“Saturday Night Live” and “Half Baked” star Jim Breuer is set to bring his “freewheeling” stand-up comedy to the Honeywell Center’s Ford Theater this weekend.
The radio show host and touring comedian has been a regular on “The Howard Stern Show” and has been named to Comedy Central’s “100 Greatest Standups of All Time” list.
But, leave your young children at home.
“This show is for mature audiences,” said Honeywell Arts & Entertainment digital marketing manager Kaitlynn Still.
Most seats for the 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6 show are either $25 or $35, with limited premium seating for $75. Tickets are available by visiting www.honeywellarts.org or calling 260-563-1102.
“I’m going to crush it,” said Breuer, during a recent phone interview with the Plain Dealer. “I’ve never had so much fun in my life. I’m not sure I’ve ever had so much fun doing stand-up than in the last three or four years. I’m so free up there. And most of its improv. Usually, the first 20 minutes or so is kind of off-the-cuff and depending on the energy of the room and how we’re doing with one another is how the rest of the set will go. But, I can assure you, most people that are going to come to see that show is going to come back again and again.”
Breuer also took the time to discuss his comic beginnings, his movie and television career, his outspoken viewpoints, his faith and more.
Breuer said Steve Martin was the first stand-up he truly connected with, but his “Mount Rushmore” of comedy included Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin and Sam Kinison.
Breuer said of those, Pryor cast the longest shadow over his comedic style.
“(Pryor) was by far the most influential because his delivery is he says and then he acts it out,” said Breuer. “And that’s what I do. I’m just a storyteller. I was the kid on the corner. I was the kid on the street. I was imitating everyone. I was telling the stories. Doing what I do.”
‘Live from New York …’
Breuer is probably best known for the three years he spent as a cast member of the long-running NBC sketch comedy show, “Saturday Night Live.” From 1995 to 1998, he played such re-occurring characters as Goat Boy and his impression of actor Joe Pesci.
“That was a good crew,” said Breuer. “That was a really solid cast.”
Among the comedic greats he starred alongside – a long list, including Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon – was Norm Macdonald, who died last year at the age of 61.
“Norm was the most honest, up front, subliminal, hilarious guy that I probably ever came across,” said Breuer. “I just never saw anyone so fearless in circumstances where I thought the stakes were so high. He would just break them down into nothing. He really did. He taught me a lot.”
Breuer said his favorite memories of that time weren’t of the show itself, but of his life at the time.
“Not so much being on television,” said Breuer. “It was going from a blue-collar kid to enjoying my marriage to we’re making money. We’re living in Manhattan. I’ve got a doorman. I’m buying everyone dinner and wine. It was bringing my friends along. It was the original, real-life ‘Entourage.’”
Besides “Saturday Night Live,” Breuer is also probably best known for his role as the perpetually stoned character Brian in the 1998 movie, “Half Baked.” The movie was co-written by co-star and fellow comedian Dave Chappelle.
“I kept in touch with Dave up until about four years ago. Maybe five years ago,” said Breuer. “Then he kind of stopped hitting me back.”
Last year, Chappelle’s comedy special on Netflix, “The Closer,” received a fair amount of negative response – even from some Netflix employees – in response to jokes regarding queer and transgender people.
Breuer said he rejected the term “controversial” being applied to Chappelle’s special.
“It’s not controversial. Nothing he does is controversial. That’s a word to stir up nonsense to be quite honest with you,” said Breuer. “There’s nothing he says in my opinion that is controversial. The only thing controversial are the confused and those who are emotionally distraught and haven’t solved or healed their issues that need to lash out at whatever triggers their lives.”
Put the phones down
Breuer said the advent of smartphones has been a net negative for stand-up comedians like him.
“I definitely feel the same freedom, but I’ve definitely felt censored the last couple of years,” said Breuer.
Breuer said to keep viral videos of half-formed jokes from circulating online without context he has begun filming all his shows.
“I still continue to film every one, just in case someone thinks they have something or they think they’re smart,” said Breuer. “At the shows, if I see someone with their phone up I just gently point them out as I continue the routine. I go, ‘Please stop recording.’ I don’t point them out. It’s not to be recorded. Enjoy the event where you’re at and you’ll see it eventually. If I see myself being recorded what that person doesn’t realize, you just killed the show. You’re taking away the performance. All my natural instincts and abilities are completely taken away. So if that’s not your objective, then the worst thing you can do is film. It’s the worst thing you can do. Especially if they know you’re doing it. You’re destroying what is meant to make you happy, and to make you think, and to make you laugh.”
