If you want to succeed in the comedy business, you have to generate your own content and be ready to do a lot of work. In Dani Behr’s casual chat with her great friend, funny guy, top comedian, actor, and podcaster Bryan Callen, Bryan opens up about how he started, the cool and hard times in the business of comedy, and his memorable moments. Success doesn’t come overnight. Bryan helps you discover if comedy is the right career for you and what it really takes to make it. He also shares some juicy stuff about your favorite comics.
Listen to the podcast here:
Succeeding in Comedy with Bryan Callen
Conversations With A Top Standup Comedian And TV STAR
It’s my brand-new podcast series, I’m so excited. Who better to join me than one of the greatest podcasters of all time, Bryan Callen with The Fighter and The Kid. Bryan, we go back many years. I’m starting my podcast series. I need some advice and help. How did you start, when did it happen and why?
I’m such a fight fan at the time. Brendan Schaub was a heavyweight in the UFC. I did a couple of blogs with him and Ronda Rousey. He was so funny on the podcast. He was so at ease on the mic. We got along well because he just had moved to Marina Del Rey. I was a huge fight fan. I was like, “I’ll show you around.” I took him under my wing. He was making me laugh. He started telling Joe Rogan and me some stories. Joe and I were laughing because he’s funny. I go, “I don’t hang out with him because he’s got big muscles. He’s funny.” I said to him, “Do you want to do a podcast and talk about mixed martial arts?” He said, “I want to do a podcast, but I don’t want to talk about mixed martial arts. I want to talk the way we talk when we’re at a bar.” I went, “Okay.”
People resonated with it because you had a cage fighter and a dirty comedian, two people who have gotten in trouble. You get in trouble for punching people in the face and making people laugh in school. We make a living at it. It hit a chord with people because everybody started listening. Schaub is a good businessman, so he’s turning into this huge businessman. I think it still resonates with people and continues to grow because there’s something authentic about it. We never compromise. We talk the way men talk. We’re not politically correct. We’re not going to be trendy about things.
We talk the way we feel. We express ourselves, honestly. I think we’re fair-minded people. We’re not bigoted people. It’s fine. We’re not going to be treating you with kid gloves. We’re going to say it how it is. It’s nice that we don’t ever have to worry about editing. I think people appreciate that. There’s a trend in this country where critics, academics and even the media for whatever reason. They started in the colleges. There is this woke faction, a madness among mainly liberal whites who are privileged Americans, by the way. They have broken the world into oppressed and oppressors, powerful and powerless. They’re very binary and very uncreative. They’ll tell you that the whole problem is racism and all that. We know better as Americans.
It’s way more complicated than that. It’s not just racism. There are a lot of other factors involved in why certain people of the white community, certain people of the black community, certain people of the Latino community are not doing as well as certain people of the Asian community, whatever it might be. It’s more nuanced than that. Americans know that. Americans don’t even care when Americans work together, they’re just trying to get the food out to their customers. They’re trying to get their product out. We don’t care whether you’re non-binary, half-black. I’m busy. We’re being told that there’s this oppressive world out there. Some groups have it harder than other groups. I do a joke about black women in general have had it harder than white males in this country, historically.
I wouldn’t get booted a clown rally for saying that. Obviously, yes, but the thing about podcasting is you’re allowed to speak your mind and talk about these subjects without having to worry about the Twitter-verse. You don’t have to be worried about these weirdos who break everything down in this orthodoxy. I think that’s a long way of saying, “Stay authentic when you do a podcast. Be honest, because you will find your audience.” Dave Chappelle got 17% on Rotten Tomatoes for critics among critics. These people don’t do anything but sit back and go, “You’re being mean. You’re being racist. You’re being homophobic, America.”
The Americans that listen, who live in the real world, we have to make the trains run on time, make payroll, get food on the table, grow food. They were like, “This guy’s hilarious.” They got 100%. What’s that tell you that? There are certain elements of the media, elements of the critics and elements of academia. I talked to these people enough to know that they are mental midgets. I’m sorry about that word. Not only that, but they’re dishonest. Not to mention they lack any critical scholarship. They’ve not done their homework. They’re just a nuisance that I don’t like it. The podcast allows me to say stuff like that.
Everyone is hypersensitive, so precious.
