Stand-up comedian, actor and podcaster Bryan Callen is set to perform at Helium Comedy Club this weekend, and he’ll do so with great knowledge of the Philadelphia area, having played Coach Rick Mellor on ‘The Goldberg’s’ – the long running ABC sitcom based on real-life, 1980s Jenkintown.
This weekend will be something of a (fictional) homecoming.
“I had such a great time doing that show, one where everyone was amazing and talented – and, it was the only television show where I didn’t have to improvise because my improv was not as good as the writers,” said Callen. “And, I am still in touch with the real Rick Mellor who is a lot better looking and a lot more athletic than I am, despite the fact that he’s 10 years older than me. That bothers me. He’s got a full head of hair. And that bothers me. Plus, he comes to my shows, and I hope he comes to this run of shows in Philly this weekend.”
As a comedian and a podcaster (‘The Bryan Callen Show’, weekly at Apple podcasts), Callen is a veteran in the field, famous on television since the sketch comedy program ‘MADtv’ in the 1990s.
“Part of what happens when you start in comedy is that you just want to get laughs,” said Callen. “Like putting English on a billiard ball, you want to be fancy. But you’ll do, literally, anything that you can to hit that mark. That’s because you can’t believe that you can make people laugh – that’s a magic trick up your sleeve that you never get over having. The thought that ‘I get paid for what I got in trouble for in school my whole life’ never leaves you.”
Callen says getting laughs is so much richer with maturation, with having children of his own, and with having a background of worldwide travel as a youth due to his father’s work in international banking.
“I’m lucky to have traveled, I’m lucky to live a country with representative government where I have never gone hungry or watch my children go hungry… it is impossible to see that the math of my life made it so I was incredibly lucky,” said Callen. “In 2023, I hear so many people with no real problems, complaining… They have not seen a world that has to make due, that deals with deadly disease and starvation on a daily basis. Whenever we complain about our country about our various inequalities, we should all stop, and say, ‘Wait. We are all privileged Americans’.”
The larger question with age, as a comic, becomes what can be said, what import and innovation can be claimed beyond the commonplace.
“With that, I would like to be in the business of original self-expression, some signal to the noise,” stated Callen. “Satire is a wonderful way to speak truth to power, to draw attention to our contradictions as human beings. As a comedian, as I get older, I believe that my job is to throw the entire chessboard in the air and give everyone some recess – stop purifying your echo chamber. We’re all idiots. We’re all doomed. Let’s have a laugh.”
Bryan Callen will perform a series of shows at Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St., from May 26 to 28. For information and tickets, visit philadelphia.heliumcomedy.com