ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The perpetually shirtless Bert Kreischer is now famous the world over for his stand-up comedy, multiple podcasts — which include “BertCast” and 2 Bears, 1 Cave with Tom Segura — his partying lifestyle, and his iconic “The Machine” bit, where is mistaken for a member of the Russian mob.
Ahead of his “Fully Loaded Comedy Festival” at Frontier Field in Rochester June 19, Kreischer sat down with Dan Gross to discuss podcasting, being a businessman, working with Mark Hamill, Vance’s weight loss, Red Kool-Aid, and in the video only — if you stick around to the end — some mind-bending (and fact checked) fun historical facts.
Here’s the 1-on-1 with Bert Kreischer. This interview has been edited for clarity.
The man the myth, “The Machine.” Thank you so much for taking a few seconds to chat with me. I really appreciate it. In case there is anyone who is lived under a rock and somehow has not heard of you yet, which doesn’t seem like it’s possible… In your own words, who are you about as a person and a comedian? A very brief introduction of Bert Kreischer.
Wow, that’s tough stuff. Say I think I just party. That’s it. I like to have a good time, I party. Um, yeah. I’m a storytelling party animal.
I want to dig right into here because this is just a fantastic clip. It was on the podcast with Tom Segura, where you are pouring something out of this massive water bottle. And it turns out it’s Kool-Aid. And of course, you two laugh about it. What I think is the most funny and underrated part of that clip, is when he asks you what flavor or color it is. You said red, as if it was obvious. And why is it obvious that it would be red?
that’s the only flavor of Kool-Aid that’s acceptable. It’s like if you’re drinking blue Kool-Aid, which I have… blue, grape, and red. But it’s red, the one you go to every day, that’s the one you look for in the morning, (and) you end up on blue. That’s the one you end your week with. But you start the week with red.
Keeping on the art of podcasting, because you have your own YouTube, 2 Bears, 1 Cave, you have one with Bill Burr. One thing I find that is so fascinating about this is podcasting is something that looks like it is easy — you just kind of get there and you do you just chat on a microphone for a little bit — but you have to have a lot of stuff ready to go or in your mind. How do you prepare for doing these multi-hour podcasts? Is there any prep? Do you just kind of show up?
No, you sometimes you pull things off to the side, and you read it on your phone and you go oh, this would be a good topic.
The other night I (put)something on my phone the other day that I was like, “Oh, that’ll be fun for me and Tom to talk about.” But for the most part — not to give you the secret sauce — I just hang out with Tom.
That’s the best part of doing a podcast, is (there’s) no preparation… and maybe that’s bad. Because when I do Rogan, I don’t prepare for it. And I know there are people that prepare for it. And maybe they’re better than I am. But I just go and do it. And that should be the fun is, is finding the little moments that are hilarious. No one predicted that we’d ever start “Sober October” when we did Rogan that one day. But we did when he asked me how much I drank. I told him the truth. And next thing, the three of us are sober for the whole month of October and in a fitness challenge.
I think that’s the beauty. You know, if it’s too produced, I think you lose listeners.
It’s got to have some kind of casual element. And I kind of find that interesting, in contrast to doing a stand-up comedy set. There’s a lot of preparation, you’d have to workshop your jokes, doing that whole thing. What do you think podcasting has done for comedy and comedians?
I think he’s changed the game entirely. For radio, (they) felt the dent podcasting is put in. It’s a way for us to promote ourselves. It’s an extension of social media. Some of us aren’t great on Twitter. I don’t even use Twitter anymore. Just because I don’t write the really good what I want to say — by the way I don’t say really good what I want to say either sometimes — but so I think it became an extension of social media and a way to connect with our fans.
I’m a podcast listener — I think there are some people that do podcasts that don’t listen to podcasts — dude, it’s my blanket at the end of the night. That’s what I listen to going to bed, that’s when I get on the treadmill listening to it. I woke up yesterday, at 4:30 in the morning to do a workout before we flew here, and the first thing I did is I put on a podcast. I love them.
When they’re good, they’re great. And when they’re okay, they’re still good.
They’re still red Kool-Aid at the end of the day.
Podcasts are like Kool-Aid, when they’re good, they’re great, especially with a little ice.
