There's an intelligence to the way David Koechner plays his many brash dumb characters. Best known as Anchorman's boozy, sexually confused sportscaster Champ Kind, Koechner has long been crafting outlandish characters be it on the big screen or tiny L.A. improv stages. He brings a collection of said idiots of his own creation to the stage on his new Together Again comedy tour, which arrives at the Neptune Theatre on Saturday, January 18.
In anticipation of the show, we chatted with Koechner about crafting comedic characters, hometown drifters, and the sociopathy of his character in Anchorman.
Do you remember the first time comedy really grabbed you?
The first thing I can remember thinking really was very, very funny was Abbott and Costello, watching Sunday afternoons with my dad. The old Abbott and Costello movies. Along around eighth grade, SNL started and then I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the first time.
Was there a specific influence that kind of got you started doing improv?
I guess it was my understanding, around eighth grade, that everyone from Saturday Night Live had gone to Second City. I forget how I came to realize that, specifically, but I understood that that’s where they started and then later I found out that the way they start material there is improvisation.
And how did you get started doing characters?
I would say that the first time I remember doing a character was at 4H camp in fourth grade. I was imitating one of the counselors and all the kids in my bunkhouse laughed. So I kind of had an understanding that I had a knack for behavioral mimicry. It wasn’t necessarily vocal; it was more physical and behavioral. And, I guess, as I became more of a smartass, I would do that more often. You mimic and mock authority figures, whether they were teachers or coaches or any authority figure, right?
When you’re first crafting a character, is there something that you kind of latch onto? A vocal tick or something like that? I watched your appearance on Conan last week, and you sort of slipped into a character part of the way through and just kind of went with it. How do you decide, “Oh, I’m going to flip the switch and make a character right now?”
It can be a vocal thing or physicality. It can happen either way. I most often like to combine the two. Sometimes it will start physical and then you’ll find the voice. A lot of that character who happened on Conan, that’s based on a drifter that came through my hometown one summer when I was 15. I was working for my uncle at a roadside gas station and beer joint restaurant. He was a drifter who showed up, and he was a roofer. He was going town to town that summer. He spent about two and a half months (there), and he’d come by the restaurant every day and talk to me and play pool. And I think he just drank soda. And he’d go outside and hang out by the stop sign and smoke and watch the traffic. We used to call him Four Way George. (Laughs) He was such an interesting guy. That’s who the character Gerald “T-Bones” Tibbins (the character Koechner played both on Saturday Night Live and The Naked Trucker a T-Bones Show) is loosely based on. And that happened to have both a physical and vocal component.
As far as Anchorman’s Champ Kind goes, was there a specific sportscaster persona that you drew on to get that character?
No, I just drew from the script, because I’m not sure any sportscaster that has Champ’s proclivities could have steady employment. Because when you think about it, some of the quotes this guy says…. He goes, “I’m all about having fun. You know, get some cocktails in me, start a fire in someone’s kitchen, head down to SeaWorld and take my pants off.” Now that’s a declaration of pride for him. Anybody else in the world would go, “My God, I need to go to rehab.” But for Champ that’s a fun day. If you were to talk to anybody else and describe a person like that it’d be like “Oh, that’s a sociopath.”
What’s the blend of characters versus storytelling versus the more traditional standup on this tour?
I’m gonna guess 30-30-30, with 10 percent audience interaction.
Do you prefer any one of those aspects over the others?
I really enjoy all of it. I think like most standups, a lot of times you’ll find new stuff every time you perform. So that’s always interesting for the audience and for myself when you happen upon something new; whether we find it together, like something happens and we naturally incorporate it into the show, or something that you might not even know. I might find another idea tucked inside a piece that’s already written. A new discovery, for me, is always the most fun.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
No. I’m not exactly sure what your paper is. I’m assuming it’s a Christian weekly?
It is a Christian weekly, so I don’t want to talk to you too long, because you’re considered one of the heathen people.
Jan 18 at 8, Neptune Theatre, $25