Kurt Braunohler Talks Kittens, Birds and Other ‘Bunk’ [INTERVIEW]
You’ve seen comedian Kurt Braunohler. For starters, he’s pretty tall. Also, he’s been on TV a lot, as well as popular radio shows such as NPR’s This American Life and WFMU’s The Best Show with Tom Scharpling.
Maybe you’ve read his Vice advice column, or attended the NYC variety show he hosts with comedienne/actress Kristen Schaal, or seen his hilarious World Wild of Animals videos online, or caught his standup act. Yeah, he’s one of those guys who makes the rest of us look like slackers.
Starting on June 8, you’ll definitely want to see him hosting the new IFC comedy game show, ‘Bunk’, because it features some of today’s funniest comedians competing against each other, using only their wits.
We managed to get Braunohler to tell us more about the show, as well as his obsession with animals and other stuff.
GuySpeed: What is Bunk and what’s your role?
Kurt Braunohler: It’s a new comedy game show on IFC where comedians compete against each other. The questions don’t have real answers; they’re more jumping-off points for us to make some funny stuff together. I host the show and also wrote for it. It’s a very absurd take on the typical American game show, and has both sketch and improv elements. We have a bunch of rounds that are “non-challenge challenges,” like somebody will hit the button and the wheel will spin and what comes up will be something like “Bird Mitzvah.” So you see us act out the big day when a bird becomes a man, and dances around with a bunch of rabbis.
There are other elements where, for example, in the middle of game play, a laser pops up on Chris Gethard’s head, and I’m like, “Oh no! We got a sniper!” And everybody gets down, and the sniper tries to run away, but I pull a gun out of nowhere and shoot him. Then I throw the gun off-camera and we immediately keep playing.
GuySpeed: How’d you get involved?
Kurt Braunohler: The creators brought me in during the concept phase to help write it, and work it out in workshops. They funded a pilot which ran in the New York Television Festival, where IFC saw it and picked it up for development. So we shot another pilot with IFC and they bought ten episodes. It’s actually the first series to go to television that came out of the New York Television Festival.
GuySpeed: Speaking of birds, what’s with your fascination with them?
Kurt Braunohler: I just think birds are so funny. People are terrified of them, or just hate them. I think that their alien-ness, while still being kind of cute, is what really attracts me to them. They’re like little dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were here before us but then they totally failed, they all went away, and now the only thing we have left is a pigeon, which eats bagels. I find that fall from grace very funny.
GuySpeed: We noticed that one of the promos for Bunk contains some pretty cute puppies, too. But you also hold the world record for leading the most people (117) in an “all-meow” version of the song “Lean On Me.” How did that happen?
Kurt Braunohler: The guys who run the Universal Record Database ask comedians once in a while to be part of their show, and it was just something that I used to always do. Like when a song came on the radio I would sing along with meows instead of words, because I’m bad at knowing the words to songs. So I thought it would be funny to get 100-something people to sing this. It goes on for far too long, but I definitely hold the world record for it!
GuySpeed: Back to Bunk, we see Bobby Moynihan and Ben Garant in a promo clip. Does the show feature female comedians, too?
Kurt Braunohler: Yes, we have Alex Borstein from Family Guy and Nicole Parker from MadTV. We hope to get more ladies on during the second season.
GuySpeed: And you work a lot with Kristen Schaal on other projects.
Kurt Braunohler: Yes, she was in the pilot, and she would’ve been in Bunk this season, but she had to be in Puerto Rico shooting a movie while we were shooting Bunk. Which made her sad, and it made me sad, too.
GuySpeed: Is she going to get you a guest shot on 30 Rock’s last season?
Kurt Braunohler: Yeah, I’m hoping to work craft services on 30 Rock. Fingers crossed!
GuySpeed: How did you two meet and end up working together?
Kurt Braunohler: About seven years ago we were both working at an improv theater here in New York called The Pit. We both wanted to do a variety show, and we found that we really wrote and worked well together, and had the same sensibilities. And we do a live variety show every Monday at Littlefield in Brooklyn, called Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen.
GuySpeed: Do you think you are transitioning to becoming a public radio and independent TV darling?
Kurt Braunohler: I didn’t intend for it, but it is my vibe. That’s where I came up from, and what I really admire, so it is kind of funny. I’m also doing another public radio show soon on WNYC called King’s County. It’s a Brooklyn-centric radio show. Yeah, I would be fine with that career track.
GuySpeed: Some guys we talked to know you primarily from The Best Show on WFMU.
Kurt Braunohler: I love that show! I’ve only been on a couple of times, but people all over the country will tell me they heard me on it, which is crazy. I’m also a Jersey guy, from Asbury Park-slash-Neptune.
GuySpeed: Radio, stage, TV… any plans for film work?
Kurt Braunohler: I am not in any movies that are in theaters, and I would love to be. So just tell everybody you know who’s got a movie to please consider me.
GuySpeed: What advice would you give to recent grads?
Kurt Braunohler: I want to tell recent grads NOT to do what you majored in, because I studied philosophy. It’s useless, and things still turned out pretty good for me.