You had this big breakout moment with “The Machine” story. One thing I find interesting — because I’m also a music guy — and it’s interesting to me talking to these musicians who have made a career both creating new music and revisiting some of their old stuff. And it is so cool to me to see that when they do stuff that the audience loves. They also feel that joy. This is a staple part of your act. Whenever you tell this, how do you keep it fresh? How do you find a way to inject new life into it when it’s it’s been your staple for so long?
I mess around inside it. Sometimes I’ll tell secrets that I never really tell in the story. Look, they’re the same secrets, nothing’s changed about the story. But I’ll write jokes inside it. Or if I forgot a joke during my set, I’ll slide it in casually. And I think it brings it to life.
My wife one time, I told the story in San Francisco, I didn’t even think I did it that bad, (but she said) “Hey, if you don’t want to tell it, don’t tell it… That’s horrible. You just phoned it in.” And I did not remember that. And I remember that statement.
And so every time I tell it now, I remember, there are people in the room that are hearing it for the first time. There are people that brought their friends that want their friends to see it. It’s what puts the roof over my head, you know, so you got to bring energy every time.
That’s a good transition. Because one of the things I wanted to ask you, as a comedian, obviously, a lot of your material comes from your personal life, whether it be your wife, or in your case, your daughters as well. How do you find that balance between telling funny jokes about kind of personal life things and maintaining the relationship? Because that’s a delicate balance. How do you do it?
Don’t. I messed it up. I did it wrong. I never asked anyone’s permission. I just told stories. And then one day, I said to my daughters, I said, “Hey, how do you guys feel about being in my act?” And Ila goes, “well, it’s a little late to ask us… Like, I guess I feel fine dad.”
Their only problem with it, in all honesty… Anonymity is something that is super valuable. Especially when you’re a child. That’s their biggest problem is the anonymity, losing their anonymity at high school, or grade school, or just a boy would talk for them for the wrong reason… Not because he’s attracted to them, but because I’m their dad. That is the thing that really bothered them I think, and I never thought of any of that. I was like, I grew up anonymous. It sucked.
I want to switch gears just a little bit because I do happen to see that you are in a gym. Are you pumping the iron are you finding gyms everywhere you go?
Yeah, I was. We will have gyms everywhere on this tour. But I have lost I just lost eight pounds. I am in probably the best shape I’ve been in a little while. I’m still had the heaviest I’ve been. But yeah, I’ve been working out like crazy lately. I just got off this cleanse. I feel good. Although I ate like a lunatic last night. I drank a lot last night.
Well, I appreciate you being here and still doing this.
You can see it on my face.
I was gonna say thankfully, at least my video camera here is the quality of a toaster. So I think we’ll be at the same point, I have to ask about working out because whenever I need a good cry, I go back to this video of this guy named Vance, whose weight loss journey was inspired by yours. You’re on a refreshed health journey now, but I have to ask about that because that video has had a lot of emotional impact for me and I wonder what you know his story has meant to you.
It’s weird because it’s tethered to me. You know, I ran I guess I ran like half marathon or something, it was around Thanksgiving. He saw that and he figured, “well, if Bert Kreischer can do that I can get up off the couch.” And then all of a sudden he lost, like 300 pounds or something.
It was a game changer. His life is totally different now. And I’ve seen him, and I’ve seen him since, and I’ve followed up with him. It’s weird to have been the inspiration for someone losing weight when you’re still fat. How can I find inspiration in myself? How come I can’t do it?
I didn’t expect that story to grow as much as it did. It just blew up. I mean, millions of views. So he’s an awesome dude. And I met Diamond Dallas Page through him. That’s the guy that’s really gonna lose all the weight.
I was the sparkplug, Diamond was the gasoline.
In doing research for this interview. We are a bunch of nerds in this newsroom. There have been sometimes entire prolonged conversations about Star Wars, Star Trek, and like… and I couldn’t help but notice that you have a movie coming out based on “The Machine” with the Mark Hamill. Why don’t you kind of give us a broad stroke of the movie? And then what was it like working with Mark Hamill?
Well, the movie is me and Mark Hamill. Mark Hamill plays my dad. And we I we get kidnapped by the Russian mafia. And we have to go back to Russia and write all my wrongs. That’s the movie.
