Comedians are paid to be funny, yet there are also quite a few of them that are not only amusing when they're off-stage, but also thoughtful and some of the hardest working folks in showbiz. Exhibit A: Bryan Callen, the funnyman who's made us laugh on shows like World's Dumbest and in movies like About Last Night. He's also the kind of guy you'd want to grab a drink with, provided he can find the time in his busy schedule. BFTV recently caught up with Bryan to talk about all the places we've seen him, and his philosophy of life.
Having first come to our attention on MAD TV and likely familiar as Mary Shannon's ex-husband and baby father Mark on In Plain Sight, Bryan is that guy who seems like he's been everywhere. Literally everywhere, as he spent his childhood in several different countries around the world, and grew up to have a steady career in both TV and film. He's got two films out already this year - About Last Night and Ride Along - and still plenty in the works.
"As an actor, you're never busy enough," he told us. "I'm getting ready to shoot my [new] one-hour special, it's my second special, which I'm excited about. I'm recurring on The Goldbergs, which is a great show. I'm writing my own TV show. I have a podcast [The Bryan Callen Show]; I have several podcasts." And he's still touring as a stand-up comic throughout the United States and Canada. No one can accuse Bryan of sitting on his laurels.
What does he think has been the secret to his success? "Mainly because I don't feel like I'm a success," he said. "I'm always driven to keep doing something different and better. I enjoy surprising myself. And basically, there's no second place in this business. You go into an audition, you're either the one or you're not, and if you're not, you go home. And I kind of like that. If you're really good and you're the best guy in the room that day, you get the job."
If you somehow haven't heard of Bryan Callen yet, at the top of this article there's a clip from his stand-up for you.
Given the sheer number of credits he has across all forms of entertainment, we asked Bryan if there's one thing in particular that he's most recognized for. "I would've said The Hangover," he commented, "but I think since I've been doing this as much as I have, I get recognized for my podcast and Instagram.
"What you forget is people do know who you are sometimes," he added. "I can't throw a tantrum if my plane is late. Somebody might be watching and that would be a little embarrassing. It's always a shock to me when I get recognized."
He's also particularly proud of his podcast, which has included guests way beyond what you'd expect from a podcast hosted by a comedian, like University of Chicago biology professor Jerry Coyne and John Gurche, who served as a dinosaur expert for Jurassic Park. It's a much deeper and much more varied podcast than any of its contemporaries; rather than casual conversation or setups and punchlines, Bryan is seriously discussing actual issues, while of course there are still some laughs along the way.
"I realized there are a lot of really smart people that nobody talks to," Bryan said of his interviews. "What I find so refreshing and fun about it is, as smart as these people are, they're still having to contend with themselves."
And that's what we find most remarkable about Bryan Callen. Yes, he makes us laugh on a routine basis, whether he's commenting on dumb criminals or playing any number of comic foils. But at the same time, he's also willing to dig deep into things, be it a podcast interview about science or working his behind off in the business. He's articulate, thoughtful, and refreshingly straightforward. We'd trust Bryan Callen to watch our house, at the same time that we love him for making us laugh so hard that we cry.
But are funny people always funny? When he's just being himself, do his friends expect him to be entertaining? "When I'm with my friends, it's a captive audience. They don't expect you to be funny," he explained. "The other night, at 47 years old, I spent an hour having a fake karate fight with Chris D'Elia for comedy. I spent an hour just trying to make them laugh."
Maybe that's the secret to his career longevity, too: that he's always trying, whether it's in comedy or life in general. Bryan left us with his philosophy of life: "Life is a verb," he told us. And he's certainly living it to the best of his ability, making him the perfect example of how awesome comedians can be.