"I always tell people it's funny that they think I'm a relationship expert
because my two books are about getting out of relationships."
– Greg Behrendt
Guy MacPherson: Hello, Greg?
Greg Behrendt: Yes?
GM: This is Guy MacPherson in Vancouver. How are you?
GB: Hey, Guy, how are you?
GM: I'm a little sick but the show must go on. How's Canada treating you so far?
GB: So far so good.
GM: How many days have you been on the tour so far?
GB: We started in Hamilton on the 1st, so we're just at the tip of this thing. We go all the way to the 18th.
GM: It's a long haul.
GB: It is.
GM: It's old school. Barnstorming the nation.
GB: Yeah, it is. It's like those Buddy Holly tours with a bunch of people on a bus.
GM: Don't say Buddy Holly!
GB: Right. Because we're taking planes. Bad idea. Scratch that. Delete, delete!
GM: What have you learned about our fair country? Did you know much to begin with?
GB: I didn't know a lot. I mean, all the stereotypes are true. People are lovely.
GM: I thought you were going to say something bad.
GB: No. God, I got in the elevator after working out and this guy goes, "You finish your workout?" "Yes, I did." He goes, "Good for you! I'm gonna work out tomorrow. They got a great gym here!" He goes, "What did you do?" I said, "Ah, I ran for a little bit, lifted some weights." "Good for you! Have a great day!" I was like, "You gotta be shitting me."
GM: That's annoying. I'm sorry. I'm apologizing.
GB: It was nice! It was nice. Look, it's better than you get in America where people just stare at you. You're sweaty, they don't want to talk to you.
GM: You are in the heartland of Canada.
GB: I guess so. It's pretty flat. That's what our heartland's like. Yeah, it's pretty flat, we're in a nice hotel. Then we go to Brandon tomorrow.
GB: Yeah, how about that? No sleep till Brandon.
GM: You've probably seen more of Canada than many Canadians have.
GB: Yeah, it seems like we're getting in there. But we're in here so quick, though. You pop into a hotel, you go to a place and buy some underwear, then you're gone.
GM: You don't travel with your own underwear?
GB: I do but I like to change 'em up.
GM: Do you approach your shows any differently being in a different country? Obviously the bulk of your act is the same, but is the approach any different?
GB: No, not really. I mean, every audience for me is different. It's like jazz; you have to feel them out at the beginning and see what they're up to and see what their resistance is and their strengths are and then you just sort of go towards that. I've found in general that people here are pretty receptive. I don't know if it's because the Just For Laughs comedy brand has a pretty good reputation but I come out and start the show and people are ready to go from the get-go. I'm a pretty strong comic anyway, but still.
GM: It is a good brand and they put on a real professional show.
GB: We're filling most of these places up. That's impressive to me. A tour like this in America really couldn't exist unless it was nothing but superstars. So this is pretty great. And people have been so far great.
GM: Or now, if they're not superstar comics, it's a theme of some kind. It has to be all of a certain type of comedy.
GB: Right, like a Blue Collar thing. And look, there are some great tours. Comedians of Comedy's a helluva tour and they're great guys. And this one has a bit of a relationship theme. And I don't know what my popularity is in Canada. I know the book's done well here, but I'm certainly more popular in the States. But people are ready to go. You get the sense that they trust you know what you're doing right away. Whereas a lot of times in shows they're like, "Aw, the first guy's gonna suck."
GM: That's why they put you on first.
GB: I guess so, yeah. And then I get to do a little chunk there in the middle so it's nice.
GM: Any surprises so far? Anything that'll make the Bring the Rock show?
GB: Not yet, other than we're just sort of travelling like a band. That's show's usually centred around meeting rock stars or having some sort of musical adventure. My Bring the Rock show is comics telling stories about bands or people they've met or wanting to be in a band or that kind of thing. But this comes about as close in terms of touring with the big trucks and all that shit, guys hanging out there with you having a laugh.
GM: Is there a live band travelling with you? They used to do that but didn't last year.
