A lot has changed for stand-up comedian and actor Brian Posehn since Relapse Records released his 2006 debut comedy album, Live In: Nerd Rage. He can no longer be best remembered for his recurring role on NBC’s Just Shoot Me!—the Mr. Show writer-performer’s mainstream prominence has risen considerably, thanks in part to co-starring since 2007 on The Sarah Silverman Program as one half of the schlubbiest onscreen gay couple. While the Sacramento-born performer continues his streak of cameos on shows like Californication and Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Posehn also tours as a stand-up at an unrelenting pace—an effort that’s yielding his second album, Fart And Wiener Jokes, due out April 27. Being the only comedy act on metal label Relapse Records, Posehn is also the only comedian playing Relapse's SXSW showcase at Red 7. Before he appears there (and during the the transplanted Comedy Death-Ray as well), The A.V. Club talked to Posehn about why he signed to a non-comedy label, writing for the shows he's appeared on, and why he didn't want to write sketch comedy after Mr. Show.
The A.V. Club: With your new record on the way, have you phased out your old material when you perform?
Brian Posehn: It’s nothing from Live In: Nerd Rage. That record is like three years old. I’m going through this transition where I have a new record coming out in April, and so it’s going to be some of that with some of the material that’s up to two or three years old now. Usually what it takes for me to write a new album is about two-and-a-half years and then record it and then I start working on new stuff. So, the set right now? That’s why this past weekend was so fun: I wrote a lot. I think I’ve got about 25, 30 [minutes] of new stuff, so it’s about half.
AVC: Your new album is called Fart And Wiener Jokes. Does this represent a new wave of maturity in your material?
BP: Yes. [Laughs.] Well, it’s a thing I say when I start. It’s half-joking, but I’m saying basically, like, “Take off your thinking caps, lower your expectations, and we’re just going to have fun. I brought my fart and wiener jokes out from Los Angeles.” That’s the way I was opening for a while. So, that was on the record when I recorded it. And then when I was thinking of titles, much the way I came up with Nerd Rage for the last record, I was looking at joke titles to see if I could get the album title from that. It’s just me making fun of myself, like, “This is all I’ve got!”
AVC: You narrate the dick-jokes chapter on audiobook Comedy By The Numbers. Did that give you a newfound appreciation of dick jokes?
BP: I think that was Bob [Odenkirk] making a subtle statement by asking me to read that.
AVC: What statement is that?
BP: [Laughs.] That that’s all I got, or that I love dick jokes, that I traffic in dick jokes? I don’t know.
AVC: Why do you love dick jokes so much?
BP: Well, I like to feel like I do my original spins on them. But, honestly that’s what makes me laugh: dirty stuff. Juvenile stuff has always made me laugh. It’s what I know. And I feel like I’m a little smarter than—that that’s not all I’ve got, but I like to pretend that sometimes that’s all I got.
AVC: How is it being a comedy act on a metal label? You seem to be the only comedian with that distinction.
BP: Well, actually I was inspired by David Cross going with Sub Pop years ago, and then Patton [Oswalt] went with Sub Pop. It just made sense to me, like, to go to a label where your fans are, you know? And I feel like I draw in the metal guys already, and it made sense. Relapse approached me last time, on Nerd Rage, when I was about to go out to all the other indie-metal labels with my manager, and it just sort of happened where Relapse—and they were on the list too—came up and said “Hey man, I’d love to do it.” It’s cool company to be in with Mastodon and that’s what the label’s kind of famous for.
[Mastodon and I played a show] together last year in Athens. This friend of mine has this indie magazine, Chunklet, and he worked on the Mr. Show tour, he worked on the Comedians Of Comedy, he’s a good buddy of mine, so he put together this anniversary show for his magazine and it was myself opening for Mastodon, it was insane. There was one guy who wasn’t digging me, everybody else was really into it, and one guy was chanting “Mastodon” for a while and then finally I put him in his place. I thought it was funny, so I let him do it for a while. He was completely obsessed, just dead-eyed. He wasn’t even looking at me; he was looking through me and just chanting “Mastodon!”
AVC: You helped write an episode of Metalocalypse and also penned an upcoming episode in The Sarah Silverman Program’s new season. Do you prefer writing over performing?
BP: One thing about writing The Sarah Silverman Program was the concern that I don’t give myself the best story, you know what I mean? They probably wouldn’t have bought the pitch if I went in and said, “Hey, Brian decides he’s not gay and he hooks up with the hottest girl we can get to play my girlfriend.” If I went in to pitch that they would have said no. So it couldn’t be that kind of story. I had to still have the B-story and I had to come up with a really funny story for Sarah and I feel like I did.
The thing I got to do, that I wrote for myself and Steve [Agee], I was really happy with. It’s an idea I’ve had for a while, so I’m glad I got to do that B-story. I can give it away: I’m sure everybody’s had this thought of standing behind a cop with a gun and pulling the gun away. Like, say you’re in line at a 7-Eleven or something and there’s a cop there. Everybody has like that, “What would happen if I did that?” We have that discussion and the story goes crazy from there.
AVC: Of all the other shows you’ve been on, which one would you have most liked to have written for?
BP: That’s a really good question. I feel like my sensibility is closest to Sarah’s, and—I mean, probably Reno 911!? Although they don’t even involve writing really, but I mean that would be a place where I could see myself going to work everyday or at least writing one from at home and not wanting to pull my eyes out.
A lot of the traditional sitcom stuff I did—I think I could have gone that route when I was younger as a staff writer, and I just didn’t want to. Like, I didn’t want to write sketch comedy after Mr. Show. I felt like after Mr. Show, why would you want to go work at any of the other places that existed then? With the exception of like The State or something fun like that. I think The State was already gone by the time we went off the air, but Upright Citizens Brigade might have made sense because of the same sensibility, but any of the mainstream ones, you know, with all the rules, I would have gone crazy. And that’s kind of what kept me away from sitcom writing too. And also the fact of writing for the same characters every day I think would just kill me. But I can with Sarah, because I like those characters and I like the fact that we get to write stories that you haven’t seen a million times and they’re not traditional sitcom stories.