It’s not everyone, 2% to 3% of the loud voices. The problem is corporations listen. The problem is people like Google will fire you. Of course, whatever it might be, corporations are afraid. They don’t want it. I think that’s changed. It’s the intention. It is the first time in history where intention doesn’t even matter. It’s safe. It doesn’t matter what you meant by that. We got to find the bigotry, even if the person isn’t that way, even if the person doesn’t feel that way. They’re calling black people, racist. They’re going black people, Nazis. Come on, be real. They’re calling orthodox Jews, white supremacists. Ben Shapiro is like, “What gave me away, my yarmulke?”
Have you had a lot of criticism? Have you had people that stay away?
I’m fair-minded. I’m probably way more politically correct, naturally. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I want to include everybody. My special Complicated Apes is a cry for not turning anyone into it. I don’t like words like gay, straight, black, white, brown, Asian. Some of these are too complicated. It’s one of my specials called Complicated Apes. I had benefited growing up in the world around lots of different people. The left is as full of labels as the right. It’s how human beings are. It’s way easier to take this complicated organism, this ape and reduce it to a couple of words, straight white male.
When you first started the podcast series, how is it now compared to when you first started? Were there some fine-tuning? How did you know who was going to say not what and when? How was the production of it?
You learn to listen better. I was a terrible listener. I still am. God, I was bad. That’s something I had to learn. Let people talk. You’re good at this, by the way.
It’s because of my history of being a TV host and having to interview people. You’re asking them questions to get the answers. If you don’t, you need to listen to the answers in order to elaborate on what they say. At the beginning, it was difficult because we’re both talkers. We both have a lot to say, we are opinionated, have big personalities and are entertaining. I had to learn at the very beginning to learn to listen to what the people are saying. I can’t just ask the question and go, “Okay, whatever.” I needed to listen to the answer so that I can have a real conversation about that, as opposed to, “Next question.” I’m impatient.
That’s a skill that I think you already have. You’re going to do well with this podcast. You should be here in this space. I still think you should probably call it single moms.Make yourself valuable. Click To Tweet
Singles moms, working moms, dating moms, trying to get a job mom. I’m trying to get paid for my work. That’s it. It’s work.
It’s a hustle.
What advice can you give me as far as production, format and what I need to do to make it a success?
What’s great about podcasting is you need very little infrastructure. As long as the sound is good, you’re good. People are going to listen. They listen in their cars. They listen when they’re driving and shopping. You need a good audio and you need good guests. You need to be giving out interesting good information or making them laugh. Learning or laughing, keep them learning, keep them laughing. That’s what I see.
That’s what it is. They’re conversations with my friends. Some of them are funny, entertaining and others are more educational, inspiring. I’ve lived in full continents all around the world. I met a lot of people along the way. I’ve such a diverse and varied group of people that I know and are friends with. That’s why I called it The Behr Essentials because it’s for people that I dig, that I like talking to and I think are interesting or entertaining. I want to share with everyone else.
You’ve got a great voice for it too. I have no doubt that people will tune in.
What are the biggest mistakes people make in podcasts that you think?
Starting a podcast because it’s something to do. They think they’re interesting. Nobody is interesting. What’s interesting about Joe Rogan is that he gets these very smart people to break down their ideas. He gets them into the brains and the ears of people would never read those books. Nobody has time to read an 800-page book. When Steven Pinker starts breaking down the essence of this book, he can do it in two hours. Certainly, Sean Carroll, who is a physicist, I’m not reading his book. It’s too long. It’s about physics. I’m already afraid but he breaks it down, “This is what quantum physics is.” I can get my head around that.
They’re for laymen terms.
When I listen to Bernie Sanders on Joe Rogan, it was an hour. It was very good. I don’t like Bernie that much because I think he’s a socialist, but I actually thought he was a reasonable guy. I came away with a much different point of view on him. Not as negative, but way more positive.
What’s been your favorite episode on The Fighter and the Kid so far?
I don’t know. We had two great episodes, Mark Normand and one with just Brendan and I. It’s nice. After a few years, we keep going strong because we’re such good friends.
You now have that dance down. It’s a dance. You have that innate, you don’t have to think about it. You got the dance down between the two of you. You already know what he’s going to say before he’s going to say it, that vibe.
Getting somebody who you can get along with in that sense is really important. It’s your yin to your yang. That’s not a bad thing.
