Kurt Braunohler is a rare breed of comic. In addition to the foul-mouthed observational standup you’d expect from a thirty-something dude from New Jersey, he gets his jollies from wacky stunts like wittily doctoring unsold greeting cards or copies of “50 Shades of Grey.” Braunohler describes his style of comedy as “inserting stupid, absurd moments into strangers’ lives” to make the world a better place.
Braunohler attended Johns Hopkins University, but his career as a comic truly gained momentum after he moved to New York in the early ’00s. He became known as a “guerrilla artist” and an urban experimentalist. One of his more memorable creations was a half-chicken, half-penguin costume that Braunohler wore around New York City. He would stage fights in the streets with his friend, Matt Murphy, who was dressed in a half-chicken, half-skunk costume.
With comedic partner Kristen Schaal, Braunohler co-created the variety show “Hot Tub” in 2005. The two co-hosted the show for seven years in New York City before moving to Los Angeles, where Braunohler continues to shake people out of their stupor by, say, posting a sign that reads “No, you stop!” beneath a real stop sign.
Braunohler, who begins a five-night stand Tuesday at Acme Comedy Club, comes off as somewhat guarded during a recent phone interview. There’s no emphatic cursing and the only joke he makes is: “When I was 8, I killed this kid … but in a really funny way.” When asked why comics’ personalities vary from onstage to off, he responded, “Onstage is a show. You’re presenting a version of yourself, and it’s a heightened, specific version of yourself. In conversation, you’re the actual human.”
On the list of unmentionables are philosophy, surfing and romantic advice. Braunohler does, however, make material out of old relationships. In 2012, he appeared on “This American Life” to discuss a “rumspringa” he and a former girlfriend declared after 13 years together. Their 30-day sexperiment, during which both parties had permission to sleep with other people, turned out to be the beginning of the end of their relationship.
“We didn’t know how to break up,” Braunohler confessed. “We had to do it in a real weird way.”
He used that experience to fuel an hourlong act for a year. It’s also the basis of a screenplay he’s writing.
“I think ladies like a funny guy,” Braunohler said. Indeed, he admits he gets propositioned by the occasional drunk female after shows, though he doesn’t consider that creepy.
“I’m lucky that way,” he said. “I think women get the brunt of that and it’s unfair. A female comic at my level gets creepy shit constantly, whereas I get relatively zero creepy shit.”
Braunohler — who was named a “Comic to Watch” by Comedy Central and has performed at Bonnaroo and SXSW — recorded his debut comedy album, “How Do I Land?,” live in Portland and Seattle clubs and released it last year on indie-rock label Kill Rock Stars. The cover art was funded by a Kickstarter campaign in which he raised almost $7,000 to hire a pilot to write the title of the album in the air. Videos of the skywriting went viral.
Braunohler is currently trying to sell a TV show pilot and does a weekly podcast called “The K Ohle With Kurt Braunohler,” which airs on the Nerdist Podcast Network. The “Get Lost” segment — where guests are blindfolded, dropped at random locations and required to find their way back — is one of the highlights of the podcast for him because it “satisfies that geographical desire.” He also prefers to walk to the venue pre-performance when possible.