Mentioning Jim Breuer’s name in conversation will almost always get the same response: “Oh, that guy from Half Baked?” Yes, he played Brian in the ’90s stoner comedy, but he was also on Saturday Night Live from 1995 to 1998. Other film and television credits include The Jim Breuer Show, Titan A.E., and Chappelle’s Show.
Yet his passion has always been stand-up, so Breuer returned to the road in 2008 for the Breuniversity Tour. The act took him to colleges all over the country, and he used footage from the road for the documentary More Than Me — about taking his aging father on the tour — and The Jim Breuer Road Journals.
Breuer’s on the road again — this time in support of his new special Comic Frenzy, which debuts on EPIX on May 29. We spent some time last month talking about the new hour, as well as his lifelong love of the New York Mets and his upcoming heavy-metal album.
You filmed the special in Long Island, where you grew up. Was that always the intention or did it just happen that way?
Yes, 100 percent. I’ve always wanted to film on Long Island, but for whatever reason — the companies that I’ve been with or the management team I was with — it just never happened. So this was the first time where I went, “I’m going to pay for production. I’m going to do the special the way I want to do it, with who I want to do it, and where I want to do it.” So this is the first time I’ve had 100 percent freedom, owning it, and I finally said, “I’m filming it in Long Island and I’m filming it at this venue.” [The Paramount] is my favorite venue in the whole country.
Is having that kind of freedom a part of working with EPIX? You’ve worked with them before.
They’re phenomenal, but it’s also being able to say, “Screw it! I’m going to pay for the whole production. I’m going to dish out the money.” If you want control, then that’s how you gotta do it.
Louis C.K.’s model seems to be working so well.
Absolutely. He definitely is an inspiration in that world.
Towards the beginning of the special you say, “Nobody has pride like Long Islanders.” Why do you think that is?
I think it’s a hardcore, blue-collar mentality. A pack mentality. They look after each other. They’re New York, so they’ve got that pride, but they’re not the city. It’s like, “Well we’re not the city!” They have the beaches, the suave parts, the gritty parts. And no one ever leaves there! It’s weird, it’s just weird. I don’t know how to explain it. And the fact that I moved to Jersey? I’d probably get a better reaction if I said I moved to friggin’ Sudan.
They don’t seem too keen on Jersey.
They hate New Jersey. It’s the enemy! I don’t get it. What it’s an enemy of? I have no clue.
Comic Frenzy carries the torch you first lit with the Breuniversity Tour and And Laughter For All. Instead of the stoner-comedy thing everybody assumed you were all about after Half Baked, you talk about family instead. Is that a conscious decision?
I have no problem with the Half Baked thing. It was an acting role. I think it’s the only acting role in history where people believed that that character exists. That character exists, but they want me to be that human. I’m not that human. It was the most fun role. It was my favorite role. I think it’s one of the funniest movies of all time. I mean, I knocked that role out of the park. I’m still waiting for a phone call to do other movies, but I’m not that guy.
So yeah, there’s definitely a decision I’ve made where I have to say, “Listen, I have to let you guys know. That is a classic. I love it. It’s one of the best things I ever did, but that’s not me.”
Even so, you still pay homage to it in your stand up. You always call it “that look.”
I have been dealing with “that look” my whole life, since like the eighth grade.
Seems like you enjoy doing stand up more than movies and sketches. Is that the case?
It is. I’d love to do movies, but I’m not moving to L.A. I’m sure that hurt quite a bit, but I’m very close to my family. I don’t want to be away two months a clip, two months a clip while my kids are growing up. Maybe I could do it if I moved to L.A., but they’ve got friends and family here. I don’t want to pick them up and move them along. But I may change course in 10 years and say, “I’m done with stand-up. I’m going to move to L.A. and start doing movie roles.” Who knows?
You’re really focused on not wanting to be away from your family.
