20 Questions Tuesday: 172 - Greg Behrendt

It is my great pleasure to be able to ask 20 questions to one of my favorite comedians, Greg Behrendt.  He is known for a bunch of various reasons, some of which you may actually know… right now he is the co-host of the podcast Walking the Room and the spin off subsequent comedic shows known as the Starfish Circus… that tend to happen in LA, but not in Columbus, Ohio…. which makes me a bit jealous of the denizens of LA. (technically it is L.A. and not LA, they aren’t doing these shows in Louisiana for God’s sakes!).
Anyhoo… there is no reason not to start the questions… so here he is, Greg Behrendt, upon you like a griffen, gryphon, griff… whatever.  onto the questions!

My wife loooves baby-name books.  Due to this love of all things baby-naming, it was subsequently very difficult to come up with baby names that were acceptable to all parties involved in the actual naming of the kids.  It was a long drawn out process involving lists, playground taunts, and limited veto powers.  We came up with 2 names that we really dig, but it was a bit of a chore to do that.  Your kids’ names are fairly unique, yet still accessibly and easily understood.  So the question is… Question 1: How did you and your wife arrive on your kids names?  What was the process?

My wife and I like music, and my wife and I like books. And our last names suck. So our thinking was lets come up with self contained first and middle names so they could drop their last name if they wanted and still be themselves. And we thought if they sounded like characters from a novel or members of a great band and if those names could have aspirational value we’d be home. So your get Bella True 9 and Mighty Luna 6. And to be fair my wife was the driving force behind the names. Otherwise they would have been called Camerosmith, and Brian Setzer Girl.

That is really well thought out and articulate.  Many people we have met just look through a list of names they like and pick.  Though, I have to say that I am a bit surprised at how saddened I am that you did not name them Camerosmith and Brian Setzer Girl.  In the end we went with names meaning God’s Gracious Gift and Bright Shining One (Zane 8 and Eily 3 for those scoring at home for bloggy purposes I have referred to them as Little Man and Q… you share and I share, I am equitable like that… For the record, Eily loves listening to “True and Mighty” but not quite as much as she enjoys “Short Pants for Fatty”)

Question 2: You design pants, play in a band, make a podcast, do stand-up, and write…. what do you do in your free time to relax and unwind, or can you relax and unwind?

None of those thing with the exception of stand-up really make me any money so they are what I do to relax. I love to work on a project. I love working w people.  Doesn’t matter what it is band, writers room.  I also hang with my wife and girls a lot. In pajamas at 6pm on a Friday eating pizza and watching a movie is my idea of fuckin’ heaven.

It is amazing how having a family and being committed to said family will change your Friday evening priorities.  Your Friday night sounds rather heavenly.

So, I am trying to avoid the hack questions because there are many great interviews out there that you have done.  Within the last year you have guested on a number of podcasts, as well as hosting your own, other than Walking the Room, Question 3: Which podcast you have guested on have you enjoyed the most?

Never Not Funny hands down. It’s the podcast that revived my comedy career. It’s host is truly one of my favorite comics and people of all time. And Jimmy’s support of WTR has definitely helped us build a fan base. And then those fans realize they’re good people and go back to just listening to NNF!

Jimmy is quite possibly one of the funniest humans alive and NNF was my gateway drug to many a comedy podcast.  Truly, I listen to an insane amount of comedy podcasts.  In this drudgery of the day job I watch many a progress bar slowly creep across the screen… lots of free time on the hands, I say… lots of free time.  This was one of the reasons I asked your about free time…. I have lots of job free time. Did I mention my freetime? Question 4: So, I know that my contact with you is something that would not have happened even 5 years ago.  How has social media altered how you have to deal with people who are not in the entertainment industry?

Did you get my answer to three!

I believe that might be the most accurate and concise answer to Question 4.  I thought you were making a statement about your comedy career  ”revival” and how the NNF ep and new/social media was how you jump started that process

I would like to add. I’m not a cynic when it comes to social media. I like that I’ve not only made fans but friends out of it! And a few sold business partners!

So, Question 5, without a smarmy segue, it is safe to say that you might have a sweet tooth, all things being equal, what is your go to confection? (mine is Vanilla Bean Cheesecake… I have very little will power against it, I have eaten a half of the whole cake in one evening before… It wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty impressive, I think my wife started fearing me at that time)

I’m still pretty high on the chocolate caramel Tim Tam. I’m sure I’d marry it if I could. But last year I attended a wedding where they had double chocolate cake with salted caramel filling and I’d kill you for another piece.

