Spinning Platters Interviews: Brent Weinbach

by Becka Robbins on January 11, 2018

I interviewed stand up comedian Brent Weinbach, who performed on Friday, January 12, at the Swedish American Hall. You can see some of his comedy on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BrentWeinbach

SP: What are you working on lately? I watched a bunch of your stand-up and your 80’s commercials that you re-hashed. I really enjoyed your “My Buddy”.

BW: Oh thanks, yeah the “My Buddy” commercial was kind of based on, you know, what kids were really doing with those dolls. Or at least the kids I knew, they got ahold of those dolls, cut ’em up into pieces- or made the dolls have sex with each other, you know?

SP: (laughs) Right. Isn’t that what dolls are for?

BW: I guess so; I guess they’re for whatever you want. Yeah, those dolls- I definitely saw some creative things.

SP: Did boys have those? Did boys actually buy My Buddy?

BW: They did, yeah. In fact, the clip of putting the doll in the high chair, and putting the drill to its face, that is taken from something I witnessed in real life. I was at my friend Anthony’s house, and he had a My Buddy- it might have been a Teddy Ruxpin- and we played Mad Dentist with the doll. Where- I didn’t really do the violent stuff as much, but he did. So the patient or whatever would be the doll, and it’d be in the high chair, needed a drilling on his tooth, you know?

SP: (laughs)

BW: This was in his garage, getting ahold of his dad’s power tools and stuff, using the drill on this doll’s mouth — that was a real thing. If anybody thinks that video either promotes violence, or is shocking, or not for kids, or something like that- they’re wrong. That’s what the kids do. That’s what the kids want. Those kids that were in the video? They couldn’t wait to start mutilating the dolls. We also didn’t have them around when we were doing the naked doll stuff, we shot that without them. But as far as the sawing their arms, and the drilling- they just couldn’t wait. They were excited.

SP: (laughs) Yeah, I used to be a Learning Specialist, and anyone who believes that children are pure in any way, shape, or form, really hasn’t spent much time around them.

BW: Oh yeah- that’s why it’s called The Real My Buddy commercial, because that’s what kids really did with those dolls, and I think that’s what they do with dolls now, too. Maybe they do worse stuff.

SP: They need a way to express the darker parts; we all have these dark sides that we’re sort of taught from a very early age to not say how we feel. Especially boys. When I watched that commercial, it really brought to mind these discussions that we’re starting to have in our culture about toxic masculinity, right? Like men often express negative emotion in not-constructive ways because men don’t get to learn how to be more authentically emotive, right?

BW: Hm. Well, perhaps, yeah. I also think it’s maybe just exploring, or experimenting with things, and sometimes you just- even though it’s a doll, you kind of just want to see what happens when you cut it up, rip it up.

SP: Yeah, for sure.

BW: I got suspended from school once, in junior high, because- my friend had a knife- and, I was looking at the knife, and I kind of just wanted to see what it felt like to stick it in something. Or not- you know, like cut something. We were on the bus, so I just stuck it into the seat, the back of the seat? It’s got that rubbery- whatever it’s made out of? I just cut a slice of the back out the seat out, and someone told on me, and I got suspended for a day. But my point is- I wasn’t feeling violent, I just wanted to see how a knife worked, you know what I mean?

SP: And it’s fun to cut things open. (laughs) Are you doing more of those kinds of videos lately, or are you focusing more on stand-up?

BW: Well, both, you know. I make videos all the time. Coming out tomorrow (January 10) is a Cheerios commercial that I made recently.

SP: Oh, great! Is it more a spoof on the 80’s, or is it a-

BW: No, no — it’s not a take on the 80’s; it’s like a modern Cheerios commercial, you know? There’s a lot of stuff that’s sort of a take on older-style commercials, you know? I did a Facebook commercial that was kind of a pastiche of an AOL commercial-

SP: Yeah, I watched that one; it was pretty funny, that old style (laughs). I tend to fall into these rabbit-holes with all these spoof commercials, because I think a lot of them are so on-point, and I really like that one. Have you seen the Too Many Cooks one that went around a few years ago?

