Peter sits down with two solo comedians—Neal Brennan and Alonzo Bodden—for a far-reaching conversation. The guests speak frankly and unapologetically about comedy, relationships, dating, and their single lives. If you stick around to the end, they give some advice about how to have a conversation with dates about your solo lifestyle.
Listen to Episode #24 here
Married To Comedy
In this episode, I sit down with two solo comedians, Neal Brennan and Alonzo Bodden, who suddenly have a lot more time on their hands due to the pandemic. We have a far-reaching conversation that is difficult to sum up, so I’m not going to try. It was fun to hear them speak frankly and unapologetically about comedy, relationships, dating and their solo lifestyle. If you stick around to the end, they give some advice about how to have a conversation with the date about your solo life. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s get started.
Our first guest is Alonzo Bodden. As the winner of season three of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Alonzo was a touring comedian and a regular on NPR‘s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Welcome, Alonzo.
Thank you, Peter.
Our second guest is Neal Brennan. Neal is a stand-up comic writer, director, actor and co-creator of Chappelle Show. You can find his special, 3 Mics on Netflix. Welcome, Neal.
You guys may go back much further but the three of us go back since 2010.
It’s been that long since that fateful lunch at that pub in Montreal.
I haven’t realized it’s been that long.
Only Alonzo looks exactly the same.
Thirty pounds heavier but I’ll take it. At least. It’s ridiculous.
You get older, you start putting on weight, you fight it and it still comes. Because I haven’t changed my eating habits, that’s why. You eat as healthiest as can be but your metabolism changes and the eating habits don’t, so I fight it.
I’m sorry to hear it.
I’m leaning more towards Neal’s way of eating these days and it had a profound effect.
I’m going to laugh when we all die. Let’s get it out of the way right now. If we all die of Coronavirus, I won.
Motorcycle and eating garbage, you’ve won. You sure did.
Did you drive over here or did you take your motorcycle?
I drove only because I’ve ridden in the last few days but riding in the rain is tiring. It’s fun to a point but then it gets annoying.
Why? Should you be too alert?
No, it’s not that. You’ve got to put on all the rain gear and stuff to stay warm and dry. When I was young and didn’t have anything then riding in the rain, you’d freeze your ass off. You grow up, you get smart and you buy the right gear so it will keep me warm and dry. It’s a pain getting in and out of the suit. It’s easier to jump in the car. Also, there’s no traffic. Riding in the rain is fun.
I wouldn’t have thought of that. To complete this thought, are you still vegan?
I’m mostly vegan. Sometimes I cheat at dessert, but I haven’t had meat. I had meat in my mouth a few years ago by accident.
Did it make it all the way down?
No. I was helping on The Daily Show and we were in Philadelphia. A donut company sent donuts and I put one in my mouth and was like, “Why does this taste like batteries?” There was bacon in there.
I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I have switched to a heavy fruit and vegetable-based to my diet. Anytime I would eat a sandwich, I’ve swapped it out for a salad with a protein on it. In a year, it has helped transform my body. It’s wild.
From what to what?
From skinny fat to just skinny.
I’ve been fasting a lot and I enjoy that.
I have a podcast that came out on Eating for a Remarkable Life. In it, we talked a little bit about fasting and the value that fasting has in part to restrict calories. The other thing is that the guest, EC Synkowski, has this thing called the #800gChallenge. Her thing is she wants you in the course of the day to eat six cups of fruits and vegetables all in, in some way shape or form. The thing about it, and I didn’t anticipate this when I made the change, is when you eat a lot of vegetables especially, it keeps you full. It crowds out a lot of other eating that you might do otherwise.
I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ll never eat a vegetable. I’m not that guy but I say that I do eat meat regularly. The funny thing about eating vegetables is when I eat them, it’s almost like there’s a craving for more of them. I get it when you talked about having meat and you recognize that something’s wrong. I’m like that with alcohol. I haven’t drunk in forever. If I have something and someone put alcohol on it, right away I’m like, “What is that?”
That’s the natural response to alcohol. Everybody else acts like, “It tastes good.” I’ve never done this joke but drinking alcohol is like giving oral sex. You’re not there for the taste. The outcome is fun but the taste is not why you’re there.
That’s another thing that I’ve done. I’m drinking almost not at all now. When you think about drinking, it’s pure sugar. We now know that it has side effects.
That’s why you drink it. You don’t drink it for the sugar, you drink for the side effects.
At some point, the sugar is not worth the side effects anymore.
Speak for yourself. I think that for most people, it is.
That’s what I mean.
That’s an individual choice because a lot of people like it and it’s like anything else. There’s a limit to how far you go. Anything becomes destructive after a certain amount.
I was eating ice cream every night and I realize, “You’ve got to stop.”
I can’t imagine a fat Neal Brennan.
It’s possible. I know you can’t.
Even a quarter of Häagen-Dazs a day, just the idea of Neal with a belly.
I can gain ten pounds in a week if I needed to.
It’s because I never have seen you different than the way you look now.
Because it means something to me, Alonzo
I’ll be sure to take a picture of the two of you for people to get an idea of the contrast here. No offense, I didn’t mean that.
I have an observation of the show, which is I realized that I’ve never heard you laugh. Not the way you laugh on the show because when you get around comedians, you don’t want to be too earnest and I also realized that around most people, you’re the funny one.
In the show?
In the world, you’re the funny one. In most conversations, you’re the funniest person in the conversation.
When I’m with comedians, I’m not.
Never forget it.
Don’t worry, I knew I’d be the least funny person in this room. I have an unusual laugh.
That’s what I mean. Maybe I’ve heard it once because it’s so unbridled. It’s lovely.
Thank you. I appreciate it. I’ve been told that I’m an easy laugh so hearing you say that is surprising. Maybe I’ll have my lab coat on a little bit more when I’m hanging out with comedians. This idea of food is being relevant. There are three bachelors in the room. Do you guys like the, term bachelor?
No. I have a lot of thoughts on this. We had a conversation about being single that contributed to you starting the show. Did you tell me that?
No. What happened was I ended up reaching out to you because I heard you talking about being single on Theo Vaughn’s podcast. I’d reached out to you and I had only launched the show. For the readers who don’t know this, Neal, Alonzo and I got connected when I first started studying comedy. I met Neal at a bar in Montreal during the Just for Laughs Festival because I recognized him from a skit on Chappelle Show, from the Frontline Clayton Bigsby skit where your head explodes. I was like, “He is the guy.” I wrote about you in my book, Shtick to Business, in a couple of different ways. I met Alonzo through an NPR story about my first paper about what makes moral violations funny. We were recorded talking about it and I approached Alonzo. Heston would critique the paper and he wrote a thoughtful critique of my paper that’s on my blog. Anybody who knows me well will not be surprised to hear about this, I basically have since then forced my friendship on these two guys.
Without a doubt.
There’s no other way.
That is an accurate description.
I’ve changed my number several times and the motherfucker always finds me.
He hired a detective agency at one point.
The nice thing about these guys besides being pros, funny and thriving in the business is they always say yes. I asked them for a lot of things. They never asked me for anything and yet they still always say yes. It’s interesting that years later, I’m launching this non-comedic project about living a remarkable life as a single person. It so happens that my first close two connects in comedy are doing exactly that.
Getting back to your thing about the term, bachelor, that sounds so old-fashioned to me.
It’s like Joe Namath is a bachelor.
It’s a label that we don’t use anymore. It’s not as old as a spinster, but it’s along the way.
It’s the male spinster.
It has a more positive connotation than a spinster though.
It’s got a sexual connotation, but the problem with that is sex is culturally out of favor now, especially for men.
In terms of the timing of this show.
It’s 2020. Louis C.K. is doing a five-year sentence in cultural jail, Bill Cosby.
We’re about seven days into the hysteria around the Corona pandemic.
I don’t think we’re talking about it like that. When you talk about bachelor and the sexual connotation of it. That might apply to Joe Namath, a guy in his 30s who’s banging a lot of chicks. Back in the day, he was hanging out at the Playboy Mansion. That was a bachelor’s life. The bachelor was the guy that the married guys were like, “I knew him.”
“I’ve got to talk to you. You must be putting them away two at a time.”
That’s the connotation to me of the term, bachelor. I looked at it like I’ve never been married.
What you’re saying is you’re not banging.
