After burning through countless stories involving his family and personal (mis)adventures with his Netflix specials Secret Time and Hey Big Boy, comedian Bert Kreischer squeezed “the last bit of juice out of the orange” with his latest, the Golden Globes contender Razzle Dazzle.
The Florida native feels, looking back, that this special is most certainly “the best” he’s put out so far. “I feel like it is all where I’ve grown, and I think it is all the shit you love me for,” he tells Deadline. “There’s a lot of great family stuff. There’s wild, funny stories. There’s a f*ckng ass hair cutting, and I know it’s performed better than any of my other specials, which is insane when you think Hey Big Boy was released three days after stay-at-home orders for [Covid]. Me and Tiger King were the first week.”
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Remarkably, Razzle Dazzle‘s March release was just a tiny piece of the past year for Kreischer, which has seen him take his career to new heights. After touring Europe throughout January, playing U.S. arenas in February and doing press for the special in March, he spent a month performing in Australia, then coming home to promote his first ever feature, The Machine. The latest edition of his Fully Loaded Comedy Festival saw him playing some of the most memorable venues in the country, including The Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington, and after headlining the stunning Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, he returned to touring arenas once again. Then, he took his Fully Loaded experience to the sea with a comedy cruise that set “record numbers in booze sales, booze package sales and in gambling.” By the time the first night of the cruise was over, Kreischer and company were out of vodka, meaning that he “had to ferry a boat to The Bahamas” to go and get more for his guests.
“For lack of better analogies,” Kreischer says, 2023 has felt “like a runaway train that I’ve just been holding onto.” This is the kind of situation the comic routinely puts himself in, one he compares to that of a skier who gets going too fast and just prays he won’t fall. Motivating this approach to his career is a certain level of fear. “I remember Ali Wong telling me, ‘It doesn’t go away,’ and I looked at her and was like, ‘It a hundred percent does,'” Kreischer shares with reference to the success he’s achieved. “It goes away for everyone, and I am hyper aware of just how fortunate I am, so I wasn’t going to let go.” Instead, he says, “I held onto this bull and was like, ‘I’m going to ride this as long as it lets me ride, and I’m going to go as hard as I f*cking can. I’m never going to say no. I’m going to f*cking push it.'”
Known to many as The Machine, a nickname stemming from a career-making viral story, Kreischer is well aware of the place he occupies in the world of comedy. “I’m no [John] Mulaney,” he says self-effacingly, “and I’m no Chris Rock.” He notes that his signature style of performing comedy shirtless made it challenging at a certain point in his career to be taken seriously. Before debuting his special The Machine on Showtime in 2016, he was warned that doing so would inevitably lose him viewers — and indeed, the special wound up being “the lowest rated” the premium cabler had ever put out, he says. Years down the road, though, he’s made this little performance quirk part of his “brand.” And it’s in staying true to himself that he’s earned the following he has.
A brash storyteller with an immese love of comedy and people, and a strong grasp of how to cut through social media noise with viral tour promos, Kreischer had an extraordinary origin story as a comedian. While attending Florida State University in the late ’90s, he wound up the subject of a Rolling Stone article that dubbed him “the top partyer at the Number One Party School in the country.” The piece led Academy Award winner Oliver Stone to purchase film rights to his life, and while his deal with the filmmaker fell through, his story later served as loose inspiration for the Ryan Reynolds starrer National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.
Mere months after moving to New York to pursue a career in stand-up, he also inked a sitcom deal with Will Smith’s production company. But even if Kreischer admittedly had “a ton of heat” on him in those early days, he notes that he really only “popped” as a comic at age 45, after nearly 20 years of concerted effort in honing his craft.
Certainly, he didn’t consider himself one of the “anointed” in the early days. In fact, he believes he was put “on timeout” by Hollywood quickly after his initial heat faded, leading to a seven-year period of intense “hustling.” After the birth of his first daughter Georgia, he appeared on the competition series Last Comic Standing, though he didn’t advance too far. He achieved mild success with appearances on Premium Blend, and in addition to the special for Showtime, released one with Comedy Central that also failed to register.
While a second stage of his career saw him hosting reality shows like Hurt Bert on FX and a couple for the Travel Channel, one huge turning point in his career came when Joe Rogan encouraged him to get into podcasting. What he discovered when he did was extraordinary. While working on shows like Trip Flip for Travel Channel, which required him to travel all over the world “doing shit [he] didn’t want to f*cking do” like swimming with great white sharks, he made maybe $3,500 an episode. But when he began podcasting, he was able to secure a deal with an ad sales company that was much more favorable, under which he would walk away with 80% of the revenue. After sitting down for the first time to record an hour-long episode, he realized he’d just earned $7,500, while just sitting around telling stories with friends. He had no overhead, as he began putting episodes together himself, and no longer needed to travel to far flung locations. And best of all, there would be no cut of his fee going to agents, managers, or lawyers. “At that moment I went, ‘I will never do television again. This is what I want to do,” he recalls.
A hugely lucrative platform offering a direct line to fans, podcasting gave Kreischer insight into his own fanbase like he’d never experienced, which could be used to his advantage. “You had an account in Libsyn where it told you, ‘Yo, you have 25,000 fans in Columbus, Ohio. They listen every f*cking week.’ So all of a sudden, I go into a meeting at UTA with a list of 40 markets I want to hit, I hand it to them and they’re like, ‘Wow, we don’t even book in North Dakota. Where would we do?'” Kreischer says. “I’m like, ‘I don’t know, but I’m f*cking big in North Dakota.'”
