We like David Koechner. We interviewed him a few years ago and he was very nice. We interviewed him again to preview this weekend’s Arlington Drafthouse shows and he’s still very nice. The biggest difference between our 2016 and 2014 conversations? The actor and comedian was a little hungover from seeing Wilco the night before.
Rather than make this part of our Nightmare Gig series or a Dream Jukebox inclusion, we’re running it as a Q & A because Koechner is a great partner in conversation. He’s an active and engaged listener so his responses don’t feel canned. Or boring. He’s the kind of person that gives Midwesterners a good name.
David Koechner performs at the Arlington Drafthouse Sep 22-24. His new movie, Priceless, opens in theaters Oct 14.
Brightest Young Things: What’s the worst show you’ve ever played?
BYT: You don’t have to name names if you don’t want to. The shows that usually are the most interesting usually involve people being arrested, or stabbing or things like that.
DK: Arrested or stabbing?
BYT: Yeah. Those happened a few times so…
DK: (Laughs) Uh well I don’t have anything that dramatic as far as a performance goes. I’ve never participated in a show that ended in a fight in my memory. One of the first shows I ever got payed for was at a race track out in Chicago. Fuck, what’s it called?
BYT: Is it in Chicago or to the west of Chicago in the suburbs?
DK: Yeah, is it Maywood? Where the trotters are.
BYT: Yeah, it’s Maywood.
DK: We did an improv show at Maywood, I don’t even know who it was for. The first paid gig I ever had was at Maywood racetrack, at night, for I don’t even know how much. I don’t know if it was for heavy hitters or what but it was not successful. I remember Jimmy Carrane was the organizer of some regard and he Xeroxed, I said Xeroxed, off the money that I made, I think it was $50. It was the first money I made in show business but the gig was a misery. They had no idea what we were doing and no interest in what we were doing.
The second toughest was two summers ago in Cincinnati. Outdoor comedy fest at a beer festival.
BYT: Oh that’s a horrible Idea.
DK: Horrible. There were two other stages going that I could hear bouncing, echoing off of where I was on this concrete amphitheater. And I got there, it’s hard to get to Cincinnati from LA, I had a lay over and the flights were delayed so I arrived as I was supposed to go on, so there was no way for me to check out the environment of where I was playing. All they had was this one spotlight, made you feel like a train was coming and the noise was nearly as distracting. At the same time it was close to the ballpark so fireworks were going off and I was supposed to do comedy and the closest seat to the stage was about 25 yards away. I had no sense of where I was or what was happening.
BYT: That’s great.
DK: So again, not a bloodbath.
BYT: What’s one album that would be on your ideal jukebox?
DK: If I can only have one album can I have Lou Reed’s Greatest Hits?
BYT: You can pick The Very Best of Lou Reed.
DK: Okay, very good. That’s what I’ll pick.
BYT: Why that album?
DK: Uh, it’s rock and roll. It is rock and roll. It has everything, its got blues, its got punk, and straight rock and roll, and poetry.
BYT: And it’s got a lot of needle drugs.
DK: Well, at least one song. Well, two songs. It’s got “Heroine” and its also got, oh fuck, what’s the name of that, “Street Hassle.” Do you know “Street Hassle?”
BYT: What album is that from?
DK: I think there’s an album called Street Hassle.
(sings) Precious and gorgeous, oh what a hunk of muscle…
Oh also, on that song, Bruce Springsteen does an early piece of “Thunder Road.”
DK: Yes, if you listen to “Street Hassle” in the middle of it you’ll hear Bruce Springsteen do a little drop in. It’s like a spoken word, it’s not ca horus. But it’s a few spoken word lines, of what seems like poetry. He goes “Hey man, that’s just a lie, a lie you tell yourself. That’s a lie some people know but it’s a penny for a wish, but a wish wont make it so, girl. But tramps like us were born to pay.”
BYT: Oh shit. I had no idea.
DK: Yes! You’ve got to listen to “Street Hassle.” 11 minutes. It’s got cello in it. It’s another needle song and someone dies in it. But there’s also another awesome line in there that Lou Reed says. It’s coming to me, just a second. Again I’m a bit hung over from the show last night. Lou Reed basically his advice to any person “Some people have no choice and they can never find a voice to talk with that they can call their own and the first thing they see that allows the right to be, well they follow it. Know what it’s called? Bad luck. bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum.” I guarantee you…Are you a Lou Reed fan?
BYT: Here’s the thing, I used to be a bartender and work in bars and you can only hear Velvet Underground and Lou Reed so much before you’re just like, “fuck this guy, he should’ve seen a therapist.” Know what I mean?
DK: (laughs) Not me. (laughs)
BYT: When it comes to that trifecta of Bowie and Iggy and Lou Reed, Lou Reed is always the last pick to me
DK: Not for me.
BYT: I like him.
DK: He’d be my first. The other album, if I get a second album, it would be The Replacements Tim.
BYT: The problem with that is half of our people have picked that.
DK: Ahhh they should!
BYT: Yeah because The Replacements is the best bar band of all time and number two is Big Star.
DK: (sings) We are the sons of no one, bastards of young.
BYT: Here’s the problem with Paul Westerberg, same problem with Lou Reed. After a certain point, stop blaming mom, just go see a therapist, do some volunteer work. In “Waitress in the Sky,” the protagonist is actually the villain in that song. Westerberg is just an asshole.
DK: Agreed. Agreed, agreed. But Lou’s never the villain.
BYT: The way he refereed to people he dated, and refers to them as slurs, yeah, he’s never the villain.
DK: Oh you talking about Lou?
DK: In his songs?
DK: Oh you mean in interviews after?
BYT: In real life.