The term is okay. Technically, I guess I am.
I can go both ways. I’d be surprised if I got married at this point. I’m not against it. I’m against kids but I’m not against marriage. I don’t see the advantage at this point. I’m almost a bachelor’s rights advocate. People feel bad for women who are not married and they think men who are not married at our age are pigs, a little bit. Not explicitly, but if there is a single woman and a couple is happy to have her around, if there’s a single man, the man’s happy to have them around, but the woman’s not.
Let’s unpack this. First of all, I don’t think there’s any good term for a single man or a single woman. Bachelor is as good as it gets for a guy. I don’t think there is even a good term for a woman at this point. The choice of Solo was my attempt.
Solo is a great title. That’s the best word for it.
It’s because solo doesn’t imply judgment.
It’s adventurous too.
It implies heroism in a way. It’s the same way that when a woman is single in her 40s, it’s a choice. She’s strong, a feminist, a trailblazer and all this stuff, whereas a man is a pig.
Although that’s what people will say about the woman to her face and when they leave, “That’s too bad. She can’t find somebody.” Women are still treated as if it’s somehow a failure if they’re not attached, especially by 40. If they’re 50, they’ve got to be divorced, widowed or something.
It’s like they’ve got all that baby equipment, that baby building machine inside of them.
It’s definitely a different judgment.
They both lean negative. The women are around this idea of failure, “What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you have these kinds of priorities?” When a man gets judged negatively, it’s because you don’t want to settle down. The Peter Pan phenomenon.
You’re emotionally mature and sexually aggressive.
The more the guy has his act together, the more that he gets that judgment, which is interesting.
I have a female friend and she said that the worst thing about guys like us is, “You don’t need a woman. You’ve learned how to live. You can cook, clean and basic life skills.” I thought, “I’m an adult.”
I picked them up at sixteen.
I just didn’t throw them away. I never pretended I didn’t know them.
It was part of not laying in the corner of an apartment and dying. I picked up these skills. She said that to a woman, that’s tough because it’s now like, “What does he need?”
Single Lives: The term “bachelor” is like the male equivalent of “spinster”; it’s a label you don’t use anymore.That’s a cool motherfucker. That’s what I mean. I don’t need a cool motherfucker in that like, “I’m going to be out on the streets and you’ve got to let me.” It’s not about fucking all the time it’s about understanding that I don’t need you. Anything you bring has got to be additive and it can’t be some governor on my behavior.
I had this experience. I have an ex.
We all do, Peter.
Look at him brag. He’s like, “I have an ex.”
In our business, there’s one thing that everyone on the this show has in common is that we all have an ex.
We started dating and I told her early on right away that I didn’t want to have children. We continue dating despite that, but deep down she wanted that and the evidence I have is she’s had a child. At one point, her mother who had met me and after meeting her for the first time, she said to her, “He doesn’t need you.”
Your mother did?
Her mother said to her, “He doesn’t need you.”
I know it and she told me this.
How did she say it?
She did say it like that. The implication was, “You’re going to have a hard time with this one because he doesn’t need you.” When you think about it historically, marriage wasn’t about romantic love. That’s a fairly new invention. Marriage was about a partnership in order to get through the winter and not to starve to death and to have a system to grow the corn.
It was about labor.
I like to not go back that far because black people won’t do it so great back then, so let’s not.
The well-off whites were fine in the winter. Thank you though. That’s a good reminder. I’m from the south, Alonzo.
I’ve been set up here.
I’m from Mississippi.
My point is it’s still, in many ways, that contractual thing. From a patriarchal standpoint, the guy goes out to make the money and the woman takes care of the household. That still happens now so there is an exchange beyond, “You’re great. I want to spend time with you,” which is what you’re looking for, Neal.
That’s always an option. That’s something as a woman, that option is always there. I can choose to be a wife and let him earn the money, support the house and live based on that.
While you’re young though.
Not even because for just about any woman, there’s some guy who will be that guy. It may not be their first choice. They’re not a movie star but it’s the guy if they might want to do that.
The funny thing is it’s sexist as a guy if you tell a woman to get a job. As a guy, you’d be a pig. You’re like, “I’m not going to support you. Get a job.” In some ways, I’ve thought of all the negative ways that this affects men clearly.
That woman’s mother saying that, it is a generational thing that they’re taught that, “Find a man who needs you.” My experience had been to meet women who are professional, have their own life and everything I like. In other words, they are independent. We then get together and it starts becoming, “What are we going to do?” I’m like, “What did you do before you met me? How did you spend Wednesday before you met me? I’ve got a shit to do on Wednesday.” Suddenly they become, not all but a lot, somehow you become more important than what they were doing with their life.
I heard you mentioned that on maybe the first or second episode of this show. It goes to that quickly like, “Are you going to keep being as independent as you are?” The women say that to you and that’s what I want to say to women. I’ve only met you. Even it’s a year ago, this is year 47 of my life. Why would I recalibrate? I sound like a pig saying this but you’re just some person.
The experience I’ve had sounds similar to what Alonzo is saying and I’m sure you’ve had it too, Neal, which goes something like this, “My days are full. They’re full making things, writing, doing this show, working out, seeing friends, traveling, teaching. I don’t have enough hours in the day to do all the things that I want to do.” Fortunately, most of them are rather exciting, fun, interesting and make me a better, more interesting person and thus a better partner. I travel internationally. I get to do cool things. Where the attention starts to rise is when you meet someone, you connect, which is not easy to do and you start spending more time.
Am I a small miracle? A real connection is a small miracle.
It’s not easy to do. I’m not saying this happens with every woman I date. Most of the women I date nowadays, it doesn’t happen because of the type of women I date. Sometimes what happens is, “You’re traveling again.”
I love that one.
Have you gotten that one, Alonzo?
No. I want to get back to something you talk about the timing when you talked about a year. I may still be in a situation like that and I don’t even know. The thing with work and travel and I tell everyone, “I’m paid to travel. I tell jokes for free.” I’m on a plane every week. You know the life. This is the life we have. When I meet a woman especially in LA, it’ll be because I’m home for some reason. I’m home for 2 or 3 weeks. I’m like, “When I start working, I’m not going to be here.” After two months of me working, they’re like, “You’re never here.” I’m like, “I told you that I’m not.” If you like going out on Tuesday nights, I’m your guy but if you’ve got weekend plans, I’m not going to be here.
To that point, what the pandemic has proven to me among other things is that people cannot imagine things clearly. They cannot believe.
It’s hard to anticipate the future.
They cannot picture it. The thing especially as comedians, once I saw the stats and the curve on the Corona, the reason is I’ve had a joke, an idea, I’ve written it, I’ve done it on stage and I’ve sent it out to the world. I know how it works. You started something small and it gets bigger and bigger and sometimes it’s explosive.
You go, “This is going to be one of those things.” When you see a guy at a club, you’re like, “This guy is going to be doing theaters in three months.” How do you know? Because he kills.
One of the funniest posts I saw was Ted Alexandro, who said his wife is starting a support group for wives of comedians because they’re home now.
That’s funny. When we’re working on The Humor Code, there’s this phenomenon in Japan of a company of men retiring. They almost all have wives. These guys have been working 70 hours a week for their whole entire lives. Suddenly, one day they’re retired. They are exhausted. They come home, sit on the couch, smoke, drink and watch TV.
It is what we’re doing now during this quarantine.
Minus the smoking and drinking, but yes.
These poor housewives have been living these great lives that they have. There’s a Japanese term, they basically call them trash. The men are trash on the couch.
I don’t think men are trash is a Japanese term. That’s a universal term.
[bctt tweet=”If you’re a comic, you’ve got to do comedy. You simply can’t not do that.” via=”no”]
What these women do, not all but on occasion, is they start planning to have the guy die early. They always make sure their glass of whiskey is filled, they leave a little extra fat on the steak and make sure they always have their cigarettes and all this kind of stuff.
I’m enjoying watching people during the quarantine who love their kids and having to spend actual time with their kids.They’re like, “I thought they’re little bundles of joy. They’re amazing and they’re the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
A lot of teachers now are saying, “See, look at your little bundle of joy now.”
This goes even beyond that. The pandemic is revealing who the real heroes are, which are scientists, engineers and teachers.
