He co-wrote Half Baked, co-created Chappelle’s Show, and has a brand new standup special. Get to know Neal Brennan.
Photographed by Taylor Ross
This is your first hour-long comedy special. How did it go?
It was cool, man. Basically, you just write jokes and you string them together. There are very few guys who start out saying, “I want to do a special about the government,” or whatever. As much as I’d like to be able to go, “Yes, I’m going to do it about this,” I can’t. Ultimately, I just come up with the jokes I come up with. Like, I’m not going to come up with a joke about Lance Armstrong and think, “Well, I can’t do it because it doesn’t fit a theme.”
The name of the special is Women and Black Dudes. Those do seem like your main subjects….
Yeah, it’s 90% of my jokes. And also 90% of what I think about. Chris Rock told me not to call it that, and I was like, “All right, man, I got to go against your wishes.”
Did he have a suggestion of his own?
No, of course not. He was like, “I wouldn’t call it that, but I’m 50.” I don’t know why he didn’t want me to call it that.
In the special, you talk about meeting President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner. How was that?
Unlike other comedians, funny things don’t really happen to me. So after that happened, I was like, “Thank god, I have a fucking anecdote!” Most of my comedy is more analysis and observation.
Why did you decide to shoot the special in New Orleans?
Comedy Central was like, “We never shot in New Orleans,” and I was like, “OK.” It wasn’t anything like, “We need to make Hurricane Katrina right. These people need to laugh five years later.”
You directed the special as well. How is directing your own stand up?
Honestly, it’s not that difficult. Eddie Murphy was making fun of directing stand up specials one time. He was like, “It’s not that hard; just point four cameras at me.” That’s kind of what it is. The thing that I didn’t do is when I talked about black people, I didn’t cut to black people, and when I talked about Asian people I didn’t cut to Asian people. That’s my only innovation as a stand up director. Otherwise, it wasn’t like my proudest moment. It’s more just a show off thing. Like, “Well, I can also direct it because I direct stuff.”
You talk a lot about technology, and we’re big fans of your Twitter.
There are people who would say I’m too political or I’m too promo-y, but I try not to do too much of any of it because it can get tedious. Look, I put my followers first, you know me. Followers first, guys. I’m always thinking about the kids out there.
Have you been doing stand up for a long time?
I didn’t start doing stand up really until like six years ago. I was just writing and then I directed a lot of Chappelle’s Show. Like, I directed “Rick James” and all that shit. So then I was able to get jobs afterward.
You direct episodes of The Mindy Project, New Girl, and Inside Amy Schumer. Are you also interested in directing movies?
Yeah, but after I did The Goods, they were kind of like, “Ew, get out of here.”
That’s how it works?
What’s your opinion on Half Baked, which you co-wrote? I know Dave Chappelle is not a fan…
Nor am I. I’m not a fan either.
You really don’t think it’s funny?
There’s about twelve minutes of it that I like.
Is it the part where he’s talking about what happened to Killer?
No. That’s not bad. I like Dave on the date and Sir Smoke-a-lot. I like that part. I like the parts where it’s just sort of me and Dave doing shit. I like the stuff that you can see and go, “Oh yeah, those guys are going to do Chappelle’s Show. Those guys know what they’re doing.”
President Obama told you that he thought Chappelle’s Show was one of the best shows ever. That must have felt pretty good.
Yep. People were like, “Were you nervous to meet him?” No. I was nervous when I met Eddie Murphy. Eddie Murphy to me is the president, if that makes sense. Barack Obama, he’s funny and cool and a smart guy, but Eddie Murphy is the president of comedy in my head.
It’s hard to believe that Chappelle's Show was before stuff like YouTube.
I know, it’s crazy. It’s prehistoric.
Imagine how the sketches would have spread!
If we had had YouTube, then I wouldn’t have made any money off DVDs. So I’m happy that it wasn’t around then.
We have to ask: Are you and Dave talking?
We’re fine, we’re fine.
Do you see him?
There are rumors that he might do a tour with Chris Rock.
Yeah, I personally wouldn’t hold my breath, but who knows?
AND NOW: NEAL BRENNAN ANSWERS THE SAME 10 QUESTIONS WE ALWAYS ASK EVERYONE!
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
I think I had to apologize for being rude to somebody, but I can’t remember who.
What is your favorite curse word?
What’s the worst hangover you've ever had?
I’ve only gotten drunk twice as an adult. I just don’t really drink that much. One time I got super drunk in 2005 with just a bunch of friends of mine. It was when I realized I couldn’t drink vodka. I was drunk all day, and I hadn’t drank that much. When I woke up I was still drunk, and I had slept for eight hours.
What was your first car?
It was a 1962 Mercury Comet.
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I’m pretty scar-free, actually.
Do you have a party trick?
You could say that my personality is a party trick.
What’s the biggest thing you've ever put in your mouth?
I feel like I could maybe stick my fist in my mouth. Hold on. Nope. I tried and it didn’t fit.
What’s one thing to remember in a fist fight?
That you can always sue the person. Black guys will say, “I’m going to see you in the street,” and white guys are like “I’m going to see you in court.” It’s like we really love the legal system. It’s been good to us.
Who was the last person to see you naked?
A masseuse was the last person to see me naked. And he jerked me off real nice.
Finish this sentence: If I ruled the world for a day, I would…
I guess I would feed everybody. I would figure out a way for everything to go solar and wind. And I would make sure everybody eats and never goes hungry. I’m a fucking real sweetheart. I’m a great guy, a really great guy.
Women and Black Dudes premieres Saturday, January 18 at midnight on Comedy Central.