|Born||1973/1974 (age 40–41)
|Medium||Stand-up comedy, television, film, webcast|
|Genres||satire/political satire, sketch comedy, observational comedy, black comedy, blue comedy|
|Subject(s)||American politics, American culture, current events, mass media/news media, race relations, pop culture|
|Influences||Chris Rock, Mort Sahl, Dave Attel, Mike Royce, Dave Juskow|
|Notable works and roles||Chappelle's Show|
Neal Brennan (born c. 1974) is an American writer, stand-up comedian, actor, director and producer. He is known for co-creating and co-writing the Comedy Central series Chappelle's Show with Dave Chappelle.
Brennan grew up in Villanova, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia and spent part of his childhood in Wilmette, Illinois from 1978 to 1986. He was born into an Irish Catholic family and is the youngest of 10 children. According to Brennan, his father's side of the family was funny, as were his 5 older brothers. Brennan said that he realized he was funny and liked comedy at about 8 or 9 years of age and was already doing pre-planned material for his classmates in a style that emulated comics Richard Lewis, Jerry Seinfeld and David Brenner. He also watched a large amount of comedy in high school, often staying up late to watch Late Night with David Letterman and The Arsenio Hall Show.
Brennan's older brother, comedian and writer Kevin Brennan, started doing stand up while Neal was still in high school. Neal would attend his brother's performances at the The Improv in New York on weekends and hang around with comedians such as Ray Romano, Dave Attel, Mike Royce and David Juskow. Brennan stated in an interview with Independent Film Channel (IFC) that he realized that it was possible to make a living in comedy after watching his brother Kevin do stand-up.
Brennan moved to New York to attend NYU film school, but he dropped-out after a year and got a job as a doorman at the (defunct) Boston Comedy Club in Greenwich Village where he met Dave Chappelle, a frequent performer at the club. The two became friends and Brennan would often pitch jokes to Chappelle. Brennan also shared an apartment with comedian Jay Mohr while in New York.
After 6 months of working at the Boston Comedy Club, Brennan first performed stand up in 1992 at 18 years of age; Brennan later recounted: "I got no laughs" and as a result he didn't perform stand up again until 1997. Brennan also wrote for The Source magazine in 1992.
In the mid-90s Brennan moved to Los Angeles and in 1995 he became a writer for the Jenny McCarthy and Chris Hardwick dating show, Singled Out. This was followed by writing jobs for the game show Bzzz! in 1996, the sketch comedy-variety show All That from 1996 to 1997, and the teen sitcom Kenan & Kel in 1997.
In 1997 Brennan and Dave Chappelle collaborated for the first time on the screenplay for the film Half Baked. The film was released in January 1998 and starred Chappelle, Jim Breuer, Harland Williams and Guillermo Díaz. Half Baked was a commercial failure and received mainly negative reviews. In a 2006 interview Brennan referred to the year of the film's release as "probably the worst year of my life, creatively and personally." In an interview that same year on Inside the Actor's Studio, Chappelle recounted how he and Brennan lost touch with each other after the release of Half Baked: "It just was like leaving a crime scene" Chappelle said.
Four years later Brennan and Chappelle came together to co-create, co-write and co-executive produce the sketch comedy show Chappelle's Show, which premiered in January 2003. Brennan stated that he and Chappelle read the book Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live (2002), by Tom Shales when they started writing sketches for the show and found the book very helpful. The duo wrote the show's sketches themselves with minimal outside help and agreed to never divulge who was responsible for writing which Chappelle's Show sketches. Brennan directed some sketches in the show's second season, including the sketch featuring Chappelle as musician Rick James. Brennan was nominated for three Emmy Awards in 2004 for his work on the show as a director, writer and producer. By the end of its second season, Chappelle's Show was Comedy Central's highest-rated program.
Members of the musical group The Roots worked as music directors on the second and third seasons of Chappelle's Show. Brennan would later recommend the band to Jimmy Fallon as his house band on the talk show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Although Chappelle's Show was doing well and Chappelle had signed a $50 million deal in 2004 to produce two more seasons, Chappelle abruptly left the show for South Africa in April 2005 prior to the premiere of the show's third season, without giving prior warning to his show's crew, including Brennan. As a result, the premiere of season three was delayed and Brennan compiled the remaining sketches into the "lost episodes" that aired in July 2006.
