Brandon Wardell Is a 22-Year-Old Comic Who's Already Done an Album with Bob Odenkirk
I talked to the wunderkind stand-up about touring with Odenkirk, his love for Drake, and why he doesn't like "Michael Cera–ass fuckboys."
Brandon Wardell is a 22-year-old stand up comedian who looks 14. He wears a backpack onstage, tells jokes about going to "boy/girl parties," and sleeps in a twin-sized mattress on the floor. He also has a joint album coming out November 25 with comedy legend Bob Odenkirk called Amateur Hour.
How the fuck did this kid make his way onto an album with one half of Mr. Show? I asked him exactly that at the Hollywood Boulevard Hooters, where he ordered an egregious amount of food and drink once he heard VICE was footing the bill.
VICE: How did you even get to open for Bob, let alone get him to put you on his album?
Brandon Wardell: A week before he did the album, he hit up A Special Thing Records, and was like, "One, I want to record an album next week. And two, find me the funniest young guy you can think of."
He specifically wanted someone super young?
Yeah, he wanted somebody green. He wanted somebody under the radar, and so they gave him my name. He watched a video, liked it, and asked me to open for the album. I thought I was just opening for the recording, but afterwards he was, like, "Oh, are you cool with just being on the album?" I was like, "Yeah, yeah, I'm cool with that."
How did you get on A Special Thing's radar?
Just through LA comedy. One of the guys that runs the label runs Put Your Hands Together at UCB, and [Andy] Kindler recommended me to him when I moved out. So I guess, by proxy, Kindler kind of created it, but yeah. We [recorded the album] and Bob asked me to go on tour with him a couple months later. Instead of having me cold open on the tour, he would do 15 to 20 minutes of standup, a book reading, and then just bring me out in the middle, and just be, like, "Oh, here's like a guy whose standup I like."
How'd that go over with the crowd?
The crowd liked it. It's so much better than a cold open—otherwise people would think, "Oh, this is like some local scrub," but then him explicitly endorsing me like 15 minutes in—
Gives you some cache?
Yeah, like, "Oh, here's a fun break for a second." And then I came out and talked about rap and cumming. Then he came back out—it's cool that he did that, he gave that endorsement before I came out, because the crowds were older, and some kid was coming out in, like, a FAP hoodie and backpack, talking about rappers and jacking off or whatever. I feel like they're more inclined to be into that if Bob's like, "Oh, you should be into this."
Do you want to tell your Al Franken story?
Oh, yeah, yeah. That was sick. Bob and Al used to work together at SNL. They didn't like each other—I think it's fine if you mention that. They didn't get along during the SNL era, but Bob has always really supported him as a politician, so Al just invited us to have dinner for, like, two hours. We went to some restaurant that had a sausage sampler. Al bought a bunch of expensive sausage—he bought, like, at least $60 worth of sausage. And I was just drunk as fuck by the time we went to hang out with Al Franken, and I don't know—I feel like he didn't appreciate any of my jokes. He was a nice guy, it was literally, like, 24 hours after the reelection, so he was, you know, cool, but definitely didn't get me.
And, I mean, I love Al Franken. He's one of my favorite politicians. But the day before, I had tweeted a photo of me making Bob listen to Lil B, and said, "Oh I'm on a plane making @MrBobOdenkirk listen to @LILBTHEBASEDGOD," and Lil B direct messaged me "LOVE! LOVE!" in all caps and I was definitely more excited about Lil B DMing me than hanging out with, like, a senator and comedy legend for two hours. That's where my priorities are. I posted about it on Facebook, and some dude was, like, "Uh, time to sit you down with some old SNL," and I was like, "Lil B's influenced my comedy 100 times more than old SNL. I've watched so many more Lil B videos than I have old SNL sketches."
What influences your comedy in general?
I think hip-hop is my biggest influence, in terms of bravado—I'm just trying to channel that braggadocio. I feel like my whole thing is just, like, I'm a beta person actively trying to pretend to be alpha.
So it's all artifice is what you're saying.
Right, yeah. It's also sort of, like, awkward comedy is so passé now.
What do you mean by awkward comedy?
Nerds just being like, "I'm a nice guy." Those Michael Cera–ass fuckboys. I think it's funnier to just be like, "Yeah, I'm the shit." I think that's a funnier angle.
I feel like a lot of people are bitter and resentful of the fact that you're so young and have like already gotten to the level you're at. How do you deal with that blowback?
I don't know, who's talking? Point 'em out. Name names. Who's talking shit? Do you hear people talking shit?
Yeah, because you're so fucking young. All comics are bitter—the older they get, the more bitter they are. Has anyone ever said anything to you personally?
I've had a comic friend like drunk and just be, like, "Hey man, I'm happy for you, but I get mad when you get things because like I just feel like I'm funnier than you." That was the most egregious. I don't like when comics are like, "Oh, how did you get that?" Because it always comes off as—
Presuming you did something shitty in order to get it?
Yeah, it never seems congratulatory. It always seems weirdly accusatory and just like it never comes from a positive place. But for the most part, I just try to surround myself with people that I like to the point where I'm not even aware of people talking shit.
You started when you were 17. What was your material like?
When I was 17, I had very little material—my first couple months, I'd have a bunch of sets where I'd just be, like, "Uh...how much time do I have left?" I'd forget my jokes, but people would just assume that it was a planned-out thing. I was literally just a bad standup, but people assumed that it was a smart Andy Kaufman thing.
How did that make you feel when people would compare you like that when you know that it wasn't intentional?
Oh, it was just, like, "This is the best=case scenario for me being shitty." If you're shitty and people just assume that it's a bit, that's great. I would just write impersonal jokes because nobody wants to hear a 17-year-old express an opinion. Nobody wants to hear a 22-year-old say their opinions either. I don't try to say anything, I don't try to make any grand sociopolitical statements, because I'm still a fucking idiot. I just spend all day looking at rap blogs in my underwear.
Your brain is not fully developed.
Yeah, I don't need to be talking about Benghazi.
What's your ultimate goal in comedy?
Being friends with Drake and fucking Ariana Grande. That's all I really want. The Fallon booker hit me up, pushing hard for me to do my joke about Drake, because I want Drake to see it. I literally want, I feel like that's—I don't know—I can get Drake to notice me in the next couple of years. Yeah, being friends with Drake, fucking Ariana Grande.
Why do you want Drake to know who you are so bad?
Because Drake's probably the most important person to me.
But why? What draws you to Drake?
His vulnerability. He's the most relatable to me of any rapper. "Marvin's Room"? That's a song about him drunk-dialing a girl and not getting laid. That's fucking sick. No other rapper is willing to be that vulnerable. And the fact that he's so consistent and so versatile. It's undeniable. His music's great, he's definitely the most charismatic guy in America. You watch his SNL and it's, like, "Oh yeah, he's funnier than any of my peers." I literally think he's funnier than any comics. I think his music is so consistently amazing. Yeah, he's so great, and I think he's a comedy fan—he sampled Eastbound and Down, and I'm basing it off that, but you know. Hopefully, look, I'm mentioning Drake right now, hopefully he'll see his Google alerts, he'll see this interview and he'll listen to me do ten minutes on a Bob Odenkirk album. And Ariana Grande, holler at me.
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