You probably saw Bert Kreischer’s mega-viral story on YouTube that led to his film The Machine, now in theaters everywhere. What you may not have heard about is the dedication and behind-the-scenes grind that helped establish lucrative branding and business success for the superstar comic.
Kreischer was dubbed “The Number One Partier in the Nation” by Rolling Stone in 1997 in a story detailing his time spent at Florida State, which led to the 2002 comedy National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, starring Ryan Reynolds.
In conjunction with Van Wilder, Bert saw some doors open in entertainment after being discovered by Will Smith and later watched them get booted off their hinges once he became a fan favorite on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Now, after seeing his own podcasts (Bertcast, Two Bears One Cave, and Something’s Burning) take off, following his latest Netflix
“It’s so funny. There’s a part of me that really wants to talk about the hard work because I think a lot of times people think that I’m just a drunk Forrest Gump and that— and I am very, very lucky,” Bert told me over Zoom. “While I like isolating luck because I think it’s easier for someone to be able to see your path when you show the luck that’s been tethered through it, I put a lot of thought into a lot of things that people don’t think about business-wise.
“Like the way to run a company and what I want and what I need. And it’s very primal. It’s not mathematical. It’s just primal. I look at everything as a fan and how I would enjoy things. And as a fan, I’m not a very cynical guy. I like to have a good time. I really do. And so I look at presenting a product for you to have a good time if you’re a fan. And so that’s all I do. But it’s fun.”
Bert’s business acumen was on display when he recently gave another well known comic advice on how to handle their potential comedy special taping at a large venue.
“If you’re going to do Friday and Saturday, start with Saturday,” Bert told the stand up that he didn’t want to name. “‘Start with Saturday and sell those shows first. Then add Friday.’ And he goes, ‘Why wouldn’t I do it the other way?’
“And I said, ‘Because when you shoot a special, that first taping, the very first taping, all the cameramen are trying to figure out all their angles to try to figure out their focuses. They’re trying to figure out everything. Everyone: the director, the cameraman, the lighting. Everyone.
“So even if you get it on that first show, you’re never going to use that first show because not everyone else is going to get it.’ I said, ‘On the second show, they’re going to be pretty dialed in.
“That’ll be a great show for you. You’ll be loose and they’ll be loose. But the banger. The banger show is that third show because those are your die-hard fans.
“They bought their tickets first. Everyone on the crew has had two shows to get ready for this taping. You are loose and you know you got it yesterday. And that’s the show that counts. That’s the show you’ll use.’
“And I go, ‘And then if you’re lucky, that fourth show, you’ll be so f***ing loose and so will the cameramen that—’ And I’m watching this person look at me going like, ‘You think about this?’ I go, ‘What do you mean, you think about this?’ I go, ‘I think about all this s***.’
“Stand up is very important to me and I love this business. There’s nothing I love more than entertaining people.”
Bert credits friend Joe Rogan for establishing a culture of helping out other comics.
“Helping each other out and getting each other to blow up is the funnest part, the funnest f***ing part,” Kreischer stated.
A major reason for Bert’s stellar success is being motivated by the fun he has with other comics and the fun he has onstage in front of his fans.
“It’s part of the reason I started taking my shirt of is I had to remind myself that this had to be fun. You’d get out on the road and I had two young kids, I was doing Travel Channel for two weeks, then I’d have a week off and I’d do stand up. I would get there Thursday and I wouldn’t have any tickets sold and it was a half-full room and I was like, ‘I have five more f***ing shows to do.
“So I literally rip my shirt off to remind myself this should be silly, this should be fun. I’d put my shirt back on, but one day I forgot and one lady was like, ‘Keep it off.’ Then I kept it off. But the fun is what motivates me, entirely.”
Popping the top off may have been what helped Kreischer keep things light working the road early in his career, but it also drew tough criticism from fellow comics when doing spots at hometown clubs like LA’s Comedy Store.
“It was really tough, it was really tough. I mean it was still tough four years ago,” Bert said. “Before the pandemic, I remember people would just make a snide comment, and then other people loved it.
“Norm Macdonald f****ing… he was laughing. So when I got off stage, one of the times I got to hang out with him, he just kept going, ‘I love your shirt’s off. Your shirt’s off. Your shirt’s off. You don’t mention it. Your shirt’s off.’
“Even Letterman, David Letterman I’m not going to say is a fan, but he’s voicemailed me and talked about me in interviews, and he finds it hilarious that I perform with my shirt off and that I don’t mention it. That I just take it off and perform shirtless.
