Comedian Neal Brennan on Stand-Up, Chappelle's Show and PC Culture You might not know his name, but if you're a fan of comedy you definitely know his work. Neal Brennan found immense success in his early 20s by co-creating Chappelle's Show and writing the movie Half Baked with fellow comedian Dave Chappelle. But more recently Brennan has been getting back on stage as a stand-up comedian. He joins Stretch and Bob for a conversation about his days as a comedy club doorman in New York, why he's not concerned with PC culture and what to expect from his stand-up tour "Here We Go."
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Comedian Neal Brennan on Stand-Up, Chappelle's Show and PC Culture

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Comedian Neal Brennan on Stand-Up, Chappelle's Show and PC Culture

Comedian Neal Brennan on Stand-Up, Chappelle's Show and PC Culture

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/667648296/667670444" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT GARCIA, HOST:

What's up, everybody? Peace. Just heads up, there may be some strong language in this episode.

ADRIAN BARTOS, HOST:

Ooh (ph) - some bad words.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

NEAL BRENNAN: I did a show on the Lower East Side. It just felt like an inner-city lunchroom. And I felt like the white substitute teacher. I heard a kid at one of the tables go, yo, were you scared? That's the worst heckle because he heckled my soul.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BROWN'S "CHASE")

BARTOS: Hey, everyone. This is Stretch Armstrong.

GARCIA: My name is Bobbito Garcia, aka Kool Bob Love.

BARTOS: You are now listening to WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO.

GARCIA: ...BOBBITO. Word up. And our guest this week is Neal Brennan.

BARTOS: Yes, this extremely funny man is best known as the co-creator of the legendary "Chappelle's Show."

GARCIA: Word up.

BARTOS: He executive produced Chris Rock's 2018 special, "Tamborine."

GARCIA: Hoo-hah (ph).

BARTOS: He directed "Inside Amy Schumer."

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: He is that guy that a lot of the best-known comedians in the world ask, yo, is this funny?

GARCIA: Right. And he's also a stand-up comedian and has been doing that for some time and is really pushing that on tour, right now, with a show called "Here We Go." (Singing) Here we go. Here we go. Here we go. Here we - here we - here we go.

BARTOS: (Singing) Here we go. Here we go. Here we - here we - here we go.

GARCIA: Neal Brennan and Stretch and Bob.

BARTOS: Dom-diddy-dob (ph), diddy-diddy-dob-dob (ph).

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: I got to see him at Radio City for Chappelle's run that he had last year. And yeah, he really brought the house down.

GARCIA: He did.

BARTOS: He's - you know, people know him as the dude behind the scenes...

GARCIA: Yeah.

BARTOS: ...But he's going to be known just as much as the dude behind the mic.

GARCIA: Right. Did you sit in front?

BARTOS: Yeah. Yeah (laughter).

GARCIA: Well, I was at - I was invited to this "Chappelle's Show" second season first taping, and I was seated in front. And I was like, why am I up here? Because you know, these stand-up comedians, they - in between the acts, they would have somebody come out. And I was like, oh, man, my hairline is looking busted. Like, they're going to look at me. Like, did Neal - was he cracking jokes on people in the crowd?

BARTOS: No. It was Radio City, and he had a spotlight on. It was dark.

GARCIA: Got you.

BARTOS: But listen, I know what you're getting at. Because when you used to work at Def Jam, and I interned at Def Jam, you know, we'd get invited to "Def Comedy Jam" back in the early days.

GARCIA: Yeah. Sure.

BARTOS: And you know how it was of - like, if you were a white dude in the audience, you were getting got, right?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: Right or wrong?

GARCIA: Yeah.

BARTOS: I remember one time I was in the balcony, in the second row, and I still got it.

GARCIA: Word?

BARTOS: Yeah.

GARCIA: (Laughter) All right. Coming up next, your boy, Neal Brennan.

BARTOS: Neal Brennan.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: And we are back. We are joined by a very, very, very funny dude, comedian, writer, producer...

BRENNAN: Yo, I direct, too. I direct also.

BARTOS: And director. Excuse me. I knew there was one - hold on. Let me check...

BRENNAN: Thank you. Thank you.

BARTOS: Let me check out these cards.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: Yeah. No. It doesn't say it.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Stretch.

BARTOS: It doesn't say it there. Excuse me. Neal Brennan, welcome to WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO.