DK: Okay, but… Alright but we’re talking, were gonna, gonna parse out the musical poetry versus what actually happened in life. And I don’t know what that…
Did he trash her later, and say he didn’t date her?
BYT: Stuff like that. This is before he essentially became a decent person due to Laurie Anderson. This is late 70’s, pre-Laurie Anderson, sort of disavowing his past, old Lou Reed.
DK: Oh I didn’t know that.
BYT: Yeah, well that’s the thing I care way too much about stuff that I really shouldn’t, because it ruins all your heroes.
DK: No, no. You do have to care because we do have to be a witness to our art. So you can’t have it both ways. We all do grow as humans.
BYT: If you don’t want to answer because it’s uncomfortable I completely understand, and you can go off the record as well, but you’ve been in this business a long time and I mean that as a compliment, the fact that you can pay your bills doing this is always impressive, and inevitably you’ve had to have met people that have just let you down.
DK: I hear what you’re saying, but really the only person that can let you down is yourself.
BYT: Because like you turn off that part of your brain that sees, like this is a bad idea and that’s how you get let down or like?
DK: Oh are you talking about being let down in life, or being let down as a business person, or let down as an artist? I mean there’s a bunch of different ways. But really it all comes back to you. You can only you let down by… that’s your own personal choice.
BYT: Sure. You’re also a family man and because you are, you’re not doing things that other people are doing for love and acceptance and joy. You have that in your home life. I don’t know if that’s fair to say.
DK: I think it is.
The thing, though, is you can only experience love if you have self love.
DK: I mean if you don’t have self love you can never find it outside of yourself. Cause if you have self love, and I think that’s our journey as humans, is to be, I think, whatever your religion is, it’s to fully realize your potential of love. Is to have fully realized self love then you can give love to others around you and to whatever, whoever you meet.
BYT: When did you verbalize that for the first time?
DK: I think I’ve been on that search for a long time and I’ve understood it. And my wife got her masters in spiritual psychology a year ago, so I guess it’s been reinforced in my head and in my house for a couple years (laughs).
BYT: Cause you’ve been with you’re wife long before you’re making money from this.
DK: Not long before. I met her the year after I was on SNL.
BYT: I thought you met her earlier, I apologize.
DK: No, no, I met her in 90-… I met her December 29, 1996. In an airport in Kansas City.
BYT: How did you meet her in an airport?
DK: We were both flying back to Los Angeles right before New Years Eve in ’96. She’d been living out here four or five years. I’d been living in LA for 6 months and her brother recognized me and started talking to me. Pat Morgan is overly familiar. And then I saw he was next to this very attractive woman. He talked to me for a while, then I realized “I don’t actually know you” and I sat down and she sat down beside me. She plopped down and invited me to her New Years Eve party and we started talking, and then they saved me a seat on the airplane. It was Vanguard which is like Southwest, they don’t have seat assignments, and that was that. So I can literally say that we have been together since the moment we met.
BYT: That’s adorable.
DK: (laughs) It actually is.
BYT: That’s amazing. Aw man, that’s… Good luck to your 5 kids to top that. Jesus.
DK: Well they’re living it so that’s topping it in a way.
BYT: That’s true. How old is your oldest?
DK: How about this. Here’s one. Here’s a really shitty, corny quote “our children are the bounty of our love.” (laughs for a while) What was your question?
BYT: How old is your oldest?
DK: Charlie is 17, he’s a senior in high school, Margot is 14, almost 15, she is a freshman in high school. Sargent and Audrey are 10, they are fifth graders, and Eve is 5, she just started kindergarten.
BYT: Wow. That must cost a lot of money.
DK: I know. Uh you know what, you find these parochial schools are cheaper. It does cost a lot of money. You know, think about this, if I want to travel with my family I have to purchase 7 airline tickets.
Just think about that. I feed 7 people every day. I house, feed and clothe seven people every day. And we have employees at the house. And we have 3 dogs, so I’m just throwing money out.
BYT: Do you think that because you’re a caretaker, and you’re obviously a family man and you have dogs, that actually helps you play an asshole a lot of the time cause you can kinda see through it?
DK: Oh no. Nope, I don’t think about those, well sometimes. You know what, what helps you as an actor when it comes to roles is that deeper understanding of so many different fractions of humanity. Because oftentimes, even in comedy, there is conflict. That’s what acting is, it’s exploring conflict. So those things, all of those measures of relationships that you have in your life help feed your and inform your ability to act.
But to get back to your question about an asshole. No, that’s the funnest thing to play.
Our job is to play. And if you can play an asshole you never get to do it in life, so what rich joy there is to go and do that and say awful things to people.
BYT: You probably can’t talk about this but are you involved in the new Twin Peaks?
DK: Oh yeah, I can talk about it because it got announced on Deadline in May. I shot it in February. But yes, I am in Twin Peaks, I don’t know how many episodes. It was so under wraps that I don’t know if I’m in one episode or three. I won’t tell you anything about what I play. I can only tell you I’m in it and I don’t know how many episodes I’m in. But it was a high point of my career. One of the high points of my career.
BYT: Can you confirm that its gonna actually come out, it’s been filmed, there’s no more filming?
DK: Correct. I heard summer 2017, but you can see that on the Internet somewhere.
BYT: Yes you can, but at the same time that’s still a crazy long ramp up.
DK: Well they shot quite a bit so it’s gonna take some time to edit. And then the rest is all business algorithms as to when to deliver it to the public.
BYT: Did you watch it when it first aired?
DK: I saw some of it.
I don’t think I had a VCR at the time, and so you couldn’t necessarily go back and watch it.
BYT: This is great. I’m excited.
DK: Well call back and let’s do another one whenever Twin Peaks comes out so we can talk in greater length about that particular thing.