Interview Date: 09/13/2010
Run Date: 10/12/2010
If you don’t know Jim Breuer from his work on “Saturday Night Live,” where he played both Goat Boy and Joe Pesci, then you probably know him from his impeccable performance as a stoner in the ‘90s film classic “Half Baked.”If you don’t know him from either of those, though…or, for that matter, even if you do…then you really ought to pick up his new autobiography, “I’m Not High.” Breuer isn’t entirely thrilled with the title, which is why it has a relatively lengthy subtitle (“But I've Got a Lot of Crazy Stories about Life as a Goat Boy, a Dad, and a Spiritual Warrior”), but he’s decidedly happy with the book itself, and he talked to Bullz-Eye about some of the subjects tackled within its pages, including Robert De Niro’s “SNL” guest spot, his friendship with Tracy Morgan, and his bewilderment that he starred in one of the great cult movies of the ‘90s but has rarely gotten another opportunity to work in film.
Jim Breuer: What’s up, Will? It’s Jim!
Bullz-Eye: Hey Jim, how’s it going?
JB: Alright. How are you?
BE: Pretty good. Good to talk to you…and, amazingly, I got a copy of your book far enough in advance that I’ve had a chance to read it through.
JB: Oh, okay.
BE: And, better yet, it was awesome. I loved it.
JB: Ah, that’s good to hear. This will be a great conversation, then. (Laughs)
BE: I certainly hope so. Yeah, in fact, semi-appropriately, I guess, given how you talk a bit about your faith in the book, I was reading most of it while I was with my wife as she was setting up her Sunday school class.
JB: Oh, that’s sick! (Laughs) Seriously, though, man, that’s very cool. I’m glad you liked it man.
BE: So what inspired you to include the faith aspects of the book? I mean, that was probably the most surprising part of it, but it was also one of the most enjoyable aspects.
JB: Well to be honest with you, for the reason you just said. There’s such a deep, faithful side to me, and for some…when I go on the road, you know, there was a time when I would go out there and I was, like, a rock and roll guy. Things that the young people were drawn into me were, you know, the movie “Half Baked,” maybe some rock and roll characters, whatever. But then they would come see me, and then they would come talk with me, and they would just be blown away by the conversation. Like, “I didn’t see that side of you coming.” Honestly, between you and me, I have great entertaining stories, but I couldn’t put out, “Hey, Breuer’s got this deep faithful side!” I knew if I could put that stuff in…I put them around those stories, so it’s almost like a hidden jewel. You know, where they’re, like, “Oh, wow, look, it’s cake! But what’s this in the middle of the cake?” So I knew my intentions were to get those stories out more than anything else. More than anything else in the book, that’s what my true passion was driving the book for. And then the rest…it was easy to just pad all the funny and silly around it. As a matter of fact, we went back and forth on the name of the title, because, between you and me, I’m not a fan of that. I didn’t want anything to do with the word “high.” But they were, like, “Yeah, but you go on stage, and the first thing you say is, ‘I’m not high,’ and the place cracks up.” I’m, like, ‘Aright, alright, but only if I get that other stuff in a subtitle. (Pauses) That was kind of a long answer.
BE: But a valid one.
JB: Okay, good. (Laughs)
BE: I also enjoyed reading the “SNL” stuff, of course. I’m a huge fan of “SNL” and have been for ages, and I always enjoy the insider’s point of view.
JB: Yeah, and I wanted to put it where I’m not trashing it. I love talking as if you’re my best friend, and you go, “What was it like?” And I just tell you what it was really like. You know, like, “Hey, man, this is what happened, blah, blah, blah, he’s wearing this and I can’t stand this guy.” “Which guy?” “This guy. He’s a nice guy, but this is why I don’t like him.” So that’s the kind of point of view I tried to put out. And I think I put it in there.
BE: Yeah, it came across as being a positive experience, even though it wasn’t 100% positive all of the time you were there.
JB: Yeah. And, then again, what job is?
BE: Exactly. Well, my token question to ask every SNL alumni is to name a couple of your favorite sketches that never actually made it to air.
JB: Oh, God, the Shut-Up Guy. I think I even say as much in the book.
BE: You do, actually.
