Live studio audiences at FOX’s The Best Damn Sports Show Period have been lucky enough to experience the strange comedic wonder that is Brody Stevens for the past several years. During the day, Stevens is the warm-up comic who gets the in-studio audience started and keeps them going over the course of a two hour-taping. At night however, Stevens is one of America’s most strange and uniquely loveable stand up comics. I was able to get Stevens to sit down for a few minutes and talk about where he started out in comedy and why one tier fart jokes aren’t funny.
Brody: You should know that my land line sucks. Is this a good connection for you?
Yeah I can hear you fine.
Brody: Okay let me get comfortable here. (rhythmically annunciating) “His name is Gordon.” Okay, I can hang here for a bit.
What were you doing on LA morning radio earlier today?
Brody: Playboy Morning Radio (Sirius 198 and North American), but it was an off week; I wasn’t sure, so I ended up not doing it today. Got up anyway, like digital clockwork! I have a segment called “Stump Stevens” where I take phone calls and emails from single men and truckers across the country. They ask [about] cars, motocross, there’s some college football stuff and hockey. Basically, I don’t know a lot of stuff.
So did you wake up extra early and drive down there and find out that you weren’t scheduled to be on?
Brody: No, I just sat at home. Used the process of elimination, kept checking email and called the studio, no response. I had a feeling we were off. I'm so very busy, at times I get confused.
So outside of performing comedy at night what is your main gig during the day?
Brody: Most of my time during the day I spend over at FOX studios on Pico and Motor; on the lot at the Best Damn Sports Show. Among other things, I do warm-up there, traveling around with the show. I basically just entertain the audience and intermingle with talent and goof around. They pay me to be spasmodic and conversational with large groups.
Are you ever on camera?
Brody: Yeah, I’m on once in a while. Once in a while after six years isn’t a good ratio. I keep [the crowd] going, it’s a long taping. It’s usually two hours. And I don’t make as much money as you’d think. I’m renting with roommate; welcome to my personal demons!
I’ve seen your photo collection and it looks like you have really mingled with a lot of celebrity athletes?
Brody: Yeah, I get to mess around with athletes; ask them stupid questions, actors, John Salley, Pete Rose, whomever, they let me do my thing there, which is cool. So as a performer I’ve been able to grow a lot, being comfortable on a sound stage with actors, athletes, gorgeous Hooters chicks, sponsors, executives; whatever. I was nervous at first; I didn’t want to mess up names or anything like that. Then you got a job to do, where you got to keep the crowd into it. A lot of times it's high school football teams, it's junior colleges, it's rehab groups, it's gang bangers from Lancaster. But most of the crowds are pretty good there (maybe I have something to do with it?). As a performer, you have a mic and an audience. It’s not too bad.
Which came first for you: sports or comedy?
Brody: I was doing comedy before I worked at The Best Damn Sports Show. I started doing comedy in February of 94’.
In Hollywood or. . .
Brody: Seattle. That was when I decided to give comedy a one hundred percent effort. Like how I did with baseball.
So the genesis of your life in comedy came towards the end of the grunge era in of all places Seattle, Washington?
Brody: Yes. I liked it. I liked the live music scene, and Seattle still had a good supportive community; they still do, but they were very supportive of the stage arts back then. I had a cable access show that was very popular (we had an informal ratings system based on the number of voicemails left on our pager).
Is that a club? “Black Fish?”
Brody: Was there a club called Black Fish up there?
Yeah, what was that you just said?
Brody: Oh, I had a cable access show. “The Brody and Teina Show.” We were just goofy, young and immature. We had this Jewish-Samoan mixture going on. So Teina and I were mini celebrities up there. For extra cash, I worked at Seattle Supersonics basketball games selling t-shirts. I got used to speaking in public outside of California; that was my first speaking-in-public gig (well, waiting tables at Red Robin and selling China at Macy’s did require minimal inter-personal skills). I began doing my comedy on Monday nights in Seattle at the Comedy Underground. We’d travel to Tacoma, and once and awhile other things would pop up. But I wasn’t getting that many spots. Then these guys were doing this cable access show, and they were kind of popular. People watched it, they had an audience. I was going, “God, I do comedy with these guys, and y’know they’re good, but it’s nothing I couldn’t do.” I saw what they were doing and I go, ‘Why don’t I take advantage of that same opportunity.” It was thirty minutes of TV time. This is before DIRECT TV, it was cable you had maybe sixty channels. I figured that people would scan around and if they see it they might stop and watch. We were crazy in a good way; we didn’t have a director or anything like that. It was kind of raw but it was funny (at least to us). People liked it, and I enjoyed my time in Seattle, but I wanted to grow more as a performer so I felt like I was only funny on cable access, or only with Teina. So I wanted to grow as a solo artist. I felt like I wasn’t getting that opportunity in Seattle, and I wasn’t ready to go back to LA, and I had a couple of friends back in New York, and they said, “Ya know Brody, you should try New York.” So I went to New York in 1997 and I just jumped into the downtown comedy scene, Surf Reality, doing the Sunday night show with Faceboy, and then Wednesday at the Collective Unconscious with Rev Jen. Then I did a lot of Lower East Side Stuff, they had Luna Lounge, that’s where people wanted to go.
