COMEDIAN NEAL BRENNAN might forever be known as "one of the guys who created Chappelle's Show." And he's fine with that. "Until I do something as popular as that," he says, "I still expect that to be the credit."
But it's not as if Brennan has been in hiding since Chappelle's abrupt end in 2004. He directed a film (The Goods), has helped out on a variety of TV projects, co-hosts a podcast, and—as he'll be doing this week at Helium—performs stand-up all over the US. We spoke with Brennan in advance of his upcoming Portland dates.
MERCURY: Your podcast The Champs has had such an eclectic list of guests. How do you go about choosing whom to talk to?
NEAL BRENNAN: Basically the first criterion is black people. I know a lot of black people. I know more black people than most white people. I might know more than some black people. We just try to get people that you wouldn't ever hear on Marc Maron or Joe Rogan. Also rarely do you get to hear white and black people talking where it's not an issues show. We're just talking shit in a comfortable setting.
You've directed one-off episodes of New Girl and The Mindy Project. Do you prefer doing that instead of working on something that's completely your own?
The thing about those is that it's three weeks at a time, and it's a nice break. It's always a learning experience because it's a new show and a new style that I have to try and fit myself into. I just have to babysit for a couple of days. All I have to do is not kill the baby. Mindy is the one who has to worry about the baby. If it dies, it's her fault.
What keeps you coming back to stand-up?
I just wrote a movie, and if things go incredibly well, the first time an audience will laugh at it will be in 18 months. But there are three or four stand-up jokes that I'm working on that I can use tonight. And I don't have to ask permission. After this I have a conference call about a pilot I'm doing and I'm pretty sure the conversation is going to be about the "B" story, the second most important plotline. It takes fucking forever. That's the attraction of stand-up: cutting out the middleman and instantly seeing whether my material has merit.