GB: No, there's no band. Everybody comes out to pre-recorded music. I come out to my own pre-recorded music from my own band, The Reigning Monarchs. That's about as rock as it gets. I have an instrumental punk and ska band.
GM: So you were a musician before you were a comic.
GB: Yeah, you'd have to put that in quotes, but I played in a band. My musicianship made it so that the band broke up and reformed without me at some point.
GM: Are you a guitarist?
GB: I play guitar, yeah.
GM: Always in the punk/ska vein?
GB: Yeah, punk rock pop kind of stuff. I took a little diversion two years ago with my children's heavy metal band, Black Rattle.
GM: How old are you kids?
GB: Five and two. Me and a bunch of dads got tired of hearing the music the old school way so we made death metal versions. Same lyrics, just different music. To Where Is Thumbkin? and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and all that kind of stuff.
GM: Yeah, I have a three-year-old and he doesn't listen to too much of the kids music. Last night he went to sleep listening to Dave Brubeck.
GB: Ah, I love Dave Brubeck! That's a great way to go to sleep! Yeah, the girls have been very cool. They actually like the music that I make. They don't know the names of songs so they call them out by the rhythms. They go, "Can we listen to Dum-da-da-da-dum-dum?" The theme I come out to has kind of a Bolero-ish theme. The kids make me play it over and over in the car. It's a real ego boost to have your kids constantly request your music. I don't know if that'll always be the case but right now I'm in heavy rotation. They like the Gwen Stefani song, the one with Akon, that they call "Wee-hoo". Then they like the classic "Pump Up the Jam", which they call "Pump the Jump".
GM: This is a personal question, but do you get paid in Canadian or American dollars? It always used to be that Americans would always demand American
GB: I'm hoping we get paid in Canadian. I'll take that extra six cents or whatever. Whatever the difference is, I'll take it... Sorry we started a war, can we have some of your money?
GM: Your CD is called "Uncool". That certainly can't refer to you.
GB: It does. And it refers to that feeling of, you can dress it any way you want to dress it but when you get out of bed and you're sore from sleeping, you're old. And uncool. You might be considered cool within your peer group but all you gotta do is go to a Fall Out Boys show to know how completely lost you are.
GM: But you were cool at one point, that's what you're saying.
GB: At least at one point, I went to see Nirvana early on. I was there sort of rightfully attached to the zeitgeist. And now I'm aware of it, but I just sadly feel like a predator.
GM: But you're not stuck in the past.
GB: No, no, no. No, but I also don't want to be the guy trying to hard, rushing to be in the front row of Band of Horses. And the beauty of getting old is it gives you license to become eccentric. And it funny you mention Dave Brubeck, because for the last couple of years I've been getting into jazz and old ska and things I didn't have time for while I was trying to be important. And now it doesn't matter.
GM: It takes a certain age to appreciate jazz.
GB: Yeah, especially if you listen to music for a long, long time. You just want new sounds. And there aren't new sounds so you go back and start digging through the old sounds. And I think your appreciation for music becomes such that you begin to understand Thelonious Monk and different time signatures and why that stuff all matters, and how incredibly cool those guys were. And also because jazz, like stand-up, is one of those mediums that you can do as an older man and still be relevant. You can't run around with plates in your ears and flat black matte hair for the rest of your life without looking like a guitar store employees. You can wear a suit a listen to jazz and be okay.
GM: I'm kinda the opposite of you because my dad was a jazz musician so I grew up listening to it and now I'm starting to listen to the stuff I missed growing up that everybody else was listening to.
GB: Oh, is that right? Your dad was a jazz musician? What did he play?
GM: Tenor sax.
GB: Oh wow. I have horns all over my music now. I've just recently gotten into brass. I'm sort of a Herb Alpert fan and I love any of that stuff. When I started this band, I just wanted to play rhythm guitar. I don't pretend to be like a great musician, but I wanted to lay out great rhythms and great music for people to play on top of. "Hey, let's put some french horn on there. And melodica."
GM: Have you put out albums?