To me, it’s the people grinding out the day jobs and the people working at a grocery store. If you work at a grocery store and you haven’t punched anyone in the head, you’re a hero. If you have not physically hit someone for saying or doing something stupid. If you work at a restaurant and you’re not working now and people are like, “You must be glad to be off,” while you’re getting zero tips, you have no income. Those are the people who are tough. That’s got to be tough.
I’m going get back to the other stuff. There is this anthropologist, but his name escapes me. I spoke about it in a previous episode. He has this great essay that turned into a book called Bullshit Jobs. It’s a fascinating idea. When we tend to think about jobs, we tend to think about the status of the jobs, how much pay people have or whether they’re high or low-status jobs. Independent of status, there’s the bullshitiness of the job, which is essentially, do you create any value? As he defines a bullshit job is even the person doing the job recognizes that the job doesn’t produce much.
It’s a step that’s necessary.
That was the whole middle management, Corporate America thing where companies had 42 vice presidents. They were like, “What are you the Vice President of?”
The other hero is the custodian. You think about that. You’re like, “Who do you want to stop working their job now?” Who gives a shit if a middle manager stops working their job, but you don’t want the custodian to stop their job because they’re on the front line of this pandemic?
My hope for all this is what 9/11 did for Homeland Security, intelligence and law enforcement. I hope this does for nurses and custodians. I hope it does for infrastructure and healthcare. I hope that there is some upside to all this. I was saying to somebody that it would help if a rich person died in this because they’ll go, “He had the best medicine. He got it from a person who didn’t have healthcare.” It benefits all of us if we all have health care.
Do you want to pick the person?
Tom Hanks, but it’s too late.
You talk about the garbage man. I remember in New York when they went on strike, everyone knew. When they went on strike, the city was like, “Settle this,” because trash builds instantly and every problem that comes with that comes up instantly.
Do you remember the Redd Foxx story where he fired Redd Foxx from Sanford and Son? He wanted more black writers. This may be true or not. This is a story that I’ve heard a bunch of times but he wanted more black writers on the show. They fired all the normal writers and brought in a bunch of black writers.
I like the way he says normal writers versus black writers.
There’s a punch line. They hired all-black writers and they have one read-through. It stinks and Redd Foxx yells out, “Bring me back my Jews.” That’s what I was thinking when you’re talking about the garbage man. I don’t know what the noun would be.
This point is well-taken. People reading have suddenly had their perspective changed about who the important people in society are.
It’s the unseen people.
The epidemiologists and scientists.
Your nanny, for example, or even that line cook at a diner or even the person who stock shelves at Trader Joe’s.
Getting back to the solo, I wanted to address something that Neal said because Neal talked about a year. It’s funny to me the different timing. I’m in a situation where I’m dating this girl and after about six months, she says, “Are you seeing anyone else?” I was like, “We haven’t discussed exclusivity.” In my view, we’re not exclusive until we say it, and anything you do is none of my business. I’m not going to ask you where you were when I’m not around.
This is the “ask don’t tell” policy.
In her view, we’ve been in a relationship because we’ve been sleeping together. It’s like, “I’m not 25. I’m not trying to bang a different chick every Friday,” but at the same time, I don’t know. There have been situations and it’s funny because in dating her, I’ve seen other women that I had prior plans with or whatever and I’d be like, “I’m interested. I’d rather be with her.” In my head, it’s moving in that direction. It’s funny the difference in the calendar because I’ve talked to people about this and every woman is like, “You’re six months in. Why didn’t she live with you? Haven’t you bought a house together yet?” Guys are like, “You’re good.”
Six months, that’s half the calendar.
We’re operating on a different calendar. I regret it because I’m crazy about this woman. She’s great, she gets it and our lives fit. We’ve traveled together and we’ve done all this stuff. It’s great but if this is the thing where it’s my way or no way, I can’t operate under that pressure.
You want to make the choice the way you made the choice with having the option, “I’d rather be with you.” Having said that, when is the right time to have a conversation?
For different people, it’s different times but in this situation, it would probably have been in the next 1 or 2 months. I’m here all the time, so this is exclusive. I’m good with this because nothing’s going to change. My thing is when you use the word, relationship or boyfriend, what changes? What does that mean? What do I have to do?
All of it sounds less fun. It’s settling down and getting serious.
I have a guest who calls it settling in instead of settling down. Listening to you guys talk highlights the challenge whether it be male or female with the nature of your solo living. There are some people who are single because they’re terrible at relationships. There are some people who are single because it’s not a priority. They have other rich, robust lives and there are people who are like, “I’m fine with now and someday that may change.”
What’s happening in the stories that we’re telling our people who are living this rich, robust, single life is, “I like my life. I’d be open to something else but I also recognize how scary and dangerous much of a problem that can be.” Going out and interacting with people who have one particular perspective, which is, need to couple up, get married and do the traditional thing. That’s where the friction lies. People who have this solo perspective might be able to couple up. I have married readers who love this show because they have this solo perspective within their relationship. They don’t believe that the other person has to be everything all the time for everyone. The problem is there’s no way to figure out whether someone is a Jane Austen perspective on the world, which I need to find my Mr. whoever, Darcy, the perfect man. We create this unit versus someone who might read this blog who says, “I like my life. If someone comes along who likes his life, maybe we can negotiate and figure out a way to do this temporarily or beyond.”
There is an element because the way that I was doing this, I was thinking about my perspective. I think about it a lot irrespective of when I’m doing it. Every morning when I wake up, there is an element of why am I alone?
I don’t have that.
I’m still defensive about it. I feel like in order to even maintain being an artist of any kind, and I’m sure it applies to academia as well, you need a level of anger and a level of like, “This is what I’m doing. This is who I am,” or else it becomes like, “That thing I do, maybe I’ll do it, maybe I won’t.” I could be dead wrong about this and this might be entirely personal. To me, there is an element of defensiveness to my MO.
I think I have a head start on you. I don’t know if I started tussling with these issues earlier. I have near misses in my life in terms of marriage and so on. Doing this show has accelerated my beliefs and solidified some of them. You had said something in that episode and I’m going to get it wrong, but I’m going to tee you up if you don’t mind. You were in a therapist’s office with a girlfriend and you had this breakthrough moment.
There was no girlfriend, but yes.
This notion of, “What’s wrong with me?” Everybody in the world assumes there’s something wrong with me, including a therapist.
She was always espousing being in a relationship and having children would be much happier and so fulfilling. I said, “What if my purpose on Earth is not to be a boyfriend or a husband?”
That’s a profound idea to have. Why is it that we all need to do the same thing? We don’t do the same thing in any other part of our lives.
The thing that I thought of in your show, and there’s also another one called Alonement, which is a good title and Alain de Botton was the first guest and he’s amazing, is that people will accept any sexual orientation, but only one relationship orientation. It’s a joke I want to do, which is you could tell somebody like, “I know this girl. I shit on her chest. She shits on mine. Are we going to settle down?” No, you’re disgusting. You’re an animal.
What’s your reaction to that, Alonzo?
Different things. I get what you’re saying in being defensive. My therapist that I go to, she gets that she’s like, “You might not be a relationship person.” As far as what you said about our art and defending it, my highest calling is being a comic. That goes first back when I first started. It was funny because I was dating a girl who gave me the ad to a comedy class that got me started in the whole thing. She was insightful because that was only a couple of years and she said, “You’re never going to get married. Any woman is only going to be your mistress. This is your wife.” It was amazing that she spotted that at that time.
She set you down that path also.
It’s amazing that you didn’t marry her because that sounds how creepy you are.
She was my first accountant, so she always joked, “I didn’t get the man. I did get his money.”
The episode that you and I did, I called it Married To Comedy with Alonzo Bodden.
Therapists came up with different relationship types or whatever and mine is avoidance. In other words, that’s my way of relating. There’s always this avoidance thing that I have to be aware of. I remember a friend of mine, more of a sister than a friend, who I’ve known forever. When she got married, she said, “When I’m with him, the two of us become more.” I was like, “I’ve never even thought of that idea.”
The first time I fell in love, that happened. I was like, “Oh.”
That idea never even occurred. I was happy for her. I was like, “I never thought of it in those terms.”
