How Comedian Brent Terhune Becomes "Brent Terhune" | WAMC

How Comedian Brent Terhune Becomes "Brent Terhune"

Apr 27, 2020

With everyone stuck at home over the past several weeks, social media updates and videos have increasingly become a primary way to communicate. And in this odd political moment, Brent Terhune’s videos are getting more attention than ever.

The comedian and podcast host from Indianapolis is up to something really interesting in his videos, which now date back years, playing a right-wing character by the same name with plenty of grievances.  As evidenced by the replies to his posts, not everyone gets the joke. Terhune is also the host of the podcast Field Trip and a touring comedian.

I'm asking everybody this question lately: what is life been like for you under the pandemic?

It's been weird because you know, as a living, I travel to tell jokes, so I'm not able to do that. So as you said in the intro, I've kind of taken all my efforts and put them online, which I was trying to before, but now I just have so much free time. And there are things happen happening daily that I could talk about, so I'm just trying to use the time to be productive and work on things that I can do from home.

How long have you been able to do comedy full-time?

I think since 2012, but that's, that's a cop out because I was living with my mom. So I was like, I went to school for radio. So I was like, I could try to get a real job or I could do comedy. And then it's worked out ever since. So I've been able to you know, I've been very lucky to pay bills and save money doing comedy, which is, you know, a win in my book.

Is it correct your mom had some disabilities and you were helping her, right?

Yeah, yeah. And I there's a video on my YouTube, she had a yard sale. So she's my biggest fan. So we made a commercial for her yard sale. That's one of my favorite things that we've done so, and as far as I'm concerned, she's still having a yard sale and she'll see you by appointment.

Did she encourage you getting into comedy?

Oh, yeah. And I started a comedy when I was 16. And so I was just telling jokes as a kid in high school. And then, you know, I did my first paid week, and I even forgot that they were going to give me a check. But she's been my biggest fan. She's been to tons of shows and she carries my business cards around with her and gives them out to strangers, because that's what a normal person would do. So I guess I have a default street team and her name is mom.

Does she mind when you do stuff about her? Or does she like it?

She likes it, and I have an album coming out this year. I'm actually editing it while in quarantine, or, you know, locked down, but there's a big chunk about her and she always loves that when I talk about her.

So what kind of humor did you do at age 16?

Just stuff about being in high school, you gotta write what you know, and especially when you're a 16 year-old kid who looks 16. It would be odd if I was talking about my full time day job down at the car lot as a car salesman, you know. You just got to talk about being in high school, and I had a character named Uncle Frank who, on occasion, I'll still do and I did the comic strips with him. Just normal everyday stuff. And you know, you got to address what you look like. So I have red hair. I know, you can't tell over the radio, but you just have to address what you look like and then talk about, you know, being in high school and just stuff as being a kid, you know.

And you went to Catholic school, right?

Yes.

So I imagine that has a lot of opportunity too?

Oh, for sure. And that you know, that it's just, it's a very unique experience. And you get to tell people that weren't Catholic, you know, we're wearing uniforms and having our shirts tucked in and if you didn’t have your shirt tucked in it was a detention, that kind of thing. So yeah, that's, that's ripe for jokes.

So let's talk about this video series. I think it's possible the first time I was aware of these videos you do was after the Colin Kaepernick situation. You made a viral video, I think, maybe, is it fair to say that was kind of like your big online break?

Oh, yeah, for sure. And I think the year previously, I think they were taking a knee during the NFL and I made one about that because I was just seeing people making all these videos about them burning their season tickets or burning their jerseys. And then a year later Kaepernick either, I think he was he was taking a knee the one year and then he the next year got the Nike contract and that was huge. You couldn't go online without seeing anybody talk about that. So I ended up burning, you know, stuff that obviously wasn't part of the NFL. I had a shirt that was in the Nike font, but it said Mike Pence because I just found it at Goodwill. It was one of those things that seemed like it was meant to be.

The old governor of Indiana, we should say.

Yes, yes. See he’s the presidential ride or die chick, because he's been there since day one. But yeah, so that was the one where you know, and I tried to make it as real as possible. And I'm a big pro wrestling fan. And a lot of times wrestlers they don't break character. What they do is real, they want it to be portrayed as real. So that's what I was going for, was don't break character, don't give a link to the camera, make it real. And if you get it, you get it.

And it also kind of coincided with just this, this new form of media. I mean, everyone all of a sudden had an HD camera and, you know, unlimited bandwidth to upload things to Facebook. So at any twist and turn and, you know, news cycles or politics, here came the takes.

Yeah and that the character is based on somebody that would get in their truck with their wraparound sunglasses and just rant. And I love a guy that raves in his truck because apparently he's thought everything through and his way is the way to fix everything. This front seat philosopher.

Is the character, and I want to say for people who haven't seen the videos, it reminds me kind of Stephen Colbert because the level of commitment is just absolute, as you say. Is he based on someone you know?

It’s just based on those guys that I would see ranting and trucks online and I have kind of a go-to list of guys that I've kind of liked or followed on the internet just to see what everybody's talking about. Because I do, whether I agree with their opinions or not, I do think some of them are really good speakers and performers. But it's just yeah, I follow those guys. And then if there's something that’s a big enough of an issue to talk about, usually the internet will already just let you know because it's already being talked about.

