Bryan Bruner, former host at the LA Comedy Club at Trader Vic’s, left Las Vegas for the bright lights and bigger options of New York City. He was recently recruited by comedian Don Barnhart to join the Freedom of Speech Comedy Tour, which took Bruner to Qatar, Djibouti, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia while performing for troops overseas. The witty comedian has returned to the U.S. on his This Is Bat Country tour (inspired by the works of Hunter S. Thompson) to slay Sin City audiences once again at Beauty Bar’s Backyard Comedy Show.
Why did you relocate to New York?
It took forever just to get a hosting spot [in Vegas], and then from a hosting spot, it was almost impossible to get a feature spot. Any comedian that I have ever really respected has gone through New York. New York is the Dagobah Swamp where you train with Yoda. I’m going up three and four times a night [there], seven nights a week. In the last six months, I’ve done easily over four to five hundred shows.
What is it like living in New York after growing up in Vegas?
I’m 6’3”, and I grew up where there is a lot of big desert land where I could stretch out and ride dirt bikes, and now people are packed in like rats. [But] we all understand that we’re living on top of each other. Everyone there has a dream that they’re working on, whether it be just becoming an American or becoming a Broadway actor or a comedian. It’s the coolest, most unruly place. You love it and you hate it. It’s like a really hot girlfriend.
How is the comedy scene different there?
I did a show where it was people from Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. I don’t think there was one American in the audience, so you really have to broaden your horizon as to not just what’s funny to you here in America, but what’s funny around the world. It opens up your mind and you realize that there are a lot of different types of people out there.
Why did you decide to join the Armed Forces Entertainment Tour?
It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I hope I get the opportunity to do it again. Africa was amazing. Everyone talks about how Africa changes your life, that there’s some sort of energy about Africa. It’s true. We played soccer with orphans, we hung out with Christian Slater and the guys from Harold and Kumar. How many people get to say they met Christian Slater in Africa?
You seem to have a really deadpan sense of humor. What really cracks you up?
Weird shit cracks me up at this point. People being themselves crack me up. When they aren’t trying to be funny and they’re just trying to break something down into its truest form and it almost hurts a little bit, that’s funny. I love watching train wrecks on stage, like people just melting down. People who aren’t me, that is. I love watching the pain of growth. To me, that’s just so real. This is the greatest sport in the world, man. I’ve raced dirt bikes and played baseball all through high school but nothing has challenged me more than stand up comedy.
Do you still have the same hilarious business cards?
Bryan Bruner has two wieners? Fuck yeah! I’m going to have those until I retire. The little black one, Slopey, died right before I moved to New York. I gave him to my roommate and his girlfriend and he died of a heartbreak, because I couldn’t take him to New York. So every time I start to doubt myself in New York, I look down at that card and I think Slopey died for this, man. This one’s for Slopey. The other dog was Clyde and he’s doing well. He now lives with two female wiener dogs and he’s living the life. He sits around in his satin smoking jacket and they call him Clyde Hefner. He’s always been pimp. He’s living with two hot chicks now; I don’t even want to bother him.
Any especially poignant moments on your Middle East tour?
A kid [in Bahrain] told me he was having a rough go of it back at home with his family. I thought I had a shitty set, but he came up to me after and said, “I paid attention to you, man, you were my favorite. You made me forget about everything for that 15 minutes you were up there.” And after he told me what he went through, afterwards, I just kind of broke down. And [fellow comedians] Don Barnhart and Slade Ham just put their arms around me and were like, “Welcome to the tour, man. Every comedian has this moment. You just had yours.”