Last year, Breuer canceled several dates due to the venues requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. (“At this time, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, masks, proof of vaccination and proof of a negative COVID test are not required at Honeywell venues,” stated their website.)
Breuer said he was skeptical about COVID-19 vaccines in general and felt such requirements were “pure recklessness.”
“If you don’t watch television and you don’t get caught up in what they call ‘news,’ your common sense would tell you that is pure lunacy,” said Breuer. “When you live in a society where they’re dangling a fish going, ‘Jab yourself so you can see a ball game. Jab yourself so you can get educated. Jab yourself you can go see a concert.’ If you feel that’s what you gotta do, go do it. But I would never force that on anyone that just wanted to simply laugh.”
Breuer said his faith in God has always been important to him, but that he “wasn’t a church kid.”
“My dad didn’t believe. He never wanted to do anything with church,” said Breuer. “My mom had believed in God. And I just figured out real young that you learn to listen to your God-given instinct. And your morals. You know what is right. You know what your intentions are. Your intentions are either good or bad. It’s going to either feed a good situation or a bad situation. When you have that grounding, no matter what temptation comes to you. Lust, money, fame, vanity, taking a shot. That’s all fear-driven.”
Breuer said his faith has “been the great balance” of his life.
“It has definitely saved my life and guided me and continues to do,” said Breuer. “Now, am I perfect? No. But I’ve watched so many people worth millions, tens, hundreds millions of dollars, be in the highest positions. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t have that you’re going down. If your god is vanity. If your god is to make as much money in the world. Those gods are soul-less. It’s soul-less. It means you will sell yourself to do anything to get to that god. And that is a dangerous, reckless part of society.”
His political views and his career
Especially during the past few years, Breuer has been outspoken on many issues in public, often with a contrary viewpoint to what might be considered mainstream.
Breuer said this hasn’t hurt his career, and, in fact, has helped him connect with audiences.
“What I discovered is that the more that I stick to my common sense, the more I grow as a human,” said Breuer. “Just like everyone else that spreads truth, what they believe is truth, what they believe in their natural ability to think, you’re going to have a lot of naysayers. You’re going to have a lot of people that want to stop that. It’s a very well-designed order that they’ve put into place in most of society and I don’t fear them. I don’t fear that whatsoever. I will not be controlled by people that are emotionally disturbed.”
On July 1, Breuer released his latest comedy special, “Somebody Had to Say It” on YouTube, where it now has over 992,000 views.
“I’m shocked. I’m not on television,” said Breuer. “I haven’t been on TV in forever. It’s strictly word of mouth and we’re up to basically a million views. … It just just shows you how many people think and feel the same way and want to laugh about exactly what I was putting out there. The cool thing is I filmed that special a year ago. It’s been out since last October but only on my Patreon page. So it’s already over a year old and it’s still relevant today and people are still feeling what I was talking about a year and a half ago. And a year and a half ago when I was talking about it, people were really coming after me. I’m fearless to that.”
‘Find the good’
Dee Breuer, Jim’s wife, has been receiving treatment for cancer for several years. Jim Breuer said about five years ago she was told she had less than a year to live.
“As we speak today she’s getting her treatment and it’s going on five years of her doing really well,” said Jim Breuer.
Jim Breuer said his family can cope with their health struggles because they never take anything as a given.
“The greatest thing is my wife and I are very in tune with the fact that none of us know how long we’re going to be here: you, me, everyone who is going to come see me. We’re all on borrowed time,” said Jim Breuer. “We try to deny that all we want. We can try to make all the plans. We’re going do this and we’re going to become the greatest comedian. None of this matters because you’re on a plan you’re creating. You don’t know when the end day is coming. So, our attitude has always been, ‘We’re here now so let’s live it to the greatest while we’re here.’”
Jim Breuer said the best piece of advice he ever received was to “always find the good.”
“Find the good in people. Find the good in a situation. Find the good in life. Find the good in yourself. Find the good. Because it’s there,” said Jim Breuer.