BRENNAN: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Yes. Good to - good to talk to both of you. This is how old I am, Stretch. I saw you DJ - this sounds like a 2000s Mad Lib - but I saw you DJ the Beastie Boys' 9/11 concert at the Bowery Ballroom.

BARTOS: At Hammerstein Ballroom.

BRENNAN: At Hammerstein, yes.

BARTOS: Not Bowery Ballroom. Yeah. That - Hammerstein's a little more impressive than Bowery.

BRENNAN: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. At Hammerstein. Yeah. You do big - you only do the best ballrooms. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Nothing but the best ballrooms.

GARCIA: Neal, you were a writer on the "Chappelle's Show." You've directed TV - "Inside Amy Schumer." You're doing stand-up now. You did stand-up back in the day. I'm curious about the return to stand-up and this current Neal Brennan.

BRENNAN: Well, I didn't really do it back in the day. That's the thing. It's like I did it a little bit during "Chappelle's Show," then I didn't for, like, three years. Then I started, like, in earnest in 2007 because - the thing when you're in, like, showbiz or whatever you want to call it - especially when I was writing and directing - so much of it is pitching ideas and them getting rejected. And you kind of go, like, I'm pretty sure I'm funny.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Like, I feel like I'm funny, despite the fact that I keep getting rejected by people less funny than me. So it was fun to be able to go on stage at night and go, like, oh, right, I am funny. And then it took a few years to sort of get up to speed and get good at it.

GARCIA: Had the preparation of being the producer, director - how well did that fuel you being on stage in terms of your confidence on - you know, to deliver in front of a live audience? Because it's a complete different experience being, you know, in a boardroom.

BRENNAN: Yeah. I mean, you got to - your body has to get used to it. Like, your body has to get used to being in front of people. Like - and you have to be like - you have to be kind of a ham, you know? Like, the thing about writers is they're generally self - comedy writers - self-loathing, sort of play small. And as a, like, performer, you have to think like a comedy writer but act like a performer.

So, I mean, you see it in hip-hop all the time. Like, there are guys that - Swizz Beatz or - you know, the best example being Kanye. The first time he did TV was on "Chappelle's Show." and the first two takes, he had his head down, looking at his shoes, and I - before the third take, I was like, Kanye, you got to pick a camera and play to it. And I said, on some hip-hop shit.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BRENNAN: You know, if you watch, like, the - one of the - whatever - the "G Thang" video, Snoop's shy, like, and Warren G is shy. Like, they're kind of like - Warren G, like, looks at the weed, and he's kind of like - they're not commanding. They don't really own what they're doing. And Kanye kind of suffered from that on the - when he did - him and Common did "The Food" on the "Chappelle's Show."

GARCIA: You want to hear something crazy? Michael Jordan, in his first commercial with Spike Lee, has no lines. Because at that point...

BRENNAN: Michael Jordan didn't have a lot of lines in those commercials at all. Even in "Space Jam" he doesn't have a ton of lines.

GARCIA: Right. It took him a long time to break out of that and feel like the commanding presence. I mean, I think that's just human nature, especially if you're...

BRENNAN: Yes.

GARCIA: In a comedy club aspect, I would think it's - you know, it's kind of like playing ball at West Fourth Street, where you know there's going to be hecklers on the sideline, and you know, you're going to get called out if you're wack.

BRENNAN: Yes. Yes. And I - and thank you, Bobbito, I was.

GARCIA: You were wack.

BRENNAN: I was called out for being wack.

GARCIA: At West Fourth Street or at the comedy club?

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: I did a show - and you were right to heckle me, Bobbito. No, I did a show on the Lower East Side, like 2008 or something, or 2007. And it was really dark. It just felt like an inner-city lunchroom. It was, like, just midnight. And I felt like the white substitute teacher.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: And I went in. And I heard a kid at one of the tables go, yo, are you scared? And I was like - and in my head I was like, yeah, I am scared. They could tell that I was scared.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: I got through it. But that's like the worst - that's the worst heckle because he heckled my soul, you know what I mean? Like, it wasn't like, your shirt is wack. It wasn't like...

GARCIA: Right. Right.

BRENNAN: He saw - he really saw me...

GARCIA: Yeah.

BRENNAN: ...And really, like, hit me in a very damaging way that, even 11 years later, I think about it.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: So I guess that wasn't your best performance ever.