GB: No, we're making one right now. This all happened this summer. As soon as my talk show got cancelled I went okay, fair enough. I want to go back and play guitar this summer and do stand-up and not try and do anything in my career for a little while. Just enjoy creating art that doesn't have to affect dating lives.
GM: So you are cool.
GB: That's nice of you.
GM: You're not John Hodgman or Woody Allen.
GB: That's funny.
"I'm just not interested in daytime television, which is
something you should remember the next time somebody offers
you a daytime talk show."
– Greg Behrendt
GM: I knew you as a stand-up first, so it's funny for me to hear you described as a "relationship expert".
GB: It's even funnier to be one.
GM: Are you one?
GB: No! I always laugh. I always tell people it's funny that they think I'm a relationship expert because my two books are about getting out of relationships. My whole stance has always been I'm just a normal guy and this is my opinion. It makes sense that any comedian would have perspective on life because our jobs are to dig deep and dig constantly and always look at why things are the way they are so we can make jokes out of it. And then somebody asks you a question and you say, "When thinking about that, my guess is that if a guy doesn't call you, he doesn't like you." Even when you say that, you're trying to be a little bit glib and a little bit funny. And then you end up having this sort of unexpected profound effect on the way women view dating men and you end up on Oprah. And then Bob's your uncle because there's nothing bigger than Oprah. My one appearance on Oprah is still probably the biggest thing that's happened in my career.
GM: When you were writing the first book, were you taking it seriously or were you just going for jokes?
GB: I think it was a half-and-half thing. My expectation was that the book would be at Urban Outfitter. I thought it was interesting information and I told Liz [Tuccillo], and Liz and I agreed: let's make it short, let's make it funny. I figured a chapter called "If He's Married to Somebody Else, He's Just Not That Into You" would make people laugh. I did sort of see it as being kind of this nice combination of both things: tough love with a little bit of humour. And I think it really affected people.
GM: When it hit so big, did you have an "oh shit" moment where you thought you were going to be exposed?
GB: Yeah, I did, actually. It's funny, I was talking about this with my wife the other day. I was aware it went well the first Oprah. And I went, "Wow, that was huge." Because she spent an hour holding the book up. And I understood her power even though I hadn't really watched her show very much, for no other reason that I'm just not interested in daytime television, which is something you should remember the next time somebody offers you a daytime talk show. I went back to the hotel and I went, "What have I done to my comedy career? What's going to happen now? Have I just changed jobs?" So it was a bit bizarre. And in the ensuing weeks all the media and the publicity. We were on everything from Larry King to Good Morning America. It just became this sort of big thing. And then back on Oprah a couple times. It was overwhelming. But good. Because honestly, there weren't that many people coming to see me do stand-up before the book. I would do okay but I didn't do great. And then suddenly the rooms would sell out and I had a bigger audience and they were mostly women.
GM: So it wasn't like changing jobs but enhancing your job.
GB: Yeah! My stand-up always had a bit of "Hey, you got the one life, don't mess it up." I mean, my message has always been the same. I've always been different than the peer group I came up with. I lack a certain amount of cynicism and I do believe that people have an opportunity while they're here to make this thing great and I'm always trying to encourage people to do that. At the same time, I don't want to preach to people. I just want to be funny and drop the message within the jokes and let people kinda walk away with their own conclusions. The book was pretty spot-on and in the beginning people were coming looking for some sort of healing and I had to explain to them we're going to be doing stand-up tonight, and we'll take it from there.
GM: How would they take that?
GB: They were usually pretty good because if I address the issue up front and talk about being on Oprah, the girls were satiated and I would just go into my regular act. And I think thematically they got an understanding because I basically said, "You should know the guy that wrote the book. Let me talk about me for a little bit. I'll tell you why I know what I know. This is who I am." And then I talk about being old and having my chain wallet taken from me. I would talk about the struggles that I have in my own marriage which are always sort of fun and cute about playing Pictionary and all that kind of stuff.
GM: So they thought they were coming to an author's tour?
