One of the biggest regrets that I have about the Comedy Store documentary is that I didn’t do a piece on Bret Ernst. Bret was a major part of the Comedy Store scene and I missed out on him. I was gone during his era, and he wasn’t around much when I came back, and to tell the truth there were so many comics to cover he just fell through the cracks. I love his work, but what I really want to write about here is his role in comedians putting out there own specials. He was the first. That’s what everyone says. Bert Kreisher has said it Tony Hinchliffe told me this during my interview with him for the doc, and it seems it’s true.
It puts him in a league with Dane Cook for the Myspace break, and Burr, Rogan, and Maron for their podcast breakthrough, but if you look at the world today, the ground Bret broke may even be more important. The freedom that comes from being able to release your own special, put it out to the world, own it and let it grow is exhilarating. It means no one is in your way but yourself and if you get out of your way and just do good work, you’ll find and grow your audience.’ The important thing about this lane opening up for a comic, is it’s the long road to the center of town, but the most rewarding on every level. Selling your stuff forever to Netlfix or HBO, Showtime, etc, is a faster road home, but in the end you don’t own your work, know your fans, your worth, or how to take yourself to the next level.
A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THE NEW WORLD
Bret’s a great example of the long road home, but the upside of it as well. His first special Principal’s Office, has now been seen by at least 4 million people. His next one, out now, Domesticated Animal, is on it’s way to grow to that number and more. He’s cultivated a hardcore group of fans, which hopefully as the new world really develops now, will support him when he comes out with a special he drops himself behind a paywall like Andrew Schultz has just done, or Bobby Kelly, and Dane Cook. That’s the idea for a comic today. You have to have the chops, a point of view that’s unique, great material, of course, but there was a time when if you had all that and more and the gatekeepers of the moment didn’t let you in, you weren’t getting in. Today if you come fully loaded no one’s going to be able to block you at the gate. You flip them off and you start your own party. That’s what this guy has done, and he’s done it damn well.
Watch Domestic Animal and you see a fully formed comic voice that is doing what he does because he loves it and he has no choice. He reminds me of my friend, Mike Young, with a ‘you can’t stop me attitude.’ It’s freeing to watch Bret’s attitude like it is to watch early Burr or Dice, or Sebastian. Just a ‘I know I’m right so much, that I know I don’t know shit’ attitude. A true comics POV, ‘The whole world’s messed up but there’s great stuff to complain about. I’m sick of everybody and the top of that list is myself.’
His stuff isn’t jokes. I don’t think he really does any jokes. It’s all stories and attitude. It’s a tour through his mind. I recommend both specials. I just think Domesticated is the better of the two. The more mature. You can really see him coming into his own. It really does take twenty years to be great. There is no shortcut. He’s a good twenty in and is definitely one of the best working today.