Stack as Hannigan and Artie Kendall, two of his recurring characters on Late Night with Conan O'Brien
|Born||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
Brian Stack is an American actor, comedian, and writer best known for his sketch comedy work on all three Conan O'Brien late-night talk shows, previously working on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, and on O'Brien's current talk show, Conan on TBS. Stack left Conan in April 2015 to join the writing staff of the CBS series Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Stack was born in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Catholic schools from grades 5-12, graduating from St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He earned an undergraduate degree from Indiana University, where he had worked at their radio station. He began doing improvisational comedy, or improv, in 1987 at the Ark Theater in Madison, Wisconsin, while attending graduate school at University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he earned his Master’s degree.
Late Night with Conan O'Brien
Stack became a sketch writer on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 1997, and served as a writer, actor and editor on the show. He first appeared onscreen when one of the writers asked him to play a doctor in a sketch in which he had no dialogue. One of the first characters he did on the show was Bathtime Bob the Hygiene Cowboy, who sang about bath time, but like many of Stack's characters he had a very dark, tragic underbelly to his upbeat nature. Stack had previously tried to develop this character at Second City, but it never appeared in any shows.
Stack remained with O'Brien after O'Brien's move to The Tonight Show in 2009. Stack played many recurring characters on the show, most notably those clad in anachronistic or elaborate outfits, and was known for playing many characters with long beards and mustaches, such as God, Zeus, Socrates, Gandalf, and The Interrupter. Jeff Loveness of Jimmy Kimmel Live has observed of Stack's characters that there was "such a sadness to each character, but they would not acknowledge their sadness", an assessment that Stack agrees with. Stack has further explained that, "My favorite kind of comedy on late night has always been the non-topical silly stuff where it's not really at anybody's expense. My least favorite kind of joke is a celebrity joke, because it tends to be very familiar or sometimes very mean, and if it's not mean it doesn't even work, usually...But my favorite kind of comedy on late night is at no one's expense but the character that's involved in the sketch where you're not really going after anybody." Stack made occasional appearances on The Tonight Show, such as when he played an NRA spokesman who intimates violence to accomplish his agenda.
Among the characters he has portrayed:
- Kilty McBagpipes, an extremely stereotypical Scottish man who dresses in a kilt and dances to bagpipe music.
- Frankenstein, a smiling, affable version of Frankenstein's Monster, used in a number of miscellaneous sketches over the years, most notably a recurring sketch called "Frankenstein Wastes A Minute of our Time", in which the monster takes a winding journey through Studio 6A, sometimes travelling backstage, through the audience, and out into the halls, egging on the camera to follow behind him, until he reaches his destination and presents something totally mundane, such as a light switch, or a mop and bucket. This occurs even when there are more interesting things nearby, as in one installment in which he ended up in bandleader Max Weinberg's dressing room, where a dominatrix brandishing a cat o' nine tails was present, and Frankenstein simply picked up a hairbrush and grunted to the camera approvingly. Another sketch involved Frankenstein's wandering through many different halls backstage, until he comes across Tom Hanks leaning against a wall, yanks him aside, and marvels at a light switch.
- Hannigan the Traveling Salesman, a hat-wearing traveling salesman in outdated clothing who bursts into the studio, addresses Conan as "little girl", and runs through a scripted sales pitch in an attempt to sell Conan unfunny jokes, sketch ideas and other useless home products. Hannigan was created at the suggestion of writer Andrew Weinberg, who suggested that Stack play an "old-timey salesman". Stack wrote the sketches with Weinberg and Michael Koman, with whom he would later collaborate on the TV series Eagleheart. Hannigan's voice was inspired by Stack's appreciate for William Powell's Thin Man film series.
- Artie Kendall the Ghost Crooner, the ghost of an old-fashioned lounge singer who worked in the studio decades ago when it was a radio studio, and whose song lyrics reflect antiquated bigoted and sexist views that offend Conan. Kendall typically sings three brief songs during his appearances, the first of which usually reflects an antiquated social view, the second of which reflects a misogynistic view, and the last of which contains lyrics denigrating to the Irish people, which Kendall sings in reaction to the "hot Irish temper" he observes in Conan when Conan is outraged by the first two songs. Kendall was killed by the League of Women Voters, who, offended at Kendall's misogyny, had him dig his own grave before beating him to death with the shovel. Like Hannigan, the old-timey tone of Artie Kendall was partially inspired by Stack's love of old movies like Thin Man and My Man Godfrey. Stack was also inspired by the fact that Rockefeller Center had been in operation since the 1930s, and that radio singer Bing Crosby had "sort of a dark side" in his personal life that did not appear in his onscreen persona.
- The Interrupter, a melodramatic villain clad in a black cape, a purple ruffled shirt, and wearing long black hair and a handlebar mustache, the Interrupter constantly interrupts Conan by finishing his sentences for him, always knowing exactly what Conan is going to say, even when it's denigrating to the Interrupter himself. Occasionally, if the sketch runs long enough, the roles will eventually become reversed, with the Interrupter starting sentences and Conan doing the interrupting. Eventually the sketches evolved so that the first celebrity guest, and O'Brien himself, would replace the Interrupter as the one interrupting.