BRENNAN: That wasn't great. But no, no, no. But here's the thing. He said it before I even said anything. That's what was so buckwild (ph) about it.

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: Oh, my God. Wow. Neal, what year did you get to New York?

BRENNAN: I got there in '91 for NYU film school.

BARTOS: Got you. And...

BRENNAN: Which I subsequently dropped out of after a year.

BARTOS: Yeah. Well, we have that in common.

GARCIA: Whoops.

BARTOS: I dropped out of Columbia to become a DJ.

BRENNAN: I'd said this yesterday, like, school is a list of books that they tell you to read. That's what school is. And then you read them, and they go, what did you read? And you go, I don't know. And then they explain it to you.

BARTOS: (Laughter).

BRENNAN: So just get the list of books, and save yourself $100,000. You really can. Like, kids, are you listening?

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Like, you really can help yourself and save yourself a lot of money.

BARTOS: So while you were at NYU, you worked at a comedy club, right?

BRENNAN: Yeah. I worked the - it was called the Boston Comedy Club, in the Village on West 3rd.

BARTOS: And was that because you needed money, or you just really wanted to be around comedy?

BRENNAN: I - well, my brother's a comedian, and I just liked comedians. And also, it was like, I'd be around film students during the day and then comedians at night. And I was like, film students are the biggest jerk-offs in the world.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Like, the most pretentious douchebags in the world. And then I'd go to a comedy club, and it would literally be, like, 18-year-old Chappelle, 24-year-old Jon Stewart, 24-year-old Marc Maron, 22-year-old Louis C.K. Like, and these - none of them were famous or popular, but they were all, like, funny. And I was like, these - I like this better. So I subsequently dropped out and started working the door for, like, no - for, like, $235 a week.

But it was a good time. It's one of those things where you look back, and it was a - it was a crazy time, and I'm grateful for it. But it was more about just, like, developing bonds with dudes. Like, I'm still - I still have friendships from that time.

GARCIA: Were there any women up-and-coming, emerging comedians on the scene?

BRENNAN: Sarah. Sarah Silverman.

GARCIA: Oh.

BRENNAN: So yeah. Like, I've known Sarah since she was 18 and I was 16 or something. Like, I've known Sarah so long, she was the first person that noticed when I started having hair on my face.

GARCIA: Wow.

BRENNAN: She was like, oh, my God. Are you shaving? Like, I've known her so - I've known her that long, since puberty.

BARTOS: Wow. Amazing.

BRENNAN: Yeah.

BARTOS: So I've heard you talk about how, as the door guy at the Boston Comedy Club, you used to offer improvements on how comedians might deliver their lines and offer them, you know, suggestions on how they might tweak something.

BRENNAN: Yes.

BARTOS: Unsolicited.

BRENNAN: Unsolicited.

BARTOS: Of course. Why would anyone ask the door guy, how can my act be better?

BRENNAN: No, of course. And, dude, I was shaggy. If you want to see some idea of what I looked like, I posted on Twitter a clip from - I was on the - I wrote for the sketch show "All That" a couple years later. Like, so '92, I'm working the door. '95, I work for "All That." There's this - I'm in a sketch with Kenan Thompson. And I look like a greasy, grungy dude. And that was when I started making money. So you can imagine what I looked like when I was working the tour.

And I had - but I was pretty funny, so I could - I gave people - I gave Dave - most notably, Dave - suggestions. And he was like, I can't - that's good - and he would use it, and it would work. And that was like, you know, amazing because just to get, you know, even though it wasn't - it was - sometimes we'd be on TV, like he did a joke we kind of came up with together on "Def Jam." That was super cool.

But, you know, you know those like little breaks you get when you're like - when you're at that stage in your life or career where you're like, it means the world to you? Like that, that was a lot of that period. That's still the same job I have. That's one of the things I do now. It's like I still do, you know, I'm doing stand-up. I'm on the road doing tours and Netflix and all that stuff.

But I help - I helped Rock with his last special. I helped Ellen DeGeneres with her new special that's coming out. That's kind of my job as a director if I direct tv shows or movies or commercials. Like, I'm basically saying like, hey, you know what you should say? Maybe try saying blank. And it's - so it's just - now I just do it at a higher level, I guess.

GARCIA: So you're feeding Dave Chappelle some some humor and, you know, he's taking it on stage. What's the turnaround where you're like just the doorman and the feeder to actually like, OK, me and David now like boys, we're hanging?