JB: The Shut-Up Guy, by far. I thought he was clipped at his ankles. I thought the biggest character I was going to have was this guy… (Hesitates) Oh, my God, what was his name? Oh, it was Gunnar Olsen. Gunnar Olsen was a heavy metal guy…which I’m still working on, actually. I mean, he gets faith out of heavy metal. I’m working on a heavy metal, family-friendly show. But he was on “SNL” three times. He did the Heavy Metal News with Colin Quinn and destroyed the place. I had him as visions of a movie, and that was my all time favorite character, because I’m a frustrated lead front singer.
BE: Talking about SNL movies, I loved the pitch for the Goat Boy movie.
JB: Yes! Which I still think is a good idea.
BE: I do, too. I mean, how bad can it be compared to other SNL movies?
BE: I didn’t realize until reading the book that you and Tracy Morgan were quite as tight as you are.
JB: Well, you know, again, I think I wrote it in there about how Tracy brought my faithful mind to a different level. I was very young, I was in Harlem every day, and to be, like, this kid, who grew up in a neighborhood where… (Hesitates) I mean, we were all white, and up the street was all black, and it was common for me…I didn’t even look at them as humans. “They’re not humans, they’re animals. They belong in a jungle.” The N-word was like passing pizza. “Look, there’s an N’er,” you know. And to go from that to…it just all makes sense now. I moved to Florida and my eyes opened a little more, but when I was in Harlem, if someone were to say, “Here comes a ghetto man, sitting with a white-collar, can’t-stand-them guy,” and we…it was the best time in my whole life. I feel like someone put on a pair of goggles, and then I just saw it. Everything you’ve ever seen about, you know, “Well those people are like that because they want to be, they’re a bunch of animals, they don’t want to get better,” I was there. And to hear from Tracy, who really had nothing, he’d be, like, “You know, Jim…” We sat in the car for hours and he would talk about God in his life, and how I should have children, and “God wants me to have children.” There’s this whole deep side of Tracy that he would never let out, but I saw it, and that’s what really connected us more than anything. And, technically, all the people that I put out there in the book have a spiritual little connection to him, a faithful connection.
BE: Well I like the fact that you’re able to address faith without getting overly religious. In fact, you make a point of calling out the overly-faithful.
JB: Correct, correct. They’re missing the point on the mission. Someone once told me that God’s a great product, but the salespeople are awful. They’re ruining the product.
BE: There’s a thing on your Wikipedia page that I don’t remember you mentioning in the book: when Rob Halford came onto your radio show when you were singing Judas Priest’s “Devil’s Child.”
BE: Was that insane?
JB: Beyond insane, because we performed one of my all time favorite songs. See, and it’s so funny because metal made me more faithful, whereas people think that’s the worst, like, “Oh, that’s the devil!” And I’d be, like, “Oh, it’s all how you look at it. You know, you look at your book…your Koran, your Bible, whatever…one way, and other people look at it another way. You see the music as evil, I see it as a warning of evil, so please listen.” So we sang “Devil’s Child,” and I love that song. It fills me…that song freakin’ empowers me. It’s like a big, fair warning. I love it.
JB: Yeah, so having him come on was sick.
BE: Now you obviously talk about “The Joe Pesci Show” in the book, specifically the experience with Pesci actually being on the show. How mind blowing was it when De Niro actually did come out? Because I know you weren’t expecting him.
JB: Oh, dude, first of all, right before they were supposed to come out…not the live show, but the dress show…they came up and they said, “They canceled. De Niro’s never been on live television, he didn’t know it was live, he’s not doing it.” Complete panic attack. But Pesci was going to do it without De Niro, so it was going to be me, and Colin Quinn as De Niro and then Pesci…and then Lorne insisted on bringing out Darrell Hammond dressed as like a fat De Niro. To me, it was just the dumbest thing. The wind was completely blown out of my sails, and during the dress, I was actually a little depressed and annoyed during the sketch, because I knew just Pesci was going to come out, and…it was just going to look stupid. And all of a sudden, I heard the loudest roar I have ever heard in my life on that show, and I turned around…and De Niro was there. Literally, when the sketch started, they said he’s not there and we’re not doing it, and I will never forget that feeling, to see that guy just glaring at you with that look he’s got, just nodding his head with this little smirk on his face. It was unreal. Unreal.
BE: Did you get the impression that they did that intentionally to get the maximum surprise?
