Saturday Night’s Children: Jim Breuer (1995-1998)

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Saturday Night Live has been home to over a hundred cast members throughout the past 35 years. In our column Saturday Night’s Children, we present the history, talent, and best sketches of one SNL cast member each week for your viewing, learning, and laughing pleasure.

For as talented and successful as the part rocker, part comedian, part perpetual stoner-faced Jim Breuer has become over the years, his three-year stint as a Saturday Night Live cast member from 1995-1998 was spent mostly under the radar. Known best for his “Joe Pesci Show” sketches and Goat Boy, the man/goat hybrid MTV talk show host, Breuer brought to SNL the over-the-top energy, impressive range of Long Islander townie accents, and drunk/stoner mannerisms that defined his stand-up both before and long after.

Breuer was born in Valley Stream, Long Island and started stand-up during high school. After years working as a comic, first in rock clubs then on the comedy club circuit, he landed small TV roles on Welcome Freshmen, Uptown Comedy Club, and Hardball, as well as a part alongside friend and fellow comedian Dave Chappelle on Home Improvement in the spring of 1995. Breuer and Chappelle’s performance led to an offer from ABC for a half-hour sitcom Buddies, but the show replaced Breuer with Christopher Garlin before filming the pilot. Buddies was canceled after five episodes; by that time, Breuer had already been a SNL cast member for six months.

After landing a spot on SNL’s 21st season cast alongside newcomers like Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, and Cheri Oteri, Breuer had NBC executives – not Lorne Michaels – to thank for being a last-minute addition to the new cast, so he had the added pressure of trying to impress the man who reluctantly hired him, and he found his way through his on-point Joe Pesci impression. On Lorne’s reaction to his Pesci, Breuer told Howard Stern in 2010: “I’ll never forget… I felt like my dad finally accepted me. I looked up and he was just staring at me like I was a newfound jewel and it was the greatest feeling ever.”

Breuer also impersonated Sean Penn, Jim Lehrer, Ric Flair, and others, and his characters included Don Wong of “Wong & Owens, Ex Porn Stars” with Tracy Morgan, jocky older brother Glenn in the “Goth Talk” sketches, Jeffrey Kaufman, host of stoner talk show “Issues,” and rock star Gunner Olsen in Weekend Update segment “Heavy Metal News with Gunner Olsen.” He remains most famous for Goat Boy, the half-man half-goat scientific experiment/host of fictional MTV show “Hey, Remember the 80s.”

After SNL, Breuer appeared in films like Half Baked, Dick, and Beer League, but his stand-up remained his main focus with his hosting gig on Premium Blend, Comedy Central specials Hardcore and Let’s Clear the Air, and radio shows like The Opie and Anthony Show, Howard Stern, and his own Fridays with Jim Breuer on SiriusXM. His book 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) was published in October 2010, and in January 2011 he launched The Podcast Masters with comedian Pete Correale. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and three daughters.

Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.