I only have these kids until they’re 15 or 16. That’s it. Even then, at 14 they’re gone. I don’t want to be chasing my lost parenting time the rest of my life when I could have been here. I made a vow to myself years ago when I was done with SNL, and I learned it from John Travolta around the time he did Pulp Fiction: Hollywood is there forever. As long as you’ve still got talent, you can always go back no matter what. It could be 30 years later, 20 years later, you could have come out of nowhere. It’s always, always there. And if I have the confidence in myself, which I do, then I’ll always know that’s an avenue I can start running after. In the meantime? I’m destroying doing stand-up. I’ve got a great following. I love my following — it’s a multi-generational, family following.
You tend to be a storyteller. Is that usually your main source of material?
Yeah, I’ve been that way my whole life. I’m the neighborhood’s street-corner storyteller. That’s the way I was my whole life. That’s my A-game and my power. I struggled with that a little bit coming up in the system, where you need a joke every 6 or 7 seconds. But as my confidence grew, I knew I was the guy that would keep you entertained for awhile and then I’ll hit you with the big punch. I found myself. It took a little while, but I found myself. When you find yourself, you’re doing great.
Do your family and friends worry that whatever they do and say might become a bit?
Well they don’t worry, but they know when it is.
In Comic Frenzy you tell a story about your dad in which he says, “Don’t tell anyone about this!”
Nah, I’m telling everybody.
Is it difficult to be that honest with your material?
No, I find being honest is the best. Very, very rarely will people ever say, “I was really insulted!” The truth may hurt at times, but you can’t fight the truth. It’s better to face it, laugh about it, and move on together rather than try to dance around it and be all fluffy about it. I don’t believe in that way. It’s healing to know others are struggling the way that you do. That’s a big part of comedy.
With Comic Frenzy about to come out, are you keeping a low profile or are you already plotting the next big thing?
My next big thing is a totally different venture. For the tour dates I’m doing now, I’m working on the new hour. I’m pretty excited about it, and I’ve got a good 35 or 40 killer minutes already. And if people haven’t seen Comic Frenzy by then already, I kind of mix it up — there’s a little bit of Comic Frenzy, but with more elaboration.
But my next big venture is something I’ve been waiting to do my whole life. I’m finally sticking my neck out and making a hard rock/classic rock/metal CD. I’m six songs in, and I’ve got four songs more to put down on vocals. That should hopefully come out in late January or early February, but the CD should be done by the end of July.
All you, or do you have any favorites or guests coming in?
I can tell you that I’m asking two more guests, but I won’t say who they are. One guest put some vocals down for me, and I’m pretty excited about that. If you know my act, it won’t be hard to figure out who my top bands are. I will say this — he’s among the elite. It was the coolest thing I ever saw. I was in Florida last week recording with him and it was just — I can’t wait to start telling the story.
Knowing your favorite bands and the singers you like to do impressions of, I can imagine listening to these tracks is almost like a guessing game. “Is it Jim, or is it…?”
Before he came in, I laid down a vocal track for him so he could sing along to it. To kind of get the rhythm of the way the verse goes. And I swear to God when we were in the studio, he put his vocals down and then we were listening — we couldn’t tell who was who. And I was arguing with him, “No that’s you!” And he said, “Nah, nah, nah that’s definitely you.”
That sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun.
I can’t wait for people to hear it! I can’t wait.
Are you wanting to do a live show, or just the album?
Oh no no, it’s going to be a live tour. Full-blown band backing me. People are going to love this. It’s going to be a night out. And again, the lyrics are based on where I am in life — I’m a father, I’m an ex-metal lover. It’s like listening to great hard rock/classic rock/metal, but you don’t have to turn it off because you’re worried about the kids listening to the lyrics.
That will be much appreciated among other former or ex-metal fans.
I’m hoping to get multi-generational fans to that concert as well.
Comic Frenzy premieres Friday, May 29 at 10 p.m. EST on EPIX. Check it out here when it becomes available.
(This interview was edited and condensed.)