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LAist Interview: Neal Brennan

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Neal Brennan (center) made a name for himself writing jokes alongside Dave Chappelle. With a sketch comedy show that reached legendary status in the "Chappelle's Show" and a cult classic movie, Half Baked already under his belt, Neal has transitioned into directing. Last year he directed VH-1's Totally Awesome, a hilarious Made-For-TV 80's spoof that he also co-wrote. Neal is currently working on a Will Ferrell produced comedy feature that stars Jeremy Piven. Despite his success in TV and the big screen, he still enjoys the adrenaline rush of stand-up comedy, catch Neal tonight at the Hollywood Improv and Tuesday at the Irvine Improv.

How's the stand-up comedy thing going?
For me it's kind of like this start and stop thing with stand-up. I retired from stand-up after the show. I didn't want to get up on stage and have people yell, "Where's Dave?" once I got on stage. But over the last three months, I've been doing a lot of stand-up. I would say I'm not bad at it. I've been doing pretty good, and I've been getting booked.

So did you just catch the stand-up bug?
It's kind of like going out to dinner too much. After a while you have to decide, am I going to keep going out to dinner or am I going to do something else. So then it was do I want to go out to dinner or do I want to do stand-up. Doing stand-up is kind of like the most interesting thing in the world. You write a joke that's a creative way of stating your opinion and then you go out in front of people and tell that joke and see how people react. It's something that I have the ability to do, so it would be silly not to do it. As I am doing shows I am remembering how good I am at it.

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Besides stand-up what else are you up to?
I am out here in LA directing a movie starring Jeremy Piven and produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay for Paramount Vantage. It's called The Don Ready Story. Since I have been back on stage doing stand-up which is so fast, I realize that it's improving my reflexes as a director.

You said earlier that you didn't want to go on stage and hear people ask, "Where's Dave?", do you think enough time has passed for people to stop asking that question?

I just come realize now that people don't really give a shit. I mean it was one of the biggest stories in the world for like four days, but then Britney or someone went and did something crazy and people stopped caring. Even though to me it was something that I cared a lot about because it was happening to me, people stopped caring about it.

What was it like working on Totally Awesome?

It was a lot of fun. There wasn't any pressure. There wasn't pressure simply because it was a made-for-TV movie. It was just a silly-ass fun exercise. I got to work with Tracy Morgan who I have known forever and Chris Kattan who I think was funnier in this than a lot of the other stuff he has done.

I liked it, thought it was very funny.

Glad you liked it, the people at Paramount Vantage, the guys who I am making this movie for didn't think it was that good. They said, "we hope this movie is better than that one."

Do you think that's how the Chappelle Show was in the beginning, a low-pressure and laid back situation, as well?
The pressure was there with the show. Maybe the pressure wasn't financial or personal, but the fact that we were on Comedy Central with great shows like South Park and The Daily Show, there was definitely creative pressure. Dave had done so many failed pilots before this that we really wanted to do something great. We put pressure on ourselves to create something that was funny and relevant and said something. I think we accomplished exactly what we set out to do, it started out slow but by the end of the first season we had it figured out.I know that might sound a little cocky but I mean I am not going to act like I didn't have fun while I was doing it and that it wasn't good. It was an amazing experience to be able to write jokes for such great material.

What can people who come out to watch your stand-up act expect?
Let me start by saying, "Sorry" in advance. No, I'm just kidding. My act is basically me talking about girls and Iraq. Actually the order is Iraq and then girls. Those are the two things I think about the most right now. So the act is me talking about things I think are important in what I feel is a creative and original way. It's funny to me being out here in LA, I feel like the comedians out here are much more physical than I am. They are way more into the action and motion than I am. I just talk. LA comics like to hump the mic stand for some reason. If you're a comic in LA, you've probably fucked the mic stand at some point. My comedy is much more word-based. Is that weird that I have to say something like that, my comedy is word-based? Does that make me crazy that all I do is talk and share my thoughts instead of running around or doing some other sort of action?

Neal Brennan co-headlines tonight at the Hollywood Improv alongside Daniel Tosh.

Photo courtesy of Comedy Central