Tara, who I do La La Landed with, we’re complete opposites. That’s why it works. We’re complete opposite personalities and lifestyles. The difference between us is funny. I don’t get half the stuff she does and gets up to. She certainly doesn’t get me and I’m sure we piss each other all the time.
That’s always a good thing. I’m a fan of that. When you have a dinner party and it’s a bunch of people who all have read the same thing and think the same thing, it’s boring. We’re having dinner party and everybody’s together. They’re all different. They come from different perspectives. Pro boxer, mathematician, businessman, teacher, put all those people together and magic happens. Everybody is bringing a perspective. It’s why you should never think you’re smarter than anybody because everybody has different perspectives. They know more about their life. When you’re a little bit known as a comedian or an actor, people treat you a little bit differently. If you start believing you’re better than those people, you’re a dead man because you’re not. You just happen to make them laugh so people like you and you’re on TV, but the fact that you think you’re smarter than a farmer, good luck. Try growing food. That’s important to keep that in mind. Find out where do they provide value.
When you’re doing your episodes, when it’s just you and Brendan without any guest, do you find that you have a lot more freedom to ad-lib?
It always amazed me how we have something to say every time. We always have something to talk. It’s always a surprise, “We did it.” Find that person or don’t, stay on your own and talk.
I’m going to have to have you back soon. You can do a review of how I’ve been getting along. Thanks so much, Bryan Callen, for the podcast advice. Check him out in The Fighter and The Kid. They’re one of the best out there. I love you. You’re such a great friend to have. There are very few people you meet in your life that you connect with that are real and authentic. We’ve always stayed at the same level. Sometimes I don’t see you for months at a time, maybe longer sometimes. Whenever I see you, it’s like no time has passed.
Do you think of yourself as a TV star? We go back twenty-something years since we were in our late teens.
I don’t think of myself star at all. I tend to work as an actor and it’s a good thing. I make this joke. It is not even a joke, but when you’re talking about success. I did an interview and somebody said, “You have this podcast. You have this TV show. You do all this stand-up. What’s the secret?” I was like, “I don’t know. I kept failing over and over again.” I sat in traffic and I heard the word “no” literally 95% of the time, but then you get 5% of the time to get some yeses. Before you know it, they accrue. It’d be like this metaphor I thought about. I’m serious when I say it. If I was to throw a stone at every sparrow that flew by, I stood in one place and I kept throwing a stone on for many years, I would hit some sparrows with a stone. I put them on my wall and after many years, I’d probably have a wall full of sparrows. You come over to my house and go, “You killed all those sparrows with a rock? You’re a genius. How do you throw that rock?” I’d be like, “I don’t know. Take my class. I read a book and give me $5,000.” I kept showing up. I kept missing it. I hit some by chance, but that’s how I feel about my success. I think I got good at something.
It is a skill. I remembered seeing you did stand-up many years ago. I noticed the refinements. You were always funny, but it’s the refinement of that skill.
Somebody said to me, “You are really funny.” I was like, “In stand-up, yeah. I’ve been doing it. It takes several years to be a brain surgeon. I’ve been doing it for two-and-a-half times as long as the brain surgeon.” You are right, I’m good. I’ll give myself that. One of the best. How about that?
Do you think it’s a matter of staying power that you were one of the few that stayed with it?
It’s about staying power, but it’s also about adjusting your approach. It’s about being honest with yourself. You have to keep adjusting. If you keep adjusting your approach, something will happen. You have to see what other people are doing when they are in success. What are they learning? What are they doing differently? Who can teach you that stuff? It’s a technique. I started to look. I was doing a TV show. They’re paying me a lot of money and I thought, “I would do this almost for free,” as so would the other actors. When is the business going to figure this out? What I’m doing is not that unique. Also, getting a job in acting is literally dependent on probably eight other people’s decisions.
