A Conversation with Mike Brody
Here’s the neat thing about comedy. You can work with someone once or twice and totally hit it off. Maybe you see them a grand total of six days in eight years, but you just feel a real bond with that person because you share the same point of view and profession. That’s how it’s been for me with Mike Brody. I was shocked when I saw him the other week because he didn’t look exactly like I remembered and then we both realized that it’s been years since we’ve seen each other! Sure, we’re Facebook friends and have each other’s phone numbers, but I have a lot of phone numbers and even more friends on Facebook (probably a lot more than you)!
Mike Brody is simply fantastic…both on stage and off. The reason he’s instantly likable is because he’s just a really decent person. I honestly think if I were to trace back when I realized I needed to be more conversational on stage, it’s probably right around the time I worked with Brody. The fun thing about being his friend is when you hang out with him before a show and then watch him get on stage, it’s just like the conversation continues, but now the audience is involved.
So when Mike was in town, we went out to lunch and just started talking about all sorts of things. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
You got married since the last time we hung out. What was it like the first time your wife went to see you perform?
It was at a Montreal audition, so it was already high stress; and my new girlfriend was there to see me for the first time! So basically I had to tell her, “Here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to go to the club and you’re going to sit by yourself for two hours. I’m going to occasionally walk by really fast and say, “Hi”, but I have to pace. My shows are not going to be a date for us.”
And I may feel like shit afterwards.
Right! She came and she watched. It went really well and then I sat down and she goes, “Oh thank god you’re funny. This would’ve been a long relationship trying to support you emotionally if you were no good.” So that was nice.
Are there any things that’s off limits for you to talk about or does that not come up because you’re a pretty conscientious guy? Like me, I know that you make sure you don’t hurt anyone else in your comedy.
Yeah. She hasn’t set up any rules. I know there’s stuff that she’d be disappointed by, like if I did a bunch of rape jokes glorifying rape. You know what I mean? Like, I wouldn’t do that! There’s stuff that I set for myself. I know this sounds corny, but I don’t ever want to be the comic who makes fun of his marriage for the sake of getting laughs. I love being married. I don’t want to cheapen my marriage that way because my marriage is more important than my comedy. I’m not saying it’s wrong for other people to do that. It’s just my personal preference.
I feel bad that we had all these conversations earlier and now I want to have them again for the sake of the interview.
Say them again. No I don’t think you’re gay.
Which is weird for you to say, since I was blowing you earlier. I know you don’t want to be typecast as the paranormal comedian, but you found your niche. You said you don’t necessarily believe in ghosts. You even mention that on stage. How does that go over when you do the paranormal conventions?
Well, because I don’t say that I also don’t not believe in ghosts. It’s not a provable thing. There’s never going to be a press conference where the president of ghosts shows up and says, “Hey we’re real!” I don’t think there’s a way to prove ghosts. I think with finding all these things on tapes, there’s always a possible explanation so I can’t say with full certainty that there are ghosts.
But that’s what the vampires on True Blood did. They had a press conference and came out to the world.
I’ve never seen True Blood. Wait. So you’re not gay? But at the same time I’ve seen enough weird things that I can’t prove. It’s not that I don’t believe in ghost, I’m just very conscious about not making a fool of myself. I’ve made a lot of bold statements in the past where I thought, “Oh, that was a dumb thing to say.” So I just keep myself in this Switzerland territory as far as ghosts go. I do think there’s something going on though whether it’s a part of science we can’t figure out or a part of ourselves we can’t understand or this mass culture that needs something else there so we create it. So it could be any of those things.
I don’t know for sure if I believe in a higher power, but I do believe in ghosts. I have a friend who made, at least to me, a strong argument for them. He said that humans are basically energy in cased in a shell and when that shell dies, the energy that is that person doesn’t stop because energy is forever, so it just morphs into something different and sometimes it becomes what we think of as ghosts. And to me that sort of makes sense where someone can be an atheist, but still believe in ghosts.
Yeah, well that’s kind of the Buddhist thing too which is technically not atheism. It’s like the ocean is a big mass of water and sometimes there will be a spray and a drop of water will go flying out and maybe that’s us in our human form. Eventually we arc and go back into the ocean and we’re part of the whole thing again. And energy is neither created nor destroyed and when we’re up there, maybe that’s our ghost form. I don’t know. There could be what we think are ghosts and they’re not even intelligent. It could just be replayed energy.
Yeah, that was an interesting idea you were telling me about earlier that I never even considered that when we hear mysterious footsteps or whatever, it’s maybe just like a recording on loop.
