this is courtney d
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NEAL BRENNAN IS NOT PART OF THE JERK OFF CREW

  The "Chappelle's Show" co-creator and host of a new one-hour special talks women, black Dudes, jokes, America and not eating ice cream in his mom's basement.   My generation, eighties babies (I cannot deal with the word 'Millennials') were raised on  The Simpsons , entered teenage scumbaggery in " Oh my God! They killed Kenny!"  t-shirts and couldn't pay our sharehouse utility bills, but somehow owned five copies of  Chapelle's Show  on DVD.  The co-creator of Chappelle's Show who isn't Dave Chappelle, is Neal Brennan. Circa '92 Brennan and Chappelle were the youngest dudes trying to get stage time in comedy clubs, the babyface boys who couldn't legally drink inside became firm friends and comedy collaborators. Together they wrote a stoner-comedy called  Half-Baked , it didn't turn out as they'd imagined. The Hollywood experience left them wanting to create a project in which they would have full control, the control one has with a mic in a comedy club.  A decade later the two are most visible, as solo acts, in stand-up venues. Chappelle recently headlined a tour across the USA and tonight Brennan takes centre stage in his first one-hour comedy special,  Women + Black Dudes .  Neal is good at talking. I discovered this long before our interview as a listener of "  The Champs' , a podcast he co-hosts with comedian Moshe Kasher.  The Champs ' hook? The guests are not Caucasian, a rarity in the milky world of podcasting and interviews tend to swing from heated debates about misogyny and race to wild party tales from legendary names in rap (Too $hort), NBA (Blake Griffin), comedy (Chris Rock) and porn (token whitey Sasha Grey).

The "Chappelle's Show" co-creator and host of a new one-hour special talks women, black Dudes, jokes, America and not eating ice cream in his mom's basement.

My generation, eighties babies (I cannot deal with the word 'Millennials') were raised on The Simpsons, entered teenage scumbaggery in "Oh my God! They killed Kenny!" t-shirts and couldn't pay our sharehouse utility bills, but somehow owned five copies of Chapelle's Show on DVD.

The co-creator of Chappelle's Show who isn't Dave Chappelle, is Neal Brennan. Circa '92 Brennan and Chappelle were the youngest dudes trying to get stage time in comedy clubs, the babyface boys who couldn't legally drink inside became firm friends and comedy collaborators. Together they wrote a stoner-comedy called Half-Baked, it didn't turn out as they'd imagined. The Hollywood experience left them wanting to create a project in which they would have full control, the control one has with a mic in a comedy club.

A decade later the two are most visible, as solo acts, in stand-up venues. Chappelle recently headlined a tour across the USA and tonight Brennan takes centre stage in his first one-hour comedy special, Women + Black Dudes.

Neal is good at talking. I discovered this long before our interview as a listener of "The Champs',a podcast he co-hosts with comedian Moshe Kasher. The Champs' hook? The guests are not Caucasian, a rarity in the milky world of podcasting and interviews tend to swing from heated debates about misogyny and race to wild party tales from legendary names in rap (Too $hort), NBA (Blake Griffin), comedy (Chris Rock) and porn (token whitey Sasha Grey).