BW: Yeah, yeah.

SP: A lot of your stuff reminds me of that. And then there was that great Annie Lennox parody you did- -I thought it was so cool! I really loved the earnest-ness that you were putting into doing that. It didn’t feel cheeky to me; it felt really sincere.

BW: It’s more just a re-creation, you know? Just changing one element, which is, instead of Annie Lennox, it’s me. That’s also why I kind of didn’t put on make-up, because I didn’t want to- you know, I wanted to make it look like it’s me doing these things, instead of Annie Lennox, and if I put make-up on, I think it would look too much like Annie Lennox, you know? I wanted it to be like, clearly, it’s a different person doing this than Annie Lennox. And also I didn’t want it to be a any kind of drag-queen kind of thing, or any kind of transvestite kind of thing- I wanted it to just be, like- the clothes that I’m wearing in it are just male versions of clothes that she’s wearing, kind of? I’m wearing a sequin-y shirt, but it’s not a dress, like she’s wearing. That’s sort of- I just thought it’d be funny. I already think the video was funny in itself, but I thought it’d be funny if I were doing it. She has really interesting facial expressions, and she’s very striking, and I just thought it’d be funny to re-create that.

SP: Are you a fan? Are you an Annie Lennox fan?

BW: Uh, yeah, yeah. Sure.

SP:  I mean- I think everyone should be- she’s amazing!

BW: Yeah, yeah, I am. I mean I’m probably a bigger fan of other artists, but I like Annie Lennox, and I watched a lot of her videos. I like her music videos a lot too, they kind of remind me of movies like Orlando.

SP: Yeah, she’s really aesthetically amazing and stylistically has a lot of vision, which is sort of- she’s one of the great divas, I think.

BW: Uh-huh. But you know, as far as that-I’m probably a bigger fan of Kate Bush, maybe even Tori Amos, if we’re talking female singers and stuff, of that era.

SP: Yeah if we’re talking about that kind of-

BW: You know- strike that from the record, because I don’t want to show any favoritism, I think they’re all great. Annie Lennox, Kate Bush, Tori Amos, yeah. I don’t want to show any favoritism.

SP:  So, what are your plans for Sketchfest? What can audience members expect to hear from you? You seem to talk a lot about- in your videos you’re pretty mixed- you do some pretty great absurdism. I really love the strip club bit you did in one of your videos-

BW: Yeah I myself have never been to a strip club, partially for the reasons outlined in that bit. I probably won’t be doing that bit at the show on the 12th. The show on the 12th is at Swedish American Hall, it’s what I’m pushing for the most, because I hope people come. Swedish American Hall, 7:30. And what one could expect is a lot of new stuff. I think a lot of new stuff since the last time I did a  longer set in San Francisco. There’ll be a new bit about Michael Jackson; you can look forward to that. Not about Michael Jackson, but about his music. Some fusion impressions.

SP: Fusion impressions?

BW: Yeah. What does that mean? Find out on January 12th. Swedish American Hall.

SP: So do you feel like the age that we’re in, which is certainly complicated, and tense and fraught, did you think that comedy has changed in the context?

BW: I do think a little bit- obviously people are more uptight than they were, and uptight-ness isn’t very good for comedy. But I personally don’t try to censor myself because of that, though. I still do things the way I believe in. I also like to think that I make it pretty clear the intentions of what I do and that it’s something people should be able to laugh at. But I have noticed at certain shows, people seeming self-conscious about what they can laugh at. For the most part, though, I think as long as you do things with confidence, and just believe in what you’re saying, people will go along with it, despite the sensitivities going on right now.

SP: Who do you think of as your influences? If you were gonna go on Jimmy Fallon tomorrow, who would he compare you to, and what would you talk about?

BW: I’d probably talk about Aretha Franklin, R.Kelly, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony-

SP: Aretha Franklin?