“And then there’s comics that can be a little [crass] and they’re like, ‘You’re not going to take your shirt off, are you?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, man. Like, I would never tell you what to wear on stage. It makes me comfortable. I’m not comfortable performing with a shirt on.’
“I was listening to Rogan and Shane Gillis was like, ‘Yeah, it’s funny when people critique him for taking his shirt off. They’ve never been in an arena when he takes it off. The pop is f***ing huge.’”
The Machine film is coming out at a perfect time in Bert’s career. He’s not an up-and-coming comic where his first big movie could make or break him. He’s established elsewhere and has a vast and loyal following.
“I’m so lucky that I failed for as long as I did. I mean, I’m being dead serious,” Kreischer told me. “Everyone should be as lucky as I am to find success at 44 and to have a movie come out at 50, because I mean it’s the perfect code. I look at Amy Schumer and all the pressure that was on her at what, 27? I can’t imagine.
“There’s no pressure on me, I mean I’m failing upwards. I feel like I’m just the luckiest f***ing guy in the world, and it’s perfect. I’ve told this story now for like, I think like 10 years? I still tell it every time on stage, and it’s just like f*** all the rules to comedy. That’s how I feel.
“They tell you, ‘You got to retire good jokes. You can’t keep telling them. You can’t perform with your shirt off. If you do television, you’re not gonna do movies.’ I’m not listening to a f***ing soul ever, and I’ve broken every f***ing rule, and I feel like everyone should be this lucky.”
Since the first time Bert told “The Machine” joke onstage, nearly 10 years ago by his estimation, he’s pitched a movie version of the famous tale all over Hollywood. Finally, Legendary Pictures were keen on Kreischer, and after a couple tweaks, the story.
Legendary later told Kreischer that Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame would play his father, only no one had run it by Hamill yet. The company set up a Zoom with Mark and Bert to see if there would be chemistry.
“His first f***ing words were, ‘Why do you take your shirt off? Shouldn’t you wear a collared shirt or a coat or a blazer on stage?’ And those were my dad’s exact words,” Kreischer recalled. “Literally I was like, ‘Yep, he’s my dad. He is my dad. He is my dad to a tee.’”
Legendary wanted to have Bert make the big announcement of who would be playing his dad on his social media. This provided Kreischer with an opportunity to witness Mark’s masterfulness up close.
“And so we were taking a private jet to Serbia. I got a bottle of champagne and two glasses. I had a track suit on,” Bert set up the story with. “And I was like, ‘I’ll do a read. And then Mark, when you come by—’ And he goes, ‘Just start the read.’ I’m like, ‘It’s so my dad, it’s so my dad.’
“So I do the read, ‘Hey guys, I’m going to Serbia—’ And I go, ‘And playing my dad, take a look.’ And Mark goes, ‘Get on the plane, big boy.’ And it was one take! One take! Literally, if you watch the promo, you can see me go like, ‘I guess we got it.’ I’m like, ‘All right, let’s go make a f***ing movie.’ One take. He is so f***ing good.”
In June, Bert will be hitting the road for his “Fully Loaded Comedy Festival” tour. Like his podcasts and arena shows, Kreischer is giving a rub to many fellow comedians by sharing the stage with them on the tour.
Veteran comics Jim Norton, Dave Attell, and Lewis Black will be joining Bert on the road for some of the shows. The inclusion of such comics as those three point to the type of reverence Kreischer has for the comedians who came before him, especially those from the “Tough Crowd” era.
“I get Dave Attell on Fully Loaded, and you watch people, they’re blown away,” Kreicher said. “Look, guys like Jim (Norton) and Dave aren’t on social media the way I am. They aren’t jumping on every podcast the way I do. I mean, I don’t think Dave really promotes any of his shows, or Jim for that matter. And they’re legends.
“My favorite part is my daughter does Fully Loaded. She is a PA on Fully Loaded to sort of watch her watch these guys is amazing. I mean, my daughters went to the roast, Whitney did a roast (“The Roast of Bert Kreischer” on OnlyFans).
“And they saw Jim Norton roast me. And they were like, ‘Dad, who the hell is that?’ When he said to Donnell Rawlings, ‘You look like the Tootsie Roll Pop and the owl,’ my daughters were like, ‘How does he think of stuff like that?’ I mean, Jim Norton is one of the quickest, funniest, smartest [comics] and I love where he’s going with the stand-up.”