You may know Bert Kreischer as a famous party animal who gained notoriety in a late ‘90s Rolling Stone article. Now it’s nearly twenty years later and this comedian has a wife and two kids, a book detailing his party lifestyle, a successful podcast and standup career. He is the host of Trip Flip, a television show where he finds random people on the street and surprising them with a free trip full of adrenaline-filled adventure.
I recently spoke with Bert about finding comedy in fear, storytelling without bragging and using his podcast to make new friends.
Are you achieving your comedy goals?
Jesus Christ, you have no idea you are hitting that nail on the head at the exact moment where I am questioning what the fuck I’m doing in life! I’ve just gotten to a place where I’m saying, “What is the goal?” Here is my fear: I always feel everything in comedy is fleeting. You get to a point where you are making real money and your wife is like, “Hell yeah!” and in a weird way you feel like everything is fleeting. Obviously in a much bigger scale guys like Dane Cook who was selling arenas and is now going back to clubs. What the fuck am I doing? Am I on the right path, and taking that path correctly by respecting it? Am I writing enough? I am also cutting this feeling by spending half the year or more doing TV. But it’s not like I’m doing network sitcoms that translate into people wanting to see me do standup. I am doing a travel show where I am having amazing, life-fulfilling adventures: but am I telling people about these insane adventures by being this conduit of comedy and travel or am I that guy talking about blowjobs? I cannot talk about blowjobs. When I was young – and this is much more than you looked for in this answer – I could go, “What’s up with blowjobs?” and run with it. Now I want to talk about the cultural differences between Japanese and Vietnamese people and what it is like to travel abroad but I wonder if I sound arrogant. But people come out to see me drink beers, tell party stories, talk about the machine or fighting a bear. I’m really at this crossroads at how I’m going to translate these life experiences onstage. I am probably two specials behind in my tapings and have about two hours I want to get rid of. I’ve been telling this machine story that I am proud of and people like it but when have I been telling it too long? When am I going to grow as an artist? So to answer your question in short – I’m at a crossroads, I have no fucking clue.
It sounds like a balance of wanting to talk about these things you’ve done but not wanting to sound prudish or brag.
Exactly. Sometimes I say things that feel so isolating. I have this joke I’m trying to work on about drinking goat’s blood with a Chief and him handing me this blood in a horn. He was fascinated that I was the centre of the entire television production. He wanted to know how I became the boss and why everyone was filming me. It was so interesting to him why all the cameras were pointed at me. It is their first experience with fame in his isolated village in Tanzania. He asked me how I got it all and I asked him the same question. He said, “I killed a lion before I was circumcised.” Okay, I just got this from an audition! [laughs] How do I translate this? There is no blueprint for that and all of a sudden I am part storyteller. What is my perspective for the comic in me?
How do you gain an outside perspective in your work, do you change your viewpoint from comedian to a host?
I think I experience things the same way but I don’t want to sound like a guy who has gotten all these experiences and doesn’t appreciate them. There are certain times where you are scared to death jumping out of a plane with Rachael Ray and anyone on the street would be like, “Fuck yes, that would be awesome!”
Until you’re up there…
Until you’re up there and then I’m scared as shit. I have been terrified but when I tell it on stage people ask, “Are you kidding? That’s amazing!” Until you get in the moment and lose your mind. The comic brain in me remembers the moment of terror. I also feel like it would be isolating if I just boast, but the truth is that I get really scared. I want the experiences because I can write about it and it would be good for the show but the regular guy in me who has a wife and two kids gets scared. I will be lying in bed the night before in panic, then the day of I am really cautious, afterwards I am thrilled and then you see me on [Joe] Rogan’s podcast pretty much bragging.
That panic is something everyone can relate to no matter who you are; whether it is a work presentation a date or jumping out of planes.
Or falling down a waterfall like I did a few weeks ago. I was repelling, slipped and thought I broke my back. I am just recovering now, but it was a wake-up call that bad stuff does happen in these extreme situations.
How do you push through: do you do it for yourself to have the experience and share it or for the adrenaline rush?
The push happens three weeks out, I look at prospective events and ask myself if it is good for the show and do I want the experience. There is no better feeling in the world then surviving something terrifying. Skydiving is fascinating, the best part is cruising in the air and realizing that the dice has been thrown and you’re either going to die or not. It’s a very helpless feeling but it’s so freeing. Trip Flip is a lottery-winning job. I get a phone call asking what countries I would like to see and that is the adrenaline I get attached to. It is almost like over-ordering at a restaurant if you haven’t eaten in a while like, “I need appetizers, wings, burger, fries and some dessert!” Then next thing you know I’m in Tanzania flying to Zanzibar in a shitty plane asking whose idea was this? My whole crew yells, “Yours asshole!” and why, because Freddie Mercury was born there? But it’s gorgeous! There is stuff I’ve killed where I have said no, no, no, that will fuck with my life insurance. They wanted me to do a wing suit flight off the Hollywood sign. I can’t do that, professional people die in those suits all the time. I have two children I love more than jumping in a wing suit.