  VICE: Firstly thank-you for letting me share this (below) from your Facebook page. Is Chris Rock the MVP of Facebook threads? #YES   Neal Brennan:  Rock's way too famous to be on Facebook. But he is the perfect amount of mean for the internet.   I wanna ask why you decided to go back to stand-up, was it just something eating away at you? I assumed you were a guy much like Judd Apatow who was of the early mindset,' I'm good at this but I'm great at writing and I'm not as good  as that guy.'  I just realized at a certain point that no matter how much writing I did, I'm still a gym rat for comedy clubs. Even when I wasn't doing stand-up, I found myself at clubs all the time. And the other thing about writing is, there's still a ton of rejection and people telling you your ideas aren't good. So stand-up is the antedate for that. If somebody says my ideas aren't good in the afternoon, I can go to a club that night and try to prove them wrong. If I wasn't doing stand-up, there's no other way to find out whether an idea has merit or not. Am I as good as Dave or Patrice or Chris? No. But do all of those guys respect me? Absolutely. Dave and Chris I work with and Patrice is the only guy even in my entire life to call me out of the blue just to say he thought I was funny. That was incredibly nice of him and something I try to do myself.   As a non-American I'm curious about black room comics and audiences and whether that division has somewhat blurred in recent times or not at all? We constantly hear about the importance of comics being able to kill in both 'alternative' rooms and regular clubs. I'm wondering if you feel that having the ability to destroy among a predominately black crowd and vice versa is just as crucial? Is a GREAT comic someone who can play to everyone?   I think being able to kill in both alt rooms and black rooms is crucial. Dave, Rock, Bill Burr—they can kill in both places. There's only a handful of guys that can do it. I'd like to think I'm one of them. A black dude said to me one time, "I love watching you do black shows, because when you first get on, they fucking hate you. And three minutes later, they're totally on board." I try not to pander. I don't try to speak ebonics in black rooms. I speak the King's english. At first, it seems smug to them, but eventually I think they realize that's who I am.   Can you enlighten me on how the 'Def Jam' scene was viewed by the comedy community at-large during its height. There seemed to be a lot of negativity and snobbery towards it but watching it now on youtube is witnessing some of the most transcendent comedy I've ever seen (Bernie Mac "I ain't scared of you motherfuckers!" comes to mind). But perhaps the best of is not indicative of the Def Jam oeuvre?  Even at it's worst, Def Jam was extremely interesting and extremely well performed. And the crowds were amazing. Stan Lathan directed it. He did an awesome job getting the crowd and the comics in the same shot, which prior to that, nobody had done much of.   A theory you have discussed at length on your podcast is that, "if black people are exposed to white people at a relatively early age then they will largely find greater success because essentially white people will be demystified." Moshe rejects your theory but among the guests (who are most always black) all but one (comedian Hannibal Buress) agreed with you...  Moshe has since come around to my POV on this. I stand by this theory. It's been verified by too many guests of the show at this point (except for Hannibal). For better or worse, white people run America. So if black people, or Latino people or whomever is exposed to white people at a young age, via school or whatever, they'll realize that there's nothing to fear about white people. Chris Rock went to all white grade school, Dave grew up around white people, Kevin Hart, Diddy, Snoop, Kanye, Dame Dash all spent a lot of time with white people growing up... the list goes on and on. The problem is, some people don't want to hear this coming from me, a white guy, because they think I'm on some white supremacy shit. I'm not. I'm on some, "White people are in charge" shit. Get to know them.   Within black comic circles you're this mentor/Uncle Neal figure of-sorts, offering both advice and guidance to the next guys (Michael Che, Jerrod Carmichael) and even spelling out to established comics on air (Aries Spears, Godfrey) why you believe they are not selling out arenas. Everything from "you need to lose weight" to don't tweet stuff about Lorne Michaels and other blunt lessons in showbusiness. Has this happened since Chappelle's Show started? Why is there so little guidance in this business in general?  I'm actually trying to do this less. The way my career got started, though, was going up to guys like Dave and pitching him jokes unsolicited. Some of them stuck though and that's how I got confidence and eventually, a career. I'm trying to give less advice to people unless they ask. In some ways, it's passive aggressive and superior of me to be like, "hey, you, know what your problem is...?"  But if people ask, I have an opinion. And in the case of Che or guys like that, I'm friends with people they work with/for and know that for instance, tweeting about  SNL  your first week there is gonna make you seem like a dickhead to your co-workers, so I let Che know to go easy on it.  Also, I've been in real showbiz now for like, 15-20 years. So I may know stuff that a newer guy might not know.   Contrary to popular belief, you and Dave are still friends and see and talk to each other regularly...how many times does your proverbial Pager 'blow up' whenever something Chappelle related happens? I assume August 30th last year was a busy day?  Was that the day he walked off stage?   Yeah, the day after.  What's funny to me is, nobody will say anything that day. But the day after, they'll slowly start texting me..."Just thinking about you." Then five minutes later, "so what's up with your boy?" They try to ease into it like I don't know what's happening.   It's over 10 years since  Chappelle's Show  debuted, along with  South Park , nothing on  Comedy Central  has hit like this, it was this international phenomenon and just so fresh x dope. Everyone nowdays goes on about Breaking Bad  and shit but that's just online, I would cringe out if someone started talking about that show at a party.  Yeah. I'll say that I'm glad we were on before the era of online recaps. The idea of somebody dissecting every sketch would have made me insane. It would have been too much pressure.    Exactly   . And now we have these fucking daily think pieces about how honky or naked Lena Dunham is or whatever. These were of course around during Chapelle's run, some got super deep and esoteric, but it wasn't annoying and lame. People just really enjoyed the show. I feel like there is this eternal preoccupation with Dave because he didn't just turn down 50 million dollars, he seemingly turned down 50 million viewers' happiness.  That may have been what Dave was responding too anyhow when he ran off. He was seen as a spokesman for an entire race of 14 million black people. That's a total bummer when we started off just to make some skits.  And the fact that we only ended up making 28 episodes, and the way Dave left and became a Johnny Appleseed-type folk hero adds to the legend of the show.   You were both smart in not crediting individual sketches/jokes on the show, I assume this was primarily to avoid dissection and take down like, "oh that bit was written by a white guy" and so on?  The reason we never attributed certain jokes to each other was because we're both sensitive/insecure people who didn't want people to know that we might not have written someone's favorite joke. Generally speaking, people only want to know who wrote what so that they can discount the guy who didn't write the joke. Especially when one guy's white and the other's black.   I'm wondering what you thought of Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah's piece on    Chappelle in  The Believer    ? Or maybe you don't have any thoughts on it. You feature heavily in it and the author swings between understanding the world of comedy to this kind of thing:    ...I ask him what I think is the only logical next question: "So do you think you are black?"    It was kind of a bizarre article.  Didn't read it. I generally don't read articles about myself/ Chappelle's Show , nor do I read reviews. It's basically playing Russian Roulette. They're not all gonna be positive. And also, it's just one person's interpretation of (in the case of  Chappelle's Show ) something they will never understand. Two people understand how the show worked and how it ended. Me and Old Man Chappelle. Everything else is a game of telephone.

