You’ve probably seen Bert Kreischer’s mega-viral story on YouTube that led to his film The machine, now in theaters everywhere. What you may not have heard about is the dedication and behind-the-scenes work that helped establish lucrative branding and business success for the superstar comic.
Kreischer was named “The Number One Partier in the Nation” by Rolling Stone in 1997 in a story detailing his time spent at Florida State, which led to the 2002 comedy National Lampoon’s Van WilderStarring Ryan Reynolds.
In conjunction with Van WilderBert saw some doors open in entertainment after being discovered by Will Smith and later saw them blown off their hinges when he became a fan favorite on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Now, after watching his own podcasts (Bertcast, Two bears a caveand Something is burning) take off, following his latest Netflix
“It’s so funny. There’s a part of me that really wants to talk about the hard work because I think a lot of times people think I’m just a drunken Forrest Gump and that – and I’m very, very lucky,” Bert shared me over Zoom. “While I like to isolate luck because I think it’s easier for someone to be able to see your path when you show the luck that’s been tied through it, I’ve been thinking a lot about a lot of things that people don’t think about in business – wise.
“Like the way to run a company and what I want and what I need. And it’s very primal. It is not mathematical. It’s just primal. I look at everything as a fan and how I want to enjoy things. And as a fan, I’m not a very cynical guy. I like to have a good time. I really do. And then I look at presenting a product for you to have a good time if you’re a fan. And so that’s all I do. But it’s fun.”
Bert’s business acumen was on display when he recently gave another well-known comic advice on how to handle their potential comedy special taping at a major venue.
“If you’re going to do Friday and Saturday, start with Saturday,” Bert told the stand-up that he didn’t want to be named. “Start with Saturday and sell those shows first. Then add Friday.’ And he says, ‘Why wouldn’t I do it another way?’
“And I said, ‘Because when you’re shooting a special, the first take, the very first take, all the cameramen are trying to figure out all their angles to try to find their focuses. They’re trying to figure everything out. Everyone: the director , the cameraman, the lighting. All of them.
“So even if you get it on the first show, you’re never going to use the first show because not everyone else is going to get it.” I said, ‘On the second show, they’re going to be pretty dialed.
“It will be a great show for you. You want to be loose and they want to be loose. But the banger. The banger show is the third show because it’s your die-hard fans.
“They bought the tickets first. Everyone in the crew has had two shows to get ready for this recording. You’re loose and you know you got it yesterday. And it’s the show that counts. That’s the show you’re going to use.’
“And I’m like, ‘And then, if you’re lucky, the fourth show, you’ll be so fucking loose, and so will the cameramen that…’ And I’m looking at this person looking at me going like, Do you think on this? I say, ‘What do you mean, are you thinking about this?’ I say, “I’m thinking about all this dirt.”
“Standing up is very important to me and I love this business. There is nothing I love more than entertaining people.”
Bert credits his friend Joe Rogan with establishing a culture of helping other comics.
“Helping each other out and making each other explode is the funnest part, the funnest damn part,” Kreischer said.
A main reason for Bert’s amazing success is being motivated by the fun he has with other comics and the fun he has on stage in front of the fans.
“That’s part of the reason I started taking my shirt off, I had to remind myself that this had to be fun. You wanted to get out on the road and I had two young kids, I did the Travel Channel for two weeks, then I had a week off and I got up. I’d get there on Thursday and I wouldn’t have sold any tickets and it was a half-full room and I’d be like, ‘I’ve got five more fucking shows.
“So I’m literally ripping my shirt off to remind myself that this should be stupid, this should be fun. I had put my shirt back on, but one day I forgot, and a lady said, “Keep it off.” Then I stopped it. But the fun is what motivates me, absolutely.”
The top of the top may have been what helped Kreischer keep things light on the road early in his career, but it also drew harsh criticism from other comics when he did spots at hometown clubs like LA’s Comedy Store.
– It was very tough, it was very tough. I mean it was still tough four years ago, Bert said. “Before the pandemic, I remember people just making a snide comment and then other people loved it.
“Norm Macdonald found… he laughed. So when I walked off stage, one of the times I got to hang out with him, he just kept going, “I love your shirt is off.” Your shirt is off. Your shirt is off. You don’t mention it. Your shirt is off.
