Learn More About Comedian Eddie Brill
Comedian Eddie Brill is featured in a special video on our homepage today, and we wanted to learn more about this funny and fascinating man! Eddie was the talent booker for David Letterman for 11 years, and has been working as the warm up act for the show for the last 15 years. Eddie helped to create the comedy writing program and Comedy Workshop at Emerson College, and is the humor consultant at Reader’s Digest. He is involved in a number of charities, including The Roberto Clemente Foundation for underprivileged children, Sisters in Survival for women with Breast cancer, Juvenile Diabetes, The American Cancer Association and with Reader's Digest and St. Jude Stand-Up for the Children. Eddie is also the creative director of the Great American Comedy Festival happening this week! Here's what we wanted to know:
I read that you wanted to study math and science at MIT is that correct?
There was a dramatic change to my life; my stepfather died at a young age, of cancer, and being the oldest, I was all of a sudden…in charge of my family. I saw how quickly life can change or be over…so I wanted to make sure I did what I loved for a living. I had started writing and broadcasting in high school, and I enjoyed the work and the attention. So I decided to pursue that...and give up a career based in science and mathematics. Although there is a lot of advanced mathematics in the arts.
You were a copywriter at an ad agency for a while – how was that?
Yeah, I did comedy in college, but then I thought I needed a real job, so I went into advertising. Which means I used to lie for a living, but then I started to do comedy again because I wanted to tell the truth for a living. Comedy is about the truth.
When did you know you wanted to be a comic?
In college was the first time I ever tried stand up. Stephen Wright went to school with us, and was a friend, and we used to go see him do stand up, and I decided I wanted to try it too. Did it once… Then I knew I wanted to do it forever.
What was it like when your dream came true? Was there a moment?
There have been so many moments. The first time I did the Letterman show as a guest was a big moment. Being onstage at Radio City Music Hall and looking out into the crowd and seeing everyone smiling and hearing 6200 people laughing, that was a moment. Also, doing a show at the Shrine Auditorium in LA…following Jimmy Stewart…and him being there after my set and congratulating me. Still seems like a dream.
You have said that honesty and vulnerability are the keys to success for a comic. Are these the traits you look for in your friends, in real life, too?
Yes, yeah, sure. I like people who are in the moment, people who are willing to share a part of who they are with you, people who aren’t afraid to be their authentic self, to show the real side of themselves to the audience, not just what they want you to see. You shouldn’t be afraid to show your authentic self to someone, you know?
You said your Mom was your biggest inspiration . . .
Yes, she is very funny. I am from a big family, I was one of five children, and everyone was funny, I’m just the only one getting paid for it.
What else makes you laugh?
Someone slipping on a banana peel, it’s funny! I like comedy that’s smart and silly. George Carlin greatly influenced me, he was a huge inspiration.
What is your writing process? How do you come up with your material?
Oh, all different ways. I’m very comfortable onstage, so I often play with new material on stage. Or I’ll ad-lib with my best friend…and we’ll throw comedy ideas back and forth. Or I’ll just sit down and write, or I might just play with ideas into a tape recorder as I walk around. But playing with new material right onstage in front of an audience is my favorite thing to do.
You lost a lot of weight and you said in our video that you feel free now – can you tell me more about that?
I lost 130 pounds and yes, I feel more free. Weight can be a protection from the outside world, from people. So I feel physically different, how I move my body is different, but I also feel different in mind, body and spirit – My spirit is free.
One young comic Chanelle Futrell calls you a “comedy philosopher,” and a mentor. Do you see yourself as that?
I’ve always relished the caretaker role, you know, with family and friends. I really like helping out people who are just getting started in comedy. Especially since so many people did that for me. I never see comedy as a competition, I love to share the art of it, the history of it.
You said “Comedy has always been the same” … What is comedy?
If it makes you laugh, it’s comedy. And comedy is all relative – same with a joke. What works one night with one audience might not work the next night with a different audience. If it makes you feel good, if it makes you laugh, then that inspires you. That’s comedy.
You are involved in a number of charities, how did you get involved in so many?
Well I never had money growing up, so I thought it would be nice to give back, to be able to give attention to some issues out there. I like to raise awareness about Type II Diabetes, that it can be treated through nutrition, not medicine, not chemicals. Generally I like to be involved in charities that help children, education is a really great thing. I work with kids in the inner city in New York, teaching them improv and stand up after school, and it’s very rewarding for all of us.
Some people say stand up is the hardest job in the world – do you agree?
Well there are harder things. Comedian Bill Burr used to say roofing in the summer as a redhead was harder, but really, there are always harder jobs. But being a stand up comic can be tough. For one thing, you’re all alone up there. There are no other members of the band, there’s a chance that what worked last night won’t work tonight. Every night is different. It can be scary, but that’s the fun part. Because when it works, the pay off, the feeling it gives you, is ten times better than other things, things that might be easier.
Any words of advice for anyone reading this interview?
Life is so short so why not do what you love to do every day. And – Mother Nature knows how to keep you healthy. Don’t turn to medicine, turn to nutrition. Nutrition is Number One. And for stand-up….the only way to get better is STAGE TIME!