Metal and comedy -- two very disparate forms of entertainment -- found a common companion in superfan comedian Jim Breuer. Once and always known as Goat Boy on Saturday Night Live and the hippy stoner Brian who summoned Jerry Garcia's ghost in Half Baked, Breuer's obsession with music is part of what defines him past those two rightfully immortal characters.
Breuer is also a real, no-bullshit family guy who takes care of his aging father and even documented the experience in a film, More Than Me. He believes in prayer, but with no dogma attached. He has three daughters with whom he listens to Raffi. Breuer's keeping busy past standup with a slot on SiriusXM's Raw Dog Comedy channel. He recently wrote a book with a mouthful of a title, I'm Not High (but I've Got a Lot of Crazy Stories About Life as a Goat Boy, a Dad, and a Spiritual Warrior).
Recently, we had a pretty awesome conversation with Breuer -- one of those interviews that doesn't bore you when you're typing it up. In fact, upon a second listen, it's like you feel as if you've actually learned something about the world and the artist. Here's a peek into the complex life of Jim Breuer.
New Times: In a Howard Stern interview, you mentioned possibly doing a rock sketch show. What would that entail?
Jim Breuer: It would entail using rock stars. Me, actors, comedians, sports stars. Basically, everybody. But I would focus more on comedians than rockers.
Eighties metal bands are sort of your specialty. Have you learned anything from interviewing them?
Yeah, that most of them are goofballs! Most of them, they have a really funny side to them. A lot of them are family-driven that we don't know about. I really like exposing that stuff. I hate the term "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll." I always said that was a term thought up so that they could deflect some of the more powerful lyrics that need to be heard.
Is Metallica your number one? Do you have a top five favorite bands?
Absolutely. I go, Metallica, Judas Priest, old Ozzy. Hard rock was AC/DC. Dio. Then it spreads out to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, all those guys.
What about new Ozzy?
That's too pop for me.
Did you ever watch his show?
I did watch his show. They were kind of funny. At the same time, it kind of killed the mystique about them.
Talk about normalizing a rock god. You also perform at music festivals like Bonnaroo. What's that like? Is that fun or stressful?
The best ones I performed at were Bochum open air festival in Germany each year, Sonisphere, Metallica's Orion Festival. Those are probably the, hands down, favorite shows I've ever done, because I had the crowd in the palm of my hand from the minute I walked out there. That is when I started realizing, I need to pursue this arena more. I do a lot of standup comedy, and I do well, but when I can mix that rock with comedy, it's clearly where I belong.
What makes the audiences different?
They're more in a festive... the crowds at the festivals really exert a lot of energy and have a great time. You have to understand, at a comedy club, they go there and laugh. But at a festival, they're standing, they're waiting for that big rock and cheer and body surf. So when you can bring it, there's nothing more exciting in the world.
As a comedian, you're like a rock star kind of. Comedians are sometimes seen as living that "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" lifestyle. Can you relate to the metal gods you've interviewed in that way?
Yeah. The reason I like those metal bands is because they weren't singing about how hot the chicks were and how wasted they were getting; they all had deeper meaning in a lot of their music, in a lot of their songs. I have to say that molded me a lot. There was a time too when they were portrayed as dark and sadistic, and I really think that was the opposite. If anything, they were exploiting all that.
So you're not a fan of hair metal bands.
No, I like the music when there's a girl around. To me, that was corny and a cop-out.
What was your favorite AC/DC era?
Oh, gosh. I'd have to say Back in Black. Pretty much leading up to Back in Black, although I've been a fan forever. I love their old stuff, but I also really love the way Brian Johnson added a whole new element.
Have you ever been nervous sitting in a room with James Hetfield and these guys? You do impressions of them. Has it ever been awkward.
[hesitant laugh] The only time it's awkward is when you're doing it in front of them. I remember Brian Johnson had me come to his show, brought me onstage. That was awkward. Anytime I have to do it in front of people, that's the only time I feel weird. But if they're not around, I'm pretty confident about it!
You do a whole bit about children's music. Is there any children's music you do like?
[laughs] I'm a little bit of a Raffi fan.
What makes Raffi a good musician?
He's soothing, and he quiets them down.
You have a podcast, and you're on satellite radio. How do you feel like the internet and satellite radio has affected how you do comedy? You do a lot of impressions and stuff.
The radio brings a lot more storytelling, which is also my powerhouse. I love to story-tell. The radio brings the real person Jim Breuer is, the family guy. It doesn't have to be hilarious; it doesn't have to be standup comedy all the time. Radio is more about good conversation, interesting, intriguing. That's what listeners care about to get emotionally involved. Standup is, boom, I've gotta get up there and attack you for the whole hour and 15 or however long I'm up there. Sirius satellite will help the VH1 thing if it happens. That rock comedy show.
You recently wrote the book I'm Not High. Did you write it? Was that easy?
I wrote it, and the reason I wrote it was I wanted to start opening up different layers of me. I really wrote it for the stories that are in there. I was going to put it on blogs. I can't say my true intention was a book, although it started becoming that. The good thing about it, I didn't go sell the pitch, get money, and then write it. I wrote it with my whole heart and soul, and then it got sold.
You didn't have to compromise. You talk about prayer in it. Is that a big element in your life?
Absolutely. Prayer, meditation. It's always been big family work since the beginning of time for me. I've noticed that anyone that keeps that as a structure tends to do a little better, well-balanced in their life. Over the past 20 or 30 years, it's been, work, work, work, become work, become great, and oh, yeah, there's family and this other stuff and there's nothing to look forward to. Everyone has their own beliefs; for me, it's always about the faith.
Were you raised Catholic?
I was raised by satan [laughs]. No, they didn't go to church. My mom was a believer in praying; she believed in Jesus. My father doesn't believe in anything. It kind of came from my own experience in life.
It's interesting about your father. Is there an organized religion you're involved in?
No. We're not in any kind of organized thing at all.
It seems like you'd need that balance on the road and everything.
What's really cool in the book, I put examples of when I really prayed and put something out there and the way it would come around. I would go, "OK, is that coincidence? It's hard to believe that's coincidence." I'm not a specialist on anything; all I do is explain what I did and what happened. A lot of people really go, "The same thing happened to me, I prayed, and I got this answer." That's more what it is.
In Let's Clear the Air, you have a story about Sly Stallone and your father, and they talk about Hollywood, Florida. Do your parents spend time down here?
My dad lives with me, and my mom is in independent living. As a matter of fact, I made a documentary film where I took my father out on the road. It's on iTunes now. It's called More Than Me, and it's about taking care of your parents as you get older. A lot of people don't know how to do it, are afraid of it, or don't want to have anything to do with it. This kind of helps you be funny about it and also gives you more roundabout education on it.
You don't regularly take him on the road?
I always took him on the road, but now he's a lot tougher to take care of. He doesn't walk well; he's got to go to the bathroom, and you've got about three seconds to get him there. I knew this was going to be one of our last trips.
When you edited it, were you comfortable taking stuff out?
Yeah, I have no problem putting out raw and funny. As long as it's real and it's not Hollywood and it touches lives, I have no problem putting it out there. People need to see truth.
That's a noble film to make. Do you have a Florida connection?
I lived in Florida for years. That was my original stomping grounds for comedy. Whenever I'm down there, it's a little like being home.