VICE: Firstly thank-you for letting me share this (below) from your Facebook page. Is Chris Rock the MVP of Facebook threads? #YES
Neal Brennan: Rock's way too famous to be on Facebook. But he is the perfect amount of mean for the internet.

I wanna ask why you decided to go back to stand-up, was it just something eating away at you? I assumed you were a guy much like Judd Apatow who was of the early mindset,' I'm good at this but I'm great at writing and I'm not asgood as that guy.'
I just realized at a certain point that no matter how much writing I did, I'm still a gym rat for comedy clubs. Even when I wasn't doing stand-up, I found myself at clubs all the time. And the other thing about writing is, there's still a ton of rejection and people telling you your ideas aren't good. So stand-up is the antedate for that. If somebody says my ideas aren't good in the afternoon, I can go to a club that night and try to prove them wrong. If I wasn't doing stand-up, there's no other way to find out whether an idea has merit or not. Am I as good as Dave or Patrice or Chris? No. But do all of those guys respect me? Absolutely. Dave and Chris I work with and Patrice is the only guy even in my entire life to call me out of the blue just to say he thought I was funny. That was incredibly nice of him and something I try to do myself.

As a non-American I'm curious about black room comics and audiences and whether that division has somewhat blurred in recent times or not at all? We constantly hear about the importance of comics being able to kill in both 'alternative' rooms and regular clubs. I'm wondering if you feel that having the ability to destroy among a predominately black crowd and vice versa is just as crucial? Is a GREAT comic someone who can play to everyone? 
I think being able to kill in both alt rooms and black rooms is crucial. Dave, Rock, Bill Burr—they can kill in both places. There's only a handful of guys that can do it. I'd like to think I'm one of them. A black dude said to me one time, "I love watching you do black shows, because when you first get on, they fucking hate you. And three minutes later, they're totally on board." I try not to pander. I don't try to speak ebonics in black rooms. I speak the King's english. At first, it seems smug to them, but eventually I think they realize that's who I am.