It’s like what they say when there’s an accident and a bunch of Indians died on the side of the road and you drive by…and I’m pretty sure I’m stealing this scene from The Doors movie! That could be that there was something traumatic and it just gets replayed there. But if the Indian says, “Hey Mike Bobbitt, do you got some wampum?” Sorry, that sounds stereotypical. If it’s intelligent then it’s hard to deny it.
How did you break into that market anyway? That’s a thing I’ve been trying to do myself with comic book conventions and reaching out to nerd culture, which may be harder since there are so many more nerd comics.
I made a video of the first ghost joke I ever wrote. I just taped it at the Skyline in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Was that the monk joke?
I love that joke.
Thank you. I put it up on Myspace, so that gives you the time frame. It was like 2005 or something. I put it on the page of every paranormal group I could find. I expected a response, but I didn’t expect it to be Ghost Hunters. I thought maybe some Wisconsin paranormal society would contact me and I’d do their Christmas party or something. But Amy Bruni, who’s on the show now, but at the time, was the producer for their radio show which is no longer around, e-mailed me. I don’t think I even put it on the Ghost Hunters page because at the time I thought that was too big for me, but regardless, she found it and goes, “I really like your joke. Can you do 45 minutes? Do you have 45 minutes of ghost jokes?” And I was like, “Oh yeah, of course I do!” I had 5 minutes. And she goes, “Do you want to do our”, it’s not a convention, but for lack of a better term, “convention?” I’m like, “Sure!” So I sat down and wrote a ton. It was a test thing, but I got a standing ovation and crushed it. From then, they just rehired me and I’ve been doing it ever since.
It’s kind of funny because I had friended the Minneapolis Paranormal Society. I didn’t know any of them, but I was like, “Hey, I’m really interested in doing this. Can I come along?” And they were like, “Nope, no newbies! No noobs!” They totally dissed me. Then I got the Ghost Hunters thing and suddenly I’m their top friend of Myspace. And I’m like, “Oh look who fucking went straight to the top, bitches!”
A lot of people don’t like Ghost Hunters because they think it’s like the Dane Cook of paranormal. Anytime something is on top, there will be people going, “Oh that’s the main stream one.” It is a TV show, so…
So it does have to be entertaining.
Right. People go, “Oh they edited this.” Yeah, they’re not going to show the six days they’re out there.
You’ve gone out to some of the production of the shows. I love the hot sauce story.
Yeah. Dave’s Temporary Insanity Hot Sauce.
When I first met you, you were at the tail end of doing what I’m in the process of doing now, and that was that you got your shit together and kind of reinvented yourself. Doing shots of hot sauce is something I imagine reckless, heavy, bearded college Mike Brody to do, not the present Vegan, got your shit together Mike Brody!
Yeah. They were filming a spice boat in San Diego and it during the downtime. So we snuck into the…it’s not the poop deck.
The mess hall?
Yeah! You don’t eat in the poop deck. They found some hot sauce there. They dared me to do a shot of it and I threw up on the boat from Master & Commander. I threw up on Russel Crowe’s boat! I’m kind of proud of that! But then they go, “We didn’t get that. We have to do it again.” They were filming it, so we had to do it again. I’d already thrown up at that point. So I did it and I threw up again and it was horrible. Actually, Jason from Ghost Hunters put it up on his Myspace and it blew up and got really popular, so that was kind of fun. So I got kind of known for that in that circle. I was doing a show for them in, I think Mount Washington, and Jason said you gotta get Brit from the show to do a shot of hot sauce on stage. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that he’d be like, “You’ve gotta do one too.” So I’m doing my 45 minute to an hour show and I’ve got about a half hour left in my set and I take the shot. I have it on DVD and you can see me get visibly red. Then I get pale. Then I start sweating like crazy. I finished the set fine, but then I run off the stage and forgot to take the lapel mic off and I’m like, “Get out of my way! Get out of my way!” And then it’s just blaaahhh!
You’ve accomplished a lot since we last saw each other. What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I did everything DIY and worked really hard myself. I went on the road even when people said, “Don’t go on the road, you’ll turn into a hack.” I never believed that. I believe you’ll turn into a hack if you’re a hack. Like, I was worried I went bald because of some medicine, but I talked to my doctor and he said, “You went bald because you had the DNA to go bald. Maybe the medicine sped it up, but it can’t make you go bald.” I think if you go on the road and become a hack, it’s because you had the DNA to become a hack. So being from Minneapolis where it’s smart comedy and being on the road where you have to make people laugh, I learned how to be a smart comic who makes people laugh. So I’m proud of that.