I’m listening, I am hip to that jive…. That sounds lovely, almost like a turtle sundae but with cake.  Knowing what is good for me, I have been able to avoid the Tim Tams so far (pretty sure that would be a soon to be empty package), but a wedding cake?  Yeah, that’s perfectly acceptable in modern society.

Question 6: You are very introspective, and very knowledgeable about yourself.  You seem (nothing implied here, I haven’t ever met you for reals and such) to be pretty intelligent and well-read.  That being said, you are also a performer who goes in front of people to make them laugh.  Would you consider yourself an introvert (quiet time with the fam and singular solo efforts) or an extrovert (gregarious [pun not intentional] and seeking to entertain others)?  Which really gets your batteries recharged?  Do you need the quiet time to be able to perform, or does the performance give you the energy to spend time with yourself?

Great question. I’m not overly gregarious… I think before I got sober and before I had any success I may have been a bit  overbearing needy and self seeking, but sobriety gave me the ability deal with it, and that in turn gave me all the things I have and I only got those things by being patient and being quiet. That’s not to say I don’t have my moments but at least I recognize them and  try and auto correct.  I need quiet to perform but the chaos of everyday life to write.

Speaking of the sobriety, one thing that I have learned by listening to 40+ hrs a week of podcasts is that there is a shit-ton of substance abuse within the comedy scene. Question 7: I am seriously curious about this, in your expert opinion, are the substance abuse issues inherent to the business or is it brought by the baggage the comedians are carrying with them?

I am not an expert on the topic but substance abuse problems are just people problems. Insurance adjusters are just as likely to suffer from the terrible self loathing that often leads to alcohol abuse as artists. Comics are not special or or entitled to more bad behavior than anyone else. We just happen to have forums to discuss our travails publicly. We may however be funnier drunks than the rest of the lot. Then again maybe not :)

Fair enough… I have not noticed illicit substance abuse at my jobs, however there have been some serious alcoholics and probably some prescription stuff that went un-noticed by me.  I guess due to my lack of popularity and my general disdain for people (one is a consequence of the other, but it is kind of chicken egg all up in that), I also have not been invited to the “partays” where serious (or frivolous) drug usage occurs.

Onto a completely different line of question.  You may know this about me, but I am a cartographer.  I love maps and I love the idea of places.  I was born in Okalhoma City, OK, moved to Montgomery, AL for a short while, grew up just to the northeast of Birmingham, AL, went to college in Kent, OH, and settled down in Columbus, OH. Question 8:  What is your geographic story?

West coast! Born in San Francisco in 63 moved to Marin County in 73 went to the University of Oregon 81 back to San Francisco 86 moved to Los Angeles 94 and that’s my story. West coat baby. My wife’s family lives in Hawaii and I’ve spent a lot of time there. For my money the best place on earth!

I have heard that Hawaii is tres tres spensive, due to how far from mainland anything it is.  The cost of living there has to be through the roof. Crap, my Midwest sensibilities just buzzkill everything.

So, I heard something odd the other day on one of the podcasts I frequently numb my existence to when I am at job 1.  This person was saying that men’s cargo shorts were the equivalent to women’s sweatpants with writing on the ass… appropriate for the young and hip, but passe and gauche for established adult males.  Since you are the closest thing to a male and masculine (emphasis on masculine) fashionista I know of Question 9: Are cargo shorts gauche for men late 30’s and up? and if so, what is their in kind replacement?  I love my cargo shorts…. save me!

I’m not a big fan of letting anyone decide how I’m gonna dress myself. Make your own rules. If you feel good in it it’s right . Period. Find the things that make you feel like the guy you came here to be. Taste makers and arbiters of style are just people that don’t want to get real jobs. A man isn’t a man until he owns his taste! So cargo the fuck out of it!

That is a fashion philosophy I can live with.  

Firstly, I have to thank you for hanging in there with me.  This has taken up waaay more of your time than you most likely expected.  Question 10:  Can you believe we are only half way done with this?  I need to ask more yes/no questions

I’m into it. I like it. BRING IT!

Consider me bringing it.  It has been broughtened. Question 11: You have a very strong amount of energy in your sets and in your podcast.  Do you ever shut it down, or do you bring that same amount of frenetic energy to PTA meetings, going to the grocery store, getting new shoes, etc… ?