Can you enlighten me on how the 'Def Jam' scene was viewed by the comedy community at-large during its height. There seemed to be a lot of negativity and snobbery towards it but watching it now on youtube is witnessing some of the most transcendent comedy I've ever seen (Bernie Mac "I ain't scared of you motherfuckers!" comes to mind). But perhaps the best of is not indicative of the Def Jam oeuvre?
Even at it's worst, Def Jam was extremely interesting and extremely well performed. And the crowds were amazing. Stan Lathan directed it. He did an awesome job getting the crowd and the comics in the same shot, which prior to that, nobody had done much of.

A theory you have discussed at length on your podcast is that, "if black people are exposed to white people at a relatively early age then they will largely find greater success because essentially white people will be demystified." Moshe rejects your theory but among the guests (who are most always black) all but one (comedian Hannibal Buress) agreed with you...
Moshe has since come around to my POV on this. I stand by this theory. It's been verified by too many guests of the show at this point (except for Hannibal). For better or worse, white people run America. So if black people, or Latino people or whomever is exposed to white people at a young age, via school or whatever, they'll realize that there's nothing to fear about white people. Chris Rock went to all white grade school, Dave grew up around white people, Kevin Hart, Diddy, Snoop, Kanye, Dame Dash all spent a lot of time with white people growing up... the list goes on and on. The problem is, some people don't want to hear this coming from me, a white guy, because they think I'm on some white supremacy shit. I'm not. I'm on some, "White people are in charge" shit. Get to know them.

Within black comic circles you're this mentor/Uncle Neal figure of-sorts, offering both advice and guidance to the next guys (Michael Che, Jerrod Carmichael) and even spelling out to established comics on air (Aries Spears, Godfrey) why you believe they are not selling out arenas. Everything from "you need to lose weight" to don't tweet stuff about Lorne Michaels and other blunt lessons in showbusiness. Has this happened since Chappelle's Show started? Why is there so little guidance in this business in general?
I'm actually trying to do this less. The way my career got started, though, was going up to guys like Dave and pitching him jokes unsolicited. Some of them stuck though and that's how I got confidence and eventually, a career. I'm trying to give less advice to people unless they ask. In some ways, it's passive aggressive and superior of me to be like, "hey, you, know what your problem is...?"

But if people ask, I have an opinion. And in the case of Che or guys like that, I'm friends with people they work with/for and know that for instance, tweeting about SNL your first week there is gonna make you seem like a dickhead to your co-workers, so I let Che know to go easy on it.

Also, I've been in real showbiz now for like, 15-20 years. So I may know stuff that a newer guy might not know.

Contrary to popular belief, you and Dave are still friends and see and talk to each other regularly...how many times does your proverbial Pager 'blow up' whenever something Chappelle related happens? I assume August 30th last year was a busy day?
Was that the day he walked off stage?

Yeah, the day after.
What's funny to me is, nobody will say anything that day. But the day after, they'll slowly start texting me..."Just thinking about you." Then five minutes later, "so what's up with your boy?" They try to ease into it like I don't know what's happening.

It's over 10 years since Chappelle's Show debuted, along with South Park, nothing on Comedy Central has hit like this, it was this international phenomenon and just so fresh x dope. Everyone nowdays goes on aboutBreaking Bad and shit but that's just online, I would cringe out if someone started talking about that show at a party.
Yeah. I'll say that I'm glad we were on before the era of online recaps. The idea of somebody dissecting every sketch would have made me insane. It would have been too much pressure.

Exactly. And now we have these fucking daily think pieces about how honky or naked Lena Dunham is or whatever. These were of course around during Chapelle's run, some got super deep and esoteric, but it wasn't annoying and lame. People just really enjoyed the show. I feel like there is this eternal preoccupation with Dave because he didn't just turn down 50 million dollars, he seemingly turned down 50 million viewers' happiness.
That may have been what Dave was responding too anyhow when he ran off. He was seen as a spokesman for an entire race of 14 million black people. That's a total bummer when we started off just to make some skits.