GB: Kind of, yeah. But then after a while they started to understand. And it's always been fine. I mean, I've had a handful of women go, "Talk about the book!" And I'm like, "Did you see it says 'Comedy Club' out front? If you want to go to a lecture, go to a lecture hall or go to a book signing." But also I retained some of the dudes that were fans beforehand and now I'm finding a nice balance. And I do like talking about relationships because I do have an understanding of them for some reason. And I like that area for me. It works for me because I think it's funny the choices people make and the situations they put themselves in. You wanna kind of say to them, "Why do you do this? You don't need to."
GM: I'm going through that with friends right now.
GB: It's strange, isn't it? And marriage is a strange thing. Because as much as I love being married, I don't recommend it. Unless you really know what you're in for, unless you really know what you're signing up for. People look at it as a solve. There should be a checklist of how you feel about yourself before you go into something because if you were marrying someone because they make you feel better, they're not always going to make you feel better. That onus falls on you. If you go into a marriage liking yourself and feeling good about yourself and feeling good about the other person, you're in pretty good shape. You're there to help each other, certainly, but I don't look to my wife for my happiness.
GM: I saw you and Liz talk in Montreal a couple years ago. I may have been the only man in the audience.
GB: Yeah, you and my manager.
GM: I haven't read the book but the title pretty much sums it up. Because every answer is essentially, "He's just not that into you." I thought it was hilarious. These women were in tears giving all these different stories and scenarios, and the answer was always "Uh, he's not that into you." So in essence I have read the book.
GB: You probably know instinctually as a man. You understand and you'd answer the questions probably the same way. A lot of my buddies were like, "Dude, I knew that." And I was like, "Well, you should have written it down because it worked out well for me." The fact is for some women they have to read it in the book. We had even wanted to put a page in the book that said, "If you're holding this book in a bookstore right now, put it down and go home and break up with your boyfriend. You have your answer: it's on the cover." But the publishers were not into that idea. They didn't want us to put that in there. But it's a life philosophy. You know, you can apply it to your job when you're being passed over again and again and again. We need to be in places where people value what you have to offer. Too many people spend their life here doing time almost, in bad jobs and bad marriages and bad relationships and bad friendships. I don't know enough about the afterlife or if there even is one, but I'm playing as if this is the only one we get and you don't get points for having a shitty time.
GM: You talk about it as being this obvious truth. Are you searching for other obvious truths people haven't tapped into or marketed for your next project?
GB: I'm really good at turning a phrase. We just finished writing a dating book last year and one of the phrases is when people say they don't like playing games. And there is a game to be played. There's a game you have to play in your life and it's called, "Don't freak people out with your need." Because need is one of the most repugnant things that people can put out there. We all repel from need because we don't know how to solve the problem of need for people.
Especially in the dating situation, when you come at somebody when you're needy, when you need a relationship or you think you need these things, it just makes people go, "I can barely take care of my life; I'm not going to be able to take care of yours." Even when you have a dog sometimes, you're like, "Down! I get it. I love you. Down! Come on, go outside, be a dog." That kind of thing.
GM: You want the Buddhist detachment.
GB: Yeah. But I'm not in the search for the next "He's Just Not That Into You". That doesn't matter to me. It's enough. I put it out there. It's had a relatively positive effect on most of the women who've encountered it.
GM: But you followed it up with another book.
GB: Well, I thought we owed them a book to get through the breakup we just asked them to have. We just asked people to get out of relationships that they were misguidedly in and then giving them a 7-course diet of what to do next so that they can move on. And that book, I think, for the people that read it, had a real profound effect on helping them get through it. I wish I had that book when I was going through a breakup. It's like, here's what you do step by step. You can't change somebody's mental chemistry but you can say to them, "Look, these things will make you feel better. Just do this for two months and see if this isn't a better way to go through a breakup than what you had planned.You know, late night drunken phone calls and begging people back into your life and going and trashing their apartment. I think we've got some better solutions."
GM: What could be better than that?
GB: That was sort of what we wanted to do. You can't follow up on it. It's like Alanis Morissette's first album. There's a moment in time where that was the exact right thing that people needed to hear and everything after that is just fun.
