m going there soon and I always have fun.