That’s the interesting thing about divorces. When you get divorced and you have to give your wife half of your earnings. Whenever I hear that, I think, “I’ve never had a girlfriend contribute to my earnings in the slightest.” I’ve had women hinder them with guilt and shame about how much I’m working. I had a girlfriend who was not right for me and she wanted me to retire to focus on her full time. I don’t think that’s typical, but there’s something to comedy being fulfilling and demanding.
People who don’t do it or who don’t have an equivalent passion or even close to, don’t understand what that is. I always say that if you’re a real comic, you have to do comedy. It doesn’t matter if you get on a TV show or any of the outside multimillion-dollar lottery success. If you’re a real comic, you’re still like, “I’ve got to get on stage. I have to do this.” I tell people, “I can’t not do this. I don’t know how to not do this.” I’ve never had a woman come close to saying, “Don’t do it,” or getting away from it or anything like that. Getting back to what you said about the whole divorce alimony thing, I’ve always been like I can’t see why I have to support an adult. That’s ridiculous to me. You’re a grown adult. I could see you’ve got to support kid and being black, I get out of that.
That’s another great bonus to being black. Put that on the pile. Zero expectations in terms of paternity.
Unless you’re in the league. If you’re in a league, then you’re going to pay.
We’re on TV two nights a year and 100 fly off.
That thing of society, what you’re talking about saying, “You have to be in a relationship and a relationship is normal,” I’ve never felt that pressure. Another reason is my parents never put that pressure on me. A lot of people get that from the parents like, “When are you going to get married? When will I have grandkids?” This and that. My parents never got on me about that. Somebody even asked my mother about, “What about him?” It was a white girl. “What if he marries a white girl?” My mother was like, “He’s got to live with her. Whoever he marries, I don’t care.”
That’s always the thing with any interracial or gay marriage. It’s like, “They’ve got to hang out and you’re upset.” They got the hard part.
I never got that pressure from my family that a lot of people do like, “You have to get married and have a kid. I want a grandkid.”
Were your parents good role models?
My parents were old-school working parents. Not a lot of, “I love you,” but the love came from providing. It was like, “Go to school and do whatever.” My mom provided me my sense of humor. My mom is the funniest person I ever knew and without her, I’m not this guy. When she was dying of cancer and had chemo, we would still laugh.
She was laughing and laughing. She was crying a lot so please stop laughing.
She didn’t mind that I got a bit or two out of it. In that respect, that was all mom.
Neal, you come from a big family.
I’m the youngest of ten.
In 3 Mics, you talked?
Alcoholism, depression, violence.
I did all that on my own. I didn’t have nine others to help.
Even if you weren’t a comic, do you think that you’d have this idea of marriage and forever?
My parents’ relationship was not good. It was not fulfilling for either of them.
It’d be hard for it to be with ten or not?
Don’t put it on us. It was them.
They made the decision.
My dad didn’t want kids. My mom wanted kids. They were born in 1930 and 1933. They followed the norms.
They did what they were told.
They followed the rules and they did not like it. My mom loved it. My mom loves having kids because she was an only child, but my dad didn’t like it. He reminded us of it every day. I didn’t have a positive experience. My brothers and sisters were all great to me. It just wasn’t a good situation.
In 3 Mics, Neal does standard comedy that sets up punchline jokes. He does one-liners and then the third mic, he does emotional stuff. I encourage people to watch the special. It’s fantastic. I sat in my living room and cried watching that because it was so raw and authentic. It helps explain who you are in many ways.
If it is subject to 3 Mics, and I’m going to go fanboy or whatever you want to call it, but one of the brilliant things about Neal Brennan is to think of doing that. As a comic and as a person, I have those three sides or others do, but you figured it out, broke it down, took it on stage and made it work. It was insightful and personal, but at the same time, funny so that’s great. What I wanted to ask you, are your siblings married or is it a combination, some are married and some are not? My brother and sister are both married. My brother was married for a long time. I don’t know if there’s any significance to that coming from the same family but I’m curious about you.
Seven of them married, five divorced. We’re already over the norm. That’s 5 out of 10, but only seven got married.
How many are Solo followers now?
There are six. Far be it for me to speak for them, but I don’t think that we’re well-suited the way we’re raised but also temperamentally. We all have barbed.
There’s this thing called the Big Five. It’s this well-known personality scale. There are dimensions that you’re familiar with like introversion, extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to new experiences, neuroticism and then the last one is called agreeableness. Comics, for example, are high on openness to new experiences and maybe not as high on conscientiousness, as you might imagine.
Agreeableness is the bottom of the barrel.
When you say agreeableness, do you mean agreeing with people or just letting them do what they want to do?
It’s more of an emotional affective thing like how light and happy. You’re comfortable with conflict, for example.
I make it funny and it’s also how much you know people like Jeremy Hotz. He’s the most neurotic and I love Hotz. He said to me one time, “The reason we get along is because we’re the same. I’m just vocal about it.” He’s absolutely right. I am like Hotz, but he lets you know how miserable he is. I hold it in and fire barbs at you.
You’ll put a tuxedo on or you’ll put some ice on it. You’ll put in a nice glass, whereas Hotz is like, “What the fuck.”
I wrote about 3 Mics in my book Shtick to Business and I talked about it as a reversal. One of the chapters, I called Reverse It. It’s how comics produced an opposing perspective in their comedy, whether it be jokes or premises and so on. I talked about a specific form of a reversal which is turning a bug into a feature. That’s what you did.
It’s the impetus of which I hope you improved the explanation of it a little bit in the book. I was like, “I’m with you. That is true but let me explain why and here’s why.” Once people saw that, they were like, “I thought you hated me.” “No, my face just doesn’t agree with me. I’m a resting dickface.” It was taking this thing of all the things you don’t like about me and leaning into it like, “Here’s the explanation or the causation.”
The thing that Alonzo was talking about is that the average person, even the average comic, doesn’t think to do that.
It was going like I need to address this in some way. This is another thing I was thinking about, which is you clean up the anger and the disagreeableness. I don’t clean it up and I tried to make it fun in the not to clean it up, but I still could clean it up more.
It’s not necessarily that we don’t think to do it. It’s that we don’t know how to do it. Comics are generally introspective people. We’re aware there’s something broken inside, but Neal found a way to say it. I watched Gary Gulman do The Great Depresh. Gary’s an old friend of mine. We both have the same thing of being the little guy in the giant body, but he was able to put it into words. I watched him do it and I was like, “Damn, I want to do it,” but now I don’t want to do it because he did it. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m doing what he did but I understand. I live with that every day. The little guy in the giant body. He put it into words. The 3 Mics, what’s behind and what you perceive as anger. You’re like, “Why is Neal always mad?” He’s not, but this is what’s going on behind it. You put that into words and it was done well. Finding a way to put your introspection out there is a brilliant thing to do, but it’s not easy.
I’m doing a new one. It’s not 3 Mics, it’s a level of dealing with all these things that people say are negative. I don’t follow any norms. There are few areas in which I do the normal right thing and it’s explaining all that stuff like, “I don’t drink. I don’t eat meat. I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to have kids. I get along better with black people than white people.” I looked at Peter once. There are a lot of areas in which I don’t perceive. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. You’re reckoning with that.
It’s getting back to the relationship thing. When I say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” it’s like I spent years working on this. It is me. I am aware. I’ve been in therapy and recovery. I’m not just saying this. I can show you a written history. Take my word for it. The others know but they don’t want to hear that. They dismiss it.
It’s hard for human beings to not take things personally. The big lie that society tells is, “Don’t take negative outcomes personally, but take positive outcomes.”
It’s one of The Four Agreements. Don’t take things personally, whether they be negative or positive.
That’s why manic depressive goes off their meds because they want the ups.
Someone told me that in comedy early on. He said, “When you read the comments, don’t take the positive if you can’t take the negative.” They said, “Don’t read the comments because you have to give credit to both.” As a comic or definitely for me, I always give more credit to the negative ones. I breathe through the positive ones, but the negative one, I’ll be like, “Damn,” and just lock in on that. The best advice I was given was, “Don’t read the comments.”
You show up in Shtick to Business also, Alonzo, in a lesson I talked about called Create a Chasm. It’s the idea that good comedians create chasms. They’re good at making their audience laugh and by virtue of making their audience laugh, they recognize and are comfortable with the fact that there’s going to be a whole bunch of other people who are not happy with them.
I wish there were more of those.
More comics like that.