BRENNAN: We were hanging the whole time. Basically the way it happened was I moved to LA. So I ended up writing on the pilot for "Singled Out." I then got hired for the second season of "All That." Me and Dave are friends the whole time. He's starting to do well - movies, TV, all that stuff. And then I wrote a script for a movie that was very good, but I had a meeting with this producer named Bob Simons (ph).

A couple weeks later, Dave goes in. He's got a meeting with Bob. And they're like, any ideas you have? And Dave is like, yeah, I got an idea for a weed movie. And they're like, do you want to write it with somebody? He's like, I am writing it with somebody already. And they're like, who? And he's like, trust me, you never heard of him. And they're like, no, who? And he's like, Neal Brennan is the guy's name. They're like, we love Neal. He was here two weeks ago.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Just one of those crazy things. He was here two weeks ago. When can you guys pitch us this weed movie? We've never talked about writing a weed movie.

BARTOS: (Laughter).

BRENNAN: This is as far as the conversation went. We saw "Trainspotting." We're walking out of the movie theater. And Shmo (ph) goes, you know you could make one of those for weed. I'm like, yeah, you could. That's the conversation. Months later, I get a call from Bob Simons' office. Julia Dray (ph) Bob's office goes, hey, are you guys writing a weed movie? And I'm like, yeah. A weed movie, that's what we're writing - meanwhile, never heard of it. And they go, when can you pitch it? And I go, I can pitch it in one month. Meanwhile, never talked to Dave about it.

So then we have a month to come up with the idea for the pitch. We, of course, take the full month. We take the full 30 days. The night before - we have a pitch on a Monday. And on a Sunday - one day, a Sunday, we just outlined the movie. So we turn in a a script, and they're like, we love it. You guys got to go to Toronto. And we're like, for what? And they're like, for scouting. We're like, what? Like, it was crazy. And - now having said that, our power was slowly kind of diluted over the period. And we - it wasn't - didn't end up being exactly what we wanted.

But there are like periods in "Half Baked." that I think are really funny. And you can see like, oh, these guys - this is kind of like "Chappelle's Show." 'Cause again, we were just grateful. We were set. You know, $7 million movie when we're 23, having never written anything. It was like, yeah, that seems like. What, you're going to give us per diem and we get to the Brass Rail - the strip club in Toronto - every night?

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: Take that, NYU film school. Was your friendship with Dave a part of your entryway into into hip-hop or was that just a function of you being in New York City?

BRENNAN: No. You know what? My entryway into hip-hop was - my biggest introduction was obviously like, you know, the Def Jam, Run D.M.C., Beastie Boys, like, that conglomerate. But when I heard Public Enemy - I heard "Don't Believe The Hype" at a basketball game, my high school basketball game. I might have been - so it might have been '86 or '87. And I heard it. And I was like, wait, what is this? Like one of those things where you just go like, oh, all I want to hear is this for kind of like forever. And then I moved to New York. And it was like, you know, it was '91. So it was like the big - it was a huge year for hip-hop in terms of making - it took a big cultural jump. I think it took a big artistic job, obviously, also.

But like, there's a big cultural jump in terms of like it being taken seriously. And I also saw the value of like "Def Comedy Jam" and black comedy, for lack of a better term. I think when a lot of white people were like sort of either put off or scared by it, it didn't - it just seemed like, no, that's - this is good. This is the good stuff.

BARTOS: Going to hip-hop clubs in the late '80s and early '90s and you - you know, when I would see another white dude, like, we kind of see each other, notice each other and give each other like a shady glance like, what are you doing here?

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Yeah. No. I remember Mike and Adam, the Beastie Boys, saying when they would see each other at hip-hop shows like in the early '80s at the Fever and stuff, they'd be like, screw that guy - even though they were like exactly the same person. It's that, like, teenage self-loathing. You have so much in common. Yeah. And then you become - you give the white guy nod that black guys give to each other in white places.

BARTOS: Right (laughter). Right, except it's a competition. It's a competitive - it's not like, yeah, my man.

BRENNAN: Yeah, of course. There can only be one white. It's a "Highlander" situation.

BARTOS: (Laughter) But then eventually, you know, being the white guy that's actually writing for black voices, did you ever feel like you didn't belong or that you had to prove yourself in any particular way?

