More so, with all the momentum he’s had in the last year, culminating with seven sold-out shows at Cleveland’s Agora Theatre that was taped for a new Netflix special, Kreischer wasn’t about to slow down – no matter what.
“Everyone was telling me this is going to go through the end of the year,” says Kreischer, whose latest Netflix special, “Hey Big Boy,” dropped just as stay-at-home orders started taking hold in the United States. “As soon as I heard that, I said, ‘I’m going to find a workaround.’
“I have one of those brains. I can’t just say, ‘Well, I guess we’ll just sit around.’ I need a workaround, I need a fix,” adds an obviously excited Kreischer, who told Pollstar all about the unique experience during an unprecedented time in the live entertainment business.
Pollstar: How did it all come together?
I knew there are a lot of people like myself who are being very cautious about the coronavirus, but I knew as a consumer I would definitely go see a live comedy act at a drive-in theatre, in a heartbeat. So looking at it as a consumer, if it’s something I’d like to do, I think my fans or people like me would want to do it, too.
What was the audience response like, and was it difficult to work with that type of crowd?
Feedback wise, the laughs were there 100%. It’s not a comedy club and definitely not a theatre.
But when you deliver a big pop, you feel the pop, and when you get a big fucking laugh, you definitely feel it.
The first one we did was in North Carolina. I got up on stage, and my fly was down and I didn’t notice it. Someone yelled, ‘Your fly is down.’ I looked at him on the screen, there’s a 90 foot by 90 foot screen they’re shooting the show on, and I said how I so badly wanted to take my dick out and see how big I think it should be, and the place went fucking nuts, and I heard that laugh and I said, “OK, this is a regular fucking show.”
And as the shows progressed, I think fans were watching on my Instagram stories and hearing word of mouth on Twitter and it started escalating. The first one, people were tailgating, and one guy filled up his truck bed with water and everyone was hanging out in it, and after that they were doing that at every show. In Indianapolis, when I said thank you and good night and everyone is honking their horns and hitting their high beams, someone set off a fucking fireworks show! It got progressively and progressively more party-y and tailgate-y. People were at their cars setting up couches and inflatable mattresses, smoking meats! I couldn’t go through the crowd to see it up close, but it was insane.
The first night, the standing ovation was insane. It was like getting abducted by aliens, everyone’s flicking their high beams, everyone’s honking their horns and you don’t want it to end. And it goes on for like 2 minutes.
I’m getting excited to leave on Aug. 10 to do another run of shows, I’m so fucking pumped. A bunch of comics called me the first day after I did it – “Yo, tell me about it.” I must have sold this to everyone. It’s the coolest thing, but it’s not right for everyone’s act. I’m a little bit of a larger act, I take my shirt off, I’m physical and dirty. I can’t imagine it works for everyone, but it definitely works for me. (laughs)
Do you think comedy works better than music overall in this setting?
We’re lucky as comics today, fans get comedy more than ever. Fans are more of a thing. Fifteen, 20 years ago, no one had fans. People knew who you were, but with podcasts and Netflix and everything now, you get a little bit of a head start going on. And they’re so familiar with attending comedy festivals.
The production value was through the fucking roof. They’re doing a three-camera shoot, wide, tight, editing on the go on the big screen, everyone’s got the audio feed running right into their cars. It was so well produced, I was blown away.
Everything I do I look at as a fan. Halfway through the quarantine, right before we were going to get the offer, I said, “Look, I want to be around people, I want to have drinks with everyone out in a field, but I want to be safe.” When the offer came in, I said this is exactly what I’m looking for. People get an alternative to get out of the house and do something a little different than what their norm has been for the last 120 days. We got live comedy, it’s happening, and just so you know, you can be 100% safe. If your safety is the highest concern, you don’t even have to leave your car. I love the alternatives and the options you can give people. Some places, people want to be in their cars, then some have mattresses in the back of their pickups. It was awesome.
Was it difficult as a performer to prepare for this kind of show?
