David Koechner was scheduled to call me at 7:30 am Pacific time. Actor, writer, producer and now stand-up David Koechner called me at 7:30 am Pacific time on-the-dot. Comedians aren’t usually punctual. Or early risers. Or known around the world for a catch phrase.
The SNL, Naked Trucker, The Office and Anchorman alum is a new addition to the stand up scene. After training at Second City for sketch and improv, the performer is now going on stage alone. We spoke to Koechner about becoming a stand up later in life, having 5 kids and hats. Hats are very important.
So you’re up early because you have 5 children.
And that’s kind of absurd.
And there’s also a Chinese proverb that says “No man who rises before the sun 365 days a year can fail.”
Are you making that up or is that actually a Chinese proverb?
No, that’s an actual Chinese proverb.
Do you believe that?
Of course, time for me to start working.
Okay, but you’re also a performer of the comedy variety and usually shows aren’t in the morning.
That’s when you get work done.
I can’t go out every night anymore, I’m home with the family. I mean occasionally I’ll go out to shows in town, but most nights I don’t.
I feel horrible saying this, but I didn’t even realize that you did stand up.
Oh, you wouldn’t know I only started doing it about four years ago.
What made you interested in doing it?
A couple things. Number one, I love doing live performance. I’ve always done live. Number two, it forces you to create new material and that’s always a healthy thing. And, you know, what if you’ve got a slow moment go out and make money.
This doesn’t seem like a slow moment.
No, no it’s not in fact, but this show was booked last fall and it wasn’t predicated on anticipating on anything slow. I guess the real overall answer would be building a business.
You’re from the Second City, you’re from the Midwest. And at the time when you were at the Second City, Chicago wasn’t the most stand-up friendly town. It seems times have now changed a little bit.
Yeah, that may be. You know I was on the Chicago scene for quite awhile. When I was there doing sketch and improv there was definitely a prejudice against stand-ups because stand-ups tended to only tell jokes in the scene instead of playing to the relationship in the scene. I think it’s an ignorant thing to have a prejudice against one style or another, it’s just what it is.
Are you informing your stand-up with that background or is it just more jokes?
It’s both. There are jokes with stories too. You can’t just tell a long story without jokes in it.
Of course, of course.
So yeah certainly my style is influenced by my improv-sketch background but its absolutely not just an improvised show. And that’s what a lot of people think, like “oh he’s just going to improvise.” Why would I do that, people have paid their money I should be able to write them a show.
I am completely fine with comics improvising their entire show. Eddie Izzard improvises a lot of his stuff.
Certain people have a high aptitude of success and that’s fine just to decide not to have an act and go out and talk for an hour. Some people can make it work, not everyone can.
This is not a judgement on style but what do you think yours is more informed by the more independent Largo scene or the Laugh Factory, The Improv?
Oh, certainly Largo.
Once again, a horrible word, but it’s kind of an alt.
I was certainly informed by the alternative comic scene cause I was out here in the 90’s and performed on those Largo comedy shows for years. I’d do all kinds of character pieces and cover shows.
Ever since I’ve been in Los Angeles I’ve always been doing a live show, one type or another. But now I’m a father with five kids so that informs my act as much or more than anything I’ve done previously. It’s certainly not all about kids, I have a good long chunk about relationships and how I think we come to make we have a deeper understanding of the process now.
Are you doing this tour in non-traditional venues because of your Largo upbringing or is it you don’t want to spend four nights in once club in one city?
It is the Largo, my friend. But it is nice to stay home because I can get in and out and, uh, get back home. It’s fortuitous too because right now I’m writing a variety show for NBC and taking any time off is a hazard.
Yeah completely, you seem to bring up, well I brought it up, but you seem to actually care and love your family.
Oh, of course.
That’s nice, that’s a nice thing. It’s kind of weird because I know your age and you had children later in life. Are you happy with that decision do you wish you had been younger or had started stand up younger?
I do wish I had started stand up younger. I do wish I had done it currently in Chicago with sketch. While I was in Chicago I did take acting classes as well as improv classes with sketch I’m very happy I did that, all at once. I do wish I had informed it with more stand up because then you have to write and that can only help you. But as far as having children and getting married when I did I mean that had to happen because I needed to have my life first. I could explore all the things that I needed to explore before I settled down.
Is it weird for a stranger to ask that question?
I’ve decided to have an interview. Perhaps if I were a different person more sensitive things like that would bother me but I don’t care. There didn’t seem to be any judgment on it.
It’s a fact, I did get married in life. For me personally that leads to a more successful marriage for me if I had gotten married at an earlier age I certainly wasn’t mature enough for it to work.
Of course. I’m not agreeing that you weren’t mature enough I’m just agreeing with the statement.
I would hazard to guess I’m not mature enough now.
She did know that she was marrying someone form the Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show.
Let’s see, we had just started dating January ’97. I don’t think we were doing The Trucker, I’m trying to remember when we went out and did this movie Dill Scallion and that’s where Dave Allen and I hung out, and he said he’d come to the show with me. So I want to say it was during our courtship was The Trucker Show
You already in L.A at the time?
Yes, I had just moved to L.A in ’96. My wife had moved out here four years prior. She’s from Kansas City, Kansas, and I’m form a small town in Missouri. So yeah we’re both from the same region of the country we both just needed to move 1700 miles away to meet.
Your role in Thank You For Smoking was delightful. You play a real good bad person.
I tend, that happens again and again doesn’t it?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBELC_vxqhI
Do you want…
Do I want to play that?
Do you want to play horrible, horrible people?
No. Champ Kind is a horrible person…
It just tends to happen. It tends to happen. Maybe I have the power to observe horrible proclivities and bring them to life. Some people think I might be actually like that but nothing could be further from the truth. So I guess I’m doing something okay.
What’s your favorite mispronunciation of your last name?
Oh well, the favorite has to be “cock-ner.”
“Cock-ner.” That makes sense.
Oh yeah, “cock-ner.”
But here’s the thing the way we pronounce it, from a small town, is a mispronunciation.
So it’s not supposed to be “keck-ner”?
No, in fact it should not be. I’ve talked to plenty of journalists it should be pronounced “kursh-ner.” There should be an umlaut over the “o”, nowhere in the English language does the “oe” make the short “e” sound. I also think it had something to do with people not remembering my name because they look at it one way and say “oh it’s kosh-ner” and they hear otherwise. And like most Americans with their trouble, they go okay I quit.
But it’s an on-going debate. Here’s the thing: I don’t care how people pronounce it.
You seem to be very comfortable with that stuff.
Well, I mean what are you going to do? I mean it’s wrong form the outset. My ancestors were mispronouncing their own last name. I have 36 first cousins on my dads side all named “keck-ner” what am I going to do?
How many brothers, how many siblings do you have if you have 36 cousins?
I have five siblings, I’m from a family of 6.
And most of my uncles had large families too.
So you might not even be done with child-bearing?
Oh, yes we are.
Where do you get your hats?
Is this an everyday thing? Are you always wearing bowler?
Not always a bowler, but I wear hats for a dual purpose. A, style. And actually more importantly my bald pate and pale skin requires that I keep distance and cover for myself from the sun and this kind of hat also covers the ears. It has a practical purpose.