“Even Letterman, I won’t say David Letterman is a fan, but he’s voicemailed me and talked about me in interviews and he thinks it’s funny that I perform with my shirt off and that I don’t mention it. That I just takes it off and performs shirtless.
“And then there are cartoons that can be a bit [crass] and they say, “You’re not going to take your shirt off, are you?” And I say, ‘Yeah, man. Like, I would never tell you what to wear on stage. It makes me comfortable. I’m not comfortable performing with a shirt on.
“I was listening to Rogan and Shane Gillis said, ‘Yeah, it’s funny when people criticize him for taking his shirt off.’ They’ve never been in an arena when he takes it off. Pop is fucking huge.'”
The machine the film comes out at a perfect time in Bert’s career. He’s not an up-and-coming comic where his first big movie can make or break him. He is established elsewhere and has a large and loyal following.
“I’m lucky that I failed for as long as I did. I mean, I’m dead serious, Kreischer told me. “Everyone should be as lucky as me to find success at 44 and have a film out at 50, because I think that’s the perfect code. I look at Amy Schumer and all the pressure that was on her at what, 27? I can’t imagine.
“There is no pressure on me, I mean I fail upwards. I feel like I’m just the luckiest fucking guy in the world and it’s perfect. I’ve been telling this story now for about 10 years? I still tell it every time on stage, and it’s just like all the rules of comedy. That’s how I feel.
“They tell you, ‘You have to back off with good jokes.’ You can’t keep telling them. You cannot perform with your shirt off. If you do TV, you’re not going to make films. I never listen to a cruel soul, and I’ve broken every goddamn rule, and I feel like everyone should be so lucky.”
Since Bert first told “The Machine” jokes on stage, nearly 10 years ago by his estimation, he has been rolling out a film version of the famous story all over Hollywood. Eventually, Legendary Pictures was eager for Kreischer, and after a few tweaks, the story.
Legendarily, Kreischer later told Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame was going to play his father, only no one had run it by Hamill yet. The company set up a Zoom with Mark and Bert to see if there would be chemistry.
“His first damn word was, ‘Why are you taking your shirt off? Shouldn’t you be wearing a collared shirt or a coat or a blazer on stage?’ And those were his father’s exact words,” Kreischer recalled. “Literally, I said, ‘Yeah, he’s my dad. He’s my dad. He’s my dad to a tee.’
Legendary wanted to have Bert make the big announcement about who would play his father on social media. This gave Kreischer an opportunity to see Mark’s mastery up close.
“And so we took a private plane to Serbia. I got a bottle of champagne and two glasses. I had a tracksuit on,” Bert set up the story with. “And I thought, ‘I’m going to read. And then Mark, when you come by. ..’ And he says: ‘Just start reading.’ I think: ‘That’s so my dad, that’s so my dad.’
“So I read, ‘Hey guys, I’m going to Serbia -‘ And I say, ‘And play with my dad, take a look.’ And Mark says, “Get on the plane, big boy.” And it was one take! One take! Literally, if you watch the promo, you can see me going, “I guess we got it.” I’m like, ” Okay, let’s make an exciting movie.” One take. He’s so damn good.”
In June, Bert hits the road for his “Fully Loaded Comedy Festival” tour. Like his podcasts and arena shows, Kreischer brings a spark to many other comedians by sharing the stage with them on tour.
Veteran comics Jim Norton, Dave Attell and Lewis Black will join Bert on the road for some of the shows. The inclusion of such comics as those three points to the kind of reverence Kreischer has for the comedians who came before him, especially those from the “Tough Crowd” era.
“I get Dave Attell on Fully Loaded and you watch people, they’re blown away,” Kreicher said. “Look, guys like Jim (Norton) and Dave are not on social media like I am. They don’t jump on every podcast like I do. I mean, I don’t think Dave really promotes any of his shows, or Jim for that matter. And they are legends.
“My favorite part is my daughter doing Fully Loaded. She’s a PA at Fully Loaded so seeing her watch these guys is amazing. I mean, my daughters went to the roast, Whitney did the roast (“The Roast of Bert Kreischer” on OnlyFans).
“And they saw Jim Norton roasting me. And they said, ‘Dad, who the hell is that?’ When he said to Donnell Rawlings, ‘You look like Tootsie Roll Pop and the owl,’ my daughters said, ‘How does he think of things like that?’ I mean, Jim Norton is one of the fastest, funniest and smartest [comics] and I love where he’s going with stand-up.”