Brendon Walsh on Road Trip Pranks – Viewer Discretion per Language
April Fool’s Day probably feels like amateur night for comedian and wily prankster Brendon Walsh, a bona fide lust for lifer with an irrepressible penchant for amusing himself and making his own fun. Onstage, Walsh is a hilarious, devil-may-care raconteur and not to imply that he’s always “on,” but in person he is a trenchantly funny and charismatic rapscallion. Brendon Walsh is like a roving, one-man gang of Little Rascals. He’s akin to a Groucho of the Marxes, a Josie amongst Pussycats, and he’s someone who delights in the joys of fake moustaches, gag classified ads, and sham banners. Then, these real life hijinks yield original and killer material. However, Walsh elevates pranks to near performance art (and not the simple ramshackle on-set fright type of shit that made me abhor Mel Gibson long before it was in vogue).
In fact, when this Philadelphia native relocated to Austin, he cut his teeth as a quasi-performance artist— besuited and singing overwrought love songs while pretending to play the keyboards at Club de Ville and my memory of his first foray into the Funniest Person in Austin contest has him snacking from a jar of mayonnaise and reenacting Vietnam by tapping a spoon against glasses of water. But Brendon rapidly made up for the lost time (and then some) of starting stand-up at the age of 29 years old. In 2004, he won the “Funniest Person in Austin” contest and he then twice tied for “Best Stand-Up Comic” in the Austin Chronicle’s “Best of Austin” 2004 and 2005 Readers Poll. What’s followed has been an amassment of accolades, garnering a following the old fashioned way from nonstop touring, festival appearances, and TV credits (Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Premium Blend, Last Comic Standing, Funny as Hell for HBO Canada, Conan, John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show, TruTV’s Worlds Dumbest, and, my personal favorite, Boise, Idaho’s FOX 12 This Morning— for real, watch below). Walsh has already had a busy and productive 2012 and he’s primed for a colossal breakout [What can I say? The kid loves funnel cakes]. Seizing the opportunity to attend at least one of Brendon Walsh’s Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival performances is highly recommended. Comedy Moontower recently corresponded with Walsh via email from his home in Los Angeles.
Steve Birmingham: Congratulations on your March 1st Comedy Central Presents half-hour special taping. What can you tell us about how it went?
Brendon Walsh: Thanks! Spoiler alert: It went okay! The only weird thing that happened was that I was booed offstage, around the theater, and then booed back onto stage. It was the first time anything like that was ever caught on tape.
SB: In January you were on the Weezer Cruise with Doug Benson’s “Doug Loves Movies” podcast. Being out to sea (i.e., trapped) with a boatload of indie rock fans seems like the experience could’ve been a blast or a bit much. Was either the case, or both?
BW: It was definitely a unique experience. I’m a fan of Weezer but I was also super excited to see Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh perform. I’m a huge Sebadoh fan (Bakesale is one of my favorite albums ever) and I got to meet and shoot the shit with Lou Barlow, who is totally cool and I found out he lives in the neighborhood and we have mutual friends. We will have lunch! Also met a great band from Kentucky called Sleeper Agent; we hung out a lot on the boat. All the shows were great and I got to say the term “lido deck” every day. The other people on the boat were mostly cool with the exception of a few meatheads, but it can be expected that a hit-making band such as Weezer would have such a broad fan base. So there will be a few clunkers in there. Everybody was pretty drunk all the time as well which made for some fun and also annoying experiences. I couldn’t imagine going on a regular cruise— that would be hell.
SB: You and Doug were also featured on the Season 4 of NBC’s Last Comic Standing (which also elected not to sequester Jimmy Pardo and Tig Notaro as well). If picked, I wouldn’t sneeze at the potential network ducats and exposure but how much of a total lark did you regard the whole affair?
BW: I knew I wouldn’t make it far on that show. Most of my jokes were about hating babies and having diarrhea. Top-notch stuff! Frankly, I didn’t even want to audition for the show but was kind of browbeaten into doing it. I even got monumentally drunk the night before in a passive aggressive attempt to oversleep for my appointment, but I forgot to turn my cell phone off and was woken up by the club calling me the next morning. That being said, I’m glad I did the show. It was a fun experience, put a few bucks in my pocket, and I made some great friends like Nikki Glaser, Chris Porter, Matt Fulchiron— actually everyone was cool except for one lady who was a fucking bitch. I don’t remember her name. God she sucked. It was crazy that neither Benson nor Tig made it further than they did that year, too.
SB: Bill Cosby, Noam Chomsky, and Norman Fell are fellow alumni of your alma mater, Central High School in Philadelphia. You started stand-up in Austin when you were 29 years old but did going to the same high school as Bill Cosby plant some sense of “it can be done”?
BW: You forgot Larry Fine (Three Stooges) and Teller (Penn & Teller)! The Cos and I were both kicked out of Central after a couple years. I was and still am a huge fan of Bill Cosby’s albums. I listened to Wonderfulness and Why Is There Air? constantly as a kid. I don’t know why it took me so long to start doing comedy. I’m kind of a late bloomer in a lot of regards (no pubes yet).
SB: What were you like in high school? Class clown? Bully? Ringleader?
BW: I was the ringleader of a gang of bully class clowns. We were violent and hilarious!
SB: When you were on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast [episode #210, 9/15/11], you mentioned meeting a woman at the Philly-based theater company where you were working who was a “pivotal person,” in that she opened your eyes to an artistic lifestyle. You commented how cool you thought it was that she was being paid $10k to design a teapot. You’d already had a lot of success by 2007 when you won $10K as the “Famecast Comedy Fenom,” but I was wondering when you cemented the sense that you are indeed a working artist?
