Kurt Braunohler, 'BUNK!' Host, Talks About Being A Better Comedian

08/08/2012 02:28 pm ET
AP

WASHINGTON -- The plan for most comics is to perform at as many open mics as physically possible, climb the ladder as a host, then feature and sooner or later, they'll be able to headline clubs around the country. Television shows like "The State," "Mr. Show" and IFC programs "Comedy Bang Bang," "Portlandia" and "BUNK!" are showing comics another option.

For the past seven years the New York City-based performer Kurt Braunohler has been co-hosting his weekly variety show, Hot Tub, with "Flight of the Conchords" and Kristen Schaal of "30 Rock." A hip show that attracts a hip crowd, the forum allowed Braunohler to get jobs without having to leave the comforts of a supportive room.

Braunohler has also appeared on Comedy Central’s "John Oliver Presents" and "Jon Benjamin Has a Van," MTV's "Human Giant," Adult Swim's "Delocated," Fox's "Bob's Burgers" and many more programs with comedy cult followings.

The Huffington Post spoke with Braunohler, currently host of the game show "BUNK!" and opener for Wednesday night's Comedy Bang Bang show at the Howard Theatre, about his progression from bars to theaters to clubs.

The Huffington Post: How are the Comedy Bang Bang shows different than your weekly show?

Kurt Braunohler: These are in much bigger venues. Most seat between 500 and 800 people. The crowds are just bonkers. They are so excited. People really like and know about the show. It's a real pleasure to perform for them.

HuffPost: What are you doing at the show? Is it more like Hot Tub or like your game show "BUNK?"

Braunohler: I'm doing stand up at the top of the show. We all do stand up sets first and then we start the podcast.

HuffPost: Have any of the shows been particularly memorable?

Braunohler: Seattle and Portland were amazing. So was San Francisco.

L.A., the crowd was great but the venue was horrible. It was in this church that had a dead rat somewhere in the room. It smelled horrible and felt like it was 500 degrees. Other than that, every show has been top notch.

HuffPost: And none of the shows have been in comedy clubs.

Braunohler:They've all been in theaters.

HuffPost: You don't appear to do a lot of comedy clubs.

Braunohler: I'm actually starting to now. In September I'll be in Sunnyvale, California, headlining Rooster T. Feathers. It's something I've just started to do.

I came up through the theater and bar scene in New York City.

HuffPost: Why did you decide to venture out to Rooster T. Feathers territory?

Braunohler: I think it makes you a better performer. You connect with a wider range of audiences. It's what you do as a comedian.

Other than Caroline's in New York, I pretty much haven't done clubs. That was primarily because I always liked the people and audiences at theaters and bars better. Who knows? Maybe I'll hate it. I'm hoping to bring people that like my style of comedy out to clubs.

HuffPost: Has appearing on "This American Life" impacted your career?

Braunohler: Not much, really. Now I can say I've been on "This American Life." When people ask me who I am I can say, "I've been on "This American Life!" You shut-up!"

HuffPost: Have you gotten kicked out of a bookstore for signing books? (Braunohler goes into bookstores and signs books with personal greetings. See the video below)

Braunohler: I have not. I signed a few at the Barnes and Noble down the street from my house and I go there to buy books and I'm terrified they won't let me buy any more books from them.

HuffPost: What advice do you have for the newer stand up? Would you have spent more time in clubs?

Braunohler: I would do what I did. I think that when you're coming up, your quote-unquote "alternative scene" is going to be a shitload more supportive. It'll allow you to find your voice more quickly than the club scene. I think you come out of that scene with a more unique voice. No one has had a chance to tell you how to water it down. Once you find your voice, it's much easier to do more difficult environments. I think a club is a more difficult environment than a theater or a bar.

HuffPost: Why is a club more difficult?

Braunohler: The people that go to clubs, typically, I know I'm generalizing, they don't necesarily see a lot of comedy. They have an idea, "We should see something fun tonight? What's fun? Laughing is fun! Oh! There's this place where you go to laugh. Let's go to that place!" That's the logic line. They get there and talk or don't know they're not supposed to talk back to you or they're rude or they just don't have a well-developed sense of humor.

Now, that's not to say that's all clubs, it just happens there more often. In the theater and the bar scene you have situations where comedy fans, people who go see comedy three nights a week, are your audience. They're want to see something new and they're excited to see something new.

CONVERSATIONS