Comedian Brody Stevens, or Steven Brody Stevens as he often refers to himself, or Steven Brody, his given name, is an interesting character. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, he is an L.A. based comic who has had small roles in The Hangover, Due Date, and The Hangover Part II. He has done audience warm-up over 2,500 times for shows such as Chelsea Lately and The Best Damn Sports Show, Period. He played baseball in college at Arizona State. He believes in positive energy. Most recently his big break came in 2013 when Comedy Central aired his show, Brody Stevens: Enjoy It!, which was originally intended to track the comedian’s rise to the next level for HBO, but ended up chronicling the comedian’s manic breakdown and subsequent recovery. There is no need to look up his credits; one can simply attend one of his shows, during which Stevens will review all of his credits and mental health issues while eliciting laughs with a blast of energy that infiltrates the crowd.
Stevens performed at Johnny D’s, or Jimmy D’s as he repeatedly called it, in Somerville, MA, on Thursday night and held the crowd’s attention for the length of a marathon set that lasted just under two hours. The set opened with Stevens not on the stage and equipped with a tambourine, walking boot and cane (he said he had fallen off a stage and broke a bone in his foot), slowly making his way to the stage to the tune of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Ni**as in Paris. Once on stage, the comic stripped off his headphones and two layers of sweatshirts and was ready to go.
Among jokes about his appearance: “I scratch your back, you shave mine,” “I was a model in Serbia…I was on the cover of Camel Beat magazine,” and answering a question about his over-sized eyeglasses, which he offered cost $70 and had no prescription (“I don’t like my eyebrows right now”), Stevens opened up about his mental health issues. He said sometimes he gets lonely and he goes “down to the batting cages just to play catch.”
The majority of Stevens’ set was spent recounting his public meltdown, which he broadcast live via twitter @BrodyismeFriend. Stevens had hit a string of successes and decided to stop taking his medication. After ignoring the concerns of his friends, including fellow comedians Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Silverman, over his manic behavior, Stevens was taken from his apartment naked into custody by the LAPD following a shower. Although it is a serious matter, Stevens is able to retell the story and talk about mental health issues in a way that makes the audience laugh.
The comedian spent 17 days in the psychiatric ward at UCLA and was put back on medication. Thursday night, when responding to the negatives in his life or disruptions from the audience, Stevens reassured the crowd, “It’s okay, I’m on a beta-blocker now.” But his television show revealed the ups and downs of his recovery.
Stevens battled depression and counted on friends and exercise to balance the lows. During the course of the show he reconciled with comedian and late-night talk show host Chelsea Handler after Stevens had left the show unceremoniously, and performed on Conan, which was considered his return to stability and success and was shared in a touching moment with his mother and sister backstage.
Over the course of the hour and forty-five minute set, Stevens would occasionally drop the microphone, using his booming voice to reinvigorate the crowd when he sensed the energy was dipping. He also interacted with the crowd, walking through the audience asking people what they did or what they wanted to be when they grew up. Stevens also stopped one woman who was leaving and brought her next to the stage, where he flirted with her before allowing her to take a “selfie” with him (he stayed after the show to take pictures on stage with fans). He even displayed his musical talents by drumming on a chair to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song to change the pace.
There is no denying that Brody Stevens is a singular act, without any clear comedy predecessor. But the comedian wanted to distinguish between his onstage persona and his actual personality, saying, “I’m nothing like I am in real life,” which he then asked the crowd to tweet to him because it was a good line. Though comedians with mental-health issues are not a rarity, Stevens’ use of mental health as a source of laughs is completely unique and completely accessible to true comedy fans. Stevens will be performing Saturday night in Rhode Island at the Providence Comedy Connection before returning to L.A.
By David Tulis