Podcast Moments: Neal Brennan on You Made It Weird
March 4, 2012 Leave a comment
I’m grateful that Julio from NY alerted me to the existence of You Made It Weird, which is part of the Nerdist podcast empire. Pete Holmes is the host of You Made It Weird and, during his interview with Marc Maron, he admits to imitating WTF with Marc Maron, which remains my favorite podcast.
One You Made It Weird episode that really caught my ear was the interview with the Co-Creator of Chappelle’s Show, Neal Brennan. I definitely have a much better sense now of how Brennan thinks and operates, which includes some unfortunate bigotry.
The big disappointment is Brennan’s outspoken homophobia. Brennan wants to let us know why homophobia is some sort of state of nature that is here to stay.
Homophobia will never go away and I will tell you why. Racism can and sexism can. Homophobia can’t among straight men because all of men’s power, identity and sort of understanding of themselves is based on manliness. “I’m more manly than you” — like, that’s eighty percent of the subtext of male conversations, that I’m fucking more of a man of you. So of course I’m more of being associated with a man that’s got a lot of feminine characteristics, the homosexual. So of course I’m going to be like “Don’t be lumping me in, because I’m gonna fuck you up. Because I’m a fucking man.” I don’t think that there’s any hate in it.
Okay, so even if there’s no intentional hatred on Brennan’s part, there’s a whole lot that sure feels like it, sprinkled on top of a big pile of misunderstanding. Brennan presumes that masculinity is based on power and dominance, which is ironic as there’s obviously a lot of fear in him that he doesn’t have that power he craves, or that he has it and will lose it. Brennan has educated me in one area, and that’s reminding me of why there is the “phobia” component of “homophobia.”
Brennan also assumes that the gender roles he learned in his childhood are the same ones that have been around for millions of years. That’s ridiculous, when you can simply travel the world today and see that gender roles come in all sorts of variations. That’s certainly been the case throughout history. The classic example in the western tradition involves the erotic relationship between men in ancient Greece, but that’s just the most prominent example. But for Brennan, it’s too much for his brain.
As a guy you just can’t act like a woman. If you’re a straight guy that acts like a woman, you’re not straight. I mean, again, gender politics, they’re asking a lot right now, with like “I’m a used-to-be-a-man.” It’s like “ah, alright, what?” How much time — do you know how fucking confusing this is to my brain? Chaz Bono, do you have any idea what you’re doing to me? There was one type of person — there were two types of people for a million years. It’s confusing. And I’m not saying anything negative about Chaz Bono other than you’re asking a lot.
Chaz knows exactly who he is and what’s going on. Brennan is the one who is gender confused, not to mention homophobic.
Brennan also defends his use of the N-word in his stage act and was upset with people who were upset with Tracy Morgan’s anti-gay rant. There’s lots to pick apart in his following statement.
Everyone’s racist, everyone’s sexist, everyone’s homophobic, everyone’s elitist. Everyone’s everything and they try to cleanse their own guilt by castigating other people….I believe that everyone who railed against Tracy Morgan was something but was fortunate enough to not get caught doing it in public. It’s also really fashionable to be not homophobic. It’s white liberalism.
I’m fine with the understanding that none of us are pure, but does that mean that we shouldn’t attempt to be less racist, less sexist, less homophobic, and less elitist? If everyone’s violent, that suggests that should treat our violent criminals with understanding, but it does not mean that we need to excuse that behavior and let it slide. We can understand Morgan’s rant in the context of a comedy club or as a temporary lapse in judgment, but it’s precisely because it happened in public that it matters. Some people may be speaking out against homophobia because they want to be with the latest cause, but that cause also happens to be right, whether or not it is supported by white liberals.
I’m a big admirer of Chappelle’s Show and it becomes evident in the course of the interview that it was Dave Chappelle’s vision, with Brennan doing a lot of the work to implement that vision. Let me rephrase that — with Brennan doing a hell of a lot of work integral to implementing Chappelle’s vision. Brennan is very open and says that his overwork was due to Al-Anon behavior, and that he now knows not to put others needs ahead of his own to such a dramatic extent. I’m glad that he’s in a healthier mental state, and sure hope that he starts to grow in other areas of his life.
The interview is also interesting for the insider anecdotes that Brennan dispenses on superstar stand-ups, including his former friend Chappelle.
Showbiz is so unfair that it aired on a Saturday, he called his manager on a Monday, and the manager goes “I don’t know what to tell you, buddy, the phone’s not ringing.” And they were so blinded by Chris Rock that they couldn’t see that there was another great hilarious dude. Meanwhile they had no problem with Bill Maher and Dennis Miller.
HBO had so little faith in Dave. We pitched Chappelle’s Show to them before Comedy Central and they looked at us like “Get the fuck out of here.” They looked at us like “You pieces of shit” to the point where Chappelle is such a fucking great passive aggressionist that on his way out he goes, “Alright, you guys. Don’t forget about me” which is just such a fucking great thing. In the same six month period, they weren’t releasing Killin’ Them Softly on DVD and he’s like “Hey, do you mind, can you give me the rights to it and I’ll just release it myself” and “they were like “Yeah, fucking yeah, get out of here. Yeah, here’s the DVD.” Sold a million of them after Chappelle’s Show hit.
I gotta agree with Brennan here. Skip the subpar For What It’s Worth (2004). Killin’ Them Softly (2000) is Chappelle at his stand-up comedy best, unless you can catch him live, which is even better.