Brody Stevens was bombing, but all of the comedians were howling.
I could’ve been talking about a show last week, or last year, but this was also the case the first time I saw Steven Brody Stevens perform live, onstage at the weekly open mics at Seattle’s Comedy Underground in 1996. Before he could list any credits, let alone all of the ones you’d come to hear from him time and again, he still had my rapt attention from the get-go. You see, in the mid-1990s, Stevens co-hosted a popular cable access show for us grunge kids in Seattle called Jews & Samoans Rule The World, alongside another aspiring comedian named Teina Manu.
Stevens, who pitched college baseball for Arizona State and maintained contacts with Major Leaguers for the following 25 years in part thanks to his work with The Best Damn Sports Show Period, who starred in his own HBO digital and Comedy Central series, Enjoy It!, performed a half-hour special for Comedy Central, appeared in The Hangover, The Hangover Part II and Due Date, and was a warm-up comedian like no other for such series as The Man Show, Chelsea Lately, and @midnight, has died. He was only 48.
Everybody loved Brody. And I mean everybody.
Who else could elicit testimonials from both screen legends such as Dick Van Dyke and athletes such as Jake Arrieta?
Van Dyke, 93, wrote tonight: “I was first introduced to Brody Stevens
by the Mrs. Arlene Silver. He was headlining at the Improv and she wanted to introduce her favorite comedian to me. I was impressed with how clean and naturally funny he was. He didn’t seem to have an act, but he was overflowing with a distinct personality and unique delivery that you couldn’t help but laugh. On this particular evening he seemed to be “bombing” or was he? I’ve never seen someone “bomb” so brilliantly. I’ll never forget him pleading with the crowd “Work with me people!! I have jokes!””
And TMZ wrote: “We had a lot of fun run-ins with Brody over the years — he always turned it on for our camera guys.”
When his HBO series was coming out in 2012, he told me that he knew he was an acquired comedy taste: “I think the more they see me, the better. They watch my Conan set or research me on the Internet. That always helps. I feel like I’m the kind of guy who it takes a couple of times to get it. Even me, it takes me a couple of times to get me.”
Because nothing prepares you for seeing Brody in a “regular” comedy club or show. You’re not expecting someone to shout his TV and film credits, or shout-out his San Fernando Valley roots as “818 til I die” or use “Enjoy It” or “Push and Believe” as catchphrases. But that was Brody.
There were times when he’d fully en-act his brief scenes from The Hangover movies. Almost every time, he could ask an audience member where he/she was from and then cite some fun facts about that place. He could turn the jokes onto himself almost as quickly as he could turn them onto you.
As comedian John Roy relates in one such tale, that’s what set Brody Stevens apart from everyone else, and made him so special.
Brody wasn’t afraid to be brutally honest about himself, either. He let Comedy Central film him in a previous state of depression. And his manic episodes sometimes led him into handcuff situations with the LAPD.
But most of us remember his positivity instead.
In 2009, he let me meet up with him backstage at Chelsea Lately before the episode that would be Justin Bieber’s talk-show debut.
A year later, Zach Galifianakis, a longtime friend of Brody’s, had fun interviewing Brody for me during some downtime in his trailer while filming Due Date. Galifianakis got Brody, and executive produced his HBO/Comedy Central series.
This video allows Brody to tell you, in his own words, his comedy journey. He’s still also slightly in character for his role as Robert Downey Jr.’s limo driver in Due Date.
Brody had gone from the 818 area code up to Seattle, then out to New York City at the end of the 1990s, then back to Southern California.
In February 2017, he recorded a full comedy special for Seeso at The Comedy Store called Live At the Main Room. It’s available for free on Amazon Prime now, and it’s Brody attempting to connect with each and every audience member still in the main room that evening, as well as trying to figure out why some audience members had had enough. It’s a hot mess. But that could be Brody, too.
Brody was still performing most nights at The Comedy Store. Even just yesterday, he was joking about getting back out on the festival circuit. But now he’s gone.
When I’d fly out to LA and visit the Store, no matter how few of the local comedians I knew (or who knew me), I could always count on a big smile from Brody and a fun conversation on the patio with him. No matter if he were still wearing his VIP clubhouse laminates from the Dodgers and/or Angels dugouts he had visited earlier that night. He would swing by the Store late-night and bring positive energy, even if he might not have been feeling so positive on his insides.
I wish I could tell him it’s gonna be OK. I wish you, reading this, know that no matter how much you may be suffering, it’s going to be OK. You can get help. You don’t need to take your life into your own hands. We are here for you. We need to be here for each other, because sometimes, our friends who are struggling don’t have the strength to ask us for help.
We’ll miss you Steven Brody Stevens. Rest in peace.