As a result of time spent as a writer at Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Brian McCann can lay claim to characters like the FedEx Pope, Jerry Butters the 4am time slot talkshow host and Preparation H Raymond. To, say, my parents, these characters may sound bizarre but as any Conan viewer knows, singing about hemmorhoids is par for the course...even a little tame. This month McCann's show "Raisin's Campfire Funtime", about a nuanced oddball who rocks out on guitar in his own special way, runs Thursday nights at 9:30pm at the PIT [154 w. 29th Street]. Thru October.
It's just the first question and already you've brought out the woman in me. Due to the age discrimination that runs rampant in this business, and the fact that I want to work for a long time - I'm compelled (and instructed by my agent) to tell you I'm 22.
Where did you grow up?
In Wheaton, Illinois. An extremely uptight (and dry) town in the western suburbs of Chicago.
How long did you live in NYC?
I lived in Manhattan for about three years, then moved to Brooklyn Heights for four.
After Brooklyn Heights where did you end up?
A few years back, after my marriage soured, I moved out of the city to a town on the Hudson called Piermont. I have a beautiful daughter there and I chose to be closer to her than to the clubs - it was the first adult decision in
Were you offered the job at Late Night with Conan O'Brien before you moved to NYC or did you up and move here and just hope a job like that would come along?
I came to New York after being offered the job at Late Night. I found out I had the job on Monday, and moved out here on Wednesday. After giving all my money to an apartment broker I was quickly hooked up with a miniscule spot above Curry in a Hurry, where I soon developed a taste for basmati rice and naan.
Getting paid to write comedy in New York is a feat, and you have a job a lot of writers and comedians in the city would kill for. Can you explain the process of what led you to Conan?
I, too, killed for the job. Rest in peace Derek Billings.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer who may one day want to steal your job?
I've been here long enough (10 years) to see that everyone gets here in different ways. I took the path of working on my stand-up act, doing TONS of improv, writing every day, and submitting many, many times. Other people get here by writing one submission on a whim and suddenly finding themselves whisked away from their dishwashing duties at the local diner (no kidding). It all depends on when and if you can convey your unique sense of humor in writing.
On top of being a writer, you appear on the show as several recurring characters...do you have a favorite character that you perform?
I most enjoy playing a guy named Jerry Butters, a loser who hosts a talk show that tapes across the hall. But what I love most about writing and appearing on Late Night is that we constantly need new and different characters so the opportunity to try new stuff is always present.
Is writing for Conan collaborative or do you write each character you perform?
I tend to write most of the characters I perform; yet overall the writing of the show is very collaborative.
Your one man show which is up at the PIT, is called Raisin's Campfire Fun Time. Did the character of Raisin evolve out of a Conan bit, or was it something you came up with before you started working there?
In Chicago I was in a three-man improv group called Blue Velveeta. Part of our show always involved a folk singing duo featuring Jay Leggett and myself. That is where Raisin first came to be, and from there he became part of a one-man show I also did in Chicago.
With Raisin, you clearly created a history for this character down to the last detail. Details that include his love for buttons and corduroy. Is there a person that inspired Raisin?
Raisin is the combination of three people I know very well. My mother, my oldest sister, and myself. Having no brothers, and being the youngest child, I grew up surrounded by Campfire Girls, Girl Scouts, Weight Watchers, Osmond Brothers albums, and a heavy dose of Catholicism.
Who have been your biggest influences in comedy?
As a kid I could never get enough of Steve Martin, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, and Johnny Carson. Later on I was blown away by Bill Hicks. But the fact is, there are so many hilarious and talented people out there, and I enjoy hearing all of them.
I believe that as a performer, a big part of our real lives are thrown into the characters we create and this love of corduroy can't be entirely made up. So..wide wale or fine wale?
I had my wide wale phase. Currently, I'm all fine wale.
Do you have an "Only In New York" story?
When I was still in my improv group Blue Velveeta, we were booked for a few days here and it was heavenly. I remember one night at about 3:00AM we swaggered out of a pub and came across a woman wearing a skintight leather jumpsuit, spike heels, and a black, racing motorcycle helmet on her head. She was just walking down the middle of the street, undisturbed by the traffic. The city was alive, and I knew I loved it here.