The Confidence and Insecurity of Standup with Brent Morin

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If you don’t know who Brent Morin is, that’s OK. He knows where he stands. While discussing the issue of audience members filming sets before they’re fully formed, the comedian and Undateable star said, “This is part of the reason I called the special I’m Brent Morin. I don’t think enough people know who I am for it to be a bother to me.” The special, Morin’s first official hour, hit Netflix last week. I talked to the comedian and actor the day the special premiered about its making, his reasons for getting into comedy and the thrill of shooting a live sitcom with some of his best friends.

Today’s a big day.

Yeah, man. I’m excited. It’s crazy that it’s out.

Looks like people are blowing up your Twitter with good feedback.

I actually didn’t expect that. I had to get up early today to do press and woke up to a barrage of texts, Facebook messages, and Instagrams of people who have already watched it, which I thought was crazy. It’s cool to know that people stayed up until 2am to watch it. So far everything has been pretty positive.

Let me get a little behind-the-scenes info on what it’s like to create a Netflix special. Was this the kind of situation where you were already doing a special and you shopped it around?

I did a showcase of my hour when I felt ready. I did New York Comedy Festival and showcased in front of them, Comedy Central, all of the people that were looking for an hour, or not even looking for an hour, but just wanted to prove that I could do it. It became a thing of, “Am I ready,” and, “Are you ready to do it?” When I felt ready enough I presented it. That was a little less than a year prior to actually shooting it. By the time I shot it it had changed quite a bit. The prep time is just all of the bar shows and shitholes and working your way up to clubs. For me it was working through The Comedy Store and Laugh Factory, where you start building sets, then hitting the road like a madman doing six shows a weekend until you find the theme for it.

How much time in terms of doing comedy does this special represent?

Seeing that this is my first special I would say that, you know, I started as a teenager, 19 years old. I’m 29 now. So I would say about eight-and-a-half years, because I didn’t start doing stand-up full time until my senior year of college. It took about eight years of work for me to kind of figure out who I am. It was important for me to know who I am. In the beginning you emulate people that you like and then slowly kind of figure out who you are.

You moved to L.A. and went to college for film, right?

Yeah, for writing and directing.

At what point did you decide that standup was what you wanted to do?

Standup is all part of the same thing for me. I noticed that the guys I looked up to like Albert Brooks, Woody Allen, Judd Apatow – guys who were making films, starting their own companies and doing what they loved – all started out doing standup first. I kind of went over there to see if I could be funny. It helped me with my screenwriting. I don’t think there was a moment where I wanted to do standup and that’s it. I think standup to me is a part of all of this. If you watch my standup, it’s dialogue driven. It’s scene driven. You won’t think about it unless I tell you. I’m playing multiple people in a scene. It’s just how my mind works. It works almost like screenwriting. I’m constantly writing movies and TV shows and I hope that one day I’ll eventually cross over and do that as well because I love the acting element too. So there wasn’t a moment where I said, “I’m just going to do standup.” There was a moment though when I decided, “I can’t put my eggs in 15 different baskets.” There was a part of me that thought if I could get good at standup… I already noticed it helped my writing, my acting, my directing. When you’re onstage you have to have the confidence to embarrass yourself. That’s acting. You have to direct where you look to get a bigger laugh, especially with my bits because they’re so performance based. Then with the writing, you start to learn where to cut shit out. I realized that standup was really just helping me with everything else I wanted to do in life. It’s been the helper with everything. I just didn’t plan on falling in love with it and becoming addicted to it.

Standup played a big role in you getting your spot on Undateable.

Yeah. That’s the other part. Standup to me came out of a mix of confidence and insecurity. I felt like I could be a good standup, even when I sucked for so long. I said, “I feel like I could be good at this if I keep working my ass off.” The other side of that was that I was too insecure to believe that if I was a headshot on a desk, or a script where you didn’t know me, that somebody would like me. I thought that if I walked into an audition room as just some actor it would be like, “Well, I don’t look as good as Tyler out there. So if you’re looking at looks, I’m not an ugly guy. But that’s a fucking Teen Beat poster out there.” I would prefer it if they would say, “Oh, this guy’s fucking funny. Bring him in.” Out of insecurity I thought that standup would help me get to that point where somebody would take a risk and want to see me. I was a Production Assistant at Conan when I got hired to do an NBC show. That’s purely because of my standup. They were like, “Well, he makes them laugh. Maybe he’ll make somebody else laugh.”

What’s it like working with a leading cast of all standups?

Me and Chris D’elia have been best friends and have known each other since I started standup and he started, basically. It’s kind of big brother/little brother thing. I was 18 or 19 and he was probably 49 at the time. See, that’s the kind of attitude we have. It’s an instinct for me to bust his balls. Honestly, it’s like a treehouse that they pay us to hang out in. It doesn’t make sense that we get to do this as a job. That’s a testament to Bill Lawrence, who was like, “I’m going to take funny people who know each other and put them in the same show.” He said that chemistry is so hard to build, especially in this day and age when shows come and go so fast. It usually takes time for chemistry to come together. But Chris and I immediately had that chemistry because we’d known each other for so long. We knew how to make each other laugh, fuck with each other, react to each other. Rick Glassman, who is on the show, lived in my apartment building. The two of us got cast when he was a waiter and I was a PA. We already had like a romance. He was putting friends together like, “Oh my God, these guys are fucking crazy and they’re all friends.” Now he’s like, “Fuck it. Let’s do it live,” which I think it ridiculously awesome.

It’s also wild that you’re doing two performances each week, one for the East Coast and one for the West Coast. Do you feel like one coast gets to see a better version of the show than the other?

They’re both great in completely different ways. The East Coast is great because that’s more of the adrenaline and nerves episode where we’re like, “C’mon, we’ve gotta get it. Game one.” So there’s more of a coherent storyline to the first one. Then we have a three hour wait before we do the West Coast show. The adrenaline wears off. You’re getting a little tired. You have friends hanging out drinking free booze and eating all of the food in your dressing room. Then what happens is someone says, “You’ve got 20 minutes.” You haven’t looked at the script since the first one, but you’re like, “I’ve got it.” In the second one we’re just lunatics. Like, “We got it in the East. Let’s try something completely stupid right now.” A lot of the people will go online and watch both episodes.

Do you think the live show is a sustainable model? Will it be back next season?

I personally hope it does carry over. I know that Chris and I both don’t want to do it regular again. I mean, we will if we have to do, but honestly, the live show is the most fucking fun I’ve ever had.