- Fan-Tastic Guy, an enthusiastic audience member who shows his appreciation of the upcoming guests that Conan announces by inventing various words with the suffix "tastic" to describe them, only to become silent and uninterested when Conan mentions his own comedy material on the show.
- Brian Slipnut, a member of The Slipnutz (also known as They Might be Slipnutz), a comedy group of three men (Stack, Andy Blitz, Jon Glaser) that was inconveniently booked on the same show with Slipknot, (and later with They Might Be Giants). Their routine involves the three of them slipping and sliding on nuts scattered on the floor. The Slipnutz also appeared on the program to promote their greatest hits album, which included songs like "Old West Cowboys Slipping on Nuts" and "Viking Raiders Slipping on Nuts".
- Clive Clemmons, British heavy metal guitar legend with his own channel filled with his favorite inappropriate responses from everyday life.
- Ira (of Jeremy & Ira), performed with Late Night writer Jon Glaser (as Jeremy), as two bizarre men from another dimension dressed in black hoods, who would visit Conan & Andy from time-to-time, always appearing in the corner of the TV screen. They never speak, and only communicate through nodding and other gestures.
- Bullet Proof Legs Assassin, a man dressed in all black who always shoots the "Bullet Proof Legs Guys" at the end of every sketch.
- Steve St. Helens, a stagehand on the show whose temper rises until he erupts. The character first appeared when Mt. St. Helens began showing activity in early 2005.
Among the other characters Stack has created on the show are Stacy Richter, Andy Richter's Conan-obsessed little sister, who was portrayed by Stacks’ fellow Upright Citizens Brigade alumna, Amy Poehler. Stack also created the recurring segment "Pierre Bernard’s Recliner of Rage".
Conan recurring characters
Stack continued his work on O'Brien's TBS series, Conan. His last episode aired on April 2, 2015. In the episode, he appeared as The Interrupter, one of his recurring characters, in a sketch in which he and his character bade farewell to the series.
Among his recurring characters:
- James Sinclair St. Wallins, Audiencey Awards Fashion Correspondent.
- Brian LaFontaine, Singer on "Basic Cable Name That Tune". Conan frequently expresses his contempt for this character, making comments such as "Hate that guy" or "Easily my least favorite person".
- Voice of Minty the Candycane Singer, sings the theme song for "Minty the Candycane Who Briefly Fell On The Ground" (played by Brian McCann) every Christmas.
- Joe Galliano, John Galliano's 'brother' who Conan interviews, generally in response to comments made by John Galliano. Joe tries to defend his brother while changing into ridiculous hats every time the camera switches back to Conan.
- Wiki Bear, Stack provides the voice of 2014 recurring character "Wiki Bear", a teddy bear who has a vast knowledge of very disturbing facts.
Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Stack left Conan to take a job on the writing staff of the CBS series Late Show following fellow Second City alumnus Stephen Colbert's assumption of that show's hosting duties following the departure of David Letterman. The job would have Stack moving back to New York, where Stack had previously worked on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
- Played "Special Agent in Charge" in the 1997 movie Spaceman.
- Played "Whiskers" in Robert Smigel’s TV series, TV Funhouse in the episode "Western Day" (episode # 1.1; December 6, 2000).
- Played Howard Jorgensen on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock in the episodes "Jack Meets Dennis", "Succession" and "Larry King".
- Stack provided voices for numerous characters in the video games Deer Avenger (1998) and Deer Avenger 2: Deer in the City (1999), which were written by Stack’s fellow Late Night writer/actor Brian McCann, and which co-starred McCann, Tina Fey, Jon Glaser, and Amy Poehler.
- Stack is a frequent performer in the ASSSSCAT improvisational comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York and Los Angeles.
- Played Mark, an employee of the Buffalo branch who becomes angry when learning the branch is being shut down, in the The Office episode "Company Picnic".
- Stack co-starred as "The World's Tallest Nebraskan" in the Comedy Central animated series Freak Show in 2006.
- Provided the voice for the Airplane Pilot in Hotel Transylvania in 2012.
- In 2013 and 2014, Stack played Ted in the TV series Parks and Recreation.
- As a member of Late Night’s writing staff, Stack won five Writers Guild Awards for Writing in a Comedy/Variety Series for 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. He was also nominated in 1999, 2001, and 2004.
- Stack was also nominated for an Emmy Award every year since 1998 for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program as a member of the writing team, winning in 2007.
- "Longtime 'Conan' Writer Brian Stack Is Headed to 'Late Show with Stephen Colbert'". SplitSider. April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
- Wright, Megh (September 3, 2014). "Sketch Anatomy: Brian Stack on the Traveling Salesman and His Many Other 'Conan' Characters". SplitSider
- Phelps, Joe (August 6, 2014). Conan O'Brien 161 Success Facts - Everything you need to know about Conan O'Brien. Emereo Publishing. Archived at Google Books.
- Late Night with Conan O'Brien. NBC. May 9, 2008
- Stack, Brian (December 4, 2014). "As Steve St. Helens, the stagehand who was about to erupt, at "Late Night" years ago". Twitter.
- Wright, Megh (April 3, 2015). "Brian Stack Visits Conan O'Brien as The Interrupter One Last Time". SplitSider.
- Brian Stack at the Internet Movie Database
- Interviewed by Josh Fulton
- Interview on The Sound of Young America podcast (April 2007)