Jim Breuer’s life-is-funny approach to stand-up comedy became a focal point of his routine when he became a father for the first time, and his penchant for finding humor in the regular, relatable and downright difficult aspects of the human condition has carried all the way through sending his oldest daughter — he now has three — to college.
What are his girls up to now?
“I now have two teenage girls in the house that are testing every possible scenario of breaking free and hiding that they party,” Breuer said in a recent phone interview, finishing the sentiment with his signature chuckle. “Any rule we set, they’re determined to toss it out the window.
“I think it’s been quite a standoff. My wife and I are like police in riot gear. We know they’re going to revolt. How do we prepare for it?”
Breuer will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the F.M. Kirby Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre, and he’ll be sharing the hilarity of his everyday existence with a local audience.
“Whether it’s the phone or sleeping over with their friends, they think we’re stupid,” Breuer continued. “I know you’re going to try weed and booze. I can tell by the company you keep.”
The comic, named among Comedy Central’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time, painted a mental picture to illustrate how he, at one time, tried to pull similar tricks with his mother.
“It’s like when I was in the ’80s, hanging out with my friends,” he said. “Three stoners pull up in a car with Pink Floyd blasting, and I’m trying to tell my mom, ‘We’re just going bowling.’ Yeah, right.”
Breuer rose in the stand-up ranks quickly before reaching a larger audience as a regular player on “Saturday Night Live” from 1995 to 1998 and landing film roles like lovable burnout Brian in the cult classic “Half Baked,” which also starred Guillermo Diaz, Harland Williams and Dave Chappelle.
But his work over the last decade has reflected his reality much more than it has catered to fictional characters or story lines, and he has tackled issues as personal and poignant as caring for aging parents — a film crew documented Breuer on the road with his then-85-year-old father in 2008 — and dealing with health scares — he posted videos of his wife’s battle with cancer, and his family’s effort to make her laugh, over the last few years.
It’s all part of his philosophy that comedy can be used as a tool to conquer fear and cope with life’s challenges.
“I think it’s been proven time and time again that there are only three things that can heal that are all natural: music, laughter and faith,” Breuer said, noting he doesn’t consider “faith” synonymous with “religion.” “Laughter plugs into humility, which plugs into admitting your weakest flaws. When you can acknowledge that, it makes moving on so much easier. If you can’t laugh at yourself or certain situations, that’s a rough way to go through life.”
Laughter, Breuer said, is “hands down” a universal language, and he recalled a trip to Africa during which he had an encounter he describes as “one of the coolest things I’ve done in my whole life.”
Visiting a fish market in a lake community in Tanzania, Breuer was introduced to natives he estimates had met few people outside their tribe or culture. When he met some of the village’s children, he approached them like he would the children in his family.
“I went slapstick on them,” he said. “Very Laurel and Hardy. I’d hold my hand up for a high five, and when one of the little ones would hit my hand, I’d make it seem like he didn’t know his own strength. I’d yank my hand back into my own face and end up on my back in the sand. Within 15 minutes, I had 20 kids lining up laughing. Seeing them imitate what I was doing as we were driving away, there’s something there. We couldn’t understand each other; we knew nothing about one another, but we shared laughter.”
On his 2018 tour, Breuer has made a point not too discuss politics, a subject from which he feels his audience could use a break while attending his performance. But he will deliver material about the incessant media frenzy that has captured the attention of so many Americans.
“I’m a strong believer that the real necessities in life are right in front of you,” he said. “To see people getting caught up in such — I won’t call them irrelevant — things … there are a lot more important things in life than any distraction that brings out pure dark feelings. When getting caught up in that world, no one leaves happy … and people are willing to put their life and soul on the line for this? That’s a very dangerous society. If you unplug and go back a month later, you realize how ridiculous and irrelevant it is.”
In addition to maintaining his reputation as one of the best stand-ups in the business, Breuer plans to return to his podcast, from which he took a three month hiatus, next month.
“It goes deeper into the world of the real human I am,” he said of the podcast. “My wife’s been on a lot, and we talk about other couples and how to survive as a couple. I’ll go into deeper subjects and be a little funny here and there.”
A New York native and die-hard Mets fan, Breuer also plans to continue his practice of posting videos that focus on the Mets and their season.
“I’ll be dipping into it a little more at spring training,” Breuer said. “I plan on going Facebook live on opening day and calling the whole game. I’m amped up about it. It’ll be like we’re all watching the game together.”