BW: I don’t know how much “success” I had before winning the Famecast thing. I was really just scraping by at that time and my personal life was a complete mess. I haven’t really had a day job since 2005ish, so maybe then? It just kind of gradually evolves from being a novel, weird way to live then it just becomes the way things are and that’s how you make your living. The $10K came in handy, but the contest was a dirty, hate-filled, shit contest that really brought out the worst in people. It was all based on online voting which is extremely flawed and pretty much guarantees that the best man will not always win. Except in that case.
SB: Was performing as “Scary Monster” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! your first network appearance? And how did that come about? It was such a great Kaufman-esque or sort of punk rock moment. The cameras were well positioned for disapproving and puzzled crowd reaction shots. What kind of vibe were you getting from the audience?
BW: Definitely the first thing I ever did on TV, I think. You can see the vibe the audience was giving off if you watch the clip. They did not dig me at all! In my defense, I saw guys giving out tickets to the show on Hollywood Boulevard and lying to people about who the guests were going to be. So by the time I came out, the crowd knew there will be no George Clooney and now they have to watch some asshole in a thrift store suit and a monster mask tell lousy jokes for five minutes. Overall, it was a cool experience with no real stakes because my face or name wasn’t there, which was good because I was really new to comedy and really under-rehearsed. I had the idea a couple weeks before being on the show. Howard Kremer saw me do Scary Monster in Austin and told me to submit it to Kimmel, so I did and they said, “Okay” and flew me out. It’s an OK piece of tape but I can definitely see how green I was when I watch it. Speaking of green, I smoked a ton of weed before the taping that day which probably didn’t help the performance.
SB: What’s your worst road gig experience?
BW: I was robbed at gunpoint in Cleveland when I was on tour with Neil Hamburger and Todd Barry last year. I went for a walk into the wrong part of town after a show and bumped into the wrong dudes. I think Neil and Todd were the masterminds behind the robbery, but I can’t prove anything. They were wearing all kinds of expensive new jewelry the next day, which I found suspicious but the cops refused to investigate them. The whole thing was actually pretty intense but everything worked out and I’m not murdered or anything yet. Jeez that really sucked.
SB: You have toured with and opened for Doug Stanhope for a long time. Can you talk about how he has influenced you, your approach to stand-up, and performing?
BW: Doug has been a huge influence on me. He’s a great guy and one of my best friends. I think I’m pretty lucky that he took me under his wing so early in my career. He’s so different than any other comedian out there. Actually, he is one of the most unique people I’ve ever met. The way he lives his life is amazing. He’s like a bad kid cutting school who makes a living by pushing people’s buttons and causing a ruckus then he goes home to his Pee-Wee’s Playhouse-style home in the desert where he is all about lifting and laying out. He’s tan as shit and ripped as fuck.
SB: You appeared on Premium Blend in 2006 with Aziz Ansari. Damon Wayans was the host and he opened the show with— how do I put this diplomatically— an embarrassingly horrible and sub-hack impression of the sounds made by a Chinese and African couple having sex. What did you think when you heard that? And also it sounded like you shouted out someone’s name at the end of your set (as if a bet were made)?
BW: Man, I don’t remember Daymon Wayans’ set, but that bit sounds hilarious! At the end of my set I said, “Seacrest out!” but the band started playing before I could say it so I wound up yelling it into the microphone like a maniac.
SB: You were initially pretty turned off by the comedy scene here at open mics and Daily Brink quoted you as saying, “…People weren’t as thick-skinned in Austin and I really enjoy ballbusting, edgier humor.” I’ll certainly attest to you being one of the most naturally funny and spirited comics on and offstage but can you describe the degree of bittersweetness you have with feeling like you held back a bit against being part of a fairly celebrated wave of local comedy with Chris Fairbanks, Martha Kelly, and others?
BW: Thanks, man. I had a great time in Austin with all those guys. I didn’t really make myself clear in that other article. I was just speculating about how I would have developed as a comedian in a tougher, more competitive environment like NYC as opposed to the super laid-back vibe in Austin. I don’t really feel like I really held anything back in Austin. I just smoked too much pot for a few years there.
SB: You’re renown for your inventive pranks [Walsh recounts pranking and re-pranking comedian Chris Fairbanks in Aspen on WTF episode #210]. What’s a recent one that proved satisfying?
BW: I felt bad about how the Fairbanks thing unfolded, but it wound up okay with no hard feelings in the end. The most satisfying thing I did recently was my friend Tall Jon and I hung up some banners on an abandoned Circuit City in my neighborhood that read “Coming Soon! Whole Foods Silver Lake.” Everyone got really excited then really confused.
SB: You’ve performed at Montreal’s Just for Laughs, San Francisco’s Sketchfest, The Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, SXSW, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Bridgetown, Vancouver and soon Moontower. What’s one thing people should know about attending festivals?
BW: Wear sensible shoes and bring a jacket.
SB: What’s something you’ve been waiting to see changed already, dammit!?
BW: My attitude.
SB: In closing, is there anything you’d like to say to Austin, Texas?
BW: I love you, you drunken tattooed slut!
The Moontower Comedy & Oddity Fest Proudly Presents Brendon Walsh
At the Parish as part of the kick ass lineup for “Show House” (From the minds of Duncan Trussell)
4/26/12 – 4/28/12 @ 10:00PM (3 Events)
GA $15 Thursday
GA $17 Friday / Saturday
Purchase Tickets Here. You can also get tickets and badges at the Paramount Theatre box office or by calling 512-474-1221. The box office is open Monday – Saturday 12pm – 5:30pm and is closed on Sundays. Check moontowercomedyfestival.com for other appearances and announcements.