Interview: Comedian Butch Bradley Steps to the Stage.
by Daniel Haim
The first time I saw Butch Bradley was in the Comedy documentary a few years ago called “Open Mic” and I became an instant fan. His hyper-animated stage presence and hilarious observational humor and personal stories just pull you in! I finally got to see him perform live this past July while in Chicago and he rocked the ZANIES stage.
I met Butch after his set and he was still as animated, down-to-earth, and zany (pun intended) as he was onstage. Butch is a veteran of the stand-up comedy scene, performing regularly at the Laugh Factory in LA and can be seen at prestigious clubs around the country.
He has also appeared on several TV programs including The Martin Short Show, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, and is regular on Comedy Central. I was lucky to have an exclusive phone chat with Butch! The interview is below, which you can only see here!
Cheroc: We share a bond in having unique names. How did you get the name Butch?
Butch: Really weird. Okay, I was born Lawrence Bradley and my dad was born Lawrence Bradley. In his genre Butch was like a really cool nickname. Once someone calls you Butch you can’t get rid of it. The nurse at Catholic School would call me ‘Lawrence’, and the kids would yell ‘No, his name is Butch!’ And finally when I started doing comedy I realized Butch Bradley would work. I was almost named ‘BJ’, which is Butch Jr. Thank God that didn’t stick!
Cheroc: How did you get started in comedy?
Butch: I’m from Atlantic City, NJ and raised by my mom. She was really cool and worked at the first casino in AC. She was hip and would let us stay up and watch ‘Saturday Night Live’. She introduced me to watching Richard Pryor. And when I was around 10 or 11 years old my mom would take me to see live stand-up, like Rodney Dangerfield and Don Rickles.
I remember watching people react to Rodney and Don and thinking ‘Dear God, whatever they’re doing I want to do it!’ And it’s funny because years later being a stand-up I became friends with Rodney Dangerfield, and he was the first comedian I followed in LA. Later on when he passed away I was selected to be an usher at Rodney’s funeral. An incredible honor. It’s weird how things come around.
Cheroc: I was first introduced to your comedy in the documentary “Open Mic”. What was that experience like?
Butch: It was really cool because I had just gotten to LA, only had been there 3 months. I was performing at the Laugh Factory, when this young guy came up to me after a set and said ‘ I’m doing a film and you’re going to be in it!’ I gave him my info. but didn’t think anything of it. Next thing you know they came to Laugh Factory and talked with Jamie Masada (owner of Laugh Factory) and Jamie told me ‘ This is for real and they want you to be one of the lead story lines’, and I was like ‘Holy Shit!’ It was fun, and exciting and scary because I was still trying to keep my legs from shaking onstage at Laugh Factory, and people were filming me. It did give me some confidence and ended up being a cool experience.
Cheroc: What have been your best and worst experiences in the industry?
Butch: I’ve been really blessed. I guess this example is good on both ends. My best experience in the industry was getting a phone call from David Arquette and Courtney Cox. They said they’d seen me perform and were big fans. They wanted me to meet-up and pitch some show with them. So I went in and had 3 for real shows..but then made-up 7 and lied..and ended up pitching 10 shows..and they loved 2. So we went forward, and had produced a show for FOX with Courtney Cox called ‘Midnightly News’. They gave me Executive Producers credit, which was incredible! I spent 6 months not having anxiety and signing contracts of my possible future and money. I picked out my BMW 750 before I had the money.
Going through all this exciting stuff, shopping the pilot around. Louis CK was one of the anchors on the show..it was so incredible and had this buzz and heat around it. And the worst experience was having that all go away. Just having a pilot without it becoming a full-blown show. Then I spent the next 3 months in anxiety doing stand-up, trying to forget the fact that I was 2 seconds away from $15K a week! But taking away a positive experience that the next time an opportunity comes my way, I will do that much better.
Butch: I’ll tell you what I honestly do, I will check the locks in the house. In my mind, I know exactly where you’re coming through. If you want to break in, I’m ready…if I hear you. I make sure my closets are closed, I feel uncomfortable if they’re open. I definitely have a paranoid feeling about seeing ’something’, and I have definitely seen what I believe is a ghost. One night late at the Laugh Factory I saw a guy wearing an old ruffled shirt and suit standing next to me, and then I looked back and he was gone. Then Dane Cook walked up to me and goes ‘Did you see the ghost?’, and I said ‘Why did you say that?!’. Dane grabbed me and took me to a photo on the wall of Groucho Marx. He was wearing a ruffle shirt and tuxedo, which is the guy I just saw! And then Dane pointed out to me that the Laugh Factory was where the original offices and rehearsal space was for the Marx Brothers.