When you walk into a room, there are so many factors, including how many butts you can get in the seat in the movie? You can’t. That’s capitalism. A capitalist says, “You get what you get.” Nobody’s going to a Bryan Callen. They’re all going to Kevin Hart. That’s why Hart makes $60 million and Bryan will get scale plus 10%. That’s the way it is. When I did Joker, nobody cares about Bryan in that seat, those two seats. I’m interchangeable. That’s a fact though. I know I’m interchangeable.” Joaquin Phoenix is not. He’s phenomenal. For whatever reason, he’s earned that. He gets the spoils. That’s the way it is. I’m not a socialist. I live and breathe this marketplace philosophy. I started to realize that I was like, “I’m pretty good at acting.” I worked so hard at it, but getting a job is impossible.Getting a job in acting is literally dependent on other people's decisions. Click To Tweet
I walked into a gym and Gary Fleder, who is a director, come up to me and said, “I never notice you. You were just like every man.” He didn’t mean it. He was a wonderful guy, but he was right. It’s not like somebody was like, “Let’s get the medium white guy with the regular brown eyes.” What are you talking about? A lot of us are very honest with where you are, who you are, what you have to offer, why you? Chances are you’ve got to make yourself valuable. That’s why I’ve got on the podcasting stand-up because I saw that was something I could control.
When you were doing stand-up and it was refining it and seeing what everyone else was doing, what were those defining moments for you that you can recall offhand that were the moments you felt things shifted for you in stand-up?
I always knew I was funny. I had made a speech and Patty Jenkins, who was my girlfriend at the time said, “Bryan, stand-up comedy.” She’s the one that got me into stand-up comedy. Patty was directing Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 2.
She’s the biggest female director in town right now.
I knew she’d be. I told her. I used to say, “You have greatness in you.” Anybody else who knew Patty knew she was going to be undeniable. She knew. She said, “You’re funny.” The first time was having somebody who believes in you. Writing stuff and trying it on your friends and pretending of some of the com. Finally, getting up on stage and seeing it work. You had these ideas in your mind. “What if I could do this?” In your mind, you want something great then you have those shows. The one time I did a show in Philadelphia, I called him. I said, “I got the part.” Artistically for me, I did it. I thought that was impossible. What I did to that audience for an hour and a half was something I didn’t think I could ever do. Those are those moments that you mark.
Was that evening particularly memorable because it was the first time the entire one-and-a-half hours set work from beginning to end and you have them all captive?
It had always been working, but it’s almost like you’re singing the song perfectly. The audience, I knew I had astonished them. It’s an obnoxious thing to say out loud, but I knew I did.
Did you have a reputation before that of, “Here’s Bryan Callen, the funny guy?” Do you think when people come to see you live, they’re like, “I didn’t know he was this funny?” Is there a moment of that?
I heard that a lot. There’s no doubt that I’ve always been there and I continue to be. The show is live, you’ll be happy. You’ll be satisfied.
When are you doing your next live HBO or one of your big TV telecasts?
I just shot my last one for Amazon. It’s called Complicated Apes. I never thought I’d say this, but after a year, I’m getting close to coming up with something special.
How long does it take to come up with a new shtick?
I think personally, it takes at least a couple of years. In a year, I’m doing stuff that’s great and doing well. I can take on the road. I think to carve it perfectly. I read Joker, this movie, that talks with a camera and I said to him, “You did something that I’ve been trying to do forever. How do you write a script?” It’s Nikos, “It’s my 27th draft. It took me two-and-a-half years. How long does it take you to shoot your special?” I was like, “Two-and-a-half years.” Everything takes a long time. It did good. Anything is worth it. It’s a great script. It’s a great special. For whatever reason, there are no shortcuts. There’s no self-help BS that’s going to get you a great one hour. I don’t care if Tony Robbins is whispering in my ear all day long. That’s not what does it. Time, technique, and being honest with yourself, those are the things. Carve it out and let it set.
Do you think there are some fundamental skillsets or personalities that ultimately have that special sauce to have what it takes? Is it a matter of like what you said, if you give it the time and the technique and refine it? Is it a type of person?
I personally think people have it backward when they say you’ve got to love yourself. You should have some self-loathing. Shame, self-loathing, low self-esteem, constant chronic dissatisfaction are beautiful things for an artist. You should feel rather inadequate, maybe even profoundly inadequate.
It is two Advils away from a Xanax basically.
Don’t do this Xanax. Sit and criticize by creating it.
They say most comedians, most stand-ups, are the most manic-depressive people. The most well-known comedians I knew growing up were all these manic-depressives. Why is that?
They’re usually misfits because comedy is compensation. You’re compensating for something that you can’t offer. Usually, you feel like you’re on the outside looking in all the time.