I can be an excitable but I really only need that energy to create, not to live. I’d be more unbearable than I already am. My wife tells me I’m loud though.

I tend to be rather laid back and even keeled, so I always enjoy watching people with energy do their thang.  Yours is some frenetic energy that I could watch everyday.  

Question 12:  So you played rugby in college, and the Rugby World Cup is going on right now.  As of this time Wales, France, Australia, and New Zealand are still in the mix… are you still interested in rugby, and if so, who you got for winning the WC?
I left it on the field in college. I spent the first 20 years of my life trying to be an athlete and meeting with very little success until I joined the rugby club senior year of high school. We went on to win the Nation Championships in ‘81 and it was the highlight if my sporting life. I tried to stick with it in college but the allure finally wore off. I broke my hand on a guys forehead sophomore year, quit, and went directly to the theatre dept. and never looked back.

Well, rugby ain’t my game, but looking at the stats really quickly, my money (if I had any) would be on the New Zealand All Blacks (Editor’s note: New Zealand won Vs France with a score of 8 to 7).  They seem to have destroyed almost every other team so far.  I played soccer as a kid and in high school and enjoyed non-varsity level fencing in college, which leads me to a question that I have asked others…

Question 13: Prior to games in high school, I had to put on my socks and shin guards on a very particular sequence and at fencing tournaments, I needed to follow a pretty strict sequence of stretching and exercise.  Since this is Q13, do you have any superstitions? A certain set of actions you have to do prior to taking the stage, a song you have to listen to prior to exercise, you have to circle the bed three times before you can lay down to sleep (like some kind of family pet), NO WIRE HANGERS!!!!.. You know some kind of superstition? Anything?

No hats on the bed! I wear hats. I also love the movie Drugstore Cowboy. No hats on the bed. Bad luck. I’m not very superstitious but I do not put or allow hat’s on the bed.

How wonderfully random and particular.  It is interesting that there are 2 potential origins to that superstition.  The first is that often crowns were placed on the funeral biers of rulers and the equivalent was a hat on the bed, and thus signified a death. The second is that Italian priests with their funky hats would never take off their hats unless they were at bedside and putting on their priestly vestments to give last rites. They would place their hat on the bed and then eventually that person would die (for those unfamiliar with that particular superstition, I have my brown belt in Google Fu)..

Question 14:  So, I have a 3 yr old little girl so I am sure that I will be doing some super girly girl things in my future.  Currently, she has not gone completely girly girl (even though she does like brushing my hair sometimes).  Since you have 2 girls, what is the girly girl thing that you found yourself doing, and thought, “I Never would have thought I would be doing this?”

I never really thought about it. That’s telling:)  However I refuse to play dolls. Not because it’s girly but because it’s flat out painfully dull. Can’t do it. But we’re at card games, bike rides, Wii, and I love all the painting and drawing stuff. I have two of their drawings as tattoos. To be fair I relish every freaking second with them. I can’t get enough.

Ha!  For full disclosure, I am not saying I won’t do girly girl stuff, just that I will notice doing the girly girl stuff.  I too have made it to the store with a barrette in my hair.  Yeah, I think playing dolls will be the death of me, but luckily she is into her older brother’s interest right now.  She is going as Jango Fett for Halloween.  It is going to be awesome.

Question 15: So, for Halloween, are you taking the kids around the neighborhood as the Silver Surfer or are you getting a Galactus costume together and making your kids into the heralds? (if it is the former, no pics please, if the latter, tons of pics please)

I’m not really a costume guy anymore. I let the girls have the fun and I do the door. Last year I went clown from the neck down. This year I’m gonna be a convict. I love how into it they get. It’s their night :)

I was really hoping that you were the Galactus to their heralds, but it is understandable to not upstage the kids.

Well we are nearing the end of the 20 questions, so, Question 16: Are there any questions that I didn’t ask you that I should have?

I let you know when we’re done :)

Good enough.  I have been dogging you for questions for a good long while now, so Question 17: In the course of all these questions, is there anything you would like to ask me?

People who love podcasts seem incredibly dedicated not only to the show but to their hosts as well. Why do you think that is?

That is a good question.  I think it boils down to two main factors.  The first factor is that podcasts are completely by choice. The choice of the creator to   The creator of the podcast is trying to get SOMETHING out, whatever that may be.  The podcast almost always seem to be a true extension of the creator/s.  In many ways it allows people to see the behind the scenes persona and sometimes the vulnerabilities of the creator.  That level of vulnerability seems to bond the viewer to the creator.

