Sketchfest Q&A: Brent Weinbach


From SF Weekly

January 19, 2010
By Irene McGee

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SF Sketchfest brings together amazing comics in from all over the U.S., but the best news is we also get a couple of locally-grown superstars this weekend at the Punch Line when Brent Weinbach and Moshe Kasher take the stage (Thursday 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. joined by comedian Josh Fadem). Both Weinbach and Kasher got their start in the Bay Area and have since become award-winning comics whose careers have reached critical tipping-points. We were lucky enough to grab these two for Q & As about their funny profession–below is Weinbach’s interview.

Weinbach was a finalist in the 2008 San Francisco International Comedy Competition, performed at the Montreal “Just For Laughs” festival, and won the Andy Kaufman award for originality in 2007. When did you start your comedy career?

When I was three years old. I wrote a song and the lyrics contained only the words “poo poo pee pee and caca.” Basically my material hasn’t changed much since then.

I grew up in Hollywood, but I was based in San Francisco for 12 years.

What was great about doing comedy in the San Francisco area?

It’s a really supportive scene and lots of good, fresh energy was around when I started. Everybody was just really good. It was a city that seemed really open to people that were different and trying new things in comedy.

Are you excited about performing at the Punch Line?

I remember the first time I went up at The Punch Line years ago. It was a Sunday night showcase on a holiday weekend, so it was pretty packed. I was good and it felt great to be well-received by the audience. It’s sort of a big deal to perform at the Punch Line when you’re a new comic, because it takes a long time to get the chance. That night was a big deal. I love the Punch Line. It’s like my home club.

Why did you make the move to L.A.?

In 2005, I started making more trips down to Los Angeles. NBC went around the country looking for comedians of diversity — meaning comedians that are not white. I’m half Filipino. Even though I don’t have much material about being Filipino, if there’s an opportunity to be half Filipino, then I take advantage of it. It was a nationwide search and they sent the finalist to Los Angeles. Two of the comics got holding deals from NBC and I was one of the two comics picked.

Can you explain what it means to have a “holding” deal with a network?

A holding deal means they own you for a year with the idea of using you in some kind of project. They might let you do things on other networks, but basically it is an exclusivity situation. That was in 2005 and it ended in 2006. While I was down here, I started to get more involved in the TV and film side of things. It required me to be in Los Angeles. But I actually don’t spend a lot of time in Los Angeles. I go on the road a lot.

When did you commit to comedy full time?

I was student teaching and summer was approaching. I played piano in hotels and restaurants too and I got tendonitis in my arm, so I had to stop playing. I realized I really needed to make a living off of comedy during that summer, and then in September I could start substitute teaching again. I was able to hustle and make a living off of comedy, and when September came around I didn’t go back to teaching. I booked shows, sold merchandise, put on my own shows, and just figured out how to make money. The first year was a struggle, but it became easier after. Now I still hustle. You have to always hustle. You can’t stop or you’re going to get played.

How would you describe your comedy?

I think my comedy is really random and stupid and juvenile and that’s the kind of stuff I like. It’s the stuff that made me laugh when I was a kid and I think that’s a very pure thing about comedy. If it made you laugh when you were a kid then you don’t need to be an adult to appreciate it. Lots of poo poo, pee pee, and caca jokes – well not really caca – but I do say poo on stage. I’m kidding – well, kind of. My comedy can be smart, but it’s thoughtful stupid comedy. I try to be very serious in the delivery. I think the contrast between being very serious and talking about stuff that’s just juvenile and immature is a dynamic that’s funny.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, I’d like to give a special message to the SF Weekly readers. This is going to be a stupid show, and I think it’s going to be silly and fun. Definitely come check it out and support SF Sketchfest, because it’s an awesome festival.

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