That’s not true of you, Bry. You come from a nice family. You did grow up in poverty. You were well educated. You’re a good looking guy. You’ve always had girls. You weren’t really the misfit. What’s your schtick?
For me, probably it was that I was moved around constantly. I was moved in and thrown into a whole new situation over and over again. The way you make friends, you get people to laugh at you and you play sports.
You figured out the two key things that made you popular, not just with the girls, but with the guys every time you moved schools.
I think that’s the answer. It certainly sounds like a romantic reason for it. That’s what I tell people. Maybe I also love making people laugh. I love laughing and I loved funny friends. All my friends, I always had a connection with, like Jimmy Burke. All we do is crack each other up like idiots. All we would do is play characters. Do you remember? You were with us.
My fondest memories of the three of us, you, Bob and me. Bob was doing some shortly with me. You and him doing the shtick or pretending to be gay lovers and trying to be shocking.
I remember you and I used to, we’d be walking around and we pretended to be in a fight. We do these skits. That’s a kind of crap. we caused a scene. You were like, “We’re not doing that.” Jimmy Burke and I were grown men. We’re in our 40s and he was like, “She’s Portuguese.” I went, “No. It’s Portuguese.” We were standing in line. He goes, “Yeah, from Portuguese.” I go, “Portuguese, Portuguese.” He goes, “Portuguese.” The woman goes, “Watch his mouth. You’re saying it wrong. It’s Portuguese.” She goes, “You’re getting worse.” We had the whole freaking journey of being an idiot. I go, “Portuguese.” I got really close to and it looks like I’m about to say “Portuguese.” That’s the dumb stuff that we still do.
Because we like to amuse ourselves, we could care less about anyone else. It’s about the amusement of ourselves.
I live to crack up my friends. Chris D’Elia is a comic. He and I have this whole thing where we mess with each other and roast each other. All he loves to is crack his friends and I’m the same way. I only like making people laugh. It’s my favorite thing. Some people like to punch people in the face. Some people like to build buildings. I like making people laugh. It’s that simple.
It’s good that you’re not a manic-depressive and you can make money from it now because it took a minute.
I feel very lucky not to be depressive. I think a lot of it is chemical. I also have some of them and this might be perspective. I can’t believe I look at it. We are Americans. Some Americans have it hard, but I certainly have never had it hard. I’ve never been hungry. That’s a big deal. I had never been afraid of my own government. I never had to watch my parents. They hate themselves with some terrible, menial job. These are big things. I’m very lucky I don’t have a child who’s got special needs, a child who doesn’t fit in or a child who’s sick. These are huge things to be grateful for. People don’t realize it. History is one where you had to bury your child. You and I have kids. We know that index of miseries. It gets worse, but we have it, thank God, so far. I’d just screech it to a halt.
We’ve been through our own ups and downs. They might not be the same as other people are on the same level or the same tragedy level. We’ve been through all our own angst and sorrows. We’ve both been through divorces, dealing with having children through a divorce and making sure they’re okay. We’ve both struggled through this industry called showbiz, which is quite demeaning. It is so inconsistent. When you think you’re doing okay and then as you said, you get the 95% no factor after you’ve hit what you thought was an absolute high. You’re back to the beginning again and you’re like, “How did that happen? I had a hit movie. I was in a highly-rated TV show, but now I am starting from scratch.” You’ve got to have such resilience. You’ve almost got to have this fear of rejection. You can’t have any fear of rejection because you just bury yourself.Everything takes a long time. There's no self-help stuff that’s going to get you a great one hour. Click To Tweet
It’s an interesting balancing act between believing in yourself and hating yourself enough to keep doing it. Ultimately, you have to know that you have the goods. You have to know that you’re talented enough to do something special. I knew I had it. I could feel I had the ability. You have these moments in acting class.
Jimmy Iovine. Did you see the Defiant Ones on HBO? He also spent a couple of years in the bathroom and his ex-wife used to say on that documentary how she would bring food to the bathroom and say to the children, “Don’t bother daddy. He’s in the bathroom.” He did not leave the bathroom for a couple of years.
Why? Is he working? What was he doing?
He was working. It was his only place of solace and peace and quiet. He did not leave the bathroom for a couple of years. I thought that was quite funny. What is your worst memory of stand-up?
