Chances are pretty good that Guy Branum has made you laugh more times than you know.
You might recognize him as a panelist on Chelsea Lately; or from his excellent book My Life as a Goddess; or in his role as the gleefully libidinous Henry in Bros, a film he also helped write and co-produce. But Branum has also been hard at work behind the scenes of many more projects: He’s one of the writers and co-producers on Hacks; he’s written for The Mindy Project, the television adaptation of A League of Their Own, and Billy on the Street; and he was a co-producer on Punk’d and consulted on Adam Ruins Everything. He’s also working on the upcoming Mel Brooks variety series History of the World, Part II, and will appear in the Apple TV+ series Platonic alongside Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as—you’ll never believe this—a mean gay lawyer.
Somehow Branum’s also found time to write new stand-up material and tour the country. He’s performing two shows at the Here-After in Seattle on October 8, after a two-year break from live performances, and he’s got a lot to say about the making of (and audience reaction to) Bros, his favorite joke, and where he’s finding joy these days.
(This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.)
What are you looking forward to in Seattle?
I’m excited to come back, it’s one of my favorite places to perform. I’m trying to figure out new material, and what it means to do stand-up after two years of not doing stand-up.
How has your material changed in that time?
It’s been hard, since Trump was elected, to know what we should be talking about… or not be talking about. On one hand, the house is on fire. And on the other hand, you’re trying to have an evening of not remembering the house is on fire. Our attention is so fractured.
Have audiences changed?
At the end of the day, we’re animals, and our behavioral situation has really changed for a long period.
Audiences are truly grateful to have entertainment and have forgotten how to be audiences. The need for personal attention is much higher, I think.
We all understand how special and beautiful it is to have these opportunities back. It feels really fun and special… and dangerous. In a COVID sense, what could be more dangerous than a roomful of people facing each other and breathing, and I’m shouting at them? We’ve all watched a lot of New York Times animations about how a lot of little balls come out of our mouths.
In addition to appearing in it, what was your role in making Bros?
I was the on-set punch-up writer, so I was there writing jokes every day, helping Billy [Eichner] and the director [Nicholas Stoller] with anything they needed help with. I wrote the blurbs for the exhibits in the museum. I told Nick where people keep poppers.
I really appreciated how knowledgeable Bros is about queer culture and history.
Have you seen Bros in a theater?
I went and saw Bros in WeHo last night. It was my first time seeing it with people who weren’t industry and it was really magical and fun and nice.
I’m so very proud of it, and I think it’s funny that all these articles about how Bros tanked illustrated the thing that Billy and the Bros press machine were trying to do... They were trying to explain the singularity of what’s happening, and people are like, “That’s bullshit because we had The Birdcage and Fire Island.” What he was trying to say is that this is the first gay story made by a gay person that’s going to have the opportunity to tank in 3,000 theaters.
The trades felt very comfortable calling it a flop, even though it’s a rom-com with no famous people in it coming out after the pandemic. Billy could have done more work to insulate against that if he had cast established stars as supporting characters in the movie. But there aren’t that many established stars, especially in comedy, who are LGBTQ+. He made this a forum for people who haven’t gotten seen much before.
Was writing jokes for such a queer project different from your past work?
There wasn’t that much for me to do. Nick and Billy had written the script over two years, and then the pandemic gave them two extra years to work on it, so there was a lot there. I tried to toss out what I could. There was a sense of safety and support, people could riff and try things.
What’s your favorite joke in the film?
The Yentl joke, I’m very proud of the Yentl joke. I think it brings together that sequence very nicely. And I’m very proud that at least half of Eve Lindley’s lines are things she wrote herself. … She showed up knowing she was going to be in a Judd Apatow movie and killed it every moment.
Now that you’re getting back on the road, where are you looking for comedy?
Mostly I think it’s ridiculous that we sleep. That we, after billions of years of evolution, still die for eight hours every day is pretty ridiculous. I’m more interested in figuring out good jokes about that than Biden’s infrastructure package. It’s so easy to be mad all the time, it’s so easy to be scared all the time.
So what brings you joy?
Very tedious video games, things that involve budgets, and gardening. Talking to my niece, who is 21 and in college.
It’s so easy for someone to become so immersed in their own worldview… it’s important to remember there are people who we have to help because their lives are still ahead of them. Just being reminded that some people believe there is a future.