The Jester Interview:
settled down and started a family, stand-up comedian and former Saturday
Night Live player Jim Breuer is back performing again after spending a
few years out of the public eye to concentrate on his family. Comedy
Central recently premiered his latest stand-up special, “Let's Clear the Air,” whose title is a dig at fans obsessed with his turn in the stoner
comedy “Half Baked” years ago. While Breuer appeared to perform stand-up
at the Just For Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival, he also brought to the
festival’s film program “More Than Me” (see
review), a documentary about how Breuer acted as caretaker for his
elderly father, but did it his way -- bringing Jim Sr. on the road with
him. Jester spoke with Breuer about his film the day after it screened
at Just For Laughs.
Jester: How did the whole idea come about to start it?
Jim Breuer: I knew when we were first doing the tour and I first
brought my dad, I did want people to see the relationship with my dad.
But it was intended just to go on my website as little clips for people
to watch, but not until about halfway through did Billy Philbin, the guy
who helped me edit said, ‘You know, if I sit down and do three
interviews with you, I think you’re going to have something really
special.’ Knock yourself out. The questions he hit were absolutely
perfect and I don’t know how the answers came out -- we did it in one
shot. I kind of knew in the back of my mind. I just didn’t -- I always
foresaw that for people to see but I didn’t think it would turn out like
that. To see it and hope for it is one thing but for it to come out like
that is another. The interviews added a lot to the film. It made it,
really. To me it did. The question and answer.
J: I wondered, it must have been hard for your dad to go to and
from places on the tour, on and off a bus, and to all these hotels and
everything. How was that for him?
JB: It was a little tough physically for him, but the other thing
he does is he’s home. He doesn’t have a car. He’s in the house all day.
But with me he’s a rock star, he was out -- every time we’d go eat, he’d
talk with every waitress and they’d say ‘How are you?’ He’d say ‘I’m
terrible; I’m pregnant.’ ‘Oh you’re pregnant?’ ‘Yeah and I don’t know
who the father is.’ He loves being the center of attention. Physically,
a little tough, but mentally, tremendous. I think that’s what kept him
going, and still does.
J: Do you keep doing that, bringing him on tour?
JB: Absolutely. We’re going on tour again and I’m hoping I’m able
to bring him to Europe if the Europe tour kicks off in spring. But we’ll
see. It may be a little too much physically, it may be a little too hard
for him. So we’ll see.
J: I thought it was interesting that you were both sitting and
watching George Carlin together, because Carlin was a New Yorker, a city
kid -- it seemed like he had a lot in common with your dad.
JB: Well he did, especially all his views. I had to actually edit
that part because what he was laughing at was a lot filthier. I thought,
we can’t put this in the film -- because I said, my dad has a dark sense
of humor and he loves cursing, and the George Carlin [special] which he
watched every single day on the bus. He’d go [imitates gruffly], ‘Oh, I
wanna watch that guy again.’ Carlin would say [whispers] ‘cunt,’ and
he’d go, ‘aaaahhhhh [low guttural laugh and snort] ha ha.’ He loves
George Carlin but he also loved his edgy darkness. He did a whole thing
on killing yourself, and my dad was like [aggressive low Beavis-like
laugh]!’ So the version you saw was a little edited as to what we were
really looking at. It was a little too R-rated [for the purpose of this
J: So in this movie, I think, reaching your dad, being funny and
poking fun at him, literally poking him in the ribs, worked for you a
lot more to connect with him than being straightforward would have.
JB: It always did. Me and him could go on and on all morning, all
day, doing that. But real conversation -- he was never able to have that
with me. Still doesn’t. Like I said in the film, it could last two or
three minutes, and then it’s something ridiculous and deflective.
J: Did some things slip out that you got from him just because
you made him more comfortable that way -- like about his WWII
experiences and things like that?
JB: Yea, on this trip it was. I didn’t realize he was on all
those islands [Jim Sr. served around the South Pacific]. I didn’t
realize he was so … what I noticed for the first time ever was how
sensitive he was about it, and how what a dark period in his life it was
that he keeps really locked up deep inside. Once in awhile that would
come out. That one moment when I asked ‘What was the worst?’ He said,
‘It was all the worst.’ He said it in a funny way, but he was done. ‘It
was all the worst.’ Wow. That sums it up for me.
The death part was a little … I never knew that about him. ‘Do you
believe there’s a god somewhere,’ and he said, ‘No. You come here. You
live your life, you die and everyone forgets you.’ That was a hurtful
moment for me, because – it hurt that a man who’s been through [what he
has been], that’s how he feels when he’s knocking on death’s door. That
must be a terrible way to feel.
J: But you say back to him in the movie something about ‘you’ll
have a legacy’ …
JB: I turned around and said, ‘No you’ll have it.’ It made me
want to do nothing but bring celebrations to death, especially his, when
and if – if? When it happens.
J: Is this film his legacy?
JB: I think so. What I enjoy most is when people say, ‘Your
father is so funny!’ When the film’s over, yea, you get me, but really
you get more of him. That is … hopefully he’ll get to see a little of it
before it gets out there. I’m more excited about that for him, because
he’ll enjoy that.
For Laughs -- Montreal Comedy Festival coverage sponsored by
Eric & LaNita Hazard; Irving & Sonya Rozansky.