So this was around 1997?
Brody: More like 97’, 98’, and 99’. So I did a lot of Lower East Side venues. I did whatever spots I could. People would put me on things and all that, I kind of just did my own thing. So I got a job being a tour guide at Radio City Music Hall, cuz’ I wanted to keep on talking to people in a controlled environment. I also ran my own Monday night show in the Flatiron District on the corner of 22nd and 5th Avenue at Eureka Joe’s coffeehouse with a beer/wine bar. The Festival of Laughter was fun times, jammed a lot of comedians up there between my four minute rants. Guys like Judah Friedlander, Demetri Martin, Victor Varnado, Liam McEneaney and a slew of others.
Quick question about Seattle: were you there for the Xavier McDaniel era?
Brody: No, I was there during Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, George Carl. Pearl Jam I’d see around once and awhile. Layne Staley, the guy from Alice In Chains. He would hang out with a guy downstairs.
So you’ve worn quite a few different hats over the years?
Brody: I think if you ask me, I’ve made some bad decisions in terms of business over the years by doing too much audience warm up, being a tour guide at Radio City Music Hall, barking at the Comedy Cellar, selling t-shirts at Seattle Supersonic games. People don’t see you as a stand-up comedian. People think I’m funny. “Brody’s funny.” But they can’t picture me doing one specific thing. Now with the internet and all that I’m getting that opportunity. Stand up comedy’s cool, being a radio talk show host is cool, playing baseball is cathartic; drumming on chairs is getting better all the time. But when you do all those things sometimes you spread yourself too thin. So sometimes it’s good to say no. Sometimes it’s good to take a break. But that’s kind of like how I’m wired. So my theory on myself is whatever I do, I’m myself. I own it wherever I am. People like having me around, I could give myself a little more credit. And in terms of business, be smarter about that. But I also feel like if you’re funny; it’s like in sports; you don’t see baseball players making demo tapes (some do, may be the new wave?). They’re not sending out headshots if you throw ninety miles an hour like, “Hey check me out.” If you’re good they will find you. I’ve kind of put that approach to comedy. If I’m funny they’ll ask me. If I’m funny they’ll say, “Why don’t you audition for that or be on my show?” All these things will naturally morph into a Brody-specific cyclone of humor and power when we are good and ready, which is soon because I owe a Bank of America a boatload of cash due to a glitch in their “Keep The Change” program.
Do you think people view you as a stand up comic first, and is that important to you?
Brody: Musicians want to be comedians and comedians want to be rock stars. I’m a persona who wants to be a pitcher, drummer, thespian, or that gifted stand-up comedian motivating droves of aimless souls new to my turf.
I was told that you once walked onstage somewhere in LA blasting some horrible song out of a ghetto blaster, then when you turned the music off, you started glaring at the crowd for not liking the song, and then you began triggering a fart machine you had concealed in your left hand, then you would push a button on another device hidden in your other hand that would announce, “FART DETECTED FART DETECTED.”
Brody: That was awhile back. I need to change those batteries on that fart machine. Look, props aren’t funny; I know they’re not funny. I know farting is not funny, but if you think something’s funny and you believe it’s funny, it can be funny. It could be funny to watch somebody who thinks farting is funny, but then they put another layer on it with the double fart machine. So then it becomes clever. See what I’m saying? If I only had the one fart thing, not funny. But then with the double fart machine in a live setting with energy and amplification, there’s your twist on it. I’m a professor up there, much like those Diet Coke and Mentos guys, playing around with different combinations and formulas. It’s like Morgan Murphy tells me, “Yeah you get angry, but there’s a funny joke within that anger.” So when they’re combined, it turns out to be something kind of different.
It’s like a double plus good.
Brody: It’s a double plus good, but. . . .yeah! There’s no but! It’s a double plus good.
Where do you perform at in Los Angeles?
Brody: The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in LA quite a bit. I was just in New York and I did Aziz Anzari’s Crash Test at the UCB Theatre in New York. I’ve been going up at Tigerlily, El Cid’s “Garage Comedy” on Monday nights. Once and awhile I get to do Largo. I’m doing a lot of internet projects. Late nights at The Hollywood Comedy Store and still calling in my avails to the Melrose Improv.
Does Brody Stevens have a message for the children?
Brody: The message for the children is… bus your tables. Don’t… uhh… hold on. Bus your tables… you threw me off on this one. Don’t curse in public… a message for the children? Bus your tables… Brody, I’m thinking right now. I don’t know. I turned myself off.