Neal Brennan | 3 Mics (Episode 601)

Neal Brennan (@nealbrennan) is a comedy writer/producer/director, co-creator of Chappelle’s Show, and most recently featured in his live stand-up solo show 3 Mics now at Netflix.

“A buddy of mine calls me Benjamin Button ’cause he says I’m doing my career backwards.” -Neal Brennan

The Cheat Sheet:

  • How did Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics show come about, and what’s the idea behind it’s three parts: one-liners, emotional stuff, and stand-up?
  • The comedy writing process and how it mirrors real life.
  • A mindset to get a more realistic handle on the potential outcome of a given project or situation.
  • Tips on getting happy from a guy who’s tried everything — and why achievement can’t be a substitute for happiness.
  • When networking, remember Neal’s sage words: “No one’s going to help you in a way that’s not beneficial to them.”
  • And so much more…

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Neal Brennan may not (yet) be a household name, but he’s worked with plenty of people you’ve definitely heard of. If you (like most of the world between 2003-2006) ever paid attention to Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show, you’ve seen him credited as the co-creator along with the instantly recognizable Dave Chappelle.

On this show, Neal joins us to talk about the path that led him from being primarily a behind-the-scenes writer/director/producer to doing stand-up comedy and starring in his own specials — most recently 3 Mics, now showing on Netflix. To some it may look like a career in reverse; we think it might just be the beginning. We hope you’ll listen, learn, and enjoy this one with Neal Brennan!

More About This Show

If you haven’t seen Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics on Netflix yet, we think you should. Not just because this episode finds us talking to the man who made it, but because it’s not your typical stand-up special. There’s a lot more to it than a guy standing in front of a mic on stage before a live audience.

It’s a guy standing in front of three mics on stage before a live audience!

It’s funny, but it’s not all funny. It tackles serious issues, but it’s not all serious. It’s got long-form comedy monologues, but it’s not all long-form. It’s a unique format that allows for one-liners, emotional stuff, and stand-up within the same block of time, but just separated enough so we have an idea of what we’re in for depending on where Neal happens to be standing at the point of delivery.

So why did Neal take 3 Mics in this direction instead of the traditional, tried-and-true stand-up comedy format we’ve seen since before Lenny Bruce was in diapers?

“Stand-up is the best,” says Neal. “It’s better than any movie to me. It’s better than a TV show. It’s the best. But there’s times where it’s like, A) I don’t want to watch you for an hour, sort of one note. B) Great stand-up’s rare. I just wanted to do a different thing.”

Comedy as Networking

Neal comes from Philadelphia and grew up in a large Catholic family that spawned not one, but two comedians; his older brother Kevin was already doing stand-up when Neal was still in high school. As the youngest of ten kids, Neal was the cute and precocious one, but he also had the benefit of hanging out with his brother’s then-unknown comic friends like Dave Attell, Ray Romano, John Stewart, Louis CK, Jay Mohr, and his future writing partner, Dave Chappelle while working the door of a comedy club in New York City.

“I felt an affinity for them,” says Neal. “I would strike up conversations with them; I would pitch them jokes. I didn’t pitch a ton of people jokes, but Jay Mohr — we were roommates — he did a joke of mine. Chappelle did a joke. I was useful, in a way to them. Me and Chappelle were the same age, we got along really well, so I didn’t necessarily see it as networking, per se. I guess it was networking, but I didn’t think of it that way.”

This reminds us that “being useful” — or providing some kind of value to potential connections — may be the missing link a lot of people forget about when they try to network and fail miserably.

Neal gives us an example: “I have people often saying, ‘Hey, I’m an amateur comedian! Can I send you a link…watch my five minutes?’ And I’m like, ‘No, thank you.’

“People see me or somebody doing better than them in show biz — or doing well — as an opportunity. Once you feel like an opportunity, you’re going to shut off.”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about why actually being good at what you do is the best way to reach and network successfully with influencers in your field, how Neal writes comedy for other people, the challenges of writing for non-comedians, why depression lends itself to so many comedic voices, how a position of pessimism best serves the process of preparation (whether it’s for joke-writing, setting up a pitch, or going camping), how comedy is a meritocracy, why achievement can’t be a substitute for happiness, turning weaknesses into strengths by holding yourself accountable, how fame is ultimately useless, and lots more.

THANKS, NEAL BRENNAN!

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

Click here to thank Neal Brennan at Twitter!

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1132 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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