Cheroc: How would your tagline on an eHarmony profile read?
Butch: Wow, that’s really an awesome question! Hmm…what would my tagline say..it would say: ‘Clarence Worley is searching for his Alabama’. It’s from the movie True Romance.
Cheroc: Where do you get your energy for the stage?
Butch: Well, I’ll tell you something truthfully, a lot of people come up to me after shows thinking I do cocaine..which isn’t true. One time I met this guy after a show and he invited me to his limo to have a drink. He was really weird, but I knew we had some friends in common so I went. I get there and he’s with 3 scantily dressed girls and I thought ‘this is weird, is he a pimp..what is this?’ And he goes ‘Wanna do a line?’, and I go ‘I don’t do cocaine’, and he goes ‘Yeah you do!’, and I go ‘No I don’t!’ Then he asks ‘Yeah, well where do you get your energy from?’. I said ‘I really don’t know, it’s like a manic, fireball energy.
I’ve got a million voices running through my head, and I’m trying to respond to them and I’m working out jokes and writing lines..I don’t know. It’s like this little gift of energy I have‘. And the guy says ‘Bullshit! I’m a dealer and I thought you were going to be one of my best new clients.
Cheroc: If you could perform with anyone (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
Butch: One person would be Charlie Chaplin, because it would be exciting to work with him; also you wouldn’t have to worry about him using or taking any of your material. Richard Pryor would be really amazing to work with and perform with also. I think really my #1 dream out of every comedy dream I’ve ever had would be to be a part of the original ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast. If I could give everything up and live and die that season, I would.
Cheroc: You mention your family in your act. Tell me about them.
Butch: My parents got divorced when I was 3-years-old, so it really didn’t affect me, as far as I don’t know any different. My mom was always cool. My mom could throw a baseball and chase a bully down the street. God Bless them if she caught them. I have a million cousins, my grandfathers sister had 12 kids, so growing up I had no less than 50-60 cousins ages 25-55 to play with. We have a great family, a lot of fun and everyone has an evil, fun, biting tongue that if you trip at a family function you’re going to hear about it for the next 30 years.
We’re Irish-Catholic and Italian, and some questions of ‘whose parents are whose’ and some people look a little different than the rest of the family, always come up. There’s a lot of drinking in my family, I know my mom’s my mom..but that’s about all I can guarantee. Every year I get older some relative will have too many drinks and reveal a new story.
Cheroc: If there was a TV sitcom based on your life, what would it be like?
Butch: I think it would be like the original sitcom ‘SOAP’. If you ever find yourself in a room with crazy people, conversations flying, alcohol…and you look around like ‘Oh my God, that’s my family?! I can not believe I’m genetically connected to them.’ But you’re glad everyone’s there because you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Cheroc: How was your experience performing for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Butch: Those were the most incredible performances I ever had, they were unbelievable. Only a comedian can tell you he’s been in a Blackhawk with an Apache Officer flying over the Tigris River to his next show. I’ve said it before, but it was probably the most good thing I’ve ever done. Where you go there and realize what these people do for a living and what they go through, and it’s a frightening experience. You realize they’re real people, and how spoiled we are as Americans. I’m pro military, not pro war. There’s something about that at any minute you could lose your life that makes performing for a crowd of 40 or 3000 people so different. The connection and relationship with that audience is so much more intense because you’re all in a great danger, and the show may end before your final joke.
Cheroc: What’s on the horizon for Butch in 2009?
Butch: ” Well, I just signed with New Wave and got a great manager Anna Babbit. And last week I signed with Innovative Artists across the board. I also got a comedy CD deal with Olio, the people who did George Lopes’ CD. Getting ready for more showcases, writing material, and going people watching until those little voices in my head tell me what I should tell the world about.
Thanks to Butch Bradley for granting me this great interview and having a fun phone chat with me! You can checkout Butch Bradley at Butchbradley.com for info. on his up-coming shows, videos, get updates on his new comedy CD, and more!