‘Enjoy It’ star Brody Stevens talks reality and breakdowns
Standup comedian Brody Stevens’ big screen credits (as he’s quick to tell you) include “The Hangover,” “The Hangover Part II” and “Due Date.” He’s been pals with fellow standup and current movie star Zach Galifianakis for years -- since their days of doing standup together back in New York City. And Galifianakis is now using some of his star clout to help his friend by serving as executive producer of Steven’s reality-comedy series “Brody Stevens: Enjoy It.”
The series, which premieres on Comedy Central on Sunday, is an expansion of the short series of the same name that played on the online HBO Go service last year. And anyone familiar with Stevens’ work will understand right away that this comedy series has a darker angle to it than most. Stevens suffered a public breakdown on Twitter two years ago and ended up in a psychiatric ward at UCLA for 17 days. Now he’s looking to put his life and career back together and is taking the cameras with him while he does it.
While the series is not afraid to delve into the darker parts of Stevens’ life and past, it also mixes in the usual comedian shtick, making for what Comedy Central describes as the network’s first dramedy series.
Stevens, who also works as the warm-up guy for Comedy Central’s late-night series "@midnight,” recently spoke about the show and his career.
How much of “Enjoy It!” straight documentary and how much of it is you playing a part?
I’m not going to say 50/50 but there are definite documentary moments we show. A handful of times, I schticked it up. I was in “Brody” mode. And there are other moments where I’m just talking and I’m real. There’s no script. There are a few times where I knew I needed to hit certain points, like my standup or something. For the most part, it was real. In the last episode, I really did “Conan.” That wasn’t staged.
And your stay in the hospital was real?
I’ll never let you know. Yeah, it was real. Kind of funny. People are probably going to think it’s staged. I’m getting that now. As far as I know, it was real. It happened. I was there. When I got kicked out of Starbucks at Coldwater and Ventura, that was real. These kids were filming me. I told them to film me. I was in such a manic state, I said “Film me!” I only had one foot in the reality of life. I was on a bender for three or four days. I went in there and these kids recognized me from performing at the Comedy Store. I was talking to them. So when the police officers arrived, I told them to film it.
Is it a different feeling to see your troubled moments play out on video as opposed to relating it on stage?
Yeah. When I first saw it, the [manic] phone messages were kind of hard to hear. The footage of me going nuts was hard, but not as hard as the phone messages. You could really see the ups and downs of bipolar or manic episodes. The tears, the laughing, the anger. it’s all there. It’s hard to see on TV. For comedy, I can talk about it. I’m OK, I’ve tested the waters. To talk about it on stage is therapeutic. I’m in control of it. To hand it over to somebody and then watch it, it’s tough. But I feel like, honestly, the mental side of it, I went on Twitter and made it public already. I’m over that. I know people will see it, but I’ve prepared for it by doing the standup.
It’s obvious from watching the show that your friends, including Jen Kirkman and Zach Galifianakis, really care for you and fear for you. Did you realize how much they cared before your breakdown?
It was suprising, because I didn’t realize I had that kind of support. I don’t know how I would react if my friend lost it. Jen has been a friend since 1997 back in New York. She’s always had good energy. Everyone’s damaged a little bit and I know they care about me, but sometimes I have -- it’s kind of weird having somebody care about you. Sometimes it gets in the way. I’m glad people care. Thank you for caring. But sometimes, too much. I’ve got to breathe. At the end of the day, if I fall down, there are people there to pick me up. Like Zach or Jen. I don’t even care about Zach’s comedy career. I knew him before all that stuff, before he became huge. I always knew he had my back.
Who has final say about what stays in the series and what goes out?
It’s a collaborative effort. I consider myself the Louis CK of the West Coast. That’s a joke. I don’t have final say. I’m OK with that, even though my name’s on it. I get my chance. I definitely get to say whether I like something or not. There are certain things in there that make me cringe and we discuss it. A lot of times, they’ll say “Brody, it’s not a big deal. Nobody notices. I think it’s funny.” Sometimes, it just takes a couple guys saying that before I say “You know what? You’re right.”
You do warmup for "@midnight.” Would you stick with the show now that it’s been picked up for 40 weeks?
I would. I’m a warmup. Give me a gig, I’ll work scale. I’m a comedian and you say, “Brody, come down, do an hour show, you get paid. You get mic time.” Fun. It’s like yeah, I’ll do it. I’m still a warmup at heart. If there was demand for me to go on the road, I’d do that. But I love warmup. Molding the audience. I think they’re going to offer me the gig. I feel, honestly, good to be part of the ["@midnight”] family. I don’t want to do a hell gig. And I haven’t done any of those for years.
What’s a hell gig?
When you’re dealing with a bottom of the barrel -- I hate to say it -- paid audience. These people, this is their life. They live their life being a professional audience member, as opposed to someone who’s really a fan of the show. Go to a show where it’s a four-hour taping. Trying to get them to clap and then do improv with them is kind of hard. It’s a hell gig. I’m afraid to do a sitcom. I’d only do it for my friends, like Alec Sulkin over at “Dads.” At CBS, if I was to do one of those, I’d have to play it right down the middle. I’m the comedy guy, give me a comedy show with up-to-date comedians, I’ll crank it. That’s what I like to do.
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