Do you have improv training?

In high school I did, in Indiana, but I think it's like a chain across the country but it's called Comedy Sports. And it was it was like Whose Line Is It Anyway, but in like a sports format, so I did that when I was a kid. And then you know, I've been doing stand-up for 14 years.

And we should say your stand-up is different than your characters.

Definitely. Because, you know, I'm, I'm touring. I tried to, you know, every week so I think last year I did 47 weeks on the road. And it's hard to in the middle of Wichita, Kansas to stop my middle of the road comedy act, which is funny, but there's no strong opinions and then start doing a character that some people may get or they may not get, just because they're not listening, you know, and it's one thing if I was like a Bill Maher and you came to see my show on purpose and you knew what to expect, but some people are just showing up to a comedy club because it's a Friday night, and they had the night off. You know?

Have you thought about moving to somewhere other than Indiana to do comedy?

Oh, yeah, for sure. And as we talked previously, I'm in Indiana just to help my mom. I'm the only family she's got. So I just I don't want to leave you know, so I'm here and thankfully with the internet I can reach out to people the same as I could in New York, you know. I'm missing out on connections and stuff being in New York or LA but my situation is what it is. And you know, being in the Midwest in Indianapolis, I'm pretty close to a lot of cities that I would just work doing stand-up anyway.

Indiana is one of the reddest states in the country. Have you gotten any backlash from your character?

Yeah, I mean, you you've probably read through the comments and a lot of them are people that just don't understand what the character is doing as far as satirically. You know, I look like somebody they wouldn't like, but then I'm saying things that they would agree with. But the problem with any side politically or anybody today, it's so easy to just see the caption on the video and see the guy talking with an angry face, and you just assume everything from there. And that, you know, there's people commenting on stuff, and then they'll say later, oh, yeah, I didn't even watch, and I'm guilty of that, too. Sometimes not necessarily commenting, but I write off something before I even watch it. It's just kind of the age we live in.

Do you ever wish that you had a different name for this particular character than your own name?

Nah, I never even expected to do it more than like once and then you know, stuff just kept happening and the guys in the trucks kept making videos. So it never bothered me that it was the same name because I get whether it was the different name or my name. If you get it, you get it, you know?

Yeah, do you, I mean, it's effectively acting. It's really good commitment. Do you go to a different place mentally when you're doing the character?

Um, I don't know, I guess, you know, I try to just be that pro-wrestling character that takes hard stances on things and doesn't break character. And I guess there's a couple different versions of the character because some of the stuff I talked about, uh, deals with pretty heavy subject matter. And then other stuff. Like I did one yesterday on, this will date the interview, but Trump would said and, you know, to inject disinfectants, and that one was a little more playful because I'm already trying to make fun of something that's a cartoonish level in the first place.

A lot of people said, comedy was dead with the age of Trump. I mean, we're sort of past the possibility of satire.

Yeah, I mean, at some ways we are because again, and I get a lot of comments of people who say it's hard to tell if it's satire or not because things are taken to such an extreme and I definitely agree to that. I think the people the guys from South Park would agree because they would try to make fun of Trump and satirize Trump and whatever they would do, he would just top it and say something crazier. So you're literally trying to like, make jokes about Bugs Bunny, essentially, you know. It’s just hard to top that and still be grounded.

Who are some of your, your top comedians that were influential on you or that you enjoy the most?

I mean, I like George Carlin a lot. But you know, George Carlin and Richard Pryor's everybody's favorite comedian, so that's not anything groundbreaking. But I like Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock and Mitch Hedberg. I remember when I was a kid, I would stay up and watch the Tonight Show with Leno and I would watch his monologue which was always like 15 minutes of him, just doing stand-up jokes, but they were, you know, relevant and current jokes, and then I would stay up later to watch Conan. And that's been more my guy, and I love the Simpsons. He was a writer on The Simpsons. So though those things, especially the Simpsons and Conan, and then there are guys all over the country that not many people have heard of, like, Chad Daniels, or Greg Warren, Roy Wood, Jr., who's now a correspondent on The Daily Show. So those are the guys that are doing great work, it's just they haven't had the exposure that some people have had.

What's the hardest thing about being a stand-up?

I guess being gone and traveling, you know, because you're gone half the week. And then if you're driving or you're flying just week after week, you get tired of doing the same stuff as far as checking into a hotel and you know, the breakfast is from six to 10. I know that but that's their job to tell me. And then just, I don't know it's I'm having people starting to come out to see me on purpose. So I want to, I just want everybody to leave, having seen a good show and leaving saying I wish he was still performing. You know what I'm saying?

Well, I don't know if your tour will get rerouted or rescheduled for when the dates pick back up, but I'd love to see you out this way sometime soon. And your influences there, Conan and The Simpsons explained a lot I think about why, Mitch Hedberg too, that I have found your videos so funny. So thank you so much Brent for taking this time and keep making them.

Oh, thank you. Yeah, I want to remind everybody that if you want to look for my videos or any kind of social media stuff, my website is brentcomedy.com, and you can find all the info there. And then links to everything that you ever wanted to know about me, too much information so brentcomedy.com.

Again, that's Brent Terhune and it was real pleasure having you on the show. Thanks for taking some time.

Thanks. Good talking to you, man.