Say hello to Brandon Martin: one part Steve McQueen-cool, one part Andy Kaufman-absurd, and one part Doug Benson-chic. I remember having a nice long conversation with Brandon early during my improv career. We were standing on the catwalk above the Hideout Theater, and as he rattled off his comedy bona fides, I realized that this guy could, if he so chose, be a comedy academic. He could teach a course entitled “Good Comedy Through the Ages,” as he is attune to what’s truly funny in the cluttered media landscape. (I’ll also forever be indebted to him for introducing me to Pete Holmes, the single funniest live stand-up comic I’ve ever seen.) Recently, Brandon produced the comedy talk-show sensation, Fresh Roasted. With the momentum from that overwhelming success, he’s poised to make a big mark on the Austin comedy scene in 2015 (though maybe in a new form). But for now, let’s just enjoy…
Years doing improv:
Troupes or shows you’re in right now:
Who are the three funniest living humans?
Danny McBride, Will Ferrell, Dave Chapelle, and Jim Carrey. Oh, and Steve Martin. Fuck, there can’t be that low of a number to choose from. (These choices do not represent me saying that women are not funny!)
You strike me as very serious, despite your devotion to comedy. What’s that all about? Am I misreading you?
No, my demeanor reads “serious” most of the time, but it’s not necessarily how I’m feeling. You know how Jim Breuer always looks high, but really isn’t? Or how Gilbert Gottfried looks like he is squinting, but that’s just how his face looks? Im high a lot, so there is also tons of observing going on in my head. I’m also not a fan of small talk. If I have a conversation with someone, I want to dive into some meat quickly. Improvisors and comics in general are great to have these conversations with, because, at least for me, I’m trying to get to some good meat to chew on and enjoy. I’m on that nice nice though, no need to fear talking to me.
What’s the hardest you’ve ever laughed?
Probably a tie between the first time I watched the campfire fart scene in Blazing Saddles or the first time I saw Dumb and Dumber and Jim Carrey screams right after Seabass breaks the bathroom door open. I saw both of these movies at a very young age, but I laughed from my guts at both of them.
Who’s an underrated performer?
In town? I think John Buseman is a beast, but I don’t know if he is necessarily underrated. I also really like JenRaye Adams. She commits and is fantastic. I feel the same about Ron Morelli. I hope to tour one day with some of these people.
You went to Chicago for awhile. Mind telling us about that experience?
I spent a year there, but it was not for me. I thought it would be smart to go and move to the place where everyone nowadays goes. I thought, “Surely it won’t be the worst winter ever or anything like that.” Cut to a Monday this past January—the coldest day. It was -16 degrees, with a -36 degree windchill.
No offense to Chicago, but you can keep that shit.
I did enjoy my experiences. I got to do a couple of plays and some stand-up. Improv was hard because everyone there is involved in as much as they can be there. It was hard to get groups together because most become troupes through classes, I was trying to find people I really wanted to play with. I also realized how flooded the market was up there and what a special thing the Austin comedy scene is, and how there is a good chance this place might end up being the next Chicago.
The talent here is on par, if not more talented, than some you might find in Chicago. Chicago has many great performers and talent, no question about that, but damn, Austin is right there with them. This town is the shit, and more and more people are getting that.
Are men funnier than women?
In the end I think there is no “funnier”; you’re either funny or you’re not.
Amy Sedaris, Kristen Wiig, Molly Shannon, Kim Wayans, Lisa Kudrow, Amy, Tina, Rachel Dratch (go watch some Debbie Downer sketches!), Ana Gasteyer, Kate McKinnon, CHELSEA PERRETTI (if you don’t know, go find out online), Amy Schumer…..
What’s your first love—sketch, improv, stand-up, directing, what? And why?
I don’t really know.
When I first started this journey, I wanted to do stand-up first, but I was also scared to get onstage. I took improv classes first so that I could handle myself on stage with nothing, so I could save my ass if written jokes fell flat. I ended up really liking improv and stayed in that for awhile, but then I grew tired of trying to wrangle people together to play who may have different levels of enthusiasm. I am in no way trying to say the people I worked with were difficult or anything, but I have a more serious look at the whole than some others. I like to be on time if possible, I like playing with people who really want to play.
Stand-up requires only me. There’s no stress of someone not being at a rehearsal, because I’m the only someone that has to be there. No waiting on texts or getting emails saying “I can’t make it,” because I am making it.
What comedy movie would you take to a desert island, and why?
I would go to my computer and make one DVD with three movies on it: Coming to America, Anchorman, and Dumb and Dumber.
If you taught a comedy class, what would be the title?
“What’s Funny About You?”
Tell us about Fresh Roasted.
I was trying to come up with solo show ideas in Chicago while I was going through a class at The Annoyance Theater. I would sit in Starbucks a lot and watch people and try to come up with ideas off of people I saw, or I would try writing out stories or jokes. I just kept thinking about how hard it was for me to figure out a creative process for myself.
Then I thought about how there should be a show about how creatives get to there creative place. I started picturing it in a coffee shop, but as soon as I started thinking of how it would look onstage, I could only think about how it would look on the Institution stage.
As things panned out, I moved back and ended up pitching it and getting to do the show on a fast track, so I had about two months to prepare a seven-week run. The show ended up becoming a talk show, but it would take place in the weirdest coffee shop in Austin. The stage was set as a quirky coffeeshop with Pee-Wee’s Playhouse-type characters who would be the most eccentric coffeeshop regulars. We would have local comedians, actors, and musicians come in and do talk show-type segments while characters were in the shop. It was a lot of chaos at times, but also a lot of fun.
What’s your next project?
I really am going to try and just work on stand-up for awhile. I like improv and I like playing, but I would rather play in a project or some one-off stuff instead of being in any “themed” improv shows right now. I don’t judge the themed shows and I have been a part of some. I just don’t feel like it’s my cup of tea anymore. More power to those who are doing them, if you are enjoying it and having fun, then fuck yea get that shit.
I have just become more of a fan of going out on stage and seeing what develops from absolutely nothing except maybe a suggestion.
How would you describe the five Austin improv theaters to an alien?
I wouldn’t have to, I’m sure Tom Booker knows them.
Jim Parsons just won the Emmy for “Best Actor in a Comedy” for The Big Bang Theory. Discuss.
Here’s a clip of The Big Bang Theory without laugh track. Tell me how good that show really is:
What’s an improv pet peeve of yours?
If you get a one-word suggestion and use the word in the first sentence or even use it at all, I’m already annoyed. I like seeing the suggestion fueling the environment or emotion or just something about the scene and never hearing the actual suggested word used. I think that is where some of the magic you look for in improv can come from.
I’m also not a fan of “center stage, wide-legged stance, hands on hips.” It’s like small talk in a physicality. B O R I N G!
Anything you want to plug?
I have a girlfriend. Thank you for asking, though!
Follow me on Twitter: @gentlemensfury
What’s one thing most people don’t know?
I’ve been skateboarding since I was 16 and I am still pretty good for not doing it so much. Not a professional or anything, but it might impress you if you saw it. Then again, probably not.