Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian and TV personality Brian McDaniel (Rafael Orellana/Living Out Loud LA)
Los Angeles is one of the comedy capitals of the country. In addition to the all the great comedy clubs, there are bars and restaurants all over the city hosting stand-up comedy shows. Seeing live comedy is a great night out, and there is a tremendous amount of talent in Los Angeles.
One such talent is L.A. comic Brian McDaniel, also known for the Fox celebrity news show “TMZ,” who recently took time to talk with me about his journey into the comedy world. McDaniel has been doing standup for three years now and has been performing regularly at the legendary Ice House in Pasadena.
McDaniel grew up in Maryland, just outside of the DC area, where he used his time on the school bus to develop his comedic skills as a defense mechanism.
“When I was a kid on the bus, every day was complete and total peril for your social status,” McDaniel remembers.
Proving himself daily on the school bus is also where McDaniel learned to differentiate the mechanics of comedy.
“I learned a lot about what’s really funny and what’s funny because people are popular. I always try to remember that when I work on material,” he says. “Obviously being likable is what makes people want to engage with you but just playing on that is kind of cheap.”
Although talented, McDaniel has a nice guy quality and a self deprecation that makes him likable to most audiences. He attributes this to his willingness to being himself on stage.
“You can feel the crowd draw into you when you do something honestly,” he admits.
McDaniel keeps his relatability going by sharing about his life via jokes. His onstage persona is about his modern marriage. McDaniel’s wife, Angelica, is quite a powerhouse as the Head of CBS Daytime. McDaniel calls himself his ‘wife’s wife’ and explores the dynamic of being married to a strong, successful woman.
Every comic has a different joke-writing process that’s unique to their personality and style of comedy. I ask McDaniel about how he develops his material.
“[I’ll take] one little thing that I’ll find funny, one little idea that I’ll find funny and reverse engineer it, start filling out a premise to make it work,” he describes.
McDaniel is a perfectionist. Wanting to give audiences his best, he is constantly fine tuning his jokes and making sure to keep true to valid premises.
“That’s really tricky because people can tell when a premise is bull. When you have a thing that you thought was funny, something inspired it. So there’s some story around it. Now, maybe you can’t tell the story exactly as it is, but you have to build in funny moments throughout it,” he says. “The biggest pitfall and the biggest thing that I work though is when you create straw men, things to make your joke work that aren’t real. Beats and your setup that are just serving the purpose of the punchline, they can be smelled from a mile away. The punchline is funny, but if you’re doing things to set it up that aren’t realistic or real within the world that you’re creating, your joke is dead in the water.”
McDaniel also credits his seven years spent entertaining millions of people on “TMZ” to his ability to churn out new jokes.
“In terms of material, I’ve been at ‘TMZ’ for seven years, and every morning I’m trying and failing at telling jokes,” he tells. “I think failing, bombing and material not working is the best way to learn. So I’m doing that every day for literally hours a day.”
Having seen McDaniel bring the house down recently at a club in Hollywood, I can attest to his universal appeal as a comic.
Brian McDaniel headlines the New York Comedy Club June 19 and performs as part of a Stand-Up Comedy show with “TMZ” staffers at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood June 24 and the Comedy Palace in San Diego Sept. 5 and 6. For more information, visit mrbrianmcd.com.