It was the most fun experience I’ve ever had my entire life. I’ve never wanted to do a movie. I’ve never had any interest in being an actor. And now it’s all I think about. I want to go back. I want to make another movie. I mean, well, I’m set up to make three other movies. But you never know.
It was so much freaking fun. And Mark Hamill is everything you want him to be… Mark Hamill is as generous as you would want him to be. He gets asked a lot of the same questions every time. And as I asked them, and you see other people ask him, and he sits with you, and he answers them the way he should — not that he should because he doesn’t have to — but the way you hope he would. He’s the most awesome dude.
I know, I would ask him about his Joker voice in the Batman animated series. Is that on your list?
I’m too old for that. So I never knew about the Joker. So like at times I guess he’d go into the Joker voice on camera. And people would recognize it. I was like, I don’t I have not unfamiliar with it
I wanted to be like, “Hey, man, you’re my Luke Skywalker.” Like I don’t know who the Joker is.
I want to talk about this tour you’re doing it is “Fully Loaded.”You’re doing at these at all kinds of these great venues, I have to ask one that always stuck out to me because Rochester is a great minor league baseball stadium. Why did you want to do these at minor league baseball stadiums and all these different places?
I mean, for the most part, it was (about) getting outside during the summer. You go and do shows in the summer at comedy clubs, and it kind of felt like you’re stealing people away from the party. And I wanted the party to continue. I want to feed people, to get (them) outside, see a sunset, have a cold beer, and have great shows. I wanted all of that.
We did tours during the pandemic at drive-in movie theaters, and I had an absolute blast. I mean, we had so much fun doing them that I didn’t want them to stop… And anything amphitheatre-esque, which are the minor league stadiums, they just deliver so much more of a pop for a comic.
And so the second I got this offer — I had reached out to them the year before — and then when they came back this year, and they were like “hey, do you want to do them?” I was like, “line them up, line them up, let’s do all of them.”
All minor league stadium (shows) have sold out immediately. They were the quickest to sell out, we’re doing two arenas, two amphitheaters, and a raceway… But the minor league stadiums are like my real sweet spot.
I love being on the ballpark. I love being barefoot in the outfield at the end of the show. I’m like the most American kid in the world.
What is your sunscreen or sunblock situation? Because you perform with your shirt off. I mean, do you have a sunscreen routine? Are you just kind of letting it go?
No, love to burn. I grew up in Florida man you burn once the first of the summer, and then you’re good for the rest of the summer. I look at people putting on sunscreen and I’m like, “Really? Don’t you just burn?”
It’s the natural sunscreen.
You get burned once. You get one good burn, you’re good for the whole summer.
Fantastic. Alright, Bert, we’re at the point in the show where I ask these kind of three kinds of fun, big picture questions…. I asked you right at the beginning, if you had been to Rochester before, it seems hazy. So I’ll put it this way. Do you happen to remember the garbage plant you had? And if so, will you be having another one?
I do not remember that. Oh, I do remember the garbage plate. But I think it was on a garbage can. I think it was on a garbage can lid. I think that’s how they served it to us. And I will be having a garbage plate. Yes. Without a doubt.
And it’s fantastic. The next one here, obviously, you’ve got so many tours coming up, podcasts, you got everything in front of you, the movie’s coming up. I always like to ask this of artists, though. What’s the next big accomplishment that you would like to whether it’s in one year or five years? What’s the next feather in the cap that you’re looking to put in there?
Wow, I think I’d like to do a scripted series that I produce. My big white whale is a scripted series that I produce that goes online that’s sponsored by sponsors from podcasting. And we cut out all the middlemen, and we do what we do on television, but we do it for like podcasting and then kind of change the game.
I got a buddy, Shane Gillis, who’s doing something similar to that. I think that’s the future.
Because I look at radio. I see the big building, the amount of people that work there, and I see all the dead money. I see the money that just goes to people that maybe don’t have an input. Then you have to do a podcast, and its the advertiser, my sales rep, and me. And then I get to choose my overhead.