No. More people are unhappy with me publicly in order to build my name.
When you were talking about how difficult it is to try to make everyone laugh, you were saying how these cruise ship comics have the hardest job.
[bctt tweet=”Why do we have to do the same thing when it comes to relationships? We don’t do the same thing in other parts of our lives.” via=”no”]
Yeah, because it’s the lowest common denominator.
They’re not creating a chasm. They can’t afford to.
You’re going to make 5-year-old kids to 80-year-old women and everything in between laugh at some random show at 7:00 on a Thursday. God bless you. From a creative standpoint, it’s killing you. You’re telling them joke-book jokes. It’s a job. You’ve got to make money and live. I get that, but from a creative standpoint, it’s like being in one of those bands in the casino that you have to play the best of the ‘70s every night. Kill yourself.
Let Corona kill you or a doorknob.
You said that in the book. You’ve got to make a doorknob funny. One of the things I want to highlight is all three of us are seeing a therapist. I want to point that out because I talk a lot about this idea of being solo but not alone. You need a team, especially if you’re not going to have that one person who’s your everything to be able to operate as we do. To live a remarkable life, you need a team. I’m curious what you think of that idea and who would you say is on your team, whether it be personal or professional?
Because of the second episode, the author.
Bella DePaulo, The Science of Single Living.
I got her book and she recommended another one that I’ve been listening to. I was thinking about what’s the difference between lonely and alone. I don’t know if I heard on the podcast or in one of the books, but the definition of lonely or alone. Lonely requires emotional neglect or you feel emotionally neglected. It’s a perception of emotional neglect, and that’s the difference between lonely and alone. When I wake up alone, I don’t feel lonely.
I don’t get lonely anymore.
I quite often feel relief. It is funny but in the sense that I don’t have to deal with someone else’s shit.
There are times when I’m by myself and I’m like, “Is someone is supposed to be here right now?”
When we need to talk, I’m like, “I don’t have the energy for talk.” I can’t keep having that conversation.
I have a joke where I’d say, “The only time men say we need to talk to each other is when they’re planning a bank robbery.”
The pandemic is fascinating. What it’s doing is disrupting people’s day-to-day and it’s highlighting the goodness or the badness of your situation in many ways. For example, there are people or couples who are being thrust together. Some of them are thrilled about it, “It’s great. I get to see my partner that much more.” Others are like, “How am I going to get through this?” There are solos out there who don’t even notice a difference in the world.
I’m in that category.
I’ll be honest. I’m more or less living my life as I normally do. I’m going out less, but that’s the only difference. There are solos out there who are feeling neglected and struggling in that.
I tweeted it one time that, “Just so you know, you’re not being neglected. Everyone cares about you. We just have to stay away from each other.”
I’ve encouraged everyone to make calls and stay cool.
What’s unusual for me is physically being home because I’m used to traveling every week. The idea of sitting in my house, I’m like, “It’s nice. I didn’t realize,” but then after 2 or 3 days, I’m like, “Is this what people do? How do you watch TV all day?” Even though that’s what the average American does. I’m like, “How do you do that?”
What’s funny is getting sick of TV, computer and phone. I’ve been reading 3 to 4 hours at a time and it’s great. I like the Coronavirus in that. It’s a great virus. I wish that there was more agreed to moments of everyone putting the sword down, other than first responders and all that stuff. It feels like the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve or something where everyone’s just chilling out. I’m lucky that I don’t have to worry about money as much.
It’s a luxury.
I wish there were more sanctioned breaks like this because it makes you feel your humanity.
My point of bringing this up is what it’s doing is shining a light on whether you’re living life from a position of strength or a position of weakness. You don’t often know how good your life is until things go sideways.
I want to touch on that. I think I do.
You have an appreciation for how good your life is. That’s great. It’s the work you’ve been doing.
It’s also my background. It’s also being in recovery and stuff like that. I know where I could be. For my life to be where it is now is utterly ridiculous compared to what I had and who I was.
Working at the airline?
I used to be a mechanic.
Not just that. I’m talking about the whole drug recovery and being an addict and stuff like that. One of the things that you learn in recovery is being grateful because the homeless guy is you. I could easily be that or the guy in jail for twenty-some-odd years. I don’t walk around every day carrying that burden. It’s just that every now and then, I am reminded, “By the way, this is utterly ridiculous that I live this life because in one turn, I could have been that.” That helps me with gratitude.
I wish I have more gratitude. The only time people change and/or have gratitude is if they go to a twelve-step meeting or if they almost die.
People who have almost died or been sick or had an accident and recover, suddenly, none of that shit matters. They’re like, “You think that’s important? I’ll tell you so.”
I wonder if it has to be that profound. I’m wondering how much personal and professional change is going to be set off by the threat of these things. How many divorces are going to happen and be starting new businesses?
One would hope if there was a positive, the positive would be people remember. One of the things that I’m not liking, and we’re doing this, our government is doing this, and people are doing this individually, is rather than coming together to help, we’re isolating and getting mine. The person with the pallet of toilet paper is like, “I got mine.”
We’re encouraging the worst behavior from the past months or we’re taking a capitalist.
I would hope that we would learn like, “I’ve got six rolls, here’s two.” I’m a single man. How much can I shit this month? If you need one, I’ve got you.
As probably the most optimistic person in the room, the sad thing is that we’re not getting enough of the images of people helping out. No one’s taking pictures of full aisles of food and posting them on Instagram. What is happening is it’s amplifying all the uncertainty and scariness in the world. I want to wrap up one of the things, which is my family life. Childhood was divorced parents and a mom who never pressured me into getting married. She pressured me into everything else. She guilt-tripped me and tried to control my life in every other single way. That was one way that she never put pressure on me in part because she lost faith in relationships after the end of that relationship. Speaking of gratitude, the three of us could easily sit here and marvel at how good our lives turned out.
There are moments when I do. To say it’s in the 99th percentile is unbelievable.
By virtue of calling this show, The Single Person’s Guide To A Remarkable Life, I’m saying that my life is remarkable. At least remarkable enough to be able to talk about and then try to give people some guidance in terms of doing that. My joke to your alternative life, Alonzo, as the homeless person or the inmate, mine’s not as dire. The alternative life that I have in my head is managing an Enterprise Rent-A-Car. When I plug all the variables into the linear model that predicts what my outcome in life should be, it’s that. I’m good at it, by the way. It’s one of the more profitable Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I bring a lot of vigor to that job, but it’s nothing like it turned out.
I’ve used to see that. I had briefly lived in suburbia like model three houses, models 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. I used to see people and I say, “If your life is going from the cubicle to the cul-de-sac, I hope there’s something that makes that worthwhile.” It could be a family. Some people are super happy with their family, but that’s hell to me. That’s what people do. People do it all the time. I’m like, “I hope something makes that fulfill.”
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. That is massively true. My hope is that the quarantine leads to a reset for people.
[bctt tweet=”You’re not a quitter if you decide that a relationship is not right for you.” via=”no”]
I talked about in a past episode about this Confucius quote, “You have two lives and the second one begins when you realize you have one.” I’m wondering will this make people realize, “I only have one life?”
It will affect some people that way. Some people will go right back to whatever their normal was prior to this.
They might even grip it tighter.
Let’s get back to that idea of a team because it’s important. I have these principles that I’ve been working on and one of them is this idea of make a team, be interconnected and that it becomes even more important. In the Bella DePaulo episode, she talks about this. The myth of the solo is that they are alone and they’re lonely, but the average single person is more connected in the world. They have more friends, a diverse group of people they can draw on. They’re more likely to volunteer. They have time and energy to do things that are remarkable.
That was great. I love that stat that single people volunteer more than married people.
I’m curious, who comes to mind?
The first person is my business manager. I describe her to everyone, “This is my paid wife. She takes care of my life.”
This is the women that you wouldn’t marry?
No. That was the accountant.
That’s completely different. She handles my bills, my household. When things pop up, she takes care of it. Anything from if I need a new cell phone to refinancing my mortgage or I got to have a plumber, all of that stuff.
