Bryan Callen | Mixed Mental Arts (Episode 621)

Bryan Callen (@bryancallen) is an actor, comedian, and podcaster who grew up traveling the world. He holds a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is certain of comedy’s power to change the world, and is older than you probably think he is.

“Embrace the chaos.” -Bryan Callen

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Why you should welcome the advice of an expert who tells you you’re doing it all wrong — no matter what “it” happens to be.
  • How growing up all over the world and feeling like an outsider makes perpetual reinvention a natural way to face and conquer challenges.
  • Dealing with rejection on a personal and professional level.
  • You may never be the best at something you enjoy; don’t let it deter you from striving to be better.
  • How creating the architecture for a full life defuses otherwise devastating setbacks.
  • And so much more…


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(Download Transcript Here)

Bryan Callen is an original cast member of MADtv, co-host of Mixed Mental Arts with Hunter Maats, co-host of The Fighter and the Kid Podcast with former UFC Heavyweight contender Brendan Schaub, and features fairly prominently in his own acclaimed standup special Never Grow Up.

Unless you’ve been on a media blackout for the past twenty years, you’ve seen him on everything from Oz to Frasier to Old School to Ride Along to How I Met Your Mother to The Hangover to Californication to The Goldbergs. He truly believes in comedy as a great neutralizer that can solve problems and change the world. But in case that doesn’t work out, he does have a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

More About This Show

Unless you’re using the examples of James Bond or Captain Nemo to gauge what passes for typical, Bryan Callen hasn’t lived a typical life. He was born in Manila to American parents of Irish, Italian, and Native American descent. His father was an international banker, so Bryan lived overseas until he was fourteen years old in various countries including Philippines, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Greece, and Saudi Arabia. He made it stateside in time to graduate from Northfield Mount Hermon High School in Gill, Massachusetts in 1985.

“I had great parents, but it was a very chaotic upbringing if you compare it to most people because I was moved every year,” says Bryan. “I remember when I was thirty-two; I bought a house and I put things on the wall. And it dawned on me that I’d never put anything on a wall.”

Rather than reflecting on this as a negative experience, Bryan is grateful that he was constantly on the go growing up. It kept him always poised to adapt to any situation, befriend virtually any crowd of strangers, stay in shape, learn new languages, and remain curious. It allowed him to, as the old adage goes, “be a river, not a pond.”

With a wealth of opportunities in front of him, he eventually had to break the somewhat devastating (or at least moderately disappointing) news to his folks that he wanted to be an actor.

“I knew that it was going to be very hard for my father, because he grew up poor,” says Bryan. “I was a dreamer; he just didn’t understand me — and he shouldn’t have! I have an imagination and I was just a weird kid, man! I grew up so differently than this guy from Milwaukee, who grew up sort of with blue collar roots. And here I was, living overseas and my father was a banker and I never wanted for anything. I was a happy-go-lucky jackass. That was my defense mechanism to be a complete idiot. Not a very good student or any of that.

“So for him, he thought I was going to be a failure. He was worried that he was going to have to support me the rest of his life because I wanted to be an actor — of course I wanted to be an actor! I wanted all of the attention! And I don’t blame him. For a long time it was very difficult for him until I got MADtv. But again, I listened to that little voice.”

While Bryan’s father may not have fully understood this motivation, he agreed to financially support his son’s direction, which allowed Bryan to live in New York and fully focus on the study of acting. Now fifty, Bryan knows how lucky he really was at this point in his life and admits he wouldn’t mind slapping some of the cockiness out of his twenty-one-year-old self.

“I never had to worry about having a job,” says Bryan. “I had the luxury of being able to call my dad when I needed money — all the way into my twenties — but I could go to theater school and I could spend time using my imagination.”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about why opening up to accept a few simple pointers from an expert can increase effectiveness sevenfold (or more) in any field — whether it’s comedy, tennis, or parenting, why constant reinvention is just business as usual for a globetrotter like Bryan (and how this has helped him adapt to any situation set before him), why being the best at something you enjoy doesn’t have to be the goal — but it shouldn’t deter you from striving to be better, the importance of knowing what not to think about, and lots more.


If you enjoyed this session with Bryan Callen, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1162 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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