Brock Wilbur on Recording His New Album, Burning Material and Performing Before Mom
Screenwriter, actor, podcaster and comedian Brock Wilbur has outsized ambition that matches his mountainous physique. He records at least an hour of standup every year, then starts fresh with new material; he also writes and produces films, and tours the country. He'll be bringing a cornucopia of comedy to Denver this weekend, where he will record his set and also the podcast he co-hosts with Rob Ondarza and Joe Starr. This is the third live album for the industrious Wilbur, which will be recording his free shows Saturday, September 20 at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. Wilbur is also featured on Friday, September 19 at the Sexpot Comedy Aerial Menagerie showcase with locals Jay Gillespie and Haley Driscoll, along with co-headliners David Hunstberger and Dan St. Germain. Westword caught up with Wilbur before his trip to town to discuss his slash- and-burn work ethic, balancing screenwriting with comedy, and the motherly guest of honor at his taping.
Westword: You're a screenwriter and a comedian. How do you balance the Jekyll and Hyde (or Jekyll and Jekyll) sides of those disciplines?
Brock Wilbur: Screenwriting brought me to Los Angeles, but my frustrations with it are what led me to comedy. I'd see a movie I'd written that took three or four years to make, and by the time it was released it didn't represent the same person I'd become. That's when I turned to comedy, where if you have an idea you can share it with people a few minutes later instead of waiting years for them to engage with your ideas. In return, comedy has taught me how to entertain an audience in ways production or book-reading never could, making me a hell of a lot better of a writer.
I read that you endeavor to record a new album every year? Where do you find the resources to generate all that material?
Each year I record an album, then kill off all the material I'd written that year, including things I didn't put on the record. The next day I have to start fresh, which is a little terrifying when it happens, but nothing good comes without a little terror. When I first got started, I was doing shows at The Comedy Store where friends were paying door costs and drink minimums to come see me do ten minutes. I immediately learned that some comics have their set, and they'll do the same material night after night, which I thought was kind of an awful thing to do if my friends were paying to support me, so right from the start I made my comedy ambition to churn out as much good material as I could possibly write. In my life, an overwhelming amount of ridiculous nonsense happens, so I'm never for want of new material. I spent my summer on tour across the country (first with L.A. comic Brandie Posey, and then on my own tour to visit all the filming locations from the TV show Twin Peaks), meeting new people, seeing new places and making lots of bad choices along the way. My apartment also burst into flames last weekend, so it'll be nice to get out to Denver while the arson squad investigates that. Nothing like almost dying in a fire to inspire you to give the performance of a lifetime.
Do you ever find yourself wishing you could have another crack at jokes you've already recorded, or is moving on just part of your slash-and-burn method?
I've got jokes I loved doing that I'm sure I would've updated as I went, but leaving them behind makes me a better comic, and a more interesting show to come catch while you can. There's a really elaborate Mein Kampf joke on my first album that I performed almost word for word the very first time I did stand-up, and I always knew I could end a show strong with that. But at the end of the day, that's a 'Year One' kind of joke, like how dating is hard or the difference between men and women, and leaving it in the dust allows me to be smarter about what I make in the future. I don't have a lot of comedy regrets, because for me it's just about plowing forward and always learning as I go. I know I'm relatively young to comedy and not many people would chose to release material when they're this green, but the process and the self-set deadlines push me to try harder each day, and to be that much more entertaining each time I take the stage.
What do you have planned for the album recording at Voodoo? How did that connection come together?
I knew I wanted to do an album in Denver since witnessing my first Grawlix show at The Bug. Denver audiences are smart and invested and reward great comedy. Also, marijuana is legalized and the idea of getting high before visiting Casa Bonita is something childhood Brock didn't know he'd want so badly someday. Other comics have spoken very highly of Voodoo Comedy, so it seemed a perfect fit for this show.
What are your plans for releasing the album? Where will people be able to find it?
It'll be up on iTunes and Amazon, along with my previous albums Crime Travel and 28 Years Later, and I'll probably release video clips on YouTube early next year.
Are you still screenwriting?
Yeah, I took some time off and now I'm back into it. I'm also working on a novel and recording music for a concept album about super-villains.
Do you have any projects currently in the works that you can talk about?
My movie Your Friends Close about video games and the people who make them is currently doing some festival screenings, although you can watch it right now at yourfriendsclose.com. We're editing a documentary we've been working on about people in the independent comic-book world that features Larime Taylor, a disabled comic-book creator who was born with Arthrogryposis and draws his comics using his mouth.
I'm also doing this show with my best friend in comedy, Joe Starr, who is a Louisvill- born comedian that I just adore to death. He's recording his introduction sets at these shows and combining them into one album. The show is free and we're doing two shows, one at 8 and one at 10 p.m. It'll also be my birthday so I expect to get incredibly drunk with everyone after the second show. It'll be hostied by Rob Ondarza, who along with Joe Starr co-hosts our Brock Party podcast we've been recording weekly for almost two years now, and our webseries Ready! SET Art!!!, where we film people looking at art but never show the art.
I'm currently featured in a series of ads for the NFL on Xbox One and I believe Thursday night you'll be able to catch me on Adult Swim's Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories.
The Sexpot shows are unofficially 420-friendly. Have you performed in comparable environments before?
Hah, not outside of small, living-room type shows. I've been told it's a very different experience, so I'm prepared to hear audience reactions on a short tape delay.
So, I head from Andy Juett that your folks live here in Denver? Are they coming to any of your shows?
My mother's family is from Denver and I spent a lot of time here when I was growing up. My grandfather was a high-ranking city health official who was given the Key to the City, back when they did things like that. I believe he instituted an initiative to decrease the pigeon population with some type of avian poison that actually wound up tripling the number of pigeons in the city. Confusing poison and Viagra seems like the kind of human error that's always been in my blood. My mother and my sister are coming out to the show from Kansas, I believe, despite my insistence that they might learn things about me they cannot unlearn. Going to try not to make eye contact with my mom when I say... oh, god, this is already terrifying.
Doors for Sexpot Comedy's Aerial Menagerie open at 7:30 p.m. for an 8 p.m. sho on Friday, September 19; tickets cost $10 on the Oriental Theater website.
On Saturday, September 20, Wilbur has 8 and 10 p.m. shows at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. Both are free!
Follow Byron Graham on twitter @ByronFG for more mildly amusing sequences of words.
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