She started out as a business manager and then I would mention things and she’d be like, “I would do that.” It became a thing of, “When I need anything, the first call is to Liz to see if she does it.” If she doesn’t, then I’ve got to find someone who does. She has been fantastic. I work with therapists at various times. I’ve worked with a trainer or this or that. I always joked about, “I’m a mess. It takes a whole team to keep me going.” This is where we get into the finances and so forth. I’m fortunate enough to be able to support that. I’m not one of these people that has a personal assistant follow me around every minute or anything like that, but I’m fortunate enough to have these people and be able to take advantage of these things.
Speaking of personal assistants, I have friends, I could afford one. I don’t want one. What’s been funny about the quarantine thing is sometimes my phone will ring or buzz and I’m like, “What?” I haven’t talked to people for a day. I’m realizing I’m oriented toward solo living.
The personal assistant one, I have mixed feelings about. I value freedom and autonomy almost over everything.
My old email was Neal Be Free.
I still send emails to that. Anytime I’ve ever been given a choice between power and freedom, I’ve always chosen freedom. After the age of 34, money stopped being a problem for me, which was nice, but anytime I feel a pinch of money, it’s always about the freedom. It’s not like I want money because I don’t want to have to ever do anything I don’t want to do. I’m not there yet where I’m totally free. I don’t want someone who can put something on my calendar.
I found the stuff I like working on, thanks to having money, is I only do shit I want to do. I don’t do anything. I don’t even go to cities I don’t want to go to. I’m not going to name the cities. When I go on the road I go to cities I would want to go to anyway. In terms of alternative life, it’s a good alternative but it’s being like a staff writer on a TV show. Sometimes I’ll look at those, somebody will send a photo, they all sit in a conference room, fifteen of them, 10 to 17 hours a day.
I joke that I never want to sit around a rectangular table under fluorescent lights ever.
I’ve done it. I did it when I was 20, 21. Thankfully, I’ve been able to do stuff with partners since then. We’re in a room but it’s me and them. It doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like two people trying to solve a problem or fuck around.
Before we get to your team, Neal, I want to ask Alonzo on the personal side.
In recovery, I’ve worked with a sponsor so that would be one. I have friends and family. My brother is one of my closest people. I talk with him a lot. I have a few friends. I have some comic friends, recovery friends and they put stuff in perspective. This is funny to me but it’s great. My house has an elevator. I have one friend.
Where’s your house?
I was going to say, “That’s not West Hollywood.”
If ever I have a problem, he’s like, “Really? How’s that elevator? You have an elevator in your house, so you don’t have any problems on Earth.” He’s successful. One day I realized, “Don’t you have an extra house? You have a house on the beach. You have an extra house, so shut the fuck up.” The great thing about that is it’s that person that I can laugh with and put everything in perspective. That’s important to have somebody or some people in your life to remind you of that, to put stuff in perspective and he’s that guy for me and I’m that guy for him.
I direct commercials a lot, so I have a team there and a producer who’s great. Workwise, I do it solo. I’m not one of these guys who’s calling his agent all the time. The good and bad news of my choices in life is that it’s on me. Rarely, there’s this incoming like, “We want you to do this.”
I’m getting the ball as it’s coming my way. I’m under the basket and I get loose balls. On the personal side, my friend, Bijan, who was the editor on Chappelle Show and he’s edited my specials. He’s tried to be married and he couldn’t do it. He’s like, “We’re not built for it. I tried to be normal.” People try and then something in you rejects it. It’s like rejecting a new kidney where you’re like, “I can’t.” You can take the medication that will allow your body to accept it. He’s out there doing the same thing as me. He has a girlfriend that lives with him but she understands. She knows that it’s not normal. I’ve checked him at one point where he was getting too red pill-ish. The red pill is the men’s rights.
I’ve gone down into the manosphere and check this world out.
It’s too misogynistic. It’s not personal enough. This bitch is like, “What kind of life do you want?”
For the readers who don’t know this reference to the red pill, in the depths of the internet, Reddit and beyond, there’s what’s loosely referred to as the manosphere, which is these different groups of men. There are these men’s rights activists, often divorce guys who want to have laws changed about custody and alimony and so on. They’re bitter. There’s the MGTOW, which is short for Men Going Their Own Way.
I like that because that’s more of a choice. There’s no anger behind it. It veers but at least, in essence, they’re not trying to. It’s not founded on misogyny.
The last groups are these incel/pickup artists. They are usually younger guys who are a little bit either pissed off that they can’t get laid or they’re reverse-engineering the system to trick women into thinking they’re better.
Those are the ones they worry about snapping. Those are the ones who snap on women.
They’ve snapped the kid in Santa Barbara and the guy in Toronto.
The average of those guys are struggling more than anything else. They just haven’t figured it out yet. It’s not easy to be a young man.
The worst thing you could do is get with a bunch of other angry men in the same position. It’s self-reinforcing. It becomes their fault. The video of a short guy going off on the woman where she’s like, “I’m in line to get coffee.”
The red pill metaphor goes to The Matrix. In the movie, Morpheus offers Neo the pills.
Who’s reading this?
Alonzo, the movie came out years ago.
They’ve still seen it.
Call it the movie because it could be some psychological shit. He’s cleaning up my mess.
There’s a moment in time where the protagonist is offered either a red pill or the blue pill. The blue pill, they go back to this fantasy life that they think is their real-life or they can take the red pill and see the world for what it is. These manospherean and red pillers say, “I’ve seen the world for what it is. It’s much different. Gender dynamics are much different and so on.” It often causes either a sense of freedom or a sense of freedom and anger around it. That’s what I want. I don’t think the average person knows much about that.
We’re getting so much into perspective when we talk about, “I’ve seen life for what it is.” That’s from our perspective. In other words, most people are like, “I’ve seen life for what it is and I want to be married and have a kid.” That’s life. They don’t think it’s anything sinister or hidden underneath that. They accept that as what it is and a lot of them are happy with it. I’m like, “God bless you.”
I’m not constitutionally appropriate for that. I’m going to bristle.
The point about it is that there is no one way to do it. That’s the point of it all.
It’s the orientation thing, like, “Any kind of sex, one relationship.”
The other thing is it isn’t clear to me that every profession lends itself. You guys were talking about comedy. There’s a whole bunch of professions out there in the world that partnering up probably is not the best way to go about. It’s not clear that I want my Supreme Court justices partnered up necessarily because I want them working all the time on being the best Supreme Court justice that they can be.
People in med school, that’s a relationship killer. There are tons of things where I would way prefer, if given, I’d like a bunch of monks to do it.
Anytime you have something that is a passion versus a job, and anything that requires a tremendous amount of time or creativity or brainpower, then that makes a relationship difficult because how much do you have to give unless you find that person who gets it? You were talking earlier about the divorce and the alimony and this and that. When you’re the wife who paid all the bills while he went to med school, then you get a piece.
If you did it like a young boxer, if you support him like a young Sugar Ray Robinson, if you were one of his sponsors, get a piece of it. I don’t go to a regular therapist anymore. After the thing where I said, “What if I didn’t?” She realized like, “Fuck.”
Did you go deeply enough into that?
We went deeply. It’s self-explanatory. It doesn’t feel like that’s my purpose in life.
Did you say that to her?
She didn’t realize how much she was promoting it. She apologized the next week. She’s like, “You’re right.” I stopped going. The other thing about therapy is you can stop going and it’s much like you don’t have to be married to be normal. You don’t have to go to therapy. You’re not a quitter if you decided that relationship does not work for you, which is the thing I hate about therapy and therapists.
They don’t discourage you from going forever.
They don’t put themselves in context. They don’t explain that there’s a bunch of different modalities that might help you. It’s a car dealership where they’re like, “We’re putting you in a Volvo.”
I have an episode called How To Find A Therapist. One of the nice things that my guest does is he goes through the different forms of therapy. He then talks about how to go about finding the right therapist for you because it’s not clear how to do that.
It’s also hard with insurance. There’s a lot of consideration. It makes it a miracle to find the right one. I don’t have a therapist at this point. I have done twelve-step groups that were helpful in terms of codependency, in terms of managing my own codependency with people. I don’t know if I’ve swung too far the other way, but it is hard to know when you’re setting a boundary and when you’re creating a wall. I don’t think there’s never a clear answer.
I think it’s personal like what’s comfortable for you? That was a great description. What setting a boundary for one person is building a wall for another and you got to figure out where you’re comfortable with it.