What do you look for in a comedy audience? Do you prefer people who don’t know you, fans or a mixture of both?
It’s a good question because last night’s first show was probably the least amount of people I performed for in a while: it was packed but it wasn’t sold out. I was watching them come in and thinking, “They do not know who I am!” My first ten years I never had a fan or someone who knew my shit. It is great having comedy fans in the audience but last night I remembered how much I love making strangers laugh.
Isn’t that the reason some people became comedians, because they started by making strangers or their friends laugh?
Yeah, and it’s beautiful! I can tell you clubs where not one person or even the club knew who you were. If you did a great job and all the people in the club liked you – that feeling is fucking fantastic. Chris Rock will never get that feeling again. Russell Peters will never have that feeling again. I have a little bit of a fan base but there are still times where no one knows who the fuck I am. I miss Sunday shows in the States, those are the fucking best because it was so much fun and they didn’t expect to laugh at all.
How do you prepare before hitting the stage?
[Laughs] Okay, next question…
[Laughs] Literally, I don’t. I tell you what: I don’t drink before I go on stage. I always panic and think that I won’t remember anything. Sometimes I look over notes. I like to write on stage and that’s it, I don’t tape my sets. I feel like my style of standup is like this thing called the Angel’s Share. In whiskey it is the amount of liquor that soaks into the wood barrel or evaporates and they say it’s a gift to the angels. I am not a big fan of very prepared standup. I like when Dave Attell writes and I appreciate it but I much more enjoy with he does crowd work. I’m not that kind of comic that prepares a specific set. If I see a comic do the same prepared set night after night I am so bored.
It’s like a monologue.
I cannot watch someone monologue it. Sometimes when you see those type of comics, they try to rearrange the jokes so it’s different I’m like, “Nah!” you aren’t tricking me. I like comics like Janeane Garofalo who is very stream of conscious in an honest way. I like watching someone figure it out but I definitely have jokes in my act where you can see segue-ways that I have used before.
What was your initial idea when started your podcast the Bertcast?
My initial idea was going into hotels and having people interview me. I think I’m a better guest than podcast host. I love going on other people’s podcasts – in my opinion not enough people ask me to be guests! I did a couple episodes but I could never get someone to sit down and talk to me for long enough. I taped a bunch and couldn’t get one that I liked. The day after Thanksgiving Tom Segura, Joey Diaz and my dad were in the mancave, I had the equipment and thought, “Fuck it, I’m doing a podcast!” We did it, it was so funny and got so many downloads the first day. I released the next episodes with me interviewing comedians and they were so high on the charts I thought I should keep doing it. Now I know the system and the names people will download specific episodes for. It stinks when I have a relatively unknown, interesting, hilarious person on – like Shane Mauss. On the last podcast with him I asked a statistically true question, “Do you know the number one reason why people fall out of trees?” And he instantly goes, “Overconfidence?” I fucking lost it! I love talking to my friends but I don’t want all my conversations to me recorded. Doug Stanhope and I did an episode together and it was great. He wanted a cigarette and we walked to his car and the conversation on the walk between the mancave to his car and back was a million times better than anything recorded. My goal now is to interview comics I don’t know. It’s hard when you are in different comedy circles or have different sets of friends. A lot of guys, especially alt comics are very introverted and here I am loud, drinking, taking my shirt off and partying.
Are you surprised by how the podcast evolved?
I thought it would be me having my friends on: Ari [Shaffir], Joey [Coco Diaz], Tom [Segura], Duncan [Trussell] every week. I never planned on meeting new guests or interviewing someone like Kurt Braunohler. I didn’t plan on doing what Marc Maron does by getting into the nuts and bolts of someone’s story. I have done that a little bit but I want to know where people started in comedy and who they came up with and their career.
I think before podcasting became more prevalent, there were so many closed comedy circles where it was obvious guests would just rotate between. Now, people mix much more.
Oh yeah, for sure. I am excited to talk to new people I have never met, even though it might turn out awkward or weird.
Asking someone to do your podcast is a very vulnerable way to put yourself out there.
And I am a genuine fan of lots of comedy. I feel like the two main things on my podcast nowadays is getting to know people I don’t know and people I know telling me my favorite story of theirs. I’ll hear a story and even tell other people it, and fucking it up so bad. Ben Bailey’s Louie Anderson story is amazing and he came in and told it so well.
The third season of Trip Flip premieres on the Travel Channel Tuesday June 2nd with back-to-back episodes. Visit BertBertBert.com for tour information, links to his book and podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BertKreischer.