Talking to Brian Posehn About His New Album, ‘Mr. Show,’ and Who Should Direct the New ‘Star Wars’ Movies
Throughout an insanely prolific career, Brian Posehn has been far more active than one would expect a headbanging stoner with a comic book obsession to be. The Comedian of Comedy has lent his distinctive monotone and alternative sensibilities to all manner of cult classics in the last twenty years, from the brilliantly bizarre sketches of Mr. Show and Human Giant to supporting roles on skewed sitcoms The Sarah Silverman Program and Mission Hill to Adult Swim mainstays Tom Goes to the Mayor and Metalocalypse.
His latest comedy special, the hilariously and profoundly titled The Fartist, was released on DVD and CD last month and finds an introspective Posehn discussing his decision to quit smoking weed, his newfound fatherhood and, of course, what it’s like to fart in front of Christian Slater. I recently talked to Brian about the upcoming 20th anniversary for Mr. Show, his thoughts on the new Star Wars movies, and what elevates his fart jokes above run-of-the-mill fart jokes.
Your latest comedy special, The Fartist, was recently released on CD and DVD. Would you say The Fartist is the greatest title you’ve ever come up with, or is it just the greatest title of anything ever?
[Laughs] Um, both. I mean, to me, it really makes me laugh, and it’s… I think you already know what you’re getting. You’re not just getting farts, you’re getting so much more. But, it’s just, it made me laugh. I call myself “The Fartist” on stage during a bit where I say, “I don’t just tell fart jokes like a lot of my comic friends – I tell fart stories. At least, fart tales. I’m a fartist.” And so when we were talking about what to call the special and what to call the CD, it seemed kind of obvious because it was out there. And then, I’d never even saw the movie The Artist, but I was talking with my manager, who is one of my closest friends and has a ridiculous sense of humor, just super silly, and we both laughed. And I said “Let’s do that.” Even if no one saw that movie, which a lot of people did, you know that poster from last year, so we decided to just parody that.
Your poster for that special’s cover is also a work of beautiful art.
Well, I mean, I know God gave me a certain face, and I think having that face with that art would be a funny combination, and I was right.
You said before that you don’t tell fart jokes, that you tell fart stories, and I was kind of curious, what elevates your fart jokes into fart stories? What do you do to really get into a fart story?
Well, I think it’s weird that we even need to talk about elevating because to me funny is funny and I never restrict myself. Like, now I’m at a point where the next thing can’t be fart-heavy. The last CD was called Fart and Wiener Jokes, and now this one is The Fartist, and I do about twenty minutes of fart stories in there. So I feel like, next time I can’t do that. Even if I wrote the greatest fart joke of all time. [Laughs] Maybe I’ll do one, but I won’t surround it with more fart material. But, having to justify any joke, I’ve always felt like, “I’ll just say whatever I feel like saying.” And that’s kind of, the comics that I appreciate the most, that’s what they do.
I think if you’re a good comic you can do things that people have seen. And, y’know, some of my friends and I, there were certain topics that, when we were first coming up, that we felt like they were well-traveled. And since then, since I’ve grown up, I feel like you can take any area and if you’re funny enough, find something that no one’s heard. I feel like the guys that I look up to the most do that. Louis C.K. is a friend, but he’s also my favorite comic. The fact that he can talk about flying and make it totally fresh, and that was one of those topics that’s been, like, “off limits” by funny people for so long, because well, everybody heard that in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, every angle of flying. Well, it’s not true. Louis found a way of talking about flying. So I feel like being me is what elevates it. Doing my angle. And the fact that they are true stories, that they really happened. I really was in a comic book shop and actually farted on another guy who I had never met. That’s the other thing – they’re not just fart jokes, they’re actually fart things that happened in real fart life.
I think you do a similar thing with fatherhood on your album where it’s also really well-trod territory, but you bring your own angle to that. Did you also have any trepidation about approaching that topic?
