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This article was published 24/10/2011 (2042 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Bryan Callen's list of TV and movie credits could fairly be described under this heading: Movies and TV shows that any other actor would kill to be part of.
Since spending a couple of years in the cast of Fox's sketch-comedy series MADtv in the mid-'90s, the L.A.-based actor/comedian has contributed bit-part roles, guest spots and recurring-character appearances to dozens of big- and small-screen titles, including Sex and the City, Fat Actress, The West Wing, Oz, Californication, Frasier, How I Met Your Mother, Entourage, Old School, Bad Santa and The Hangover, in which he memorably played the vaguely ethnic proprietor of a Las Vegas wedding chapel.
But despite being one of the most recognizable and in-demand guest stars in Hollywood, Callen regularly clears his schedule so he can hit the road as a standup comedian -- a quest for laughter that finds him headlining at Rumor's Comedy Club this week from Wednesday to Saturday.
"I just did a gig in Santa Barbara -- this weird little room that my friend had set up -- and there were 20, count 'em, 20, people in the room," the 44-year-old comedian says by telephone from his L.A. home. "He asked me if I wanted to cancel the show, and I said, no -- it doesn't matter how many people are in the audience; there's just nothing like doing standup -- whether it's 20 people, 100 people or 400 people, doing a movie just can't compete with it.
"I'm up for a part in this really great movie with Robert DeNiro; it might happen, and what I was thinking yesterday was that if I get it, I'll be on the East Coast for the next two months, not being able to do standup. You know, you're on a movie set, there's a lot of big actors and it's very interesting, but you realize that it's really not as much fun in a lot of ways. It's very hard to compete with being up onstage for an hour, doing whatever you want to do, making people laugh and being like a mini rock star."
Doing a weekend gig at the comedy club in Santa Barbara is one thing, but making the long trek to the Canadian midwest at a time when the first snowfall is an any-day-now consideration is quite another.
"I love Canada," says Callen, who has performed in Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal but is making his first trip to Winnipeg this week. "I just love the audiences -- they get it, and they'll go with you; they're polite, but they're rowdy enough, and they're funny. There just seems to be a tradition of comedy in Canada that you can't argue with. I always, always have a good time when I'm there."
Besides, being on the move is something that comes very naturally. Born in the Phillipines while his banking-executive father was stationed overseas, Callan spent the first 14 years of his life in such exotic outposts as India, Pakistan, Greece and Lebanon before his family returned to the U.S. and settled in Massachusetts.
"When I was a kid, I was moved around a lot," he recalls. "And when you're constantly finding yourself in a whole different school than you were in before, as a boy, there are two ways to gain acceptance -- you can be a good athlete, or you can be funny. And as it turned out, I was an OK athlete, but I was a pretty good jackass. So that's kind of where I honed those skills, and when I get up onstage now, I think it's an extension of what I've been doing my entire life."
After earning a BA in history at American University in Washington, D.C., Callen worked briefly for the infamous and now-defunct Lehman Brothers brokerage in Manhattan and started dabbling in standup in New York City comedy clubs before moving to California to pursue his showbiz dream.
"I was headed down what you'd call the civilian route, the sensible route," he says. "And then I read this story about a woman who was dying of cancer, and they asked if there's anything she'd do differently, and she said, 'I'd never do anything because it made sense; I'd only do what I really wanted to do.' And I just realized that if I didn't at least try to make a living being a jackass, I was going to have some regrets.
"And now, as I'm travelling all over the world getting paid to make people laugh, I still can't believe that I was able to pull this off."
Callen on stage isn't a typical dispenser of goofy observations and oft-reworked comedy topics; instead, he lets his imagination run wild, creating often-bizarre premises and then fully investing himself, both verbally and physically, in each moment.
"For me, standup is a way for me to do what I want to do and behave how I want to behave," he explains. "I have a pretty rich fantasy life, so in a way standup is almost all about who I'd rather be than who I am."
Wednesday to Saturday
Rumor's Comedy Club
Tickets $17 Wed./Thurs.; $20 Fri./Sat