BRENNAN: You know, I got to say, I'm writing something right now with Kenya Barris, who created "Black-Ish," and I feel like my value to black voices is - I think the best illustration of it is we did a sketch on "Chappelle's Show" where Dave does jury selection. He's on the OJ jury, the Michael Jackson jury.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CHAPPELLE'S SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) What about Michael saying it's OK to have children sleep with him?

DAVE CHAPPELLE: (As character) That don't mean anything. I'm sure there's plenty of kids that sleep in the bed with their adults all the time and nothing happens.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) So do you think Michael Jackson is guilty of the charges against him?

CHAPPELLE: (As character) No. He made "Thriller."

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) So you'd let your children sleep with him?

CHAPPELLE: (As character) [Expletive] no.

BRENNAN: And that is exact - that's verbatim conversations, basically. The logic that Michael Jackson couldn't have molested the kids because he made "Thriller." It's literally just like going like, wait, what? Talk about that. That's a funny vein of logic that white people are not familiar with for the most part.

But it is entirely understandable - for instance, the jury selection thing because of what the justice system has systematically done to black people, you cannot prove anything to black people in the court system beyond a shadow of a doubt because white people just played dirty for so long. So I guess it's just a level of empathy that I might be good at or seeing somebody - something from somebody else's point of view, which might be the Libra in me.

GARCIA: In 2014, there was a Comedy Central special titled "Women And Black Dudes" where you used the N-word.

BRENNAN: I did. And I talked about it...

GARCIA: But you said...

BARTOS: Guilty as charged.

BRENNAN: Yeah, no, that's true.

GARCIA: But you've since stopped. And so what was the transformation there?

BRENNAN: Well, the - I don't want to be like like it's a Pryor - like a Richard Pryor thing, like I went to Africa, and I finally like...

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: The way I talked about it was about being called it.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMEDY SPECIAL, "NEAL BRENNAN: WOMEN AND BLACK DUDES")

BRENNAN: I get called the N-word every day. Thanks, fellas. No, I get called the N-word every day - texts, phone, person - constantly. My black friend's constantly calling me the N-word. I remember when my black friends first started calling me the N-word. Let's face it, it was pretty exciting.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: But also it was confusing because they were doing it to make me feel like part of the group, but it actually had the opposite effect because I couldn't say it back to them. So it just made me feel that much whiter, you know. I'd walk up to the group and they'd be like, what's up, [expletive]? I'd be like....

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Hello.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: When you're in a friend circle, you all kind of talk the same way. And it's hard to do on-the-fly radio edits of yourself. We wrote a sketch on "Chappelle's Show" that is the N-word family. I had to call Questlove and sing the song to him. I had to sing the theme song which is N-word heavy. And I didn't say N-word because it wouldn't have made any sense.

So the joke with - I have with Questlove is like if I just - if I'd called the wrong number in Philly, I just called some black dude in Philly and sang the N-word theme song and left it on his voicemail. So the joke was about - the stuff I did in "Women And Black Dudes" is just about being called it because I was talking to a black comedian friend of mine. I was like, I get called it. It's crazy. He's like, you should talk about that. That's interesting. So a black guy said it was fine.

But where I am with it now, it's like, it's just such a bummer. It's just such a bummer. Even though I write it for people or I'll like - saying it publicly is just like, for a white person, it's like Tasing a black person. Every black person who hears a white person say it, even if it's the friendliest, most allied white person, it's like Tasing someone.

BARTOS: In doing this podcast, you know, we research people's projects and whatnot. And it regularly makes me feel like I just don't know what's going on in the world.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BRENNAN: Yeah. You're a 50-year-old man.

GARCIA: You and me both.

BARTOS: It's - you know, when we we did radio in the '90s, we knew what - I mean, we were like The Source for what was going on, what was hot.

BRENNAN: Yeah.

BARTOS: Like, people listened to us because we were the - now I'm like, oh, Neal Brennan - love Neal Brennan. Hilarious. Saw him - I saw you at Radio City for Chappelle's big splash recently. That was...

BRENNAN: Yeah.

BARTOS: That was great. A magical night. But I didn't know you had a Netflix special.

BRENNAN: Yeah.

BARTOS: So what am I doing wrong with my life?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: Anyway. So your Netflix special, for those that haven't seen it, is called "3 Mics." It's kind of an unconventional comedy act, where you have three mics on the stage. The first mic you do one-liners. The middle mic is where you do deeply personal, often - I would say...