Also, what’s appropriate and when are you being passive-aggressive or when you’re just being obstructionist. Comedians, various friends of mine are helpful. The good news is we’re all in some ways misfit toys and instant perspective givers. We can agree on what would be in mixed company that would be non-comedians. That would be cynical. We say things to each other that would be cynical. A buddy of mine was saying he was at a dinner party and shut it down. He fucked up the energy for a half an hour with what would have been a regular observation anywhere else.
My observation of comics, I live in this world where I have one foot in and one foot out, but one of the things I like about comics is they’re great bullshit detectors.
They are also great bullshit creators. Jeff Cesario, who’s a comic, when I first met him, he said that he used to go to therapy for three hours. He did three-hour sessions because he’s like, “We’re comics. We can bullshit for the first hour.”
Also, comics don’t have the filter that people have. Even to a little extent when me and Neal were joking about the black guy not paying child support. In the regular society, they’d be like, “You can’t say that.” He certainly can’t laugh about it or tag it with more bullshit.
“Neal, you shouldn’t even be able to understand where he’s coming from.”
Whereas with comedians, imagine if I sat here and said, “Neal, that was a bit offensive.” That would be it. That would be the end of my career. Word would get out that Alonzo was offended during a show.
Alonzo’s got the virus.
I’ll ask you guys for some advice for the audience. Listening to the two of you, you’re going to appeal to a certain type of audience. I have both male and female audience. Part of the reason I explained the red pill stuff, some of the ladies may less likely have watched The Matrix.
There’s a documentary about the red pill stuff. It’s on Hulu. It’s called The Red Pill.
We talked about this a little bit earlier. If you are the kind of person who at best is ambivalent about long-term partnership or you know, “Marriage is not for me, certainly kids are not for me,” and so on. When you’re having a conversation, when you’re meeting someone new, Alonzo, you were talking about this a little bit earlier, you’re going about your business and the two of you had different assumptions. If you were to tell people, “What’s the best way to approach living like this with potential partners?” I’m asking this question because, Neal, I don’t know if it’s a bit but you have this 70/30 idea. I want to get both of your advice.
There are a couple of things I would say. The toughest one is be true to yourself. If it’s not what you want, then you can’t take that pressure of society saying you’re supposed to do it and try to make yourself fit into a box that you don’t fit in.
I did that shit for twenty years. I’m still defensive about it. I still feel like I’m wrong.
I’m going to say this more to women than to men. If he tells you he’s not a relationship guy, believe him because they say, “Yeah, sure. I’m going to be different.” I’m like, “No, you’re not.” I’m 57 years old and I’ve never been married. I can do a relationship but I’m not looking to get married. I don’t feel incomplete. Believe when someone tells you they’re not incomplete.
What you shouldn’t necessarily believe is when the guy says, “I want a relationship.”
He’s saying, “I want a caretaker.” That’s what I hear. If a guy says that, that means, “I want a caretaker.”
The point that you were trying to make was that a lot of damage is caused by men trying to think that they’re better than they are.
Men who want sex but aren’t willing to ask for sex, they’re saying, “I’ll give you a relationship.”
Ali Wong said something about relationships that I think about every day which is, “Clarity is kindness.”
I agree with that.
It’s hard to remember but it’s, “Clarity is kindness.” You can either have the uncomfortable ten-minute conversation now or you can have an uncomfortable ten-day conversation in six months.
What you’re talking about, that’s more of the young man’s game where he’s going to say anything to get laid. You get to a certain point where you’re like what you’re talking about, the ten-day conversation on the backside. You learn at a certain age like, “This lie isn’t worth it. I’m never going to get out of this.” Getting laid isn’t that important that you’re going to lie to it and then put up with everything from even if it’s not a lie, the false projection. One thing was pointed out to me that I can’t do anything about but this woman said to me, “The problem is you do all the boyfriend stuff good. You listen. We go places. You’re thoughtful.” You then see the other thing, guys who treat women like absolute shit and they want more. They’re lining up. I don’t even know. Do you do the boyfriend stuff good or bad?
You’re either going to do it well or not. I don’t think you and I could treat women like shit for long.
It would take a conscious effort because we don’t come from that or whatever.
Your first thing is be true to yourself. You’ve got to be clear about that.
Be true to yourself and be honest with the person and have that uncomfortable conversation.
True to yourself, you’re trying to tune into your radio frequency. It’s like when you’re turning the knob to figure out exactly what you’re like. It’s hard because there’s so much input from the outside world of who do you want to tell people who you are? Who do you want to seem like and who are you actually?
Turning that knob requires a lot of introspection, reading, maybe therapy. Rarely do I think people are born knowing who they are. You’ve got to do some studying and learning and make some mistakes and say, “This is me. This works for me. That doesn’t work for me.” It takes some time to figure that out.
For the person reading this, this idea of being tuned-in with the behavior is important. When someone says, “I don’t want this,” you should take them at their word because it’s going so counter to what the world says that you should want.
The argument I always make when people think I can change them is like, “You can’t change yourself. You’re going to change them? How’s your diet going?”
Regarding this idea about sex, especially if we’re talking to men, a lot of men, what they don’t do well is vulnerability. If you want sex, you should ask for sex. That’s scary to a guy because he might get a no.
Guys do a lot of PR, which are guys don’t want to seem like they just want sex. I always tell women, “If there’s a guy that you broke up with or he broke up with you and he’s being nice and being present now, that’s because he wants to keep fucking you.” Guys want to keep you just in case. It’s like Chris’ joke about the dick in a glass case.
It is important to know what you want. For me, I don’t want just sex. I always want dinner, sex, hike, sex, whatever event. My partners, I don’t want them just for sex. I want them for all these other things also. That doesn’t matter with regard to this specific point but the point is this, when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and to ask for what you want and to tell people what you want, this is your ten-minute uncomfortable conversation versus ten days.
That’s even tougher for women.
The sex thing, because men are more used to rejection. Do you ever have a woman offer sex and you say no? They lose their mind. Women cannot handle being rejected because they’re not used to it.
I’ve got fresh texts. It’s still warm. To her defense, she’s like, “I’m not used to feeling like I have a connection with somebody and then them saying that they don’t feel the connection.” One of the benefits of age is, I said to her, “I don’t have as much time as you do. I have to make faster decisions.” From doing stand-up, you can suss people out quickly and people don’t like thinking that you can suss them out quickly. If I can meet somebody and go, “No.” “What do you mean?” “I could explain to you why no, but the answer is no.”
You’re being kind by saying, “You are nice. It’s not quite right for me. I wish you the best in the world.” They’re not wondering. They send a text and you send a friendly response.
She wanted to know why.
They’re not going to accept that.
They do eventually. I’m not going to say all women or anything like that. More than half of the women I deal, they’re confused by it. They’re getting a noand also confused by a guy who has sexual opportunities. I’d say to the woman, “You might not believe this but I think sex with me is as valuable as sex with you is.” I know that’s anathema. I know that’s going to blow your mind.
My head almost blew up when you said that. I get what you’re saying 100%, but I’m sitting here like, “I was intimidated by Neal Brennan before. Now, he’s a god.”
I’m not even saying it like, “I’m the best.”
You value your body and your time.
Chappelle’s dad one time said, “Women think their vaginas are exquisite and our dicks are worthless.” It’s the same, “My old partner is an old man.”
Congratulations on your exquisite penis. I get it. I see your point.
The way it’s set up is that women are the prey, predator, whatever the sexual dynamic is. They say, “No.” I say, “Come on.” They say, “No.” Once you go, “Okay or no.” It’s the same way men sometimes feel about women that are wealthy, where it’s a bit like unmooring where you’re like, “I don’t even know where the center of gravity is.”
Let’s get back to your advice in terms of you want to talk to people. The advice you would give to someone who is embracing your lifestyle. They meet someone they’re intrigued by. This is about your 70/30 thing.
These are two different things. Before you meet somebody that you’re interested in, be prepared to never meet somebody you’re interested in. Meaning, maybe it doesn’t happen. It’s the garbage we’re fed by culture with, “You complete me,” from Jerry Maguire. It’s like, “I’m complete.”
I want to say this, when I say intrigued, I mean someone you’re attracted to that you want to spend more time.
That’s the 70/30 thing, if you’re attracted to them sexually.
To me, it’s conversational and sexual.
