photo by Phil Provencio
Among SNL’s fleet of acclaimed alums, one would be hard-pressed to find a more amiable guy than Jim Breuer. Having ditched a career on the big screen to focus on caring for his wife, who is fighting stage-four cancer, and his three daughters, Breuer was able to find time to reconnect with his vocational first love: standup comedy.
In the years since portraying characters like SNL’s Goat Boy, Breuer has reveled in radio work, a popular podcast, and standup to the point that his most recent recording, Jim Breuer: Live From Portland, debuted at No. 1 on iTunes’ comedy chart.
According to Breuer, the drive to make people laugh started quite early. “Sixth grade was the first time I felt the need to get up and be funny in front of a classroom,” he says. “Normally, I was just in the back of the room. I was heavy… I was fat. But I watched a lot of comedy growing up, and I loved slapstick, especially Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, and the Three Stooges.”
It wasn’t until Brewer was 16 that he began looking at more formative comedians, like George Carlin and Eddie Murphy, who inspired the Valley Stream, NY, native during early gigs at Harlem’s Uptown Comedy Club. In 1995, Breuer was invited to join the cast of SNL, where he stayed until 1998. That year, the funnyman went on to host his own MTV show and costarred in Dave Chappelle’s cult-classic film Half Baked. Since then, Breuer has appeared in sitcoms, boasted two Comedy Central specials, was the subject of a documentary, and even served as the opening act for Metallica’s 2018 tour, a band for which the comedian has always had an abiding passion.
On November 16, Breuer will hit the standup stage at the Tarrytown Music Hall with an act that the comedian contends is far more evolved, and far funnier, than his early performances. “The last three to four years, I have pretty much winged the show,” he explains. “In the past, it was always: ‘Work on your one-hour [standup act], film it, and put it out.’ I haven’t done that in years now, for many reasons. But I found a point where I’m not afraid of how funny I really am without a game plan when I walk out on that stage. It’s changed my entire perspective.”
Apparently, the new tactic is working, as Breuer’s standup act is as popular as ever. Live From Portland, which dropped in May and topped the iTunes comedy charts, marks the beginning of what he says will be a new chapter. “I didn’t prep that whatsoever; that was a last-second thing, which was really focused on a food drive for the homeless,” says Breuer of the record. “The reason I say that is because I’m starting to discover life isn’t always planned and that sometimes the beauty comes out when we don’t plan things. That is part of Live From Portland, and I think I’ll have many more [recordings] coming out soon.”
“Before every show, I think, Alright, someone out there needs to be here; they don’t want to be here; they need to hear something I’m going to say tonight, and I do not take that lightly.”
Throughout his career, this dedication to comedy has been far more about healing others than paying the bills. “I’ve always, always tried to find some type of humor and healing for that pain people are going through. Just like when my wife was first diagnosed with cancer,” says Breuer. “Before every show, I think, Alright, someone out there needs to be here; they don’t want to be here; they need to hear something I’m going to say tonight, and I do not take that lightly.”
Breuer is hoping to engender this same healing change with a mysterious new project on the horizon. “Here’s the most I can tell you: I’m hoping it’s a TV series. It’s dramedy — it’s real life — and the intention is to connect with all walks of life and see how a community really can solve all these situations,” shares Breuer. “No matter our problems, no matter our political views, we can all figure it out because I’ve seen it happen with my own two eyes.”
No matter what Breuer gets into, the product will likely be sincere, inventive, and utterly hilarious. “When I first started, it was about being funny and being funny for the right reasons. Then, the entertainment business comes along, and you’re chasing vanity and MTV Cribs, and you want to be on the cover of magazines,” recalls Breuer. “Now, I’m back to the point where I want to do it for the right reasons. I have this gift, and I want to make sure people see that and that they’re able to be inspired and healed from it. I always feared putting that out there, but I don’t fear it anymore. I don’t fear being brutally honest.”