Jim Breuer: "I'm Addicted to Watching People Belly Laugh"
You might know Jim Breuer as Goat Boy from Saturday Night Live, or Brian from Half Baked, but if that's all you know Jim Breuer from, you're missing out. Because the man has done -- and is doing -- a lot.
We talked to Jim about why his love of stand up never wavered, his days acting on SNL, and what it was like being on the set of Half Baked. And if you'd like to see Jim onstage doing what he does best, he'll be at the Fort Lauderdale Improv on February 19, and at the West Palm Beach Improv on February 20.
But until then, get to know the man a little bit. He swears he's not as high as you think.
New Times: A lot of people know you from SNL, but you've gone on to do a lot of other things. Was the transition from SNL to things like stand up hard? Did you find people expecting certain things from you?
Jim Breuer: In the beginning I found myself trying to appeal, and be something that I wasn't. But everything I've ever done that led me to anything was stand up comedy. It was stand up comedy that got me to Saturday Night Live. You have to establish yourself really well, and it's all starting to come around.
SNL really seemed like such an odd and uncertain environment. Everyone was always wondering if they'd still have a job the next week. Was SNL a stressful environment, or was it fun?
It was everything. It was like any other great job. It was really exciting. It was really fun. It was hard. It was stressful. It was everything. But I didn't leave there going, "Oh, that was the worst thing ever." I left there really happy. I could have stayed there longer, but my experience overall -- I really enjoyed it there. Of course it was hard and frustrating at times, but so is every other job. People get hopped up over jobs like Saturday Night Live because in their head they think it's so much bigger, but, as corny as it sounds, people working any other job feel the same things. "Oh, the boss doesn't like me, and I'm going to get fired." It's the same emotions just much bigger.
Did the shine of SNL fade pretty quickly? Did it end up just feeling like another job?
Every time you think the shock wears away, I'd get shocked again. Like, "Oh, my God, there's Mick Jagger just hanging out. Oh, my God, I'm on Saturday Night Live. There's Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro!" So, no, for me it didn't.
I hear every SNL alumni try to describe Lorne Michaels, and no one really seems to be able to. What did he mean to you?
To me, and I think a lot of cast members, he was a tremendous mentor. And I was too immature to understand half the things he'd say. I was too emotionally involved. But as time went on, I remembered the little tips he would give me. They were absolutely brilliant, and I wish I was able to listen to them a little better. He's a guy that gives you wisdom, but really wants you to figure it out. I think he's brilliant.
So he just wants to give you a little push then have you start peddling on your own?
Yeah. You'll figure it out. I remember him once saying to me, "Jim, this year try and be the straight guy. Your face tells a lot of stories. I know you like going big, but this year try to be subtle." And it's funny because when I do stand up, that is where I'm at my best -- when I'm subtle. He's just a brilliant guy. But he's hard to figure out, because you're emotionally involved when you're there.
Half Baked is something people also love and recognize you for. What was it like to work with Dave Chappelle right before he became pretty much the biggest comic in the world?
He taught me the way movies should be. Which is a relaxed atmosphere, everyone is there to be funny; everyone encouraged each other. The whole time I kept going, "Is this really going to be a movie? Is this really happening? Does this count?" It seemed like hanging out with our friends, and, oh yeah, by the way, we're making a movie.
I've heard Dave say before that he was a little upset about what happened to the movie, and it ended up being a lot different than he and Neal intended. Did you feel any of that on the set?
I didn't. No. Because all I saw was the script. So I just remember reading the script and laughing my ass off, and Dave asking me to be in that. I know they would complain, and they had issues. It's hard for guys like Dave, especially comics. They have a vision, and no one else sees that vision. It's really frustrating. So I knew they were a little frustrated, but I heard more about that after the movie came out.
Do you find people coming to your stand up shows with expectations of seeing your characters from SNL, or Half Baked-type humor? And if so, how do they react when you give them something completely different?
Well, one good thing is expectations are low with that group, so it can only go up. Overall, I think most of the people who come to see me know that I don't really touch on that stuff too much. But there is a group that will come and say, "I've never seen you," or, "I only know you from Half Baked," or, "I didn't know you were this funny. No offense to the stuff you've done, but I thought this was the best." And I say no offense taken, because this is what I love.
Is stand up what you most closely identify with? If you could do one thing for the rest of your life, would it be stand up?
Definitely stand up. Definitely stand up. It's the only place in the world where no one can edit your vision.
Is that what you love most about stand up?
I'm addicted to watching people belly laugh, and I'm the one making them do it. I'm addicted to that. I love that.
Were you getting your fix of that enough on SNL, or acting, or radio?
No, definitely not. With radio, I knew we were putting out good radio, but it's very frustrating not knowing what your fan base is like. Are they laughing? Are they tuning you out? Are they annoyed? You can't read any of that. I loved it, but I just missed that satisfaction -- that instant gratification.
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