I was in a New York comedy club. I was a young man. It was an all-black audience on a Tuesday or something like that. It was for some event and the white kid gets up. I started making a joke about penguins and I heard a woman go, “Uh-oh.” Another one goes, “Crap.” It was bad. I got off stage and I was like, “Different groups, different demographics. I need to learn how to communicate with them.” Don’t be getting up in front of a bunch of black people from New York. They would have tangible issues that you don’t even know anything about. I started talking about penguins, dum-dum. They don’t care about penguins. This Mexican or Puerto Rican guy, I started talking about life, talking about how his mother yells at him. How there’s never enough money around and they were dying. I was like, “This dude knows how to speak to people and I’m still a boy.” Those are the great lessons you learn, but that’s uncomfortable. All you do is you go, “That’s never happening to me again.” It will happen again but you keep figuring it out.
It literally is the comedy death in a quick 30 seconds. You can feel it as you walk out. Let’s get into the TV stuff a bit. I’m going through your list and I’ve known about every job you’ve done at the moment, but when I see it in list form, I’m pretty impressed. Let’s start with the MADTv. That was probably your biggest first TV break. Tell us about that experience. How was that?
The audition was insane. I put myself on tape. Jimmy Burke got me that part.
Tell everyone who Jimmy Burke is.
Jimmy Burke is an actor in New York and a national treasure. He’s also a personal trainer. We called him the national treasure guy. He’s the only guy I ever met who truly has no ambition other than to make the world a better place. He didn’t care about money, clothes. He doesn’t care. He never was a guy who was like, “I’m going to make it.” He had me put boxing gloves out. We were doing punching drills and we did a love scene where I find out he’s actually my mother, my sister. It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. In that audition alone, they were like, “This guy is hilarious.” I sent it in. It was on VHS back then. It was 1994. They watched it. I wish I had that tape somewhere. It was the best I could ever do. They laughed so hard at that.
I bet you they have it in the archive. I bet you if you had your managers, someone cool, the old production company, they’ve got it in the archive because they keep all that stuff. They’ve probably transferred digitally on to some hard drive.
That would be incredible to see my young self. The desperation. Iggy Pop said something about desperation like, “If it was attractive, it would be great at something.” Desperation is important. That was desperate. They called me to LA to audition. I had to do five characters and then read from the script. I wasn’t going back to Hoboken, New Jersey. I was going to get that part and I was really good. You have moments in your life where you know you’re amazing. I went into a state. I got in the room and my butt got out of control. I was trying to attack it. It caught a groove because Quincy Jones had been in there. I was pretending that it caught a groove and it couldn’t stop dancing. I was so stupid. They were like dying. I don’t even know why I did it. I was naive enough to try anything. I tried enough on my wall.
There’s something to be said about that. It’s the same for me with my first ever screen test I did for my first ever TV show, The Word. When I started hosting, there was no fear because there was no known, if that makes sense. I had no idea what I was doing and how. I said, “Do you want me to talk randomly for seven minutes?” You don’t need to pay me to talk. I’ll talk. That was one hair I never had a problem with. You need somebody to talk and you’re going to pay me to talk. You’re going to get me to have a chat, like an interview. To me, that’s the chat. Are you going to pay me to chat with every major movie star in town? It was the same thing. You walk in and it’s what you innately do and can do with your eyes closed and then you sleep. I was like, “This is easy and this is fun.” The fear element wasn’t there.
That was your niche. That’s where you should be. This is why the show is good for you.
We’re going to do another one purely on the show. We’ll talk about that after. I remember your funny scenes in Entourage and Sex and the City. You’ve done so many appearances in so many of the shows. What was your favorite of all those cameos?
I don’t have any favorites. Everything has a different experience. I loved being on the set of Sex and the City. I loved doing 7th Heaven. It’s a kid’s show, but I got to play an alcoholic who is struggling with his crazy alcoholism. I’ve always wanted to play bad guys. I didn’t get enough of that. I played a bad guy in Ride Along. Playing a real bad guy is something I think I could do very well. I never had a chance.
What was the funniest set to be on as far as those cameos? How was the Sex and the City? Everyone loved those girls at that time. Was that a strange set to walk on?