And the fact that we only ended up making 28 episodes, and the way Dave left and became a Johnny Appleseed-type folk hero adds to the legend of the show.

You were both smart in not crediting individual sketches/jokes on the show, I assume this was primarily to avoid dissection and take down like, "oh that bit was written by a white guy" and so on?
The reason we never attributed certain jokes to each other was because we're both sensitive/insecure people who didn't want people to know that we might not have written someone's favorite joke. Generally speaking, people only want to know who wrote what so that they can discount the guy who didn't write the joke. Especially when one guy's white and the other's black.

I'm wondering what you thought of Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah's piece on Chappelle in The Believer? Or maybe you don't have any thoughts on it. You feature heavily in it and the author swings between understanding the world of comedy to this kind of thing:

...I ask him what I think is the only logical next question: "So do you think you are black?"

It was kind of a bizarre article.
Didn't read it. I generally don't read articles about myself/Chappelle's Show, nor do I read reviews. It's basically playing Russian Roulette. They're not all gonna be positive. And also, it's just one person's interpretation of (in the case of Chappelle's Show) something they will never understand. Two people understand how the show worked and how it ended. Me and Old Man Chappelle. Everything else is a game of telephone.

   The Champs    is the only podcast I 'fux with' for a number of reasons:    A.   It came along right when podcasts were dominated by unbearable white men being unbearable white men + talking to the same rotation of guests.    B.   It has the most hype and candid anecdotes like Allen Hughes' Tupac story (actually there a number of amazing Pac stories in the catalogue) and it would be illegal of me not to mention the episode wherein Baron Davis very casually dropped that he was abducted by aliens.    Are you still enjoying doing the podcast? Why is podcasting the most honky thing since Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 rule? And of course WILL EDDIE EVER DO IT?  I love doing the podcast. The worst part is booking the guests, but once they get there, I love it. We had MC Serch from 3rd Base on this week. He was excellent. I can guarantee that Eddie Murphy will never be on. And I can all but guarantee Dave will never be on either.  Podcasting is still largely the domain of nerdy white people. As far as everyone else is concerned, that shit is like Ham Radio.

The Champs is the only podcast I 'fux with' for a number of reasons:

A. It came along right when podcasts were dominated by unbearable white men being unbearable white men + talking to the same rotation of guests.

B. It has the most hype and candid anecdotes like Allen Hughes' Tupac story (actually there a number of amazing Pac stories in the catalogue) and it would be illegal of me not to mention the episode wherein Baron Davis very casually dropped that he was abducted by aliens.

Are you still enjoying doing the podcast? Why is podcasting the most honky thing since Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 rule? And of course WILL EDDIE EVER DO IT?
I love doing the podcast. The worst part is booking the guests, but once they get there, I love it. We had MC Serch from 3rd Base on this week. He was excellent. I can guarantee that Eddie Murphy will never be on. And I can all but guarantee Dave will never be on either.

Podcasting is still largely the domain of nerdy white people. As far as everyone else is concerned, that shit is like Ham Radio.

