Not-Baked

Published In The Lake Champlain Weekly
October 9, 2019

 

By Joshua Miner

Known for his iconic role in the cult classic Half-Baked, comedian Jim Breuer has done what few celebrities have been able to – stay true to himself.

He still finds it finds it amusing, however, when he tells people that except for one quick scene in the film, he wasn’t even half-baked. In fact, he wasn’t baked at all.

“What that taught me [was] how easily we are manipulated in our own beliefs with something we read, or a headline we see, or a movie we see,” Breuer explains.

Breuer always knew he wanted to be an entertainer. No matter where he was, he always used comedy to make things more enjoyable for everyone. While he was a perpetual prankster growing up, he always took his professional work seriously. By the time he earned a spot on Saturday Night Live in 1995, he felt a need to prove himself.

“There was a lot of people who didn’t want to hire me,” he says. “So, when you know you’re only contracted for nine episodes, and half the people want you there and the other half don’t, you don’t really have time to go: ‘Oh, look at me!’”

Along with his recurring role as “Goat Boy,” Breuer also had a knack for impersonations. His impression of Joe Pesci even led to Pesci’s appearance on Weekend Update as he hilariously confronted Breuer alongside friend and fellow actor Robert DeNiro.

His hard work and comedic genius made him a regular cast member until 1998.

SNL was a huge break for Breuer, and soon he was approached by Dave Chappelle for Half-Baked. When Chappelle was putting the film together, he says, he was told he was perfect because he looked like he was stoned already. Chappelle even joked he wouldn’t even need makeup. But despite looking perpetually wasted – as he explains in his 2010 book I’m Not High: (But I Got a Lot of Crazy Stories as a Goat Boy, a Dad, and A Spiritual Warrior – Breuer avoided the Hollywood lifestyle and the party-like atmosphere that goes along with it.

In the wake of the movie’s success, Breuer says he got a glimpse of that life and quickly knew it wasn’t for him.

“After being in that world – and I did very well, until I turned the other way – [I learned] that family gives you way more satisfaction in life,” he says.

Breuer says he was appalled at some of what he witnessed during his brush with Hollywood. Although he knew he could continue, he also realized he would be giving up his own sense of self in the process.

“It wasn’t that I was afraid of drugs and all that, I was more turned off by the extreme vanity, the extreme ego, and the things that were hidden from the public eye that [people] had no clue existed. It just blows my mind. And a lot of it came out later, but I got to see it first-hand. And when I would tell people, they would say ‘Oh, you’re just crazy’ or ‘you’re just jealous.’ Alright, well I saw it with my own two eyes,” Breuer says.

That commitment to authenticity is the foundation for his shows even today, which have been mostly improvised over the past several years.

“Stand-up comedy, I get to inspire people. I get to make you laugh hard for an hour and a half. I take you away from your world. And the greatest feeling in the world is someone going: ‘You don’t know how bad I needed that tonight; I can’t thank you enough.’”

Breuer says he always has material ready which he knows will bring the house down, but he prefers to read the room and make jokes in the moment. Not only does it keep him fresh, but it makes every show unique for his audience.

“In the last two, three years I’ve found that taking my time and allowing 20 minutes of improv in this direction, and 10 minutes of improv in [that] direction has been a huge strength for me in my path.”

It’s this ability to create one-of-a-kind performances that has fans coming out to see him time and time again. While some performers may have a scripted set that stays the same every night, the variety of his shows give the audience something new and exciting every time they see him.

In his last release, Jim Breuer Live From Portland, he speaks about the afterlife in the wake of his father dying in his arms. With the subject matter including serious topics such as those, Breuer was surprised to still see the record debuting at #1 on the iTunes Comedy Charts. What makes it even more special, he says, is the success coming despite a lack of promotion and Breuer’s absence from the public eye.

“To put that out – which I didn’t expect to do – and have people download it and be that excited and still talk about it, it excites me for the future,” he says. “If they liked that, my attitude is I got stuff way better than that.”

Despite having plenty of lighter material ready to be released, Breuer says he is having every show of the tour professionally recorded for future releases.

“There may be things I do in New Hampshire that I’ll never do anywhere else, but I’ll have it on video and I’ll have it professionally recorded. I like being in control of all of that.”

While he may seem silly and carefree, comedy is nothing short of medicine for the soul for Breuer. With the recent passing of his father, it was comedy that allowed him to cope, he says. His ability to make other people laugh and deal with their own troubles is a task he doesn’t take lightly.

“At the end of the day, it’s a gift. It’s a healer,” Breuer says. “You can’t underestimate that when you have it, you really have to nurture that gift.”

Jim Breuer’s Live and Let Laugh Tour comes to Plattsburg’s Strand Center Theatre Friday, October 18 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28-58 in advance, and can be purchased at strandcenter.org or by calling the box office at 518 563-1604 (ext. 105). Meet and Greet packages are also available.

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