Sarah Jessica Parker was wonderful. She was a princess. She is such a leader. She’s such a good person. She could make everybody feel amazing. Her success is not an accident. Kim Cattrall was amazing. Cynthia Nixon was too busy, very quiet. She was a nice woman. I never said much to her. Kristin Davis seemed very out, very like a zany gal and pretty. I didn’t have much to say to her but a nice girl. Kim Cattrall and I went to lunch with Mario Cantone. I’ve always thought Kim Cattrall is the sexiest thing on the planet. That was fun.
Is she sexy in real life?
Yes. That’s Kim Cattrall. If you watched her at Porky’s, there’s no one sexier and you can make the argument.
Did you flirt with her? Did you try and get her on a date?
No, I didn’t really. I think I liked somebody at the time, but I remember that. I don’t know. I wasn’t really. At that point, the age difference was significant. She was a lot older. Anyway, she was gorgeous, sexy in every way. She was one of my tops. I would’ve, don’t kid yourself. It wasn’t that. We were working in business, but I had such a blast doing it.
What about West Wing, Law and Order, and Frazier? You’ve been everywhere.
I got cut out in West Wing.
What was the most fun set? I hear Allison Janney was amazing.
The Hangover was all my boys. Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis are my good friends.
You knew Bradley way before he made it big time. What did you guys work on?
We were friends. Bradley and I got met and I loved him. Bradley is a great man.
Do you know that he was going to be a movie star when you met him? Did he have that quality?
Yes. He was always handsome. Better looking, a little taller, a little bluer, a little blonder. Bradley was always better, a great looking guy. When he was sweating, his girlfriend smelled him. I said, “Smell him. He smells like olive oil.” He speaks French. He’s also funny and inhumanly disciplined. He’s way more disciplined than anybody. He was not going to not be a star. I remember he called me when he got Wedding Crashers. He was so excited.
There are some people that you meet that are starting out or slowly getting into it that you go, “That’s a movie star.”Shame, self-loathing, low self-esteem, and constant chronic dissatisfaction are beautiful things for an artist. Click To Tweet
He learned how to sing and play the guitar. He’s not a singer but better than the singer like I was. He never sings. He’s a shower singer like old Bryan Callen. He decided, “I’m going to play the guitar and change my voice.” That’s not his voice. When he did and I was like, “What?”
What did you think of that movie?
I’ve got to say it, he is what he is. He’s undeniable.
Was it funny shooting The Hangover? Was it done for work or was it quite intense?
Yeah, because Todd let us improvise. He lets you do whatever. That was amazing.
For somebody who’s in stand-up, improv, that must feel the best job ever then. You’re on a movie set, big budget. You’ve got the red carpet rolled out. You get to improv with all your buddies. That’s during the job.
The acting gets in the way. It’s the comedy you want to do.
Was that your first big-budget movie or what was the first big movie set you felt like, “I’m in Hollywood now?”
Old school, I got stand- up. It was small parts but fun.
How is Vince Vaughn? He’s funny.
Vince is a great guy. Vince, I know a little bit because he likes stand-up and stuff. We have a mutual friend, Steve Byrne. Vince has always been such a cool guy.
He’s got sexiness about him as well. He’s quite cute.
He is 6’5” and handsome. He also doesn’t give a crap. Vince is a real guy. He’s a guys guy. He’s great and a real guy who I love to hang out with. I don’t know how much he likes acting in Hollywood.
How was the Entourage? I loved that show. I kept hearing about all this stuff, “You’ve got to watch the show Entourage.” I was pretty late coming into the game on Entourage.
Patty Jenkins directed that episode. I did two episodes. The first episode, she directed it. I had to cry the whole time. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but somehow I figured it out. My scenes were with Jeremy Piven. He had to keep me in it and he slapped me in the face one time. It was wild but they cut so much of that out. It was great. It was fun.
Was Mark Wahlberg on set throughout that period or was it just Doug Ellin?
Mark wasn’t on the set.
Has there been the TV show that you’ve always wanted to be in, but you either auditioned board and never got, or you’ve never gone up for?
Not really. I auditioned for Curb Your Enthusiasm five times. I was never right for the part.
You’d be great in that. What do you think of Larry David?
Larry David is great. He’s a crusty, old bastard, but talented as hell.
That’s the benefit of getting old. You don’t have to give a crap anymore and you can be cranky.
If you have money, yeah.
Is that how you got involved with the goalposts through Jeff Goldberg at Curb?
