THIRD STREET PROMENADE In the alleyway between Arizona Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard next to the Third Street Promenade lies M.i.s Westside Comedy Theater. Though you wouldnt think much of the small building during the day, the laughing crowd and booming music is enough to attract curious bystanders.
And on every Sunday at 9 p.m., the theater is lit up with comedian Neal Brennans weekly show Neal Brennan and Friends, where he and several guest comedians perform an approximate 15-minute act.
I always end up talking about black dudes, women, politics, and something cultural, Brennan said. Its literally all just what I care about.
Brennan is most famous for having co-created Chappelles Show with writing partner Dave Chappelle, in which he directed the second season.
Brennan always knew he wanted to be in comedy. Because he was also interested in film making, he went to New York University for one year before dropping out. In his eyes, going to a film school when he already could write was a waste of money. He then started his career at age 20, writing for the MTV show Singled Out.
Now, as a stand-up comedian, Brennan is faced with the constant challenge of coming up with multiple jokes and themes the crowd will find funny every week. He turns to a few broad themes that he personally likes to joke about.
The specific ideas for jokes, on the other hand, will simply come to him out of the blue.
Though Brennan knows not everyone may relate to his comedy, he doesnt try to change his sense of humor to fit others.
Youre not going to get very far trying to please other people, Brennan said. I dont say anything in my act that I dont believe.
After writing and directing comedy, Brennan began to consider actually performing it. Now, having been on stage for around five years, hes starting to find his groove.
However, because writing and directing is predominantly behind the scenes, he finds being a comedian more challenging.
The main difficulty is writing jokes and then learning how to perform them, Brennan said. You have to train your body to stand in front of people.
Brennan believes that you have to take your own chances in order to become a successful comedian. The only advice that someone usually can give is to hold the mic and move the stand out of the way.
He looks up to comedians such as Chris Rock and Chapelle, but even so, hes given them advice as a writer and director.
Theres been people that have helped me but I think its never direct, Brennan said. Theres so few pieces of advice that are like, Heres what you gotta do.
Along with Rock and Chapelle, he likes the stand-up comedians Bill Burr and Bill Hicks.
Theyre very intelligent. They talk about relatively difficult subjects and are able to make them funny, Brennan said.
From being a writer and director, Brennan had to learn how to smile and not be nervous on stage. He says that as a comedian you have to figure out how to write and learn how to perform, and then learn to do it simultaneously.
Though Brennan seems incredibly confident while he acts, he used to be outgoing only with people he knew.
It takes time on stage [to stop being scared], Brennan says. I dont think you look at me now and think, He seems uncomfortable.
Brennan believes that performing is incredibly hard to achieve for most people. Its something that not even he has mastered completely.
When Brennan turned to becoming a comedian, that was an aspect that he definitely had to work on.
Its difficult to perform because people would rather die than speak in public, Brennan said. Human beings biggest fear is public speaking.
For information on Neal Brennans upcoming shows, visit www.nealbrennan.com