Brian Posehn: Anthrax’s Sense of Humor Sets Them Apart From Others
Brian Posehn is equal parts funny man and headbanger, chronicling the dual aspect of his life in his very first memoir, Forever Nerdy: Living My Dorky Dreams and Staying Metal. He's a man who has indulged in his true passions, whether it be comic books, movies, thrash metal or comedy, turning them all into paying gigs.
As the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, Posehn discusses the challenge of writing a memoir, how these seemingly nerdy interests have suddenly become cool in popular culture and how Anthrax's sense of humor immediately attracted him during the band's earlier days. Check out the chat below.
Let's talk about your memoir, Forever Nerdy: Living My Dorky Dreams and Staying Metal. It's a collection of stories about your life and it's out now. What was revealed to you about yourself when you were revising your life for this book?
Well, I already knew like, what the hook of the book was going to be. The main story of just this kid liking all these interests and actually being able to live a life where I get paid for some of those interests. It’s living the dream really. The thing that I realized, I already knew what I had gone through but actually putting it down on paper — sometimes I already had interviewers go, "Hey why did you not become a Columbine kid with all this stuff you went through and how were you able to actually turn it around," and who knows but that’s part of the book.
You've written for comic books and stand up but Forever Nerdy is your first memoir. As a writer, what was the biggest adjustment you made to write the book?
Well, it’s a different discipline and it was just like the most I had to write, really. That was the hardest thing about writing the book, other than taking these stories that weren't fun going through as a kid and making them funny. The biggest thing was just wrangling it all in, and making it connect and be wittier at the end of the day.
I’m used to writing sketches and comic books and the word count is way lower than when you’re writing a book too. It’s 85,000 words, was essentially what I had to come up with and I had four months to do it and four months turned into eight months and then with editing turned into a year, so it was a massive undertaking. I’m sure anybody you’ve talked to, you know Scott Ian or any of our friends that have written, I don’t think you expect when you’re going to write how much work it really is.
What's surreal about the things that once labeled you as a nerd now being extremely cool?
Well, you know the first thing is all the people I’ve gotten to meet. Being in a metal band, as a kid you never expect you’re going to meet as many of your heroes as I’ve gotten to meet. Having Ronnie James Dio in my kitchen and just meeting Scott Ian and then becoming pals with them, that all made the book.
Things that I never expected would happen in my life happened. I lived my nerdy dreams you know. All the way across the board like, losing Stan Lee — I got to meet him. I worked for Marvel though I don’t even know how I was able to connect all those things with those things that I love — metal, horror, comic books — and been able to make a living in all of them has been insane.
Brian, you are a lifelong metal fan. What first got you interested in metal and which bands are you the closest to today?
Like a lot of people my age, I started with hard rock. So, the first bands were KISS, and then Van Halen, AC/DC, Zeppelin. And then, being a teenager in the ’80s in the Bay Area I was around when metal get heavier. First, I was into Iron Maiden and Riot, Raven and bands like that and then I was getting into bands that were influenced by them, you know Metallica, Anthrax and Exodus. You know, it’s crazy now, that when Metallica plays Los Angeles Kirk Hammett reaches out to me and asks me if I want to go.
That's just crazy the way this worked out, that that guy is my friend now. And Scott Ian, I always had this connection with Anthrax as a fan because of all the thrash bands of the time they had - they were really the only ones that had a sense of humor that you could see. That was in the music, carried in the music and in their interviews. I mean, the other guys definitely had a sense of humor but the music was so serious. Anthrax had a sense of humor. They wrote about comic books, I always connected to them and then meeting them, that's how our friendships were formed. We like a lot of the same things, like Scott and I still love Stephen King and comic books and all these things. It's a lot of where our friendship was formed.
You grew up interested in comedy, obviously but also you love comic books, horror and sci-fi and metal. What initiated transitioning things you loved into a full-fledged career?
Well, the main one was obviously comedy and it just took me trying it. It's super hard but I loved it immediately and I just kept going and everything else sort of fell into play once I had this comedy career established and moved to town and next thing I know I'm on sitcoms and then I'm in The Devil's Rejects. It all just sort of happened. The Rejects connection was through a friend of mine being in Rob Zombie's first movie. I'm like, hey I'm a bigger Rob Zombie fan than you are. Introduce me to him.
I met Rob and he knew me through - he was a fan of Everybody Loves Raymond, which I had been on. I just couldn't picture Rob stomping around his house in those monster boots watching Everybody Loves Raymond, but somehow it happened. Then everything else sort of - at Comic Con every year, so I met Marvel guys and the next thing I know I'm doing Deadpool. I played D&D forever and then podcasts start happening. Next thing I know I'm doing a podcast where I'm playing D&D and I'm actually getting paid to play D&D in my living room.
That's how all the dreams kind of connected. But it all sort of fell into place. This was not calculated. I never sat down in my 20s and went, "I'm gonna be the metal nerd comedian." It's kind of not - well it is an organic thing — that's how I found all my fans. People who like the same things that I like were the ones that connected with my standup the most. But I never sought out, was never like, "Hey man I'm gonna make all the people who like Slayer, people who like the movie Halloween, people who like Spiderman, I'm gonna make them all like my comedy." I never sought out to do that, but that's just what happened by being myself, I think.
You're making a comedy metal album called Grandpa Metal featuring guys from Anthrax and Slayer. Comedically what makes those guys funny?
What I've noticed about a lot of musicians, especially my friends, is that those guys already have a sense of humor but we wanted to be funny. I think it's the same reason I'm wanting to put out a metal record — I'm a comedian but I love metal. There are metalheads who also love comedy and also my close friends, whether it's Scott, Maynard from Tool or any of these guys. Corey from Slipknot. I think they grew up liking that stuff and actually have a sense of humor. Metalheads might not know that about them because Slipknot doesn't really have hilarious lyrics, but he's a funny guy. It's an itch you want to scratch and when they get to, that's when you find out they actually have a sense of humor and they're normal like us.
It's always fun to see somebody you don't normally get to see in a funny environment do something hilarious.
Going back to Anthrax, that's what drew me to them. Not just that they wore shorts, they were these New York guys but dressed like Californians - but they did. They dressed like New Yorkers vacationing in California. But they wore those jams, and they always - they stuck out in the metal world and when they would do interviews, Scott was always funny. You could see he didn't like answering some of those questions that Adam Curry was throwing at him on MTV and they'd be humorous about it. That's one of the things, going back to them and comic books and Stephen King, drew me to them. They were kind of jokers.
Brian, it's always great to catch up. Can you tell us what you have going on in 2019?
Well I have the record, I hope to submit a draft this year. I've been working on it for five — it's pretty much Chinese Democracy of heavy metal comedy records [laughs]. That's a big goal, is to finish that. I've got Big Bang Theory wrapping up so I'm on quite a few episodes on the final season here. Then, just writing standup and always working on the next record and writing the next book. The book was a lot of fun, a lot of work, but I'm hoping I get to do another one and I'm already starting to work on that.
Thanks to Brian Posehn for the interview. Get your copy of 'Forever Nerdy: Living My Dorky Dreams and Staying Metal' here. Follow him on Facebook to stay up to date with everything he's doing and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here.
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