It’s hard. I feel my greatest strength is that I appeal to my core audience and they’ll get me on one level, but at the same time I’m accessible broadly too. I think you’re the same way where you have a completely original act without even shades of hackiness and you’re able to work both the road and the “alternative” rooms.
I’m hoping soon people who can make big things happen take notice of people like us. Speaking of being on the road…I know that wasn’t even a question, it was just me patting the both of us on the back.
I like it!
You’re one of the healthier people I know both mentally and physically. How do you maintain that on the road? My memory is that you don’t have any vices.
I have a ton of vices and that’s why I don’t do any of them. I’ve been addicted to everything except hard drugs. I have a very addictive personality. I can’t even take ginseng anymore because I’ll take too much. That’s just stupid!
Today we hit a vegan restaurant, but I imagine that’s hard to do in some of the cities we play.
You figure out ways. I don’t talk about it much, because I don’t try to push it on people or act like I’m cool. I don’t eat processed sugar and I try to stay vegan, unless I’m in a spot where I’m completely not able to. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. You get good at it. You google before you go on a road trip. If you’re going to Osh Kosh, maybe you find there’s a vegan restaurant in Wassau. Maybe you have to drive five minutes out of the way. I used to have a rule where if you can’t see it from the side of the road you don’t stop, but you have to kind of put that aside. Mostly it’s my wife. She’s really smart and able to figure out these things. I don’t think I’d be able to do half of it without her pointing me in the right direction.
Going back to the bald thing, I remember you said to me once that a doctor told you that he thought you might’ve lost your hair because at the time you were a vegetarian. So you told me you’d club a baby seal if it meant you’d get your hair back.
I forgot about that joke. Now I don’t care so much anymore because my wife has a bald guy fetish. Remember my curly, floppy hair?
She said, “You would’ve been in the friend zone.”
My wife has a bear fetish, so sometime I worry about losing too much weight.
Bears? Gay, hairy men?
Burly men, not necessarily gay. I’m not gay! I was googling myself and I did find my picture on a gay bear fetish website. It’s nice to feel attractive.
So are you worried if you lose weight your wife won’t find you attractive?
Or worried that she’ll find some burly John Connor from Roseanne looking guy instead.
You know what, you can always go back. It’s not hard.
Oh I have gone back, many times! When we saw each other last night I was surprised because you didn’t look exactly like I remembered in my head and then I did the math and it’s been five or six years since we’ve seen each other. In my head it felt like we saw each other once or twice a year. Do you think that feeling of closeness is something that’s inherent to comedy? Like every time you come up in conversation, I’m always like, “Oh yeah, Mike Brody is one of my closest friends!” But if you totaled up all the time we’ve actually hung out together, it’s probably less than five hours not counting time on stage.
That’s just like the Myspace, Facebook, internet thing where we kept in touch. We’re kindred spirits, Mike. We’re soul mates.
I’m very proud of you.
Thanks man. I’m proud of you too.
Anything you want to plug to close?
It’s on Stand Up Records. It’s a compilation of maybe ten Minneapolis based comics and it’s called Nerd Alert. It’s all nerd humor. It was done at a club where all the nerdy kids are. The artwork, they drew us all as superheroes. It’s cool. It’s my first time being on a CD.
Why don’t you have a CD yet?
I’m one of those guys who’s always like, “Well, in six months it’ll be better.” I’m really thinking about it strongly right now. I’m thinking about doing it with this label or that label or doing it myself. I’m also going through this period in my head where I’m changing who I am as a comic. I was talking to Scott Long, a friend of mine.
I like Scott.
We were talking about how there’s a couple new jokes I wrote and he said that’s the direction I should be going in more. We were talking about the difference between a home run and a triple in comedy. A triple is actually harder than a home run. Comedy Central is looking for triples, not home runs.
I think what he’s saying is home runs are so crowd pleasing that they might almost be derivative. The triples are a little smarter. The people you see on Comedy Central are more witty. It might not be everybody getting it and slapping their knees, but it’s more original. It’s still a concept I’m trying to grasp.
Well, I’m proud to call Mike Brody…a complete original my friend. I strongly urge you to bookmark his website, follow him on Twitter and definitely see him live next time he’s in your neck of the woods. The thing I love about comedy is that the decent people way out number the shit bags. Well, even with that being said, it’s hard to find people more decent than Mike Brody.