When you think of relationship humour, thoughts don’t immediately spring to pot, heavy metal, and animal-human hybrids. Well, think again.
You may know Jim Breuer as the ridiculous stoner Brian in Half Baked, or perhaps Goat Boy during his four-season run on Saturday Night Live. Or if you’ve seen his standup act, you’ll know of his fondness for ear-splitting bands. So how is this guy one of the feature acts on the Just For Laughs Comedy Tour’s relationship edition? Well, grown-ups will recognize those two roles as just that—characters he was paid to play. It’s what actors do.
It turns out that, beneath his doobious role, Capricorny kid character, and an amped-up love of amps, he’s the father of three girls under 14 and has been married for almost 20 years.
“I consider myself a modern-day dad, where I still got the rock ’n’ roll in me, but yet I take being a parent and relationships very seriously in life,” he said on the phone from his home in New Jersey. “I’m tired of the image of the father as a fat, beer-chugging, stupid guy. That image has to change. I’m changing it, baby, one city at a time!”
When he arrives with the JFL gang (John Heffron, Debra DiGiovanni, Godfrey, Roman Danylo, and Diana Frances), it will be his second time in Vancouver. For the first visit, in August, he opened for Metallica at Rogers Arena, performing what the Straight ’s own metalhead reviewer, Steve Newton, called a “nauseating pep talk”.
In Breuer’s defence, he flew to Vancouver thinking he’d be doing the requested five to seven minutes. Upon his arrival, the band’s people said, “Listen, it’s a Metallica crowd. You don’t need to warm them up. Go out and do 40.”
“It was a little bit of a challenge, but I conquered it,” he says. “Was it phenomenal standup pieces? Absolutely not! But did I pull off the crowd control and amp them up? Yes. So my mission was accomplished, but if you came to see me do standup comedy that night, I beg you, please don’t judge that event.”
The fan in him wouldn’t have been thrilled at seeing a comic at the show, either. “Dude, I would have started throwing things at me right away. Right away. If I was 19 years old and I was in the parking lot, or wherever I was, and I was putting whatever in my system and I think Metallica’s going on at 8 and some yo-yo goes up who’s going to try comedy, I’m looking for everything I can to throw at him.”
Despite starting out in standup—Comedy Central had him at 91 in their 100 Greatest Standups of All Time list—Breuer has had to reestablish himself after TV and film success. So he’s not just going up and performing his old characterizations. But he understands fans who still want some of that.
“That’s expected,” he says. “If that’s what they’re a fan of and that’s what brings them in, well then that’s why I got in this industry. I’m also a fan, and when I go to see my favourite performer, they need to know what I’m coming to see. I went to see Iron Maiden and they didn’t play any old stuff. I literally walked out, I was so aggravated and mad. ‘We’re doing new stuff tonight!’ Well then, I’m going to bed because that’s not what I came here for.”
You might not clue in while watching his energetic performances, but Breuer recently removed all shades of blue. That’s right, he now works clean. But his act still has bite.
“There’s nothing soft about it,” he says. “I just take being a role model with my kids very seriously. I don’t want it to be nice and soft and ‘Oh, he’s the nice family guy.’ No. I want to be hilarious.”
The Internet did it. “My kids started looking me up online. I’d see these routines where they weren’t filthy, but I was cursing. And I realized, ‘Aw, man, I can’t let my kids watch this. That’s stupid. Why am I cursing so much? Who am I trying to appeal to?’ ”
He may still not appeal to metal-music reviewers, but in his own habitat, Goat Boy rocks all ages.
The Just for Laughs Comedy Tour plays Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre on Friday (November 23) and the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Saturday (November 24).