The comic also recalls being “blown away” by the sizable following he had across Canada. And “all of the sudden,” he says, “it was like all the f*cking curtains were pulled back. You knew your stats, you knew your money.”
Kreischer currently hosts Bertcast, as well as 2 Bears 1 Cave with longtime friend Tom Segura — not to mention the cooking show Something’s Burning. It was through podcasts as a creative outlet, he says, that he found his own voice. After finding himself imitating such comics as Dave Attell, Dane Cook and Mitch Hedberg early in his career, “at times being way edgier than I ever should have been,” he eventually came to grasp his own unique assets as a performer. “All of a sudden my voice showed up and it was my voice that I’d always had,” he says, “but I wasn’t brave enough to get behind it because it took a lot more work than I wanted to put in.”
After coming into a life-changing financial situation with his podcasts, Kreischer’s life changed yet again when he was set to star in The Machine, a film for Legendary that drew on the true story of how he accidentally helped the Russia mafia rob a train while he was abroad during college. Released in May before debuting on Netflix, where it’s spent two weeks on the Top 10 Films chart, the pic had him starring as a version of himself, with Mark Hamill as his dad, and is, in his words, “the greatest life experience” he’s ever had.
Over the course of the shoot in Serbia, Kreischer got “bitten by the bug” and saw his attitude towards film and TV shift dramatically. His approach to the first film he ever anchored was strongly informed by advice from producer Cale Boyter, who made sure he was aware of how rare of an opportunity was in front of him. Boyter said that while there would be no way of knowing going into the project whether it would be good or bad, this would likely be the only opportunity he’d get in life to make a movie — and certainly the only one in which he’d get to play himself. “If you enjoy this experience,” said the producer, “it’ll show up on screen. So enjoy every f*cking minute. Do not get caught up in any of the talk in your head.”
What Boyter might not have realized was that the spirit of this advice was precisely in line with how the performer lives his life. Even after a fairly gruesome injury on set that saw his tricep stripped from the bone, Kreischer was determined to barrel through and get the film done, refusing to succumb to his sometimes anxious nature. “My thought was, ‘F*ck it, I’ll give my arm for this movie. Let’s do the fight scene, let’s do the stunts,'” Kreischer recalls. “‘We are not going to worry about the surgery that is pending the second I get home. We’re going to live in the moment, and if my arm f*cking falls off, my arm falls off. I’m going to f*cking seize the day.'”
Still famously a party animal, all these years on from FSU, Kreischer of course continued to seize the day while off set. On off days, he’d take the cast and crew to a cabaret club, or have a sommelier come over to his residence with 10 cases of wine. Actor Jimmy Tatro stayed with him for two months, and most nights, they’d wind up around a barbecue and/or in the pool. “The best was, we were at this cabaret club where they gave you fake money and fireworks inside the club,” says the comic. “I spent six grand that night on drinks for the crew, and Jimmy Tatro, God bless him, who’s lived a crazy, wild life, looked at me with a shit-eating grin and said, ‘This is the funnest night I’ve ever had in my life.'”
Kreischer reveals that at present, he has a scripted series and multiple films in the works, including Fat Astronauts with Segura, a comedy stemming from a bit on the 2 Bears pod. But even if he’s now leaning into this mode of performance, there is a caveat. “When I got home [from Serbia], I will say that very candidly, I was like, ‘I am not an actor. I think I want to be a movie star,'” Kreischer laughs. “I don’t think I have a passion for acting. I think I have a passion for being the center of attention. But you’ve got to know your strengths and weaknesses.”
As he looks ahead, Kreischer hopes to get more ambitious with his production company, Berty Boy Productions. He names Kevin Hart as a role model, given what he’s achieved with his Hartbeat banner, and is also leaning into some of the many entrepreneurial ideas he’s floated to Segura on 2 Bears. It’s often difficult, in listening to the podcast, to judge which of these ideas is actually real, but Kreischer says that he has “a lot of irons in the fire” and that new lines of business discussed on the pod are most certainly real, “if Tom’s committed” to them.
“I am, if anything, an idea guy, and Tom is an execution guy, and I’m a little bit of a sponge in that I bring everything our way,” Kreischer laughs. “I’m always like, ‘Yo, they have ketone shots. Let’s get into the ketone business.’ I mean, last week I told him, ‘We need to start a betting app.'”
Among the ideas Kreischer says he’s already bringing to life is the company 2 Bears Racing, which will see Segura follow a passion he’s recently been entertaining and get out on the track. “Tom is racing; we do have a race car,” he shares. “We’re definitely going to be running the Gumball 3000 this year, from Cairo to f*cking Singapore.”
Kreischer says in closing that he’s excited about continuing to build out his empire, as so many other comics are, at a time of unprecedented popularity for comedy. “There’s tons of theaters out there, tons of fans. None of us are slowing down,” he reflects. “We’re all going to continue with our podcasts. We’re all working on a new special. We’ve all got five projects in the fire waiting to happen, and we we’re all really happy to be here.”
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