JB: I think so, yeah. To totally mess with my head.
BE: Another thing I don’t think you talked about in the book was working on “Dick”.
JB: (Laughs) Oh, yeah. Well, that’s because I, uh, didn’t really…
BE: Didn’t really have much of a part, I guess. (Laughs)
JB: Yeah, well, not only not a huge part, but, literally, I flew in for a day and flew out. I’ll tell you how I got it too. They call me up, while I was filming “Half Baked,” I think, and they’re, like, “Listen, we’ve got this role in this movie, it’s up there, and it’s next week,” which is another word for, “Someone canceled, can you do it for a lot less money and real quick?” (Laughs) And so it was one of those. It was alright. But I don’t look back and go, “Oh, wow, that was great.”
BE: So when you were actually doing “Half Baked,” did you get the impression that this thing might possibly haunt you for the rest of your life?
JB: No! As a matter of fact, I thought quite the opposite. I thought I was going to be a multi-billionaire by now. (Laughs) The most frustrating part of that movie…and call me egotistical or off the mark…but I thought I pulled off one of the greatest stoners ever.
BE: I would absolutely agree.
JB: And, yet, I never got another decent movie role. To this day, I am baffled by that.
BE: When I think of that movie, I think of how great you, Dave, and Steven Wright were.
JB: Yeah, and none of us did movies again! (Laughs) What happened? The biggest cult movie of the 90’s, and I can’t buy a freakin’ movie role. None of us can. It’s weird.
BE: Has there ever been talk of trying to do a sequel?
JB: There always has, but that’s up to Chappelle. And if I know Dave now, that’ll never happen until we’re, like, in our sixties.
BE: Now that would be a funny sequel.
JB: That would be a funny sequel.
BE: So how much of the year do you spend touring nowadays?
JB: Um, I’ve ran a lot since 2008. I’m ending this December. I had my run, I want to go in a different direction. I want to do some…I want to see what this book opens. I don’t know what audience I’m going to get from this book. I’m kind of hoping I get to do really cool spiritual talks. I’m hoping I get to do lectures. So I’m kind of seeing where that goes and I want to be home. My girls are…you know, my wife is home with three kids, and it’s just not fun. That’s not fun. I would like to be home with them. And I may write another book. Who knows? I’m really just waiting to see what…I’m so curious to see what the audience is going to be. Like, who’s reading this and who’s passing it along?
BE: I’m kind of curious myself. Like I said, I’m a big “SNL” fan, so I mean that’s like shooting fish in a barrel for me to be interested in reading this, but at the same time…I mean, you have a whole generation who doesn’t even know you were on “SNL.”
JB: Right. Well, we’ll see.
BE: I have to ask you at least a little bit about the “Clerks” pilot. You touch on it in passing, but had you been a fan of that film prior to going into the pilot?
JB: I was, yeah, I was a big, big fan. So when they said, “We have this pilot…” Now, I already went through the wringer, so I had a very bad attitude by that time, but they were, like, “Just trust me, you’re going to be the star.” Okay. But I was pissed because they immediately fired Kevin Smith. So it was not a great experience. We do the pilot, and in the middle of the pilot they fired the lead guy…? But, I mean, we were filming, so that meant I had to stay there for another couple of weeks. So we finally finished filming it, and the funniest guy in that whole thing was French Stewart. He was so funny. But then they cut him out of the whole pilot! It was weird. I don’t get it. And then they said it got picked up, and then it didn’t get picked up, and…it was just more of a weird experience. I didn’t think it was necessary to put it in the book, where it would provoke anyone’s mind either way.
BE: Yeah, and I think Kevin Smith has more than addressed it in his spoken-word stuff, anyway.
JB: Did he? I’ve never heard him talk about it.
BE: Yeah, not so much of a fan of the result.
JB: Well, of course not. How can he be? They took his movie, made it into a TV show, but fired him and made it without him. I’d be a little perturbed, too!
BE: So to close, we touched on this a moment about, but what are your hopes and expectations for the book? Are you going to be doing a book tour?JB: I’d like to do a book storytelling tour. That’s what I kind of wish. But, then again, I don’t know. I have a million ideas, and…it’s amazing. It’s the first time in my life where I’m very confident and comfortable just sitting here, like I’m on a beach, just waiting to see what’s going to roll up on shore.