BRENNAN: Gut-wrenching.

BARTOS: Yeah. Really, really sad stuff.

BRENNAN: Yeah.

BARTOS: And then the third is sort of traditional stand-up. And I'm just curious, what was the evolution of this non-traditional concept?

BRENNAN: I had jokes from Twitter that I could - that were just one-liners, basically. And I had a thought one time, like, I should - when I go on the road, I should do, like, stand-up mic and then just have, like, a one-liner mic. Like, over here I'm just going to one-liners.

And then I would listen to, like, "The Moth" and, like, storytelling shows. And I was like, I feel like I could do something like that. Like, Snap Judgment, whatever. Even This American Life. I just got the feeling that people didn't know enough about me. So I needed to sort of explain a bit of an origin story. Like, you know when you watch the Olympics and they'll have those, like, video packages of, like, I grew up in a chicken coop, or whatever. You know what I mean? Like...

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: And so basically, I was like, I kind of need to explain myself because there are people who think I'm just Dave's buddy or like - or whatever. So I kind of saw it as a bit of an origin story explanation, and I - there were things I thought would be useful to talk about in public that I talked about on the middle mic, like clinical depression, and having a bad relationship with my parent - or my father, and stuff that, you know, people thank me, literally, every day for talking about in public because nobody really talks about it.

GARCIA: Let's peep an excerpt of the personal part.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMEDY SPECIAL, "3 MICS")

BRENNAN: I'm depressed. And not the way you normally hear that, like, oh, I'm so depressed - Kobe retired. I mean, like, I have clinical depression, the mood disorder, and I've had it for as long as I can remember. Like, I don't know if you know anything about me, but I'm the youngest of 10 kids. And I don't know if you know much about math or kids, but 10 kids is too many kids.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Also, my father was a violent alcoholic. He didn't hit me that much, but he used to terrorize some of my brothers. They were from - they were born in the 1930s, so they were from the we-did-the-best-we-could generation. If you criticize their parenting in any way, they would just go, oh, we did the best we could. And I always felt like, really? That was the best you could? So, Dad, you'd get drunk, hit your kids and think to yourself, now this is me at my best?

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Yeah. It's not your typical stand-up, particularly...

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: ...Particularly the mental illness and depression topics. I would have to think that either you're completely detached from those moments while you're on stage, or you're completely attached to them, and you're feeling super vulnerable, super, like, almost, like, naked on stage and people are laughing. Is that something that you would encourage other comics to - that threshold - to sort of experience and share, or...

BRENNAN: If you have stuff you want to say that is difficult saying in just, like, a sort of joke format, do it that way. But that's the thing is like even - there's this special on Netflix called "Nanette" - this woman, Hannah Gadsby. And people are super threatened by it because it's - like, parts of it are super-duper serious, so everybody's threatened by it. And it's like, look, man, not everyone has trauma. Not everyone has tragedy. Not everyone has - some people are just, like, funny, sort of upbeat people.

Just do the thing that suits you best. I'm not of the mind that everybody has to be revealing and stuff now. I think just do the - whatever you need to say, figure out a way to say it. And that was what was good - that's the victory of "3 Mics." It's like, I had some stuff I needed to get off my chest, as it were, and that was the best format I could think of.

BARTOS: In "3 Mics," you said you didn't have low self-esteem. You had no self-esteem. Just curious...

BRENNAN: Yes.

BARTOS: ...How that factored into your comedy.

BRENNAN: I basically used comedy as, like, oxygen, right? In a room that was filling up with water, comedy and getting laughs and having a funny thought or a funny notion was the thing that would sort of keep me alive. And now I have more self-esteem than I've ever had, as a result of the success of "3 Mics." I was - because a lot of my self-esteem was tied into accomplishments, and a lot of my accomplishments were with Dave. I had, like, haters in my head.

And between doing "3 Mics" and the week I wrote at "Saturday Night Live," when Dave hosted, were big for my self-esteem. Because it was like, oh, I'm pretty good. Like, I'm good at comedy. And then, again, not in a way that's loathsome, where I'm like walking around pounding my chest. But it's like, all right, voice in my head, you can shut the fuck up. Because I'm - you're just wrong. You just sound like a - I always say, like, the voice in my head are like a caller into a late-night radio show, but it's one of those guys who's, like, kind of a - who calls once every - once a week, and the host is, like, sick of them. Where it's like, you know, Bob from New Rochelle. And he's like, yeah, I just want to say that Neal, you suck.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: And he's like, dump the call. Dump it.

