The life of a standup comic is full of late nights, red-eyes, and one musty hotel room after another. Brooks Wheelan’s is no exception, though he does try to avoid hotels as much as possible.
Wheelan, who was rather famously dismissed from Saturday Night Live after one season, could have used that setback to catch up on lost sleep. Instead he got back to work, launching a standup tour and releasing one of the funniest albums of 2015. He has a wry, manic voice, at times tempered by his reassuring Midwestern charm — Wheelan grew up in Iowa — and at other times flying into explosive (and side-splitting) fits.
Wheelan is currently at work on a new hour of standup and a travel web series, Laughs In Translation, for the Above Average network. In his own words, here’s the standup comic on dealing with jet lag, dreaming of Hawaii and self-help books.
I don’t have a regular sleep schedule. None. Zero. I wish I did — that’d be great!
I like to do big things a little tired. I’m not great at napping. My natural energy is bad — I’m a spaz. Before Saturday Night Live episodes I’d drink a bunch of chamomile tea and try to get tired. You just have a lot of adrenaline, but I like to be tired.
In standup comedy you learn on your own. Nobody teaches you how to do it. You just kind of watch it and then you do it.
One time I stayed at a hotel in St. Augustine that had bed bugs. Another time I lived in a hotel in New York for two months and lost my mind. That was when I moved to do SNL, and they put me up until I could find an apartment. I didn’t know anyone, nobody, and I lived in a hotel in Midtown. Near Times Square — not really the part you want to be in. I just ate at Applebees a lot and was like, “I don’t want to live in a hotel ever again.”
I’m not good at hotels. Given the option between hotels and a tent, I’ll always choose a tent.
Camping’s my jam. I love it. Joshua Tree is a favorite spot. I think Yosemite is my favorite place in the world, for real.
I dream about Hawaii a lot. That’s pretty rad. When I wake up I’m always bummed I’m not there.
I’ve only had really bad jet lag once. It was when I was in Copenhagen. The sun didn’t go down until like midnight and came up at 4 a.m., and I was just up for two days. It was terrible. I dealt with it by skateboarding around Copenhagen and listening to music.
I just moved, so I don’t have a bedside table. I don’t have anything. I’m reading this book The Alchemist, my friend just gave it to me. It’s a self-help book type of thing. She was like “You should read this,” which is always someone’s way of saying “You gotta calm down.”
Every once in a while in your life, people start giving you self-help books and you’re like, “what am I doing that everyone’s giving me self-help books?” You just need a couple of breakups and you’ll get to that place too.
I’m working on a new standup hour. I showcased it last week and I’m just gonna keep working on it ‘til we record it. Hopefully for one of the two main guys — Netflix or Comedy Central — but who knows, there’s so many platforms out there. So I’m working on that and I’m working on this other travel show called Laughs In Translation. Hopefully we’ll get to go to some cool places: Russia, South Korea. North Korea would be super dope, if they’d have us.