Comedian, author, radio host, and musician Jim Breuer knows that when you buy a ticket to see him do stand-up, there's a decent chance you're thinking about his Goat Boy character from Saturday Night Live, or his role in the legendary Dave Chappelle stoner film Half Baked. And though it's been almost 20 years since those breakout moments, whatever gets you to the show is fine with him. Just don't expect either of those characters to show up onstage.
"Whatever I've done in the past on TV or in film, I don't have any control over what people think," Breuer says. "I love the attention, and I love whatever sells a ticket, but it's so far from what I am. If they only know what they saw, what, 15, 20 years ago, if that gets them in the door, fantastic. Once I have you in the door, I'm pretty confident I'm going to have you forever."
It's fair to ask though, if, after decades of stand-up, hosting radio shows and podcasts and writing a book, he ever feels stifled by being best identified with his early TV and film success. "It's frustrating sometimes when people ask me what SNL was like," he admits. "It's like asking what it was like 40 years ago in the neighborhood you lived in. I don't remember! I don't look in the rearview mirror."
So what is Breuer talking about in his stand-up act these days? Some pretty close-to-home material. "I am a blue-collar family man," he says. "At the end of the day, that's who I am. I put family and life ahead of every goal. And that bleeds out on stage when I'm up there. It's always current because I'm talking about where I am in life. And right now, that's being the father of two teenage girls, having a wife, and struggling to get these animals out of the house and survive these years. It's about trying to get to that condo on the beach 15 years from now in Florida with a metal detector and having nothing to do all day."
What it doesn't include is a lot of political material, even in light of the fiasco of the 2016 election cycle. For Breuer it's more about the average American's reaction to the election than the candidates themselves. "I definitely talk current events, but I don't divide the room," he says. "I talk in the general sense of what's going on. I won't touch politics, but I'll dance around the way people react to politics and the way they react to what's going on rather than attack one side. I don't believe in attacking one side. You are here to laugh; I'm not here to tell you my stance on the world."
That's not to say he doesn't have some salient observations, though. "I do come at people pretty hard and put the mirror on them to expose how they sound and how they act," he says. "Which is quite frankly because the only info they have is the brainwashing media they watch all day. I'm an anti-media, non-Hollywood guy. So I always ask the questions, 'Why?' and 'Who?' I haven't seen the messiah on any ballot list. The way people get emotionally involved in this is kind of psychotic, I think. Everything I'm doing is truth. I just basically say, 'Hey chill out. If you're at the show, your life isn't that bad. If you drove in a car to get here, from your home, listening to your radio and talking on your cellphone, life isn't that bad. Call me when you have to eat a squirrel for breakfast. Then you might be in the dumper."
Though comedy is Breuer's day job, he's recently branched out into music, singing lead vocals and writing lyrics for his 2016 album Songs From The Garage alongside his band, The Loud & Rowdy, along with a very special guest on two tracks: Former AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson. Despite a few nods towards comedy here and there (like the track called "Raising Teenage Girls") the album is straightforward, loud-as-hell rock 'n' roll, and Breuer's strong, clear vocals will surprise anyone who hasn't heard him sing before.
Breuer says that his longtime friendship with Johnson, and Johnson's easy-going personality, made working with him a breeze. "It was like my neighbor showing up and saying, Hey, you're making a record, can I be on it?' he says. Um, yeah, you can be on my record. That's how it happened. We'd go to dinner every once in a while, and he'd always encourage me to make a record. He actually helped me with my confidence. My biggest fear was not being funny, because I didn't want it to be funny. It was a part of me that I really want to put out there."
One of the album's best moments is a brief, bluesy interlude called "My Rock & Roll Dream," which features Johnson's gravelly growl intoning a monologue about what comes after someone's dreams of stardom have come true. When he talks about Johnson recording the song, Breuer seems to go from 49-year-old married father to an awe-struck teenager.
"He recorded his vocals in the control room," he says. "He wouldn't go in the glass booth. He said, 'I like recording like I'm in concert. I want to hear the speakers; I want you guys in the room so I can feel the energy.' And he sang like he was onstage. Sweating, moving back and forth and feeling the music, and that's the first time I saw him as Brian Johnson the singer. That was an experience I'll never forget. He was singing lyrics I wrote, and I was thinking I slept outside when I was 16 to buy tickets to see this guy! It was a little like an out of body experience."