  You've directed films and recently guest directed a lot of sitcoms written by and starring women. Is this a coincidence or are women better to work with? (Obviously they are... women + black dudes  tho...okay full circle.)  That is part of the reason I called the special "Women + Black Dudes." Obviously, that's what most of my jokes are about, but also, women and black dudes are kind of the only people who hire me. I'm a fan of social justice and underdog comedy and I think women and black dudes fall squarely into both.   In contrast to a film or even  Chapelle's Show , is doing a day on a series, like say The Mindy Project , a dream situation (you're in and out) or stressful because it's like you've purchased a franchise restaurant and you've gotta' nail the product and there are a milli' constraints ...  Directing other people's shows is fun because the only pressure is to make the writer's script work as well as possible. I don't have to write it myself. And I love comedy writers so it's a pleasure to try and help them.   This is not really a question (I hate when interviewers makes it about themselves, but I'm going to here), my top 5 Comedy G.O.A.Ts are black: Eddie and Chris and Patrice and Richard and Dave. Is this just a coincidence? Of course there are brilliant comics who are not black, but I feel, that even the GREATS—be it Carlin or Louis et al—just don't have the charisma or effortless that those five guys have. I mean Eddie is basically baby Jack Nicholson and Chris is Beyoncé (in that they are obviously putting in the WERK but come arena time, it's perfection). Maybe I'm misfiring with this because I love Rodney Dangerfield but then he also played the schmuck, which white guys love to do, even when it's phony. I like in your stand up that you don't do that. You're not ever: "I'm so lame I stay home and masturbate into ice-cream."  I would say that I feel the same way you do about black comedians re: charisma and effortlessness. And yeah, I've never been big on self-deprecation. I kind of find the "I eat ice cream in my mom's basement" shit gross. My buddy calls all those guys, "The jerk off crew." I'm not a, awkward, bearded weirdo. I've never been that. I'm trying to be attractive onstage. I'm trying to be compelling... That jerk-off crew stuff doesn't play all that well in a lot of the rooms I play.

You've directed films and recently guest directed a lot of sitcoms written by and starring women. Is this a coincidence or are women better to work with? (Obviously they are...women + black dudes tho...okay full circle.)
That is part of the reason I called the special "Women + Black Dudes." Obviously, that's what most of my jokes are about, but also, women and black dudes are kind of the only people who hire me. I'm a fan of social justice and underdog comedy and I think women and black dudes fall squarely into both.

In contrast to a film or even Chapelle's Show, is doing a day on a series, like sayThe Mindy Project, a dream situation (you're in and out) or stressful because it's like you've purchased a franchise restaurant and you've gotta' nail the product and there are a milli' constraints ...
Directing other people's shows is fun because the only pressure is to make the writer's script work as well as possible. I don't have to write it myself. And I love comedy writers so it's a pleasure to try and help them.

This is not really a question (I hate when interviewers makes it about themselves, but I'm going to here), my top 5 Comedy G.O.A.Ts are black: Eddie and Chris and Patrice and Richard and Dave. Is this just a coincidence? Of course there are brilliant comics who are not black, but I feel, that even the GREATS—be it Carlin or Louis et al—just don't have the charisma or effortless that those five guys have. I mean Eddie is basically baby Jack Nicholson and Chris is Beyoncé (in that they are obviously putting in the WERK but come arena time, it's perfection). Maybe I'm misfiring with this because I love Rodney Dangerfield but then he also played the schmuck, which white guys love to do, even when it's phony. I like in your stand up that you don't do that. You're not ever: "I'm so lame I stay home and masturbate into ice-cream."
I would say that I feel the same way you do about black comedians re: charisma and effortlessness. And yeah, I've never been big on self-deprecation. I kind of find the "I eat ice cream in my mom's basement" shit gross. My buddy calls all those guys, "The jerk off crew." I'm not a, awkward, bearded weirdo. I've never been that. I'm trying to be attractive onstage. I'm trying to be compelling... That jerk-off crew stuff doesn't play all that well in a lot of the rooms I play.

Neal Brennan - Women and Black Dudes - White People Can't Relax

When you're doing a special do you have a team of sorts or is it a very solo process? Does it feel like a slam dunk going in because you've done the material in clubs so much?
Unfortunately, there is no team. I think Chris D'elia and Tony Rock are the only people who gave me a tag for a joke (a tag is another smaller joke after the punchline). And it never feels like a slam dunk. Even if you think your act is great, certain lines and certain jokes can crap out some nights. You never know with comedy. Every show is different. You just have to get the jokes in good enough shape that they all work 98% of the time.

What is your favorite bit/joke from your special?
My favorite joke in the special right this minute is probably the N.W.A. joke. It's basically about how N.W.A. didn't need to include the "W.A." The N did most of the heavy lifting for them.

Not to be immodest, but I honestly like all the jokes in the special. Some are better than others, some are more complicated than others, but I do like all of them.

Thank you Neal.
G'bless.+-

Interview by Courtney D read the full article up on VIce.