BARTOS: Haters in your head. I love it.

BRENNAN: Yo. Yeah. I had haters in my head. So like - it was just, like, very, very helpful in eradicating that, not forever and not all the time, but mostly.

GARCIA: The name of your new tour is Here We Go. What new topics can we expect from...

BARTOS: Here We Go.

GARCIA: Neal?

BRENNAN: I do a lot of stuff about #MeToo, in that I know the people. Like, I know Louis. I know Aziz. I, like, skipped school at NYU to go work on one of Louis' films. I've known Louis since '91, '92. But having said that, I'm not like - and I'm defending him. I'm just saying, like, it's pretty - it's close to home. Like, I know - you know. So even the title, Here We Go, is about men watching so much porn that, everywhere we are, we expect a porn to break out at any moment. So we'll be in our hotel room, by ourselves, hear an unexpected knock on the door, and be like, here we go.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Like, we're just ready to go. So that's kind of the - like, all right. It's on. Let's do it. I wasn't expecting to, but semper fi.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: And so that's sort of - that's about the stupidity of male entitlement and what we've sort of been, like, trained in some ways to do.

GARCIA: So Mel Brooks and Jerry Seinfeld sort of lament that the PC culture has been detrimental to comedy. Would you agree or disagree with that?

BRENNAN: I would - I don't - I don't really - you know, the PC culture, I think...

GARCIA: And PC means politically correct.

BRENNAN: Yeah. Personal computer.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BRENNAN: I'm more of a laptop guy.

BARTOS: (Laughter).

BRENNAN: The PC culture - I don't - to me, for the most part, it's, like, the least you can do. As Jay Leno said on Marc Maron's podcast - he said that, you know, when there were the pollution regulations in the '70s, all the American car automakers were, like, sort of dragging their feet and sort of sulking, and the Japanese automakers just did it. And they made - they just did it. They were like, all right, these are the new regulations? That's not a big deal. We'll do that. And they built better cars, and they got 15 years ahead of the American auto market.

So I think with the so-called PC stuff, it's not that hard to - you know what I mean? - to, like, show like a modicum of respect to marginalized people. You know, I don't think it's - it's not ruin - it's just like, yeah, so the box got tighter, so can you be great in this box?

GARCIA: And creative. Yeah.

BRENNAN: As a guy who talks about race on stage, there's ways to do it. I talk about #MeToo onstage. It can be done, and it can be done in a way that both side's kind of like, oh, that's interesting. Like, I hadn't thought of that. That's pretty true, and it's not - I'm not offended by it.

I'm not offended by, you know - Like, I have a joke where I go, like, sex is the most consequential thing we can do with our bodies, but we can't talk about it beforehand. We're, like, looking at a girl, going like, hm (ph)? You thinking what I'm thinking? And if I'm wrong, I'm going to jail? It's a recipe for at least misunderstanding. At the bare minimum, misunderstanding. When it goes well, it's a misunderstanding. And when it goes poorly, it's sexual assault. So, like, there just needs to be more conversation because it's - too many people are getting hurt.

BARTOS: Yeah.

GARCIA: Word.

BARTOS: We're going to take a break and come right back with Neal Brennan.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: And we're back. This is WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO. We're still here with our boy, Neal Brennan.

BRENNAN: Thank you. Thank you.

BARTOS: Anyway, this is the fun part. This is the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jacks.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BRENNAN: It's not like drudgery of the rest of this podcast.

GARCIA: I don't know if you were prepped for this, but...

BARTOS: This is the part of the show that we call The Impression Session.

BARTOS: And it's pretty simple. We play you a track, you react. Simple as that. Cool?

BRENNAN: All right.

BARTOS: Boom. Who's going first?

GARCIA: I'll go first. I'll go first.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMEDY SPECIAL, "DELIRIOUS")

EDDIE MURPHY: Somebody broke wind in here. I've been trying to like not saying nothing, but somebody farted in this motherfucker. That's some long-distance fart too, boy.

