Stirring Up Trouble: Kurt Braunohler Comes To Houston
Leon casino, Photo: Comedy Central
In today’s entertainment industry, anyone who’s getting started needs to set themselves apart from the rest of the landscape to stand out and grab attention. In the crowded world of stand-up comedy, that sentiment is especially true. One comic who stands out with a mix of hilarious material, absurd feats, and by a crazy schedule of just doing things differently, is New Jersey comedian Kurt Braunohler. Braunohler has been doing the weekly Hot Tub live show with Kristen Schaal, a podcast, a web series, touring, and on and on for some time now. He’ll be in Houston at the end of February, and somewhere in all of this chaos; he found a moment to speak with FPH.
FPH: You’re one of 8 kids and you’re from the home of Jack Nicholson & Danny Devito, Neptune, New Jersey. Do you think growing up in such a small town with seven siblings helped form your sense of humor?
KB: Well, yes and no. Neptune isn’t a town as much as it is a suburb, and I was raised as an only child by my mom. But, my mom is from Asbury Park, and she went to highschool with Devito; who was also originally from Asbury Park. But growing up there definitely helped shape who I am.
FPH: You have a podcast on the Nerdist network, The K Ohle with Kurt Braunohler; which is a multi format show. Can you explain the concept behind how that way of doing it came about?
KB: Basically, it’s a different format every week within these set formats. One of those formats is “Get Lost,” where I blindfold a comedian and he has to figure out where he is. Another is all about boats and another is all about animals. I told a producer at Nerdist, “I have these three ideas;” and she said, “I like them all, let’s do all three.” So, not knowing you could just do that, I did them all. But from an industry point of view, it’s not something you normally see a show do. If you’re looking for that same ol’ standby format show, we aren’t that. But, I think the audience trusts me to take them on an adventure through the formats, and it’s done well so far.
FPH: You’ve received tons of accolades, you have more going on than many current comics with touring, a podcast, a web show, the weekly show with Kristen (Schaal)…and you’ve even done NPR’s “This American Life.” Is it fair to say that you’re like a modern day Steve Martin, or at least a renaissance man of comedy?
KB: That’s the highest regard I could ever receive, because Steve Martin is my biggest influence. I like who he is now, because he’s taken very serious, and when he was doing stand-up he was doing absurdist and silly humor. And, I do absurdist and silly things, so it would be cool to be regarded as serious later in life. Because so many times, people write you off as dumb when that’s what you do.
FPH: But don’t you think that most people who think that don’t get it? That they don’t understand that to do comedy in general, you have to be intelligent?
KB: Yeah, it’s fascinating to “train” an audience. Like once you find who you are as a performer and what you want to do, then you can then train them to do as you wish when you’re on stage. You can do it to where they’re with you, but they aren’t straying as much as a typical audience who’s there for someone else.
FPH: The art of the stunt seems to be right up your alley with the skywriting kickstarter & act of it, and the whole concept behind your show “Roustabout;” would you agree that’s true or are these things just what you find humorous?
KB: I don’t like the word stunt, but it’s an attempt to insert absurdist or stupid things into life; because they make life better. With the skywriting, I feel like the ubiquitous nature of the sky, for someone to look up and see this crazy message…hopefully it changes their view and makes the world a better place. Like the charity component of the show. That part of it mixed with how the show is, can hopefully do both of what I was trying to achieve with the skywriting. And, hopefully it keeps someone from punching someone else too.
FPH: Speaking of Roustabout, the show is seriously hilarious and still heartwarming; though I have always known that to be the term of a “carny” or at the worst, a really bad Elvis movie. How did you come to use that word as the title of your show; because I might have just learned something about jet skis?
KB: I liked the name, and the definition of the name, at least how it appears today in most lexicons; is a specific type of oil rig worker because there aren’t really carny’s much anymore. But another definition, the traditional one, refers to a guy without a real job who just comes into town and stirs up trouble. And with the show, I feel like that’s what we’re doing, we’re going into small towns and stirring things up a bit.
FPH: In 2013 you dropped the album, “How Do I Land?” and since then you’ve seemed to be on a writing spree. What do you have in store for Houston when you appear here in late February?
KB: You’ll see 45 minutes to one hour of new material, and just a ‘good ole’ stand up show. But also, because the tour is in support of “Roustabout,” I’ll have a clip from the show you can’t see anywhere else.
Braunohler is easily a true renaissance man of comedy, and one of the sharpest and most endearing comics you can see perform. While he gears up for his next round of trouble to stir up and film, you can catch him when he performs at Walters on Friday, February 27th. Local comics Dusti Rhodes and Gabe Bravo will open things up, while Nick Meriwether will host the entire evening. The all ages show with doors at 7:30 has tickets for $15.00 for pre-sale, and $20.00 for day of.