No, not so much trepidation, because it’s, like I said, I feel like as long as I do my angle, then that’s good. And going back to Louis – y’know, yeah, father jokes have been hit a lot and by guys I didn’t like in the ‘80s. But Louis did his thing and what makes that hard for anybody following him is now you can’t do any material about your kid being stupid or where you’re real. Well, I can be real. In my relationship with my son, I don’t find him stupid, so I’m not doing those jokes. I’m crazy about my kid. I just hope that I can continue to come up with jokes about him, or not, but if I do, I don’t want them to be, like I said, anything you’ve heard. I feel like when I came up with the Weird Al bit, teaching your kid to appreciate this thing without giving him the real references, I felt like that was something I’d never heard, so that’s why it goes on the album.
You talk about giving up smoking weed as a father, but you then segue way that into an amazing weed story. Are you sad that you’re losing out on any potential future amazing weed stories?
No, because I think I’m not going to smoke, but I still hang out with people who smoke, so stories might come up. Something that I witness while I’m on the road or hanging around people like Doug Benson, there might be another pot story. It’ll be from the angle of “See, I’m not that guy anymore!”
In regards to some of your other projects, I know you have an upcoming tour with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk for the release of Hollywood Said No!, which is a collection of scripts that haven’t been greenlit or rejected sketches. How did that project come up?
It was David’s idea. David, I think, had been approached about doing another book and he thought of that, and those were sketches that – well, scripts, really – that were just sitting around. When he mentioned it to Bob and I, we both were like, “Yeah, that’d be awesome.” For me, any excuse to get back in the room with those guys, I’ll go for it. That was, hands down, my favorite writing experience, working on that show, and one of my favorite performing experiences. So to be able to go back and talk about those scripts, because that’s something that we include in the book, is where some of those ideas came from. There are commentaries and a little bit of our experiences of why no one ever saw these movies and why they were never made. So it meant that a couple of months ago I got to be with them for a couple of hours and talk about all of this, and that’s always fun for me. And the fact that now we’re going to do a tour. Bob was just over here, and we’re writing new sketches for the tour, which for me is super exciting, as a friend of theirs and a fan of the show.
So have there been plans discussed for the upcoming twentieth anniversary of Mr. Show?
Oh yeah, for that we’re going to go all out. We’ve already talked about – we’re going to have everybody we can get who can clear a little time in their schedule. It’s tough, because guys like Paul F. Tompkins, he’s got his own life. He’s got a million things going on. So, we’re already kind of giving everybody a heads up that, in 2015, it will be twenty years since we started the show and we’re going to do a pretty big tour.
Another sort-of anniversary you have coming up in the near future is The Comedians of Comedy. Is there any potential for a reunion there?
Oh, is it ten years?
I think it’s ten years in two years.
No, not that I’ve talked to Patton [Oswalt] about. That’s another thing; it’s not going to be hard to get me involved. He could just ask me to go out on the road again or whatever it is, even if it’s just something here in town. The tough one, obviously, would be to get Zach [Galifianakis] involved, but there were other versions of that show, so, we could roll one out with Eugene Mirman again, and I’d be super excited. But like I said, I haven’t talked about it.
Well, in addition to the book tour and your latest comedy special, this past year you’ve also written for Deadpool, you helped judge AMC’s taxidermy competition Immortalized, you host your D & D podcast Nerd Poker and you raised a child enough to get material out of it. So, how hectic has this last year been for you?
Pretty hectic. I guess I’ve spent a little more time home in the last couple of months, which is nice. You know, when you get shows like Immortalized, you kind of go, “Wait, why am I doing this?” But then you go, “Oh, I get to stay home, and not be on the road.” And I love the road, but it’s gotten a lot tougher to go out on the road when you have a four-year-old saying, “Why are you leaving me?” You have to go, “Uh, to pay for your toys.” And then he says, “Well, I don’t want my toys, I want you.” And then you go, “Oh my god, I am fucking terrible.” So, what do I do? And then when somebody says, “Hey, wanna judge taxidermy?” you go “Taxi-what-y? Sure.”