The second factor is that the method of ingesting the podcast.  Listeners typically listen to podcasts on their own.  That makes the podcast a very intimate experience for the listener.  It ends up being like the listener is a silent participant in a candid conversation.  I think that is why WTF, Never Not Funny, Walking the Room, Mental Illness Happy Hour, Nerdist, TOFOP, etc… tend to create rabid fans of the podcast and the artists on the podcasts.

So the combination of the creators creating and people searching out for those creations, and then the intimacy engendered by the medium create the rabidity of the fanbase.

So Question 18, (I will turn the tables on you) does the fanatical fanbase alter your creative process for the podcast, because you are concerned about losing their listenership?

The fan base of this particular endeavor only makes it possible for me to take bigger risks and get better. We never promised anyone anything so therefore we can do what we want. Certainly  we care about the quality but if the show succeeds it does because we’ve achieved our goal of pleasing ourselves.  When you take a deal at a network there is an understanding that you are trying to make a hit show that will run forever and make everyone a big chunk of change. And that is a really hard way to create anything. You ultimately aren’t doing it for yourself you are creating for others which is impossible. If I make Dave laugh I’m almost certain you will laugh. Or hang yourself.

So, this is a question I have had on my mind since I started asking you questions.

Question 19: How close to your day to day interactions with Dave are the Walking the Room podcasts?  I assume they are just polarized versions of your friendship where you both consciously exaggerate your typical behaviors to create teh comedies, but it would be delicious if that was just your everyday conversation with Dave.

Dave and I have such a long and kinda complicated relationship. There was an almost 3 year period during our 22 years of knowing each other where we did not speak but I would say still thought the other one was hilarious. The cuddle is only slightly exaggerated. His insults make me laugh because they are accurate and the flip side of a compliment. He is oddly the easiest person I’ve ever worked with in comedy.  Super open to ideas, always laughs, ok with failure. and easily the funniest guy I know.

At the risk of sounding sentimental and a little bit maudlin, your relationship with Dave really is a beautiful thing.  When you look past the surficial taunts and faux disgust, it really is a wonderful interaction to watch, and I think that is why people continue to listen to your particular podcast.  The content is funny, there is no denying some of the golden phrases that have happened during the podcasts, but it is the interaction and genuine care for each other that brings people back.  Your friendship is clearly the backbone of the podcast, and that shows through.

So, the last question in this 20 Questions Tuesday (other than you revisiting Question 16 concerning questions I SHOULD have asked)

Question 20: Is there anything that surprised you in these 20 questions and answers? What can you take away from this that you did not have before this interview?

I guess if I had a question I wanted you to ask me it would be this. “Given that you rant so much about your career how do you feel about what you’ve accomplished so far?” And I would say that after reading my answers to the questions so far is that “I have it pretty damn good.”

Yes there have been peaks and valleys but because your questions were so good I was able to see that I’ve had a great run. Have there been disappointments?  Sure, the fate of Greg Behrendt Show, certain haircuts! But there have been more surprises and triumphs like Letterman, 3 Comedy Central specials, and one HBO Special, He’s Just Not That Into You, Walking The Room, The Reigning Monarchs, and I feel like there is a lot left to do.

I’d love to make some kind of bigger impact in comedy whether it be just podcasting, the Starfish Circus, making something with Dave or my wife. I’d also like to make the single greatest surf and ska album of the new millennium and make and sell custom cardigans and tux pants! This has been a blast. I will miss your e mails.

Okay, I am not sure you could possibly know how much it means to me that this odd set of questions had any kind of self actualization to it.  I am humbled by that and in awe of your willingness to answer these questions so thoroughly and candidly.  You are a rock star and a wonderful soul.  I feel truly privileged to have had this level of interaction with you.  This has been a great great interview.

To recap:
Sweet good god damn this was an excellent interview
Seriously, wow
Wifey is back in town
She is at a local version of a book launch today
Today, is of course Oct 25, 2011 (for those of you reading not on the release day)
Walk Out Walk On, page 188, bitches!
That also means I have been at this job for a full year
And I am no longer on probation
So, there is a bit of a sigh of relief here
I am now more difficult to fire from the job I don’t like
And I will be the only person in the office tomorrow
Week 11 of 13 for contract job 2
Would love to interview anyone out there
Let me know if you want to do 20 Questions Tuesday
More interviews on the way
Have a great week folks