John Breen performing with Hoskins & Breen at the Best of the Best Sketch Fest, Artists Rep., 1516 SW Alder, Friday Aug. 19, midnight, $10
After a six-month stint trying to make it in L.A. as an actor/director—an experience he summed up to me as "horseshit"—John Breen is blessedly back. A while ago, April of 2002 to be exact, the longtime Portland actor/improv stallion put forth an evening of sketch comedy with 3rd Floor veteran Loren Hoskins called Chainsaw Spaceman. A strange, lucid meandering that somehow connected blue-collar logging culture with space travel, Breen flexed a hilarious knack for portraying absurd characters, a notion he promptly cemented with his follow-up one-man show, John Breen is... Important People." I was so happy he's back where he belongs, I treated him to lunch...
So why was L.A. "horseshit"?
You know what's gross? People flossing their teeth in a place where people are eating. That guy over there's flossing his teeth right now. Look at it... he just put the floss on his plate. How nasty is that?
That is nasty. So why was L.A. horseshit?
In L.A., you gotta walk through a lot of shin-deep shit just to get to a certain place. You have to get the casting directors to know who you are and then they start calling you in for small things and for shows that aren't even good, and you just start to think, "Do I even want to do this?" Ultimately I didn't.
You're a fearless improviser, but does that courage transfer into sketch comedy, a decidedly less spontaneous medium?
Is this my napkin? Or is this your napkin? There's a dirty napkin on the table and it's in between us. Is it the dental floss guy's...? Crazy...
It's not mine. I don't know who's it is. You're a fearless improviser, but does that—
In every single production Loren and I've done, we'll be just hanging out in the beginning, having a blast about all the funny things we're doing. And then comes a stage about two weeks before we're going to open where we just sit there and look at each other and go, "this is the worst fucking show anyone's ever written. This is the stupidest, un-funniest thing ever, not just that we've done, but that anyone's ever done." And at that time, it's the reality in our minds, and we're terrified. And then you perform it for the first time, and you start speaking, and the audience starts reacting, and you're like, "Oh, thank god."