Comedian Kurt Braunohler on skywriting and terrible auditions
Comedian Kurt Braunohler doesn’t have the most famous face (if you know him, it’s from his IFC game show Bunk), but you know his voice. He has appeared on several episodes of Bob’s Burgers, and he also hosts his own podcast on the Nerdist network called The K Ohle. His new stand-up album How Do I Land? is fantastically funny, and it contains the best of Braunohler’s extra-absurd dives into everything from misdirected text messages to his epically strange run-in with Sacha Baron Cohen.
Braunohler recently stopped by EW’s SiriusXM studio to talk about the album, his podcast, and his experience riffing with his friends on Bob’s Burgers.
EW: The album is called How Do I Land?, which is based on a Kickstarter campaign.
Kurt Braunohler: We skywrote over L.A. “How do I land?” We could only afford the cheap skywriting, which is only done by one plane. By the time it finishes a letter and starts on the next letter, that first one is kind of blown away. So the album cover is a composite of all the letters coming out. I did see on Twitter the next day that a few people had been watching it, but nobody called the cops or anything. I didn’t know until I tried to do this, but if you have 10,000 dollars, you can get five planes that all fly in a row to do the stuff that stays up longer. I wanted the romantic one guy in a biplane doing a flip, but it turns out that kind of sucks. I guess there’s a reason nobody uses this archaic way to communicate any more.
There’s a great bit on How Do I Land? about getting into an argument with a perfect stranger over a text you received by mistake. Do you find yourself going down those rabbit holes because you think there might be some good material in there, or is that just your personality?
It’s a little bit of both. You end up doing those things because it’s in your personality, but as a comedian you look for anything to mine. I have to write all the time, so I really look for anything to happen to me. It just happened to me again: I got a random text out of the blue from a number I’ve never seen that just said “Who is this?” I assumed it was just a kid who was pranking me. So I went with it. I wrote back, “It’s your future self—we need to talk.” We had a whole conversation where I blew his mind. I told him not to marry Elise, and he was like, “Who’s that?” And I was like, “You haven’t met her that.” I saw “Who is this?” and was annoyed, but then I thought, “I don’t have to be annoyed with this. I can engage with this.”
You have a podcast, and it seems like comedians have really cornered that market—
Science, too. I don’t listen to any of them, but they’re out there.
But that seems like an exhausting way to do business. Don’t you feel a little bit oppressed by how much material you have to come up with on a constant basis?
You have to be delivering content almost every day. Almost every minute. It used to be if you wanted to be a comedian, you used to just do sets. You’d go up three times a night, just get better, and then some people would see you and you’d do The Tonight Show and then boom, you’re a comedian. Now it’s so different. I pushed against doing a podcast for so long. I’m a very late comer to the podcast game. But you’re responsibility as a comedian is to get your viewpoints out into the world, and we have a lot more avenues to do that. So it’s a lot more opportunity, but really have to work all the time. All I do is go do podcasts. That’s the only way I see people, by doing their podcasts. I’m not kidding. You can hear my whole social life on the Internet.
And you also have Hot Tub, your weekly live show with Kristen Schaal.
Hot Tub is my weekly show that I’ve been running for eight years. It’s for new people to break out and for older people to try new stuff. I’m always trying to write for that, so every Monday I have to lock myself down and write new stuff. In doing my podcast, I do find that I tend to try out bits that I then try on stage later that day. If they work, great, and if they don’t, I regret having talked about it on the podcast.
What’s it like working on Bob’s Burgers?
I think it’s a great show. I’m so excited they want to use me. It feels so nice to be invited to their party, because their party is so cool. And it’s all my friends who work on the show, and [creator] Loren [Bouchard] is just so funny and great. There’s a real sense of family there. But we can improvise and that’s encouraged, so being in there and playing around and riffing is great. Then seeing it animated later—your dumb riff had to go to Korea to get animated by Korean animators who don’t understand what they’re animating because they don’t speak English, and it comes back and I’m like, “Look at my dumb riff! It’s on television!”
There’s an epic bit on your new album about a terrible audition you had with Sacha Baron Cohen for his Bruno movie. Have auditions gotten any better for you?
God, no. Auditions are just torture. I’m trying to get better at it. It’s a very difficult thing to do. You go into a tiny room with a camera with somebody who is doing this with 100 other people, and they’re so bored, and then you have to be like, “Hey! I’m gonna show you what I got!” And then you have to do it earnestly while also being funny with someone else’s words. It’s difficult, but I’m trying to get better at it.
It’s a box of questions for human beings who no longer know how to speak to other human beings. They’re just questions to spark conversation, but they’re the boringest questions in the entire world.
I looked up some Chat Pack questions and would like to ask you some. Here’s the first: If you could have one book instantly memorized, what would it be?
They are running out of questions. That’s the weirdest question. Why would I want a book memorized? I don’t even know what the answer would be. I guess it would be Moby Dick, because it’s funny, and you could go back and think, “Oh yeah, that was a funny bit.” Like read it to yourself when you’re bored. That’s not useful at all.
What month of the year best describes your personality?
I’ve seen this one. That’s in the OG Chat Pack. I tried it on stage once, and the answer was Dickubrary. Which isn’t a month.
If you could have 50 pounds of anything—but not money—what would you have?
Tits. Actually, 50 pounds might be too much. Also, it’s disturbing and upsetting. Fifty pounds of just flesh? I’m a monster.
Finally, if you could name a horse to run in the Kentucky Derby, what would you name it?
Kentucky Brown Horse, which is my nickname I’ve just given myself.