Like many who came of age in the 1970s, I've got a soft spot for Saturday Night Live. To me, the cast - especially people like Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray - were comedy's rock stars.
Any SNL cast member is seen by millions and has a shot at becoming a household name. Yet what happens to those who, unlike Murray or Aykroyd, fail to maintain their national TV momentum? What's Joe Piscopo up to these days, or Victoria Jackson? Certainly they still have careers, but no one would deny their grip on the pop-cult zeitgeist has loosened.
A number of these folks have performed in Victoria in recent years, such as Jon Lovitz, Rob Schneider, Robin Duke and Norm MacDonald.
And then there's Jim Breuer, who performs at the Royal Theatre on Tuesday as part of the Just for Laughs comedy tour (the lineup also includes Debra DiGiovanni, John Heffron and Godfrey).
Don't recall Jim Breuer? Well, perhaps you remember ... Goat Boy?
That's Breuer's greatest single claim to comedy fame. On SNL in the late '90s, Goat Boy hosted a fictional MTV "Remember the '80s" program. Goat Boy was mostly normal except for his goat head and habit of compulsively neighing. It wasn't exactly Oscar Wilde repartee, although sort of funny.
Even today, if someone recognizes Breuer in a hardware shop or something, they'll sometimes offer a little neigh, as if to say, "Hey, I remember you. Well met, Goat Boy!"
Breuer, now 45, is not planning to pull out a major Goat Boy routine in Victoria. He's now in post-Goat-Boy mode; if he does offer a nod to the notorious bit, it'll be fleeting.
He says at the Royal Theatre he'll talk about the funny side of being a family man. Breuer has been married almost 20 years.
He has three daughters (one's a teen). His elderly father, who suffers from dementia, lives with them.
The big surprise, perhaps, is that Breuer promises a clean, family-friendly set. Breuer always seemed like a wild man to me. And some of his YouTube clips, while funny, are mind-roastingly raunchy. One has Howard Stern encouraging Breuer to talk about caring for his demented dad, complete with a horrifically detailed and lengthy description of his father's lack of bladder/bowel control. It is so incredibly graphic, although amusing at times, one almost feels the need for a shower after.
Over the phone, Breuer said his philosophy of comedy is to avoid both profanity and pulling his punches. "The truth is always the funniest," he said. "I like to get a little more raw and detailed into it, where it really hits the truthful part, and really find that belly-laugh."
These days, Breuer is mostly heard on his weekly Sirius/XM Radio show, Fridays with Breuer. Aside from that, his most notable success may be starring with Dave Chappelle in the 1998 cult film Half Baked. It's a stoner comedy about a guy who's jailed for killing a diabetic horse by feeding it junk food. His joint-puffing friends, including Breuer's character, try to raise his bail.
Panned by critics but adored by high-school/college boys and a few older guys who still think Cheech and Chong are hilarious, Half Baked gave Breuer a stoner-guy reputation (it doesn't help that genetics blessed him with half-shut-looking eyes).
It gave his career a boost. But Breuer's hard-partying days were behind him. He got tired trying to live up to a character that just wasn't him.
"I was known for a while as the Half Baked guy. It got me tons of notoriety, it got me tons of work. But after a couple of years, I wasn't that guy any more ... so it was really hard to appease the public. People would come up and say, 'I'm just like you.' But I don't even like the Grateful Dead.
"I'm just in a different world now," Breuer said. "I have three kids, family, parents, my dad lives with me. My wife and I are having the best time we've ever had. ... Yeah, I'm in a good place right now."
Tellingly, Breuer is in the process of completing a comedy special originally to be titled Midlife Madness.
Now he's given it a new title: All Grown Up.
Still, it's not like he's gone all soft and gooey. A die-hard heavy metal fan who has toured with Metallica, Breuer is planning another metal/comedy project in which he'll tour with rock-musician friends in 2013.
And then, quite unexpectedly, Breuer revealed the mysterious origins of Goat Boy. Turns out it was a shtick he hatched as a teenager. Breuer would assume the guise of a character - pretending to be an Aussie-accented roadie with AC/DC, for instance. He'd go to clubs and cadge free drinks by pretending he had an affliction that caused him to blurt out goat-like neighs in mid-sentence.
"[My character] would drink free so many nights. And of course, the more alcohol involved, the more funny it gets. They assumed if there was something wrong with me, they wouldn't charge me."