FA blog #4: Brody
I was saddened this week to hear of the untimely passing of LA based comedian Brody Stevens, who took his own life aged 48. Brody, the mercurial, beautiful, maverick comedian was a long time battler with depression and bipolar disorder. It is a tragedy that he is gone and it is right that we celebrate him and his lunatic career in the spirit of positive friendship that he made his own.
Stevens' representatives issued a statement calling the late comic "an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community." They said "He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball was contagious. He was beloved by many and will be greatly missed”
Comparatively speaking, he wasn’t too well known but he was admired by all within the industry. He was fearless. His ‘jokes’, such as they were, ranged from mid-level to downright terrible. But it was about what he did between the jokes, his ability to insist upon an audience, that made him something else. His crowd work was second to none – literally so - it was unique. How can you handle someone being so forcefully positive that it is almost insulting? That and the fact – and this is often said but rarely true – that he was exactly the same off stage as on. Can you imagine.
I first heard of Brody as a wet-around-the-ears comedy promoter in the late 00’s. Youtube was just happening (that ages someone) and a few acts suggested I check out this dude in LA. He was doing stuff that other people could only dream of and it was effortless.
Look at this for crowd work:
I was (still am) interested in ‘crowd theory’ and the unique coming together that a gig crowd – especially for live comedy – can be. Live comedy is here, it is now, and it never will permutate this way again, even if we all tried. This gig, this set of circumstances, this second, this wave of laughter. Never to come again. There’s something intoxicating about sharing a laugh with strangers that’s very hard to describe. Sitting in the dark, next to people you don’t know, all emitting a noise that is mutually agreed to be one of positive reinforcement. The more you think about it, the less sense it makes. That too, is Brody Stevens.
‘I see me perform every night! Who are you to tell me what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong?!’
In 2013., Brody’s long time friend and collaborator (and much is made of his bit part in The Hangover movies) Zach Galifanakis produced ‘Brody Stevens; Enjoy It’, a sort of documentary come showcase come resurrection story that tried to capture the essence of the man in a manner that reflected what was being said as much as why he was saying it.
Here is the first episode. Fair warning; it’s hypnotic and sometimes hard viewing:
One of the most striking things about this program is how raw and honest it is, and so bittersweet. He’s clearly struggling. There’s lush comedy there and Brody seizes upon it and he farms it for all its worth, without making it saccharine or self-righteous or self-pitying. That is incredibly hard to do. There has been such an outpouring, so much love for him by other acts and agents and producers (although where were the agents?) and there is one clear through line – he was there for other people. He cared about other acts, he listened and he worked hard.
Deep at the bottom of what Brody did was friendship, positivity and wellbeing. All from a place of intense and honest weakness. His quirky uplifting soundbites, more used to confront an audience than reassure it, have been oft-quoted keywords between me and my friends for nigh on a decade. They have bled into Friendship Adventure HQ and become rallying cries in times of hardship. They have become part of our elevator pitch when we want to talk about our ethos without sounding naff. Positive Energy! Push and Believe! Enjoy It! I wish he could know how much strength we get from these silly throwaway snatches.
On the UK circuit he was used as a litmus test, a secret handshake to show you were in on something. If you were into Brody Stevens you were ok – you got it, you could be trusted with a shitty 15 minutes unpaid in some alt-circuit gig somewhere because you were all in it for the same reason. Liking Brody became accidental shorthand to assure someone you had a similar outlook on comedy and gigging. Many is the time that I have had furtive and highly self-indulgent conversations with like-minded acts or promoters about ‘the perfect gig’. Headlined by Pete & Dud (obviously), there has to be some element of the proceedings that is equal parts unique and uplifting – something that captures the one-time-only spirit of adventure the gig, bottles it and distils it. Brody would have been my pick for that. I bet he was hellish to be around though sometimes. I guess that’s sort of the point.
Fun Brody Stevens story: I went to a Nationals game where Zach Galifianakis threw out of the first pitch. I tossed him my hat to sign, but Brody intercepted it. He signed it instead, yelled "I WAS IN THE HANGOVER, TOO," and threw it back to me. He ruled.
Brandon Stroud, Twitter
I had the pleasure of corresponding with Brody in 2010. I had heard rumours about a UK trip and a few sporadic gigs and wanted to sound him out and maybe make it into a tour. It came to nothing, as these things do, but Brody became a keen and eager and friendly correspondent and encouraged me to keep at it. Push and believe! Sound advice for us all.
It is said that though he was such an honest sufferer of several mental afflictions, this passing was as sudden as it was untimely and no one in his close network (and he had a strong one) saw any signs of overt difficulty. It just goes to show, as if further proof were needed, what a cruel and horrible place mental ill-health can be. Friendship Adventure are committed to doing what small part we can to make help more accessible, and more on that later, but for now we take time to celebrate Brody Stevens and all his eccentric positive energy.
Depression is hard, and awful, and unforgiving. And so he is gone. But, cold comfort perhaps, It says a lot about someone if their memorial is billed as the Brody Stevens Festival of Friendship.
Poisitive Energy! Push and Believe! Enjoy It.