Unless you a) watch NBC’s live sitcom Undateable with religious fervor, b) live in Los Angeles or c) can’t think of a third option for this three-part list, then you probably have no idea who Brent Morin is. That’s okay, because the stand-up comedian originally from Connecticut is banking on your ignorance with his new Netflix special, I’m Brent Morin.
Like his Undateable costar Ron Funches, Morin is releasing his comedy out into the wild after working in television first — a career path that flips the stereotypical stage-to-screen line that Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano and so many other stand-ups have done. Yet it makes sense, as Morin attended film school in Los Angeles. He did stand-up on the side, but got his start working as a production assistant for Conan O’Brien’s short-lived Tonight Show.
Yes, I was there for the entire nine months.
What was that like?
I learned a lot about the business from that experience. I watched somebody like Conan have his dream, and then watched as somebody took it away. I also got to watch how he handled it, how professionally he handled it, and his attitude towards us as a staff, like when he came in during the last two weeks and said, “We could sit here, pout and be cynical, or we could realize everybody’s watching for two weeks and we can go out and do the two funniest weeks ever…”
Yeah! It was that attitude. Some of the greatest performances from Conan, even improvising during his interviews. I can’t remember the exact moment, but I remember he had a guest on and he just went off the rails and improvised. He’s so quick, and is honestly the definition of a comedic genius. He went off the rails and it was so funny, and so good, that the audience gave him an applause break. For him, being the interviewer. To me, being a comic is about being funny while having a chip on your shoulder. So, to see somebody use comedy to say, “You made a mistake!” was so great.
Personally, the whole experience sucked at the time because before that, I was doing every stupid odd job in the world and it was nice to finally have something nice and with health insurance. So, I went home that Christmas and it was the first time I could buy gifts. I was only making $450 a week, so I don’t know what the fuck I was buying gifts for. But I did that, went back to Los Angeles from Connecticut and left my laptop in the cab. I thought, “Well, The Tonight Show is an institution, so at least that won’t be cancelled.” Then I found out I was getting fired.
I’m Brent Morin is your first stand-up special, correct?
Yeah, this is my first special. I opted not to do a half-hour and waited a year to do a full hour. I’m more of a story guy, anyway, so longer sets tend to work better for me.
You’ve been working on some of these bits for years. I’ve seen a couple of them on Conan.
Yeah, pretty much. You have it, it kills, you think it’s good, then you end up reworking it and finding something new with it. There was a lot of rewriting leading up to this taping. Figuring out what the point of certain bits were, where they would fit best.
How did the special end up on Netflix? Did it come about as a result of Undateable, or before that?
People were aware of me as a stand-up comedian in L.A., but not really anywhere else. Maybe New York and Boston, too. There were a lot of people at Netflix I’d known as a stand-up before they’d known me as an actor. That’s one of the reasons I called it I’m Brent Morin. I’m aware a lot of people don’t know who I am yet. It was important to just press my name out there. I’d been doing stand-up a lot, and if you weren’t in L.A., you probably didn’t know me that well. So, I felt it was the right time to showcase the hour, so I performed it at the New York Comedy Festival and Netflix pulled the trigger.
A lot comics who’ve worked with Netflix, Epix and other streaming services have had great experiences.
They don’t want to step on us, creatively. Their notes and input were great, but in the end, it was my call. I always wanted the special to be on Netflix because I like the idea that it’s there, it will be there and I can always tell people to go find it.
I’m Brent Morin‘s opening sketch shows you not being able to get into your own show. Has anything like that actually happened to you?
It was less aggressive, but I have had that happen multiple times. I always assume I have to tell the venue that I’m the headliner. I’m just so used to doing that, but now when I go on the road and I tell venues I’m the headliner, they say, “Yeah, we know.” I just assume people aren’t going to know who I am. Then mixing in the bits about friends coming just to be on the list and drink for free. Real friends are assholes. They just want to hang out, put you down and bring chicks to impress you.