It’s the social connection and a sexual connection. That’s what you want. The problem sometimes is you’ll have more of a sexual connection than a social connection or more of a social connection than a sexual connection. The problem with relationships is you can’t say, and I said this, “I like you 7 out of 10 and that’s not enough. I’m looking for 9 out of 10 or 10 out of 10.” There are people that can hustle out. You can Pete Rose it. You can Charlie Hustle it. You can slide headfirst into third. I’ve thought about my professional connections and this is another thing I said. I was like, “I’ve written with 5 or 6 different people in my life, Chappelle, Mike Schur, a guy named Daniel Dratch, and Seth Meyers, Jost, Che, the SNL guys, Rock, a little bit.
My connection with Dave is insane. You’ve seen the creative chemistry. It’s in the Hall of Fame. It’s one of Mark Twain’s prize. When I write with other people, I know that it’s not as brilliant. I know that it doesn’t burn as hot but it’s still great. Now that I’ve had the thing I had with Dave creatively, I’m looking for the romantic version of that. I’ve been in love three times. I want it to burn that hot and it burnt quickly. It burnt at a high temperature early. It should feel like you’re robbing a bank. It feels like, “What the fuck.” You keep looking at it like, “Did I get this? Is this how this feels? This is amazing.” It’s more. It’s one plus one equals three. That’s what I’m looking for.
If it’s not that, then you have to let them know early rather than later, “This isn’t the most indelible connection I’ve ever felt. I do feel connected to you.” You have to be clear about it and say, “That’s what I feel.” Make a decision based on that. After a month, two months, three months, however long you’re comfortable. Once you know, you know, that’s the thing. I don’t know if it’s everybody or it’s comic or whatever, but we have instincts 90% of the time.
The other thing is the burning hot is great.
I don’t mean fucking.
I know what you mean, that thing like you want some or you found or like, “I can’t believe this.” I’m like that with comfort. If I fall in with you and it’s comfortable. It doesn’t take effort. You’re there. You get it and we don’t have to do a bunch. That’s when I’m like, “Don’t put anything on that. Can’t it just be that?” The minute you start putting shit on it, for me, you’re messing that up.
It’s like when someone’s throwing a no-hitter, don’t mention it.
He sits by himself and you don’t say a thing.
Don’t talk about it like, “You know it was a no-hitter.”
The moment you say that, you’re like, “It was.”
That’s trusting your instincts. They might be negative sometimes. Meaning, the conclusions I jump to sometimes they’re shallow, sometimes they’re judgmental but I believe them. You can present them in a constructive kind way. If you don’t like someone’s breath, that’s a problem. You don’t like their pheromone. They dressed goofier. These are all Seinfeld plots like, “She’s got man hands.” You don’t want to introduce her to your friends.
Intangibles work both ways. That’s what you’re saying. The intangibles might be positive when you say, “Why are you attracted to a person?” You may not be able to put that into words but then why are you not wanting that person? You can’t put that into words but it definitely happens and you feel it and you know it right away. Once it’s set, it’s hard to change it.
In terms of online dating, this is a tangent but applicable. If you met somebody online, do a FaceTime with them because you can tell. That way you don’t have to go. You don’t have to meet. You don’t have to get dressed up. Do a FaceTime and you go like, “Okay.” I did FaceTime with somebody and I was like, “No.”
Both of you answered this question in different ways but in valuable ways, and in some ways the same way. What I like about what you said Alonzo in the beginning was, be good about the kind of person you are and being honest about that.
That’s hard. You’re going to have to acknowledge some negative.
That comes from a place of knowing who you are and a place of truthfulness and vulnerability. Neal, what you’re saying is once you’re into something, pay attention to how you’re feeling about it and knowing that you might have to address it and it’s going to be uncomfortable. That also comes from a point of knowing yourself in a place of vulnerability. Speaking of online dating, ghosting is rampant in this world. If we’re all treated as we’re all on the same team together and we’re trying to do this matching process and all you need to do is just go, “You seem like a nice person. I enjoyed our time together. However, it’s not the right fit. Good luck out there.” It’s a way to say, “Thank you, but no thanks.” No one’s ever going, “I wonder if he’s going to call me back. I wonder if she’s going to text me back.”
I was dating a girl at one point and finally I was like, “You’re not that into me.” She was like, “I know.” She wanted to be into me. I was like, “It’s all right. You’re free to go.”
I’ve had that happen.
I’m not going to push you. I’ve been you.
You like the idea of the person more than the person.
She was trying to date healthier people.
I had one like that. We were dating and we were sitting at dinner and I said, “On paper, we should be together.” She started laughing. It was like this big exhale like, “We look perfect. I don’t feel it but we should be. We check all the boxes for each.” We ended up laughing about it. We were perfectly cool with it.
It goes to that personal thing. Most of what we’re attracted to and most of what we like was dictated in utero. It’s not a value judgment. There was a woman who was begging me to tell her what I didn’t like about her. I was like, “It doesn’t matter what I don’t like because it’s for me. These are not your shortcomings. All the gears have to line up and it didn’t line up. I’m not saying change the gear, I’m saying it doesn’t line up with my gear.” “Why not?” “Because of where I was born, the family of origin, Ireland, alcohol. How many things do you want me to leave?”
I know that you guys already mentioned it, being a comic as your chosen profession already makes you not a good fit for some people.
It’s also like sports. I’ve had enough women get mad at me about sports analogies because men use them but it is true. Certain people, certain players can’t play together. They can be great players but they cannot play together on the same team and you’re like, “Why?” I don’t know. They don’t work on the same team. They each go their separate way and they’re fine.
Kyrie Irving can’t work with anyone. The fact that we’ve covered many topics and talked for long is not surprising to me knowing the two of you. People don’t have these kinds of conversations often. I know most of the time you guys are on a podcast talking about comedy and so on. It’s interesting to dive more deeply into this side of your lives. One of the things that I want to point out listening to you talk is a lot of people are scared about getting older. They don’t like the idea of getting older. What I always say is getting older is great if you take care of business and that is if you’ve taken care of your professional life, if you’ve taken care of your body, if you’ve taken care of your soul.
What I like about you guys is the confidence that you have in who you are and your confidence in communicating that. Having the honest conversation with yourself about, “This is what I’m good at. This is what I’m not good at. This is what I want. This is what I don’t want.” Your ability to not only have that conversation with your partners but to have that conversation with the world, which is what you’ve done which I appreciate. We’re not going to do any bonus material in this episode. You’ve got plenty of material here. I wanted to wrap up and say thank you, Alonzo.
Thank you, Neal.
May I add two things?
Here’s the bonus material. If you don’t have children and somebody with children says, “When are you going to have children?” Say, “I don’t know. When are you going to adopt?” That’s one defense. Another defense is when people go, “What are you going to do if you’re not married and your loved one is in the hospital, they won’t let you into the room after hours unless you’re family?” My response to that is, “They will if I give them $40.” There are ways around everything that are less profound.
It’s a Muhammad Ali quote, I’m not sure, I’m paraphrasing but we’re talking about getting older where he said, “If you’re the same person at 51 than you were at 21, you’ve wasted 30 years of your life.”
I agree with that.
That’s good. Who is that? Muhammad who?
You remember him. He used to fight. I love what Neil said, $40.
I’ll give them $40.
That’s cool because I was going to give him $50 but I’ll save $10 because I’m going to be older and I don’t have the same income.
Usually, I go $100 but I’m not big time.
$40 is good.
I like the idea of problem-solving in those ways.
When parents try to sell themselves, it’s selfless. Just go, “You should adopt.”
This is great. Thanks so much. I appreciate you.
- Neal Brennan
- Alonzo Bodden
- Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me
- Eating for a Remarkable Life – Previous Episode
- EC Synkowski
- Theo Vaughn’s – Neal Brennan Episode
- Shtick to Business
- Ted Alexandro
- The Humor Code
- Bullshit Jobs
- Married To Comedy with Alonzo Bodden – I’m Not Joking episode 44
- The Four Agreements
- The Science of Single Living – SOLO episode 2
- How To Find A Therapist – episode 15
- The Red Pill
About Alonzo Bodden
Alonzo Bodden is the winner of Season 3 of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Alonzo is a touring comedian and a regular on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”
About Neal Brennan
Neal Brennan is a stand-up comic, writer, director, actor and a co-creator of Chappelle’s Show.
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