GM: So you're not going to follow up these two books?
GB: We have a book called, It's Just a Fucking Date. It's written and done. But after the talk show got cancelled, I just put a hold on everything for a little bit and said, look, I just want to go do stand-up. I want to think about my life a little bit. I want to go do stand-up because I always find the truth out on the stage. So I just want to do that and play with a band and spend time with my kids and not try and answer any questions for a while and see what happens. There's a movie coming out next summer. If we decide to put out a book, we can always put it out around the same time as the movie comes out.
GM: Oh, that's right. There's a fictional movie coming out based on the book, isn't there?
GB: Yeah, it's got all kinds of big actors in it. I have a cameo. I have a reaction shot of me as a priest. But that's about as much as my involvement is. We sold them the rights to the book and they wrote a script. I mean, they've been very inclusive about it. Lovely about it. Drew Barrymore and her company, Flower Films, have been just top notch. Nice people. And they wrote this cute movie that sort of extols all the different chapters of the book. And they decided to pack it so full of stars that at least it'll have a good opening weekend.
GM: Who else is in it?
GB: Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, etc. etc.
GM: That's exciting.
GB: Yeah, it's really exciting. It's, you know, bizarre. It was an off-handed comment made on a lunch break that's turned into this event for people.
GM: That's right. What was your role on Sex and the City?
GB: I was just a consultant. I came in there a couple days a week because they didn't have a straight guy to whom they could ask questions. I would be there for the creation of the season, so they'd come in and say, "Okay, what are we going to do with everybody?" And then they'd talk and say, "What about this, this, this and this? And what do you think about that? And what's been your experience?" My job originally when I first got there was literally to come in and talk about sex. How men feel about sex, how we feel right after sex. It was dirty. It was originally a very dirty job. And then I got married around the same time, I had a baby around the same time. And Michael Patrick King and I are close and he just kept me around. He's the executive producer.
GM: They're making a movie of that, too. Are you involved with it?
GB: No, I'm not involved with that. He's written and directed that. That comes out sometime in the early summer next year and I think ours will come out sometime in the middle of summer.
GM: When was your talk show cancelled?
GB: It was cancelled in February, I think, of last year. And it ran in syndication all the way up until about a month ago.
GM: How was your one-year experience?
GB: It wasn't what I hoped it was going to be, and that was for a variety of reasons.
GM: What did you hope for?
GB: I hoped that we could do something a little bit funnier and sexier, like the book. I thought the show would be funnier and we wouldn't be doing reunions and all that kind of stuff. I just thought it was going to be different. But I also think I didn't know enough about television. You don't know what a war is until you get into one. We can all sit here and talk about how we think battles should be fought and how things should be done, but until you get in the game you just have no idea. And I'd had very little television experience other than my appearances on, you know, Letterman and Conan and all that business. And I've been in sitcom development for years and nothing ever came to fruition. This was an opportunity that followed me around for ten-and-a-half months until I finally said okay, I give in, I give in. I wanted to make a funnier, zestier,
more bizarre, almost like a Japanese television version of a relationship show. We had some great ideas and nobody listened to us until it was too late and then it was cancelled. And the studio apologized to us and that was the end of it. But I liked it and I got a lot of nice suits. It was good.
GM: So it's all positive, ultimately.
GB: All of it's positive. I mean, God, I got a TV show for, again, making an off-handed comment. You have to learn from these things. And the only way to do something great is to fail at something so that you know what you've done so you can go back and do something great again.
GM: Did you lose your street cred amongst your peers doing a daytime talk show?
GB: I thought that would be the case but I actually found that a lot of my friends watched the show and liked it and liked me and all that kind of thing. And I don't know what kind of street cred I had before anyway. It's not like David Cross doing a daytime talk show. And that kind of stuff I never worry about. I only know how to be me and hope that people respond and like me. The neat thing is that I built up a pretty large audience with the urban crowd inAmerica, which is an audience I never reached before. I love that.
GM: Did you help anyone?
GB: I think we definitely helped a lot of people.