Rockin' the Mic

Jim Breuer turns up the volume on his stand-up show

Rockin' the Mic

Of the things stand-up comedians and rock stars have in common, the most significant may be their desire to provoke raucous reactions from live audiences. Comedian Jim Breuer has managed to marry the two endeavors in his Heavy Metal Comedy Tour, originally scheduled to stop at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 16.

Breuer has postponed the rock-n-comedy tour in favor of solo stand-up gigs following the events of Sept. 11, but plans to head back out with his backup band, the Breu Crew, to make up the dates after Comedy Central airs an earlier recorded best-of-the-tour special in the spring.

"I kind of re-evaluated what was important in my life: my family," Breuer says, calling from his home in New Jersey. The tragedy has also affected his material. "A lot's the same, but I'm very current — bin Laden, the way (the Taliban) live, where they live, anthrax, terrorism. People are looking to laugh. They don't want drama. They're looking to forget life for an hour and a half."

The seriousness of his phone manner makes it difficult to picture him as the variously prankish and hyper-animated characters he's best known for from his seasons on Saturday Night Live and his role in the cult stoner film Half Baked. But the humor returns to his cracked, nasally voice as soon as he resumes talking about the tour, about he and the Breu Creu's impressions of Metallica jamming to "YMCA" and AC/DC doing "The Hokey Pokey."

"It's going to be the first time you're going to see a comic body wave the audience,"

he says. Rock on.

Breuer, 34, grew up in Valley Stream on Long Island — in a street setting he likens to the movie A Bronx Tale — thoroughly absorbed by the sound and attitude of metal bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica and AC/DC.

"If those bands had a nation, I would be the head of their military," he says. A downloadable screen saver on his Web site (www.jimbreuer.com) shows Jim at 16 in a Judas Priest concert jersey and painted pants with a handcuff buckle, leaning back against his 1984 Buick Skylark.

"I wanted to be Rob Halford — the not-gay one," he says, referring to the former lead singer of Judas Priest, now an openly gay solo artist. "When he was younger, I never knew he was gay. I just thought that was how English people walked and talked."

Breuer also lived in Palm Harbor from 1987 to '91, just after he'd decided he wanted to make it as a comedian. He worked at the Innisbrook Resort, located south of Tarpon Springs, and spent his free time practicing on stage and "trying to consume as much pot and alcohol as possible."

"Every Sunday night I would go to Ron Bennington's Comedy Store and do open mic, then I'd jet down the same night to Clearwater to Coconuts," he says "I'd go to karaoke bars and do open mic. There was a big talent night in St. Pete. It was like going to college."

Breuer's first national exposure came in 1993, on BET's Uptown Comedy Club, a hilarious albeit directionless short-lived skit show, whose cast also included current SNL star Tracy Morgan. Breuer credits the show, which was taped live at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, with expanding his views beyond what he'd been exposed to growing up in Long Island.

"That show was great," he says. "Until I worked there, I had no problem shooting out the word "nigger,'" he says. "I don't remember any of the shows, to be dead honest. I remember spending two years in Harlem, one of the best times in my life, just being there, interacting with the people, being like the only white guy. I was a rocker."

Breuer says he and Morgan, who roomed together, solved all each other's problems. When asked what those problems were, he jokes, "Mutual need for dick. No — life, chicks, money. What problems are there?"

As a cast member of SNL (1995-98) Breuer pushed for Morgan to get signed in '96, but the pair only teamed up in a couple skits: imitating Godzilla in one; and harassing guest host Sylvester Stallone as Mickey (Rocky's trainer) and Mr. T, during Sly's opening monologue. Breuer's tenure was cut short, however, due to tension over his freelance project, The Jim Breuer Show for MTV.

Seemingly soured on the SNL experience, he recalls only a handful of highlights. Honoring the time Metallica played their hit "Fuel" as musical guests, he breaks into song: "Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire!"

As to what keeps him so grounded, Breuer says wryly, "Show business is a goof. You can go do the show, but you still gotta come home to a family or somebody. I just finished the dishes. I still fight with my wife, still throw pillows across the room cause I wish I could clock her in the forehead sometimes.

"Money and fame never puts that under the table," he adds.

No, but it does allow you meet Metallica.

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