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Interview: Brooks Wheelan

The stand-up comic and former Saturday Night Live player comes to New Orleans Nov. 12



There's a brachiosaurus skeleton model at O'Hare International Airport, which reminds Brooks Wheelan: Jurassic World sucked.

  "I've been berating it onstage," he says. "What network executive was like, 'All right, dinosaurs ain't doing enough. We need 'em on dirt bikes. We need dinosaurs in the X-Games so kids are interested.'"

  Despite his non-love for the crown jewel of New Orleans' Hollywood South blockbusters, Wheelan returns — excitedly — to the city for a Nov. 12 show at Freret Street Publiq House, one of the last stops on a stand-up tour. He performed stand-up at several small local shows last year while in New Orleans filming a pilot from comedian Sean Patton called Yes, And... about a bumbling New Orleans improv troupe.

  "That's when I realized, I'm not mature enough to be in New Orleans that long," Wheelan says. "It's like Las Vegas' cooler, sort-of-racist grandpa. ... I'm trying to live healthy on this part of the tour. The last one got a little wild. It's going to be hard in New Orleans."

  Wheelan — a former featured player on Saturday Night Live, which he joined a day after quitting a job working as a biomedical test engineer — released his debut stand-up album, This is Cool, Right? earlier this year, and his Comedy Central Half Hour premiered in September.

  "I just amped it a million for the Half Hour," he says. "If I'm doing a special, let's make it special. ... They cut a lot of the weird stuff out. I did a bit where Comedy Central ran out of money so I had to be my own sound guy. I was carrying around the mic like a boom mic for the first 10 minutes."

  On his current tour, Wheelan detours slightly from his ridiculous growing pains storytelling ("barely real things or incredibly absurd things") as he navigates the end of his 20s and "being an idiot and trying to fit in the world," he says.

  "All I do is fumble everything," he says. "I gotta start talking about it. I keep doing insanely dumb things thinking they're great ideas. ... Something triggers a memory, or a week after I do something I realize what I've done, then I talk about it and try to figure out why I did it and what the point is of why I do it. Sometimes it's a little too much self therapy. Like, 'Oh, I forgot to make that funny.'"

  The Iowa native moved to Los Angeles after college to pursue comedy before getting the gig at SNL for the 2013-2014 season. He announced his exit via Twitter: "FIRED FROM NEW YORK IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT!" Wheelan also has made several late-night TV appearances and appeared on HBO's Girls. He recently sold a "super dark scripted comedy" pilot to IFC ("step one of a 400-step process") and does not miss having a job as a biomedical engineer.

  "I was the guy who kind of shows up hungover but gets his work done then leaves immediately," he says. "When I quit and went to SNL, my boss called like, 'We were going over your stuff and we honestly cannot believe how much you actually did do here. We thought you were just an idiot, but we liked you.'"

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