We’re making on podcasts more than anyone’s making in radio right now. Especially at my talent level… There’s no middle person, there’s no average person in radio making as much money as we make in podcasting. If that’s the setup, then the money to be made in television is going to be through the roof. And if we can be at the front of that, then that is that is the future, and to be a part of that future. It’s amazing, man.
It’s amazing to be able to pay people that you need to pay. Let people be accountable for the jobs they can provide you. I remember being in a radio station one time and they were asking me how much I got for (a) read. It was like guess, $5,000 or something. He goes, every time I read it, I get $50.
And then I watched a dude walk in and open the door. He’s like, “Hey, I’m going to lunch earlier today.” That’s why you get paid for those, because that guy also gets $50 every time you read it. And he’s not really doing anything. He’s going to lunch early. It’s great when you see someone who you know, when you see that a business where everyone’s accountable, they earn their money.
Perfect. Last one. Do you have any advice for aspiring comedians? Don’t do it.
Don’t do it. There isn’t it’s not worth it. I’m very pensive about this today. But if you want to succeed as a comedian, you have to have like nine different brains to succeed these days.
We have David Attell coming out to Rochester. He is the greatest comic I’ve ever seen in my entire life. But he’s just a comic. Even as a human — it’s hard to get them on the phone. Let alone getting a headshot from him or a high res version of his headshot. You’re not going to get it because he’s just a comic.
But these days in order to succeed… Listen to this interview I just did. I talk more about the business, than I am funny. These days, because that’s how the business is run is like. I mean, I’m funny, but like… But I barely see it these days.
I feel like my day is spent producing festivals, coming up with scripts, doing a podcast, producing a podcast making sure sponsors are happy, making sure that we have Liquid Death in the in the bus for all the artists, renting four buses, making sure the facilities are up and running, where everyone gets showers. So don’t do it, man.
If you want to be a comic, you really want to be a comic. Because the comedy is the last thing you’ll do at the end of the night. And that’s your treat. Your day is going to be spent getting up, doing radio, doing press, going in and doing television that’s 15 minutes away, that’s horrible, and doesn’t count and is the worst experience you’ve ever had where you just go: that was a waste of me waking up. And then you’re gonna go and you’re going to go and tour Notre Dame, and you’re going put on your spotlights and shake hands and take pictures.
Then you’re going come, and do a soundcheck, and then maybe you’ll take a nap. And then at the end of the day, after you made sure everyone’s had a great time, you get to do stand-up.
I didn’t think this is what it would be. I really didn’t I thought it would be. I thought it would just be me drinking beer, smoking weed, giggling all day, and that’s part of it. But man, it’s flying to Austin and doing 2 Bears, 1 Cave, four episodes in a day. So all of a sudden, it’s like a little bit of work. And then it’s flying home. And it’s trying to have a family.
I talked to comics all the time, a lot of my friends who are starting to blow up, they’re like, “Man, I’m just so burned out.” And I was like, “For real? Because it gets worse, it gets way worse.”
Don’t do it, man. If you try that open mic and you like it, you better love it.
I’m also a workaholic. That crazy process is what makes the final result worth it to me. And I don’t know if I’d want to do that do this type of stuff for the video or the music recording that I do if there if it wasn’t difficult. Do you kind of wish that it was just that it was that simple that you could just have beer, hang out, do comedy… Or are you addicted to, or maybe enjoy the hard process, as is tough as it is.
I love that I love the work. I’m a workaholic… Like when we started they started the pandemic and then they were like stay-at-home orders; I’m on the third day I was like: “I gotta tour somehow, like, let’s find a way to do it. Let’s find a way let’s do drive-in movie theaters.” I’m not the guy that can sit on his hands. I don’t have that ability.
I’m jealous of those people. I’m jealous of the people that quit comedy during the pandemic. If I’m at home, and I’m not working, I will find a way to work. I mean, my therapist told me to get a hobby.
So I started leather working. I started making leather wallets, and fanny packs. And after my first fanny pack, I thought literally I made it, and I showed this to people, and they said “that’s really cool.”
And I went: “I bet if I skinny this up, made it less difficult to make… I could sell these on my shows.” And then its not a hobby anymore. I’m going to turn everything into work, I can’t help it. If I work out, I film it for my Instagram to put it on, I’m going to find a way to make everything work. I can’t help it.