Comedian Jim Breuer’s career has been filled with many amazing New York moments. He performed on Saturday Night Live, was a stand-out in the weekly Harlem based TV show “Uptown Comedy Club” and even threw out the first pitch at a New York Mets game. Breuer is a Long Island native and the 50-year-old is returning to his backyard in 2018 to start a year long residency at The Paramount in Huntington, New York. The Valley Stream native will perform one Saturday per month and previously filmed a comedy special at the venue.
Breuer talked with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about his upcoming residency, his favorite place to eat in New York and his memories from working with Tracy Morgan on “Uptown Comedy Club” in Harlem.
DJ Sixsmith: Why did you want to do a one year residency at The Paramount?
Jim Breuer: I’m from Long Island, so everything in my soul is Long Island. That’s where my whole life was growing up. When I played The Paramount for the first time, I can’t explain how hard I crushed it. I felt like I was in my backyard and everyone there was every neighbor from my neighborhood. I walked off the stage and said I want to film my comedy special here. I sold out seven or eight shows and we did it three years in a row. I filmed a special and after my special, I wanted to put together a rock sketch comedy. I wanted to do it there, but I couldn’t get the production lined up. We were just about to book The Paramount again for five shows in February and then they offered a residency. They said let’s do one Saturday a month for a year. I’m not going to lie to you, I was very nervous about taking a chance like that. They are so confident and so excited. I said let’s make this a show that you can only see on Long Island where we’re going to have huge production, sketches playing on the video screens on the side and we’re going to do characters. The first act is always going to be stand-up comedy. I’ve got plenty of material that I haven’t put on film or on specials. The next act will be storytelling. A band will score the story and there will be different sets for different scenes. The end will be characters and a rock improv. If you’ve never been to an ACDC concert, now you’re going to know what it’s like. I’m bringing the cannons, the fog machines and we’re going to laugh our asses off. Some nights I’m going to do raw Q+A for 20 minutes. I feel like I’ve been waiting to do this my whole life.
DS: Your comedy is raw and unapologetic. How long did it take you to develop your style?
JB: It took a long time. I first started doing stand-up in 1985 and in 1989 I decided this is what I wanted to do for a career. At first you just try to be funny and silly, I didn’t have much of a voice. Then as time went on, I was thrown off the beaten path with “Saturday Night Live” and “Half Baked.” People expect a certain thing, they think you’re the pot guy or the guy that does impressions. I found myself trying to appease a certain style for a while. In the early 2000’s, I would go on “Opie and Anthony” a lot, when they were still on terrestrial radio. They would allow me to sit there for four hours and tell stories. I remember Opie always going, “bro, you remind me of Richard Pryor.” Richard Pryor is my guy. He said that I should do a storytelling tour. I never really put it together. I went back out around 2008 and then I started doing Howard Stern, which puts you on a whole different platform. I mixed characters, comedy and storytelling on there. That has been me the last 10 years. This seems like the perfect storm and it is in my home where I grew up.
DS: What are some of your favorite places in New York City?
JB: My favorite chicken parmigiana in the world is on 7th Avenue right across from Carnegie Hall. It’s called Trattoria Dell’Arte. Oh my god, they pound the snot out of the chicken, it’s really flat and when they serve it to you, it looks like a personal size pizza. The cheese melts over it and they have little peperoni slices on it. When I got it, I told them that I ordered chicken parmigiana and not pizza. They said no, that’s a chicken parmigiana. Every time I go to the city, I have to hit Dell’Arte. If I need a chicken parmigiana, I will drive an hour and ten minutes from my house, pay the $15 toll, pay the $50 for parking, so I can get my chicken parmigiana from Dell’Arte. Also, I just found my new favorite comedy place. It’s called the Village Underground, it’s owned by the Comedy Cellar. Hands down one of the best places I’ve ever been to. I just discovered it two weeks ago.
DS: Let’s talk baseball. How are you feeling about your New York Mets heading into 2018?
JB: I don’t know about the team, but I have hope for manager Mickey Callaway. I like that he’s a pitcher, they need pitching guys. If you’re going to specialize in pitching, then get a pitching guy who knows pitching. Get a guy that’s been around successful pitchers. I like the direction. I feel like he said something that made them hire him right away. He said he’s going to attack injuries through analytics.
DS: Going back to comedy, what’s the biggest difference between the industry now and when you first started?
JB: Social media. Social media has allowed a floodgate of all styles and it allows you to become popular in all different mediums. It also has kept people alive. I did a bit 15-20 years ago and people still come up to me to talk about the bit I did with the alcohol and the stomach. You can stay alive forever, as long as you’re funny. You can be a seven second star. There’s Snapchat stars making six figures and there’s Instagram stars. I remember 10-15 years ago, I said everyone in the future will have the capability to be a star. I didn’t understand it, but now I get it. There’s a place for everyone. Back then it was comedy clubs and you have to get on HBO, that’s all you had. If you couldn’t get that, it was really hard to get by.
DS: You and Tracy Morgan appeared on “Uptown Comedy Club” together. What do you remember most about that experience?
JB: That was probably one of the greatest times of my whole life. I grew up a suburban white kid and when I went to Harlem, it was so educating. It opened my mind, my spirit and I wish school people were able to do stuff like that. I remember sitting with Tracy Morgan one day on 125th Street and we talked about all the questions two races wanted to bring up to one another. When we were done, it blew my mind and I wish the whole world sat and listened to that conversation. Maybe one day, something like that will exist. It was one of the coolest things in the world to the point that I became the funny white boy walking down the street. We could talk for an hour about that experience. I learned media mind control and I learned how hate is taught on all sides. I went into a bodega across the street and a guy from the Nation of Islam called me a white devil and said he would kill me. This guy Flex, who was on the Cosby Show, walked in and he and his friends laced into this guy. They said, “if you knew this guy, you would be ashamed of yourself.” That place taught me a lot about life. I didn’t think I’d get that deep, wow.