I was offered this part for a gym teacher and it turned into this eight-year job. That’s one of those lucky things.
How was The Goldbergs? How was that experience?
That’s the best set I’ve ever been on. That’s the most fun. Everybody’s so great, the crew, the producers. That’s the only show I’ve ever done where I didn’t have to improvise. Lew Schneider was the producer and director and just amazing.
At which point did you know this was a successful show and you were probably going to get a spinoff? That’s a big deal in the world of TV here.
The spinoff didn’t get picked up when they aired it during the season. It was the wrong process. When they told me that we were going to do a spinoff, because these other two shows were interested in me. I was like, “BS.” I didn’t take the other shows that didn’t shoot in LA. They were talking about giving me a part in something. Goldberg said, “We’re coming up with spinoff.” I said, “Spinoffs don’t work but, okay. We’ll see.” There’s a 0.01% chance and now here I am.
Are you in season two now?
Yes, and we’re doing well.
How’s it being the star of the show? It’s now the Bryan Callen Show.
I’m on my feet all day.
There’s no downtime. You must be adding a bank now. The time is good for you. You’re a bonafide TV star.
I got to buy a house.
You’re buying dinner. What’s next in the world of TV and film and what’s coming up?
I’m doing school. I’m creating the show with somebody. That’s pretty good.
Like a comedy or sitcom?
I’ve always got something in the works and mainly stand-up too. It’s a busy time between podcasting, touring and shooting my show.
You’re in Joker. See Bryan Callen in Joker. I love it.
Joaquin Phoenix is the Joker, but I’m happy to be there.
I like to come and see you first and whoever else is in it is secondary. What is the ultimate film role?
What were you in that?
That character. Anybody wants to play a sociopath and colorful psycho, especially as somebody who will take a stab at it. It’s such a hard thing to do. I watched Joaquin Phoenix and he just blew me away. I was like, “Oh my God.”
Do you think because he’s quite complex anyway, so it’s not that all of a stretch?
I’m sure he hates himself. I’m sure he’ll watch that role and say, “I’m the worst actor of all time.” That’s what it takes. He’s a guy who talks about discipline. He’s a guy who can suffer for three months from what I can see.
Christian Bale, he does the full method for six months.
It’s not Daniel Day-Lewis, but go ahead, enjoy that. I’ll be over here drinking wine. I get my artistic yah-yahs out with my stand-up. It’s all about original self-expression.
Do you have any advice for young people and young comics, young actors wanting to get into the business? Any fast track advice?
Not really. Make sure that you have to do it. By the way, my condolences.
It isn’t going to be easy.
Keep trying. Generate your own content. It’s a good time to be in business because there’s so much more work now than there used to be.
They’re paying less but it doesn’t matter.
There’s no such thing as being famous anymore. You’ll have a niche audience.
Thank you, Bryan.
It’s weird. This is the first time I’ve ever done an interview with you. You have to be one of my regulars. Everybody check out Bryan Callen, Joker. Any shows coming up that you want to promote?
I’ll be in Brea probably on October 24th to 26th. Get your tickets.
Check out The Fighter And The Kids, the world’s famous podcast.
Complicated Apes, that’s my special.
When is that coming out?
It is out. It’s on Amazon. Anyway, you get your content. It’s there.
- Bryan Callen
- The Fighter and The Kid
- Mark Normand – previous episode of The Fighter and The Kid
- Instagram – La La Landed Podcast’s Instagram page
- Facebook – La La Landed Podcast’s Facebook page
About Bryan Callen
Bryan Callen is an American actor, comedian, and podcaster. He is most known for his recurring role as “Coach Mellor” on ABC’s Schooled and The Goldbergs; which he has played since 2014. Callen has also appeared in such TV and films as Kingdom, 2 Broke Girls, Ride Along, Hangover 1 & 2, Sex and the City, Old School, MADTv, Entourage, Californication, and many more.
A veteran Headliner, Callen performs in theaters and comedy venues across the world, but most often can be seen at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. His third one-hour comedy special, “Complicated Apes”, topped the iTunes charts upon its release in March, 2019.
Additionally, Callen is co-host of the top-rated iTunes podcast. The Fighter & The Kid
alongside Brendan Schaub. Bryan is also a regular on The Joe Rogan Experience and Fight Companion podcasts.