In an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show on February 3, 2006, Chappelle stated that Brennan made no attempt to contact him after he left the show: "How many times do you think he's called his sick buddy since he went to Africa?" Brennan stated in a 2011 interview for ChicagoNow that he was hurt that his longtime friend Chappelle didn't even warn him prior to abruptly leaving the show for Africa and that "he owes me a phone call, if anything." Brennan also stated his dismay at the fact that he was not given prior warning of Chappelle's interview with Oprah, nor was he contacted by The Oprah Winfrey Show's producers for his side of the story. Brennan stated in the ChicagoNow interview, as well as during his appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast on June 14, 2011, that he felt Comedy Central played a role in pitting Chappelle and himself against one another.
In an interview in the July 2006 issue of Maxim magazine, when asked if he would ever work with Chappelle again, Brennan said there was "no chance." In 2009 he repeated this sentiment in an interview with the New York Times when he said: "“The relationship is charred. I don’t think Dave ever wants to be in showbiz again, and I wouldn’t want to work with him." In a 2012 interview with the Vancouver Sun Brennan said working on the show was stressful: "I don’t miss [Chappelle's Show], I’m glad I was decent at it, but I always feel [a sketch comedy show] takes years off your life.”
Brennan stated in 2011 during the aforementioned Joe Rogan interview that he and Chappelle were "still friendly...and hang out when he is in LA." On February 1, 2012 Chappelle and Brennan both performed comedy sets at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, California. Brennan also suggested that Chappelle might appear on his podcast, The Champs, saying: "I'm sure Dave will do it at some point".
In 2006 Brennan directed and co-wrote the made-for-TV movie Totally Awesome. Brennan directed the 2009 film The Goods starring Jeremy Piven. In 2011 he directed a series of commercials for the ESPYS.
As an actor Brennan had small roles in the films Half Baked and Get Him to the Greek and he also appeared in various sketches on Chappelle's Show. Neal Brennan has also written comedy material for the 83rd Academy Awards as well as for Seth Meyers' speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2011.
Brennan continued to perform some stand up while working on Chappelle's Show, but he stopped after the end of the show: "I didn't want to get up on stage and have people yell, 'Where's Dave?' once I got on stage." He returned to performing stand up in 2007 and has expressed enjoying stand up more than writing for television and working in movies. Brennan continues to perform stand up regularly in the LA area as well as nationally. He has also appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Lopez Tonight, and Conan.
In 2011 Brennan, along with comedian Moshe Kasher and DJ Douggpound (Doug Lussenhop of Tim and Eric Nite Live!), started a podcast called The Champs. Kasher said the following of the podcast: "It’s Doug dropping sound effects and beats over me and Neal kind of hosting an hour of ridiculous chat. We have a rotating black guy guest, there’s a different black guest every week." Guests of the show have included actor/comedians Wayne Brady, Chris Rock, Mario Joyner, Shawn and Marlon Wayans, and David Alan Grier, adult film star Lexington Steele, rapper Too $hort, and professional basketball player Blake Griffin. The show has strayed from its guest format on occasion with guests such as comedian/actor Bobby Lee, former pornographic actress Sasha Grey, former Major League Baseball player Jose Canseco and comedian/actor Aziz Ansari.
- Singled Out, writer (1996)
- All That, writer (1996–1997)
- Kenan & Kel, writer (1997)
- Chappelle's Show, writer and director (2003–2004)
- Totally Awesome, writer and director (2006)
- Attack of the Show!, temp host (2012)
- Half Baked, writer (1998)
- The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, director (2009)
- Get Him to the Greek, actor (2010)
- Eells, Josh (August 7, 2009). "Novice Director, a Veteran of Comedy". New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- "Neal Brennan talks about his influences, writing race-sensitive material and the state of contemporary comedy". IFC.com. November 30, 2011. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Maniaci, Paul (September 2, 2006). "Neal Brennan". thecareercookbook.com. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Leung, Rebecca (February 11, 2009). "Chappelle's Trip To The Top". CBS News. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Downs, Gordon (June 22, 2011). "Obama, Twitter and Pokez: The Neal Brennan Sketch Comedy Diet". SanDiego.com. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Hager, Mike (February 24, 2012). "ComedyFest: Neal Brennan enters Vancouver laughing". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Wallenstein, Andrew (August 3, 2004). "Dave Chappelle inks $50 million deal". MSNBC. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Hoffberger, Chase (November 4, 2011). "Saturday Interview - Neal Brennan". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Pete Holmes (November 23, 2011). "You Made it Weird: Neal Brennan". nerdist.com (Podcast). Nerdist Industries. Event occurs at 19:07. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- King, Scott (June 14, 2011). "Just for Laughs exclusive - Neal Brennan interview". Chicago Now (Chicago Tribune). Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- McGraw, Dr. Peter; Warner, Joel (February 14, 2012). "Humor Code Q & A (Unabridged): Neal Brennan on Life after Chappelle’s Show, Failed Irish Jokes and Feeding the Comedy Baby". humorcode.com. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Tigges, Jesse (July 13, 2011). "Comedy Q&A: Neal Brennan". Columbus Alive!. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Ogunnaike, Lola (February 18, 2004). "A Comic Who Won't Hold Back; Nothing Is Out of Bounds For Dave Chappelle's Show". New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Pete Holmes (November 23, 2011). "You Made it Weird: Neal Brennan". nerdist.com (Podcast). Nerdist Industries. Event occurs at 56:09. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Neal Brennan at the Internet Movie Database
- Joe Rogan (April 12, 2012). "The Joe Rogan Experience, Episode #205". joerogan.net (Podcast). Event occurs at 1:47:54. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Ogunnaike, Lola (January 18, 1998). "Half Baked (1998) FILM REVIEW; Marijuana Moments, Many of Them". New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Flannigan, W (July 18, 2011). "Taking the Leap with Neal Brennan". buzzbinmagazine.com. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Kelly, Brendan (January 19, 1998). "Half Baked". Variety. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- "Dave Chappelle". Inside the Actors Studio. February 12, 2006. Event occurs at 55:00. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84NjYRTHpfU. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- King, Scott (June 16, 2011). "What really happened with Chappelle's Show and more: Neal Brennan interview Part 2". Chicago Now (Chicago Tribune). Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Susman, Gary (May 6, 2005). "Half-Baked Theories". EW.com. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Joe Rogan (June 14, 2011). "The Joe Rogan Experience, Episode #114". joerogan.net (Podcast). Event occurs at 1:15:22. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Nave, Howie (March 21, 2012). "'Chappelle's Show'writer debuts at Tahoe Improv". Tahoe Daily Tribune. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Awards for "Chappelle's Show" at the Internet Movie Database
- Gordon, Devin (May 15, 2005). "Fears of a Clown". The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Gallagher, Danny (February 27, 2009). "The Roots are ready to rock, rap, jazz and even disco the set of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Coyle, Jake (February 24, 2009). "The Roots: House-band gig 'enabled us to survive'". SeattlePi (Hearst Communications). Associated Press. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Deggans, Eric (March 1, 2009). "Hip-hop band the Roots prepares for TV gig on 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon'". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- "Chappelle's Story". The Oprah Winfrey Show. February 9, 2006. http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Chappelles-Story. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Bauder, David (July 8, 2006). "Chappelle returns, sort of". Associated Press. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Presenter: Michele Norris (May 16, 2005). "Comedian Chappelle Surfaces in 'Time'". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4653985. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Ogunnaike, Lola (July 6, 2006). "The Long-Awaited, Albeit Brief, Return of Dave Chappelle". New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Joe Rogan (June 14, 2011). "The Joe Rogan Experience, Episode #114". joerogan.net (Podcast). Event occurs at 1:21:07. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Masterson, Kathryn (October 2, 2006). "Best-friend breakup ; Parting ways with a friend can be as tough as a romantic split". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Joe Rogan (June 14, 2011). "The Joe Rogan Experience, Episode #114". joerogan.net (Podcast). Event occurs at 1:26:26. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Listing for Brennan and Chappelle's performances at Yoshi's Jazz Club on Feb 1, 2012 from the Vallejo Times Herald
- Listing for Brennan and Chappelle's performances at Yoshi's Jazz Club on Feb 1, 2012 from yoshis.com
- Horn, Trevor; Frields, Philip (October 26, 2011). "Half Baked". American River Current. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Hammer, Tim (October 7, 2007). "LAist Interview: Neal Brennan". LAist. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Warner, Joel; McGraw, Peter (March 1, 2012). "The Humor Code: Neal Brennan on ‘Comedic Polymaths’ and the Future of Funny". Wired.com. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Video of Neal Brennan on Conan, September 27, 2011
- Downs, Gordon (July 20, 2011). "Living On The Edge with Moshe Kasher". SanDiego.com. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
- Joe Rogan (August 17, 2011). "The Joe Rogan Experience, Episode #131". joerogan.net (Podcast). Event occurs at 1:49:07. Retrieved April 20, 2012.