(LAUGHTER)

MURPHY: Don't you - I know you get out with your friends, you have good times, especially fellas, you know, they play that game, play the fart game, you know. You know, you fart around your fellas, and it's funny. Dudes be doing that. They be getting in elevators and farting and laughing and shit. It's nasty. You play the fart game.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BRENNAN: Never heard of him. Never heard of him.

GARCIA: Eddie Murphy. The track is "The Fart Game." And your impression?

BRENNAN: Eddie Murphy is one of the funniest human beings who's ever lived, one of the most talented, funniest human beings who's ever lived. I even can get behind his farting jokes, which I'm not a fan of generally.

GARCIA: Wait. Not a fan of fart jokes or not a fan of farting?

BRENNAN: I just don't like fart jokes. I don't like farting like - I don't like dudes doing that. Like, don't be farting around me. And, like, I think fart jokes are just sort of like - I don't know. Like, they just seem like low. They seem too easy.

GARCIA: Yeah.

BRENNAN: But having said that, like, the right one is very funny.

GARCIA: So twofold why I played that track for you. A is I want to see if you recall when that album came out because...

BRENNAN: Was that "Delirious"?

GARCIA: Yeah.

BRENNAN: I remember listening to that album when - in maybe the summer of '84 in - I went to a basketball - a sleep-away basketball camp. And somebody had it. And they were talking about ice cream, like all of the bits on there.

GARCIA: The second reason why I played that for you is that Eddie Murphy is a product of "Saturday Night Live." And I realized that a lot of comedians in - it's a long legacy who auditioned there. And I'm wondering if you had an experience at that platform that you'd like to share.

BRENNAN: I never auditioned. Maybe I submitted like in '93 or something. I had a lot of friends who wrote there. And once I did "Half Baked," you know, I knew Will Ferrell and all - Kattan and everybody. Tracy Morgan I've known forever. And I think that show is amazing. I think that show is an institution. I think it is the high school assembly of America.

BARTOS: All right. Now we're going to go into my selection for The Impression Session with Neal Brennan.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BURN, HOLLYWOOD, BURN")

PUBLIC ENEMY: (Rapping) Burn, Hollywood, burn. I smell a riot going on. First, they're guilty, now they're gone. Yeah, I'll check out a movie, but it'd take a black one to move me. Get me the hell away from this TV. All the scoops and news are beneath me. So all I hear about is shots ringing out, about gangs putting each other's head out. So I rather kick some slang out. All right, fellas. Let's go hang out. Hollywood, or would they not make us all look bad...

BARTOS: Public Enemy - "Burn, Hollywood, Burn" from 1990's "Fear Of A Black Planet." Neal...

BRENNAN: I think we almost did - before Dave quit the show - but we were going to have Cube and Chuck D come on the show and do it.

BARTOS: Really?

GARCIA: Oh, get out.

BRENNAN: It would have been amazing. The Bomb Squad sound, it just literally sounds like a riot. It's interesting to see the evolution of Hollywood white people now seeing the value of black material and black audiences and black producers. And, you know, it's - like I said, I'm working with Kenya. And everyone's kind of coming and knocking on his door because they feel like he can help them break the black market. And it's like, dude, the market's not new. I used to do a joke with Dave and Mos Def when - after they'd do a good take on "Chappelle's Show." I'd be like, that was a great take, fellas. Anyway, Hollywood called, and they want you to play cops.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Like, the reward for being a great artist is like, you know, Donald's reward for "Atlanta" and all his albums is like, you want to be - you want to play Lando Calrissian and be in Han's - a white dude's movie? It's like, it's still not, for the most part, where it should be.

BARTOS: There it is, not much more to say.

GARCIA: All right, Neal. It was a pleasure hanging out with you.

BRENNAN: Yo, Bob. Nice meeting you, man.

BARTOS: Neal, thank you, man. I had a great time.

BRENNAN: You as well. Let's do this again. Never in person, always via ISDN.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: All right, fellas.

BARTOS: Neal, take it easy.

GARCIA: Later.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: That is our show. This podcast was produced by Michelle Lanz, edited by Alexander McCall, Jordana Hochman and N'Jeri Eaton. And our executive producer is Abby O'Neill.

GARCIA: If you liked the show, you can hear more at npr.org. And please go to Apple Podcasts and rate, review and subscribe. That's how we know you are listening.

BARTOS: And if you want to follow us, you can do so on Instagram @stretchandbobbito and Twitter @stretchandbob.

GARCIA: Peace.

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