April 3, 2014

‘SNL’s’ former Goat Boy Jim Breuer goes clean with his comedy

The creator of the “Saturday Night Live” character Goat Boy and stoner from the comedy “Half Baked” has rebuilt his comedy career to be all about family. Jim Breuer talks with The Bee about going clean and staying funny.

You might know him as the guy who bleated like a goat for a living. Or the guy who looked like a stoner for his job.

But these days, Jim Breuer is just the guy who crushes it every night with laughter.

The former “Saturday Night Live” cast member and “Half Baked” co-star still gets recognized for his earlier work. But these days, he is touring and performing with a new sense of direction and purpose. And it seems to be paying off. The 46-year-old New York native was named one of Comedy Central’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. His 2013 stand-up special “And Laughter for All” was the No. 1 downloaded comedy special on Netflix last year. And he is in his third season as producer of AXS TV’s weekly uncensored comedy series “Gotham Comedy Live.”

In short, Goat Boy is doing just fine.

“Absolutely, I still get recognized for Goat Boy and ‘Half Baked.’ That’s my ‘Dream On,’ ‘Walk This Way,’ ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ But what is great about that is anyone who does come in for that, usually I blow them out of their minds,” Breuer said in a phone interview from his New Jersey home. “They go, ‘This guy is one of the best stand-up comics I have ever seen.’ That stuff was my B and C game. They’re not close to my A game. This is my A game now. All that other stuff is like me talking about my childhood, it was so long ago.”

His “childhood” included three seasons on “SNL,” from 1995 to 1998, where he created the character of Goat Boy, among others. Then came a starring role alongside Dave Chappelle in the stoner comedy “Half Baked.” His other film credits include roles in “Zookeeper,” “Dick,” “Titan A.E.” and “Beer League” and hosting duties on TV for MTV’s “Beach House” and VH1’s “Web Junk 20.”

But then in 2008, after six years away from stand-up, Breuer returned to the stage with a new focus, and that focus was his family. His act shifted from darker, off-color fare to stories about fatherhood and everyday relationships. He went, in comedy terms, clean. And while it might seem easy to work without profane language and illicit references, the comic said it’s actually the opposite.

“I think it’s really hard to be honest. In real life, you naturally swear. You naturally are not on guard 24/7,” he said. “I think some comics (aren’t clean) for the shock value, or to be different. It’s like musicians – here comes the guy in the clown outfit, here come the guys who dress like robots. The wave of comedy is that it’s all dark, everything sucks and we hate everything. I am tired of all that. It’s exhausting. My life isn’t like that.”

Breuer’s life is that of a family man. He and his wife have been married for more than 20 years – before his “SNL” days – and have three daughters, ages 9, 12 and 15. Still, it was a conversation with comic legend Bill Cosby that persuaded Breuer to break away from his old comedy and rebuild his routine.

“Bill Cosby came on my radio show and he talked to me basically about inspiring people rather than just being funny,” Breuer said. “It’s good to be funny, but great to inspire. He made me read a chapter in one of his books, which at first I thought was pompous, but then realized why he made me read it. When you are doing anything in life, if you are trying to appease an audience, you are not, and you will never become, who you are meant to be. It was so moving.”

It was advice that Breuer said he still marvels at, and wondered about. But last month, he spoke with fellow comic and Cosby friend Sinbad, who put it in perspective for him.

“I didn’t understand why Cosby reached out to me. I am still confused to this day,” he said. “I want to say, ‘Why me? I’m not a superstar.’ Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, those are superstars. So why did he reach out to me. I saw Sinbad (a few) days ago and he said, ‘Cosby doesn’t just show up for people. He studies people. He saw something in you.’ And that blows my mind. That was a major influence. He gave me the inspiration to grow as a comedian. For that, I will forever be thankful to him.”

What came out of that inspiration was a reinvigorated comic. In 2010, Breuer released his autobiography, “I’m Not High: (But I’ve Got a Lot of Crazy Stories About Life as a Goat Boy, a Dad, and a Spiritual Warrior).” The following year, the lifelong metal head was selected by Metallica to present the band’s 30th anniversary show. And ever since, he has been headlining comedy tours across the nation.

While Breuer may call himself a “spiritual warrior,” it is not about any specific religion for him.

“Being on a higher spiritual level is a great thing, whether that is God or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “For me, it exists in my own personal experiences. But I don’t have anything to sell. Not going to sell you on what you should do. I say, ‘Here are some of my experiences.’ I am not saying what it is. I just have examples of things. Like, I asked for something and it came. I prayed for something here and it came. To me, it’s like a radio station. It exists and it is up to you if you want to turn it on and listen to it.”

And, since we’re talking about radio stations, up next for Breuer is a heavy-metal comedy album to come out later this year. He compares the project to “The Wiggles for adults.”

“I love hard rock and metal, but I can’t relate to any of the lyrics,” he said. “So I want to take what I do on stage and put it into this music.”

Also on the agenda is a new comedy special and new tour. But for a guy who is all about moving forward, he still doesn’t mind looking back sometimes.

“ ‘SNL’ was really great; I took a lot out of it. Good or bad situations, I find the good and try to grow from that,” he said. “When it was over, I was pretty exhausted from the industry itself and wanted to get back to home life. But absolutely, 100 percent I recommend it to any young stars coming up. I hope I become a big enough star for them to ask me to come back and host.”

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