It’s kind of funny — before I shot the special, I actually had a little trouble getting into the green room because of the club’s security. When I got down there, I saw my older brother and asked him what he was doing. He said he’d already seen the act and wasn’t going to watch it again. That’s literally what I wrote one of the characters saying in the opening sketch. So, I guess I wrote it before it actually happened. Kind of like a Stephen King book.
But with less broken legs, death and creepy alien clowns.
That’s for the next special. It’s actually going to be horrifying. Maybe a drama.
Your ability to go off on tangents, but eventually return to the original thread is mind-boggling. Do you write everything out beforehand?
I don’t really write anything down. I work better if I say it out loud, memorize it, rewrite it and say it out loud again. So, when I did the special, it was all written down, but not written down-down. I actually found the hour while out on tour. It’s important in an hour special to find your theme and have a point. Maybe it’s because I come from a screenwriting background, but a lot of my stand-up is driven by stories, scenes and dialogue.
I was actually in Boston when I discovered that I could keep coming back to the bit about the party. The energy came from the story of this woman I didn’t care about — but maybe do care about — leaving me for a hot guy who also does magic. Then all my asshole friends can make fun of that, which fuels the energy and the anger, so it made sense to go back to that story. That’s where the anger was coming from, and I found that on stage in Boston while I was working on the hour.
I wouldn’t call you a “mad” comic, but you are energetic…
“Passionate.” I’m a passionate performer. I treat it like a therapy session. If I had a therapist, this is what I would be rambling about for an hour.
Reminds me of Bill Burr.
I’ll get that because of my New England accent. I love him. He’s one of my idols, along with other ball-buster comedians like Louis C.K., Robert Kelly, Patrice O’Neal and Kevin Hart. Guys from New York and Boston who give each other shit and make fun each other. It’s very much a be-quick-on-your-feet-or-get-destroyed kind of style.
How is the L.A. comedy scene different from Boston and New York?
The L.A. scene is more jaded. I was on a show in a bar, and it was Daniel Tosh, Nick Swardson, Deon Cole, Dave Chappelle — you name it. Everybody was there, it was a free show, and Chappelle closed it by bringing the lobby man from the hotel he was staying at and smoking a cigarette on stage. When people left, they said, “Well, that was fun.” What? You just witnessed something for free that you would never see ever, and you’re acting as if this happens every day.
So, when Brent Morin — Conan production assistant-turned-sitcom guy — comes on, there’s nothing. It used to be a challenge, but now it’s more comfortable since this is my home city now. And I will say I’m so happy I started out in L.A., because we have a lot of performers. Me, Chris D’Elia, Andrew Santino — all of these comedians I do shows with every night who are very perform-y. I like that. A lot of us are trying to be actors because we’re idiots.
But that’s what you, D’Elia, Ron Funches and everyone else get to do now that Undateable is broadcast live every Friday night.
I love it. I don’t want to do the show if it’s not live. I really don’t. It’s really stupid they did that, because if they want to bring it back and it’s not live, I don’t know what they’re going to do, because I’m addicted to the live show now. It’s the most fun ever, I get to do it with my best friends and I don’t think there’s another multi-cam sitcom that can do it like us. I just don’t. A lot of those shows have people who have been acting for 20 years. They’re professional, they hit their marks and they’re scared to take risks. Whereas our show thrives on its imperfections.
Right, because you’re all comics.
With Bill Lawrence and everybody else in the writers room, everybody is busting each other’s balls. We want to see one of us fail. It’s fun to make fun of my special on the show, make fun of D’Elia’s career or make Bianca Kajlich laugh because she showed her breasts in a movie she did. We all love each other so much and Lawrence gives us so much freedom to improvise, play and take risks. I don’t know if you could get another cast to do the live show.
I want to be best friends with him, but he’s too famous now.
I’m Brent Morin premieres Tuesday, Dec. 1 on Netflix. You can watch it here when it comes out. Until then, here’s a preview…