Interview: Kurt Braunohler chats about his hilarious new comedy special 'Perfectly Stupid' – Eponymous Review

Interview: Kurt Braunohler chats about his hilarious new comedy special 'Perfectly Stupid' – Eponymous Review

Kurt Braunohler
Comedian Kurt Braunohler wonderfully navigates the line between humor and heart on his new stand-up special, Perfectly Stupid, which was released on Oct. 27 on Moment ahead of an on-demand release on Nov. 16.
The special, captured live at the Gothic Theatre in Denver, CO, finds the comedian in top form – and at his most collaborative – as he explores his role as a father, and as a son, finding hilarious insights and anecdotes along the way.
Braunohler took time out to chat by phone on Perfectly Stupid‘s release day to reveal some of the stories behind the bits, explain his approach to incorporating tougher emotions into his set and share what it was like working with Jonah Ray Rodrigues (AKA comedian, actor, writer Jonah Ray) who made his comedy special directorial debut with this show.
“I think I asked [Jonah Ray Rodrigues] immediately when I knew we were doing it because, in the past I’ve worked with directors that were wonderful, but weren’t friends so I never knew how much of their opinion I should trust,” said Braunohler with a laugh. “I respect Jonah’s work. I especially respect his aesthetic. He gets comedy and also, sitting in as an Executive Producer of his show The Meltdown, he knows how to edit comedy.”
He continued noting how Rodrigues even helped in developing the set by sharing notes, tags and through-lines, “What he surprised me with is that he showed-up. Normally, a stand-up comedy special director is just at the show and then has his seven cameras or whatever, shoots and that’s it. But Jonah came out on tour with me and really helped me work the material. That was invaluable. Especially because we were recording it in this little sweet spot when Covid had died down a little bit. Preparing for this tour was, for me, the first shows back after not having done any and he was right there.”
Hilarity abounds throughout Perfectly Stupid. From stories about Braunohler’s father confusing another comedian for his own son to a wild tale of acquiring the perfect photo to hang in his daughter’s bedroom, the comedian serves-up a masterclass in how to tell a funny story full of twists, turns and most importantly laughs. One of the best bits of the special finds Braunohler recalling the time he was invited backstage at a Dinosaur Jr. concert. Not only did the experience not go as planned, but he was actually called “intense” by Henry Rollins. Yes, the legend of hardcore, Black Flag, “Liar”… that Henry Rollins.
“We were backstage and it was a very intimidating backstage. It was kind of a small green room and it was packed with nineties rock royalty. I was just a friend of someone who was performing so I felt awkward being there because I wasn’t on the show. I think rock stars are my movie stars. I don’t get nervous around movie stars, but I do get nervous around rock stars. So I was just nervously introducing myself to everyone. I was giving off, I guess, a real nervous energy when I introduced myself to Henry Rollins,” said Braunohler, laughing.
Another highlight of the special emerges as Braunohler creates his own visual aid to use when telling a story about his evolving relationship with The Giving Tree because HarperCollins would not grant him the approval to use the classic children’s book itself.
“I have not heard from [HarperCollins] yet… but I can’t wait. Oh, I hope I do. I’m even selling a version of the book that I made, The Sharing Bush, I’m selling that so they’re gonna come after me,” said Braunohler.
Kurt Braunohler
Throughout Perfectly Stupid, Braunohler explores his childhood relationship with his own parents and how that compares and contrasts with the way he and his wife, Lauren Cook – with whom he recently wrote a screenplay – are raising their own kids. He hilariously recalls being given “jobs,” like delivering blood to the labs, by his mom’s friends when he would visit her at work at a hospital.
When asked what his own kids will look back on as hilarious examples of parenting, Braunohler said time will tell.
“It is so fascinating. I think the moments that I remember, I don’t even think my mom would have. I think the eternal difference is that the things that are important to your kid might not even register to you which is so fascinating and strange,” said Braunohler. “It’s also this – and it’s been said before – just the stark difference of raising kids in the eighties versus raising kids now. The eighties was a wild time. I was left unattended for hours, even all day. I would leave the house and come back later when it got dark. Now, we’re kind of always in our kids’ lives and I don’t know if that’s better for them.”
Kurt Braunohler
There can be a natural – and sometimes necessary – disconnect between comedians and their audiences when they are performing. After all, they are standing in the spotlight, solo, accompanied only by a microphone, how could a stand-up not seem larger than life. That’s great for generating big belly laughs, but sometimes it makes it tough to connect on a human level.
Braunohler is always an affable and disarming performer and with Perfectly Stupid he goes even further towards fostering a deep connection with the audience by sharing his grief following the loss of his mother. This inclusion felt poignant and important especially in the wake of the shared trauma of the pandemic. Somehow, Braunohler was able to share this touching moment with viewers and still, seconds later, land another big, cathartic laugh.
“I had been telling that story, pretty much, since shortly after my mom passed. I never quite could get to the emotional core of what needed to happen towards the end of it or what I was actually trying to say. It was there, but it was in a very rough and raw form. There was an emotion, but the lines would keep changing and the point that I was making would keep changing as well. And that is what I think really helped having a director like Jonah Ray Rodrigues because we were able to run it so many times and see how it fit in the special as a whole and to be able to really – down to the words themselves – say exactly what I wanted to say. And we got it to that point where now it’s emotionally saying what I want it to say but it risks sentimentality. I kept talking about it. I needed – after this heavy moment – a hard laugh,” said Braunohler explaining how his wife helped to identify the connecting laugh to end the story. “It was a collaborative, creative process between me, Jonah and Lauren.”
He added that working in this more collaborative way was new and enjoyable, saying, “Stand-up is usually such a solitary act and so this was totally new for this special and god I love working that way. I love working with an outside eye for a special. I don’t like it when I’m developing material – working out all the kinks – but when I have it and I think it’s pretty good then the shapes of things are what I struggle with. It’s something that not only Jonah’s good with, but my wife, Lauren, is also good with the shape of things.”
Collaboration isn’t always only for helping with the shape of things. After the credits of Perfectly Stupid, Braunohler welcomes another performer on stage, the Artificially Intelligent Stand-Up JOKEATRON to tell a few timely zingers.
What becomes clear after watching Perfectly Stupid is while Braunohler may not always be prepared for what life throws at him, he is quick to the trigger to turn his own misfortune into a hilarious and relatable joke.
He explained with a laugh, “I’m always like, ‘It’s a bit now baby.’”
Perfectly Stupid is available on Moment through Nov. 16 at which point it will be released On Demand to rent or buy. It becomes widely available on 800 Pound Gorilla’s YouTube channel on Dec. 16. Braunohler also co-hosts the podcast, Bananas, as well as the variety show, Hot Tub, which in January will run at Permanent Records Roadhouse in Los Angeles on Wednesday evenings.
Perfectly Stupid is a co-production of Point Grey Pictures and 800 Pound Gorilla Media. Click here to check out Perfectly Stupid and head over to Kurtbraunohler.com for tour dates and other information.
(Photos by Jill Petrecak)
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