Oral History: Albert Brooks and the Stand-Up Panic

by Jack Tewksbury September 5, 2019
Actor and comedian Albert Brooks, Golden Globe nominee, in 1994

Albert Brooks at the premiere of I'll Do Anything in 1994 at the Avco Theater in Westwood, Los Angeles.

ron gallela ltd/getty images

or over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actresses, actors and filmmakers. The world's largest collection of its kind - over 10,000  items - is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library.

In this excerpt from our archives from 1994 - a busy year for him, starring in James L. Brooks's I'll Do Anything and Michael Ritchie's The Scout - Albert Brooks tell us what it takes to bestand-up comic.

 “The worst thing that ever happened to me doing stand-up was opening for Neil Diamond. I was in the Bible Belt and I thought of a bit during the afternoon while I was getting dressed that what would happen if Jesus Christ really did come back and if he signed with the William Morris Agency and they package him on a big tour.  It was the Jesus Christ Revue with B.B. King and the New Seekers and I did this thing in front of 5,000 people and it was beyond not laughing. I heard guns being loaded and I just stopped and I apologized. I apologized to all these people.  I said: I apologize. I thought I was going to be hurt. 

I opened up for Sly and the Family Stone, remember them?  I was in Seattle and the show was supposed to start at eight and this was during the time where let’s be honest, (Sly) was doing a lot of cocaine and his manager came to me at ten minutes to eight and this audience was ... they were... they didn’t have shoes on.  I mean they were taking drugs.  They were ready for him.  They wanted loud music and his manager came to me at ten minutes to eight and said how long can you do this? I said well, I mean, gee, I don’t know. I don’t think I can do it too long. He says: what’s the longest you can do? Sly’s in Ohio so he just didn’t even make the plane. He was snorting the seats, you know.  Somebody threw a beer bottle at me and I was yelling like a kid: Sly’s not here! Leave me alone! “