Benson discusses new Comedy Central series

November 4, 2010

by Robert Wilson, Associate Managing Editor

Comedian Doug Benson gave an interview about his career and new Comedy Central series “The Benson Interruption,” which premieres at midnight Friday.

From San Diego, Calif., Benson has performed stand-up comedy for more than 20 years, garnering national recognition and appearances in movies and on television, including a run on the fifth season of “Last Comic Standing,” taking home a sixth-place win for his observational humor.

Now, he is concentrating on “The Benson Interruption,” an improvisational comedy series centered on Benson disrupting his friends and guest comedians as they attempt to finish a story.

“I’ve always interrupted people,” he said. “I’ve always had something to say about everything. It all goes back to just making jokes in the back of the comedy club while someone was on stage.”

Benson pointed out that the show is not about “pot-smoking, like my other endeavors,” such as his documentary “Super High Me” and his off-Broadway show “The Marijuana-Logues.”

I asked Benson how, in the face of Comedy Central’s history of hits, like “Chappelle’s Show,” and misses, such as “The Jeff Dunham Show,” could his series avoid the pitfalls that befell so many others.

“I have more puppets than Jeff Dunham,” he said, joking. “Really, that’s the question that haunts every person starting a show: how to make the transition to TV? The audience doesn’t know what to expect, and it’s fun to watch live, but on TV it’s easy to say it’s all planned. That’s the danger. I hope the home viewer enjoys it and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll still do the show live.”

The conversation swayed between his love of creative freedom to his views on legalizing marijuana in California.

“Anywhere you can be incarcerated for smoking a plant while watching a marathon of ‘Law and Order’ doesn’t sound right,” he said. “I think it’s important to keep moving forward. There are medical reasons for marijuana; for people with cancer, it helps with the chemotherapy. I think it will happen eventually, bit by bit or joint by joint.”

When asked if he planned on getting into movies, Benson said he has not yet had the opportunity but will be happy to pursue it.

Benson plans to release a new album every summer after being inspired by the work ethic of comedian Louis C.K., who Benson said tours with new material almost immediately after releasing albums.

“I did stand-up for a long time before I had my first record,” he said. “I had material left and even though I could do it next year, I decided to force myself to do more stuff as long as people want to hear it. I put myself on a yearly deadline; record sometime around April and release it later in the year. As long as I keep doing comedy, I can have a dozen albums covering what I did in that time.”

Benson was also asked whether his series would be a hobby or a career move to help launch him into movies.

“It’s a life move,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of stuff working for someone else, and I don’t want to be in charge of someone else either. I want to be in charge of my own shows.”

He called stand-up comedy the last bastion of free speech, where, despite anything that happens, he can always say, “I’m a comedian, I’m just joking.”

He said “The Benson Interruption” will be a grand experiment, and if it doesn’t work, he will continue doing other projects.

“Look at my friend Zach Galifianakis; people knew him for years,” he said. “Then he did ‘The Hangover’ and now he’s the biggest thing.”

He then jokingly asked someone to “tell [Galifianakis] to return my calls.”

E-mail comments to rww015@latech.edu.