BW: Oh, I’m sorry- Urethra Franklin, R.Kelly- Nah, I’m just kidding. Influences? I’d say Rowan Atkinson, Dana Carvey, Charles Fleischer, Harry Basil. The Marx Brothers. Many more, I think.

SP: Pretty solid list there, I can definitely see Rowan Atkinson when I watch you.

BW: Ren and Stimpy, 90’s era Conan, late 80’s-early 90’s Saturday Night Live. When I was in San Francisco, Arj Barker was a big influence, actually.

SP: I don’t know who that is.

BW: He’s from San Francisco; he’s really popular in Australia. He was on Flight of the Conchords– he’s one of the best comedians ever, I think.

SP: Does he have that dry style, that drier affect?

BW: Yeah he can be really deadpan, but also go into kind of manic delivery, as well. He does it all; he’s the best.Great jokes, great writing. He’s the full package comedian, I think.

SP: I mean, substitute teaching- I did it- (laughs)

BW: I guess congratulations for surviving it.

SP: Yeah, you made it through. That’s formidable. High school’s rough for everybody involved.

BW: Yes. Yeah, I haven’t substitute taught in almost… 13 years? So it was a while ago. Just doing stand-up, video stuff. Some acting work. You know, what I’d like to get going is some movie and TV projects of my own off the ground, is the plan. I have a special, a stand-up special coming out again this year. It came out last year, but it was on a platform that went out of business, so it’s being re-released in April; it’s called Appealing to the Mainstream. Hope people check that out. Yeah just trying to get some TV and movie work off the ground, some more stand up. Kind of a typical answer; I should have said something like, “Oh I’m trying to invent a baseball cap that stimulates hair growth.”

SP: I think that would sell like hotcakes. Like gluten-free hotcakes, even.

BW: But it doesn’t stimulate hair growth on top of your head; it stimulates hair growth on other parts of your body. What it does is it takes the hair from your head, and puts it in other parts of your body, like you knees, your thighs, areas around your thighs, between your thighs. And so forth, yeah.  

SP:  Anything else you want people to know about you and your upcoming show?

BW: Uh, yes. If you come to my show, don’t be uptight; don’t worry about what’s going on in the world. Have fun. Don’t think too much about even what you’re watching, just react to it on a visceral level. Don’t read into it too much, because it’s as stupid as it looks. Just have fun. Always remember that I’m not trying to challenge you, or make any subversive statements. Well, I don’t know, actually, if that’s true, but just know that all they’re trying to do is make you laugh, so you should just appreciate the effort, and have fun, and laugh, and not be offended. I don’t try to offend; it’s just meant to be silly.There’s different voices; it’s all silly. You know, voices are funny. This is comedy for twelve-year-olds, so just try to put yourself back in a twelve-year-old state, and laugh at it as if you were a kid.

SP: Ok, all right. I’m gonna go with that. What are you worried about people being uptight about, is somebody- are there some sensitive people that could be triggered by some of your content?

BW: Well, I have about 30-35 minutes about why Trump is a good president and why people should just be into Trump, and get into him like I’m into him, and sort of transcend all of the media hate on Trump, and just appreciate him for the good man that he is, and the good deeds that he does, you know.

SP: That’s a challenging message in California. How does that land in LA?

BW: Well, I’m just kidding. I’m totally joking, 100%.

SP: Oh, okay. I wasn’t sure.  

BW: No I’m totally kidding. It’s not about how Trump is a great person, it’s more about how his policies are great, and the things that he spews forth, that’s what’s great. Not necessarily him as a person, but like the wall, stuff like that, man. No, I’m just kidding again. Stuff that people might be uptight about? Maybe different voices, like different characters people might read into. I portray different characters on stage sometimes, and people might be uptight about that, for some reason. Certain language that’s used. But there’s no harm in any of it. If you’re cool- if you get it, you’re cool.

The best audience members are the ones who are able to just be in their bodies, and not think about it too much.

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