The Funniest Guy in the Room
Comedian Bert Kreischer may be the most interesting man in the world.
Bert Kreischer is one of the country’s hottest standup comedians, regularly selling out shows across the country and bringing his innate storytelling ability to the masses. But his success hardly happened overnight; he built the foundation for his career over two decades, not only performing on stage, but also hosting shows on both FX and Travel Channel. He has since gone on to become an author, as well as the host of his own successful podcast.
Kreischer is perhaps best known for attending Florida State University, where the then-seven-year senior became known as “the top partier at the No. 1 party school in the country,” thanks to a 1997 Rolling Stone profile that led filmmaker Oliver Stone to option the rights to his life story. The Oliver Stone deal never panned out. Instead, the article would serve as the inspiration for National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, starring Ryan Reynolds in the lead role.
With his partying days somewhat in his rearview mirror, the married father of two is hitting the road for his largest tour yet. He’ll stop in Glenside on March 16, for two shows at the Keswick Theatre.
While enjoying his final few days off before hitting the road, Kreischer spoke to us about the tour, his love affair with comedy, and what it’s like to be consoled by Whitney Houston at the dentist.
Different comedians have varying styles, but you have been credited as being one of the best storytellers. What’s the art in taking a good story and turning it into a great comedic routine?
A lot of times for me there’s a subtlety when you hear someone tell a story. … You need a great intro to draw everyone in. And then it needs an arc and, in my opinion, it has to have one flip of the switch that you didn’t see coming. More importantly, every story needs an ending. Everyone messes up there; you need [the audience] to know the story is over. I’m not perfect with coming up with endings, and I acknowledge it. I chew over it like sunflower seeds nonstop.
You’ve had so many interesting run-ins with celebrities. Are there any stories that people don’t know about yet?
The Whitney Houston story is pretty epic. My daughter broke her jaw and we had to put her under, and it was super stressful. My wife and I were really freaking out. It’s early in the morning and we go to this dentist in Beverly Hills, and they put her under. My wife and I are crying; [my daughter] was three years old. This black woman is trying to calm me down, and I can’t even see her; my eyes are so filled with tears. She’s smiling at me and I’m, like, whatever.
[After the surgery] they have us in this receiving room and I’m holding my daughter. She has gauze and blood in her mouth, but finally we are OK. The woman walks into the room and she says, “It’s tough being a daddy, isn’t it?” It’s Whitney Houston. We almost dropped my daughter on the floor. She was rubbing my daughter’s hair and started talking to us; my wife and I were floored.
The best part of the story is, the day she died, I was in a car with my buddy Tom Segura driving to a gig together and he [says], “Whitney Houston died. Do you know how great that is for your story?”
You’re a father now. How has your outlook on life evolved since having kids?
You never realize the responsibility of the words you say. I don’t know how many times I’ve talked about doing drugs and almost bragged about it, and you realize all those kids who see you and say, “I can’t wait to start getting high and smoking pot.” Those kids are your kids’ friends. It’s an interesting, slippery slope I’ve created with a brand based on partying, and your kids look at that.
When did you and comedy first click in the sense that you knew this was the path for you?
The Rolling Stone article. In the story I said I thought I could be a comedian, and this radio station put on a comedy night at Potbelly’s at Florida State, and I [performed] there. I played baseball with Brad Radke, who played for the Minnesota Twins; I grew up with him my whole life. When we were kids, my dad said, “He’s going pro.” And I was, like, “What about me?” But kids like that, it’s so natural. There was something about Brad that was effortless; he doesn’t have to think about it. The first time I did standup, I called my dad and said, “I think I found the thing Brad Radke had.”