For Immortalized, were you picked for that for being a heavy metal fan? Did that make you a good judge of stuffed dead things?
No, I think why I said yeah to it is because I get to be the silly guy that doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There’s two experts on the show, and I went on and brought a friend, Blaine Capatch, who’s actually on my podcast and one of my favorite people in the world. This dude is – y’know, people always talk about comedians being joke machines, and he is the closest to that I’ve ever met – and always funny. He’s always on, but not in an irritating way, so I went, “Well, I’ll just bring Blaine, and he and I will just look at these taxidermy projects and write jokes.” And that’s exactly the way it turned out and it wound up being a lot of fun. Of me going in and not knowing anything about that form of art. And it is art.
You’re entering your second year of writing Deadpool and you also host a podcast where you and your friends play D & D. Are you living every nerd’s wet dream right now?
I think I kind of am. And I mean I have been for a while. I always talk about how lucky I feel, and that’s one way for sure. None of those things are making me rich or building my empire or whatever, but they’re two other fun things to do. So when I’m home, I look at the calendar and I look forward to having those things. Because we had killed our D & D games when my son was born. So, yeah, it is a little bit of a nerd’s dream of I get to continue that and entertain people and have another thing for my audience, because I feel like if you like my standup, chances are you probably also play D & D or at least know of it. And that’s been the other really cool thing about the podcast is we’ve gotten so many responses from people who’ve never played but now want to or don’t want to but still enjoy the show.
As someone who’s very passionate about comic books and who’s likely gotten into a lot of passionate arguments with others over comic books, is there an added pressure to write for a character as major as Deadpool?
Yeah, there definitely was. We try not to think about that. When we went into it, we just wanted to tell funny stories and we wanted to tell big, action-packed stories. The reason we did the “Dead Presidents” arc first is we wanted to come out doing kind of a big Ghostbusters, Big Trouble in Little China mini-movie. It’s almost like an action movie in six issues. Not almost. I mean it really is. That’s what we wanted to do with the book. We wanted to write a book that’s fun to write but then also fun to read and the kind of book that we would like to read. And yeah, there are a few other heroes that you would feel pressure. I mean there are older guys, if you’re writing Batman or Spider-Man, you go, ‘God, there’s this crazy history.’ But with Deadpool, the history is not as long, but people are really into the guy. So there is a little bit of ‘Oh, don’t piss off the Deadpool nerds.’ But you try not to think about that when you’re writing because you’re trying to write a good book.
My last question, and I’m almost a little afraid to ask this, but what are your thoughts on the upcoming Star Wars movies from Disney?
[Laughs] Well, like I talk about on the last special and now on stage, I’m still doing a thing where I… I can’t get too concerned about it. It doesn’t feel false, but I feel like, ‘God, I’ve got to let go on a certain level, or it’ll just drive me crazy.’ And I’ve gotta say, I’m not that huge of a fan of what the gentleman who’s taken the reigns has done [J.J. Abrams]. There are some other guys – if Joss Whedon was throwing his hat in the ring, I would be way more excited for it. Guillermo del Toro, I’d be way more excited. Quentin [Tarantino], that would be insane. There’s guys higher up on the list than J.J. I don’t know, I’ve also been disappointed so much that I kind of don’t want to invest.
It’s going to be a part of my future no matter what. I mean, having a son who will be probably six or seven when the movie comes out, I’m going to have to see it. So, regardless, I’m seeing it. It’s probably better to not be super invested, like, “Aw, this piece of crap. It’s going to be terrible.” And then, “Welp, you’re taking your son. You’ve gotta go.” And try not to ruin his day because he just wants to see a movie and have fun. He doesn’t need to have his fat dad sitting next him going, “Oh man. Oh, this is terrible.”
Jeremy Popkin is a freelance writer in Philadelphia. His work has been featured on Ology, Nerve, and Destructoid.