It’s a type of show all comics have done, we’ve all have done festivals or air force bases or military bases or on a battleship, a locker room. We’ve all done weird shows, but every comic going into a different type of medium wants to have their sea legs about them, and no comic has their sea legs about them right now. I was lucky enough to do a few club shows before these and if I hadn’t, I would have been fucked.
How were you able to write and come up with a whole new show like that on the fly?
I knew I was going to be doing a big tour, so I wrote my ass off from November, December, January, February. I had a brand new hour in February.
For whatever broken part of my personality is clear to everyone else, I’m a workaholic. I wanted to be back on the road and touring. My special dropped the day they did stay-at-home orders, it was the day, I think. I can’t just say, “I guess I’ll just sit at home.” I called Bill [Burr] and Tom [Segura], I said let’s double down on the podcasts, then I need to get back on stage. I’m going to find a workaround. I’m really lucky and it was just serendipity that there were companies thinking the same way I was, that I had the new hour, and I had the means financially. I was lucky to be put in a situation where I could make it happen. I want to share it with more comics because it’s so cool. You’re never going to get to do this again. No one’s ever going to experience the drive-in movie theaters after we get a vaccine. Everyone's going to go back to theatres.
[Regular touring] is so much more cost effective. You have no idea! (laughs). But I’m going to reach out to all of my friends and go, “Come experience this with me and have fun. Experience what standup is like at this moment. It’s never going to be like this again, hopefully, but it’s so cool. People are so fucking appreciative.”
When I got on stage the first time in North Carolina and told that first joke, I almost started crying.
What is your take on social distancing and the virus in general?
Maybe anomaly isn’t the right word to use, but I’m a weird rule follower. So I wear masks, I’m hardcore sanitized. When we did this tour, I said this is only successful if we’re all safe and no one gets coronavirus. If one of us gets coronavirus, we are all getting it, and if we all got sick, it is a liability. Press or no press, it’s something that would keep you up at night, if you were irresponsible and high-fiving everyone and hanging out at the bar. We were obscenely strict. But we did really good, in my opinion. We stay on the bus and live on the bus, we stay in RV parks and hotel parking lots. The only person who has any contact is our driver, who sleeps in a hotel room. We stay clean, we are hyper sensitive to it and extra cautious. But it was a privilege to see how different parts of the country are reacting to the virus, respecting it or not. We went to a Sonic so we could eat in the car because we thought that would be safe. (laughing) The dude delivering our food has two bags in each hand, one bag under his neck and one bag in his teeth! I go, that is not acceptable not in the pandemic. What the fuck! Oh my god, I guess we’re going to throw all this food away and go somewhere else now. (laughing) We did all the cooking on the bus.
Not everyone is willing to take such a chance with a drive-in tour, especially if it’s inconvenient and apparently doesn’t pay as well.
I’ll tell you what – I don’t know if there’s been a shift in people’s empathy, but not keeping the majority of [ticket sales] is very cool with me because I know who it went to. I know the camera operators, know the bus driver, the guys who set up the stage and ran audio – that’s where it went to. And all those dudes took a legit moment on this tour to thank me from the bottom of their hearts. No one’s been working, these are the guys, mostly roadies and stage guys, saying, “Hey man, thank you. I was going to lose my house.” That makes not keeping the money so much better.
Were you worried about it not working?
I was terrified it wasn’t going to work at all. But I feel really good about it. I don’t know if it’s Hollywood or whatever, but your focus shifts and people say they only want to do it if it’s successful. No! You can fail! I’m not afraid to fail. I 100% expected to do this run of shows, have a couple be good, a majority be bad. I didn’t know if logistically we could pull it off – there will be a lightning storm or a tornado, bad audio – but we’ll try it. If it works, great, if it doesn’t work, then it’s a funny fucking story. That’s not my legacy – Bert at a bad drive-in theatre show (laughs). But they were all fucking awesome. After Fort Collins (Colorado, the final show), I called and said, “This is a fucking home run, please line up more of these.”