The Fighter and the Kid Struck Comic Gold by Accident

Fighter and the Kid is a popular podcast with a rabid fan base. The fighter is Brendan Schaub, a mixed martial artist who fought several times as a heavyweight in the UFC. The kid is longtime comedian and actor Bryan Callen. Unedited and uncensored, the two friends riff on fighting and any other subjects that cross their minds. Fighter and the Kid has been such an enormous success that Schaub was able to retire from fighting at 33. As a comedian, the podcast has brought Callen a considerably larger audience than countless appearances in TV shows and films. Tonight they are bringing their live performance to House of Blues.

How did you guys meet?

Bryan: We met on the set of The Ultimate Fighter. I was brought in to talk to the fighters by Nate Marquardt. I was like, 'Hey guys, eat your vegetables and keep your chin down and your hands up.' I had no idea what the hell to say to them.

Why was Bryan on the set of The Ultimate Fighter?

Brendan: The coaches brought Bryan on to give the kids comic relief because they are in the house for six weeks and needed to laugh.

Bryan: Brendan ended up moving a couple blocks away from me. All my friends had left and moved to New York and it was just me and Brendan with no friends. Next thing I know, we ended up just hanging out and acting like a couple silly geese.

Brendan: When I moved to LA Bryan kind of took me under his wing and showed me the ropes.

Bryan: I had a podcast that about 7 people listened to and I said maybe we should just pair up and talk about mixed martial arts. Brendan said no, let’s just do a podcast and talk the way we do anyway. I said nobody’s going to listen to that and he said I don’t want to do a podcast about fighting. I said OK, let’s meet in the middle. We started talking about fighting and a bunch of bullshit and the rest was history.

Brendan: Next thing you know I’m retired from fighting and doing live comedy shows. Life is good.

You’re doing stand-up now, Brendan?

Brendan: We’re having success with the podcast and Bryan said, 'Hey man, we should bring the show on the road and do a live show.' I thought that sounded terrible. But his idea was not to take the podcast on the road, but to do a live comedy performance. He wanted me to open up and do stand-up. I said, 'That’s not my wheelhouse, I know my limitations.' But he said I was looking at it wrong. He wanted me to start off by telling a story and we added from there. For a guy who’s competed his entire life in athletics, competed at the highest level in football and fighting, fought in front of 60,000 people and millions of people on pay-per-view, nothing beats these live shows. I have one-on-one interactions with the fans. I see what they like and don’t like. It’s something I don’t think many athletes get to experience. I can’t think of another athlete who’s gone from the Octagon to the stage.

This is more exciting than fighting?

When you fight in the Octagon, for me, it’s so terrifying and it just wasn’t in my nature. I’m a competitor and athlete, but to me the idea of fighting and hurting other guys — I was always scared when I was in there. But comedy is a different feeling. If you buy a ticket to UFC, you’re seeing 12 to 15 fights. You might be there just to see the main event, but you’re there for the whole experience. But if you buy a ticket to Fighter and the Kid live, you are there because you like what Bryan and Brendan are about.

So the live performances are completely separate from the podcast. What can we expect?

Brendan: I open up with my bit; Bryan does his thing. We have some similarities to the podcast, like the Current Events segment. We take questions live from fans. But I think Bryan had the right idea with this being a performance. I think if you have a podcast and ask people to come watch you do it live it’s a bad idea.

Bryan: Show is the key word. That’s very important for people.

Brendan: People want to be entertained. I correct everyone who says I am going to see your podcast. It’s a show.

Did you guys realize how well you compliment each other before you started the podcast?

Bryan: No. This is an accident, a surprise. We’ve got a lot of friends who try to master formulas and it doesn’t work. I think the reason ours works is because we are friends and we try to take the filter completely off. Transparency, humor and inspiration are the three cornerstones of our podcast. And that’s it; we don’t even edit anything.

Brendan: Sometimes on the show we know not everyone is going to agree with what we are saying. But I’ve always said as long as you stand for something ... Don’t be in the middle, don’t try playing both sides, you have to stand for something. I think people appreciate that. Even if they don’t agree with it, they know we are never going to say something that we hope people like.

Bryan: If you’re truthful and you do what you think is funny and inspiring, then usually you are going to find an audience in my opinion. If you try to see where the wind is blowing, the way a politician does, you’re going to be in trouble.

Brendan: I just do what I like and hopefully people dig it.

Bryan: If you want to advertise on our podcast we have to believe in the product. In today’s world you cannot try to get ahead by taking shortcuts or being manipulative. You can do it for a short period of time. But one of the beautiful things about the Internet now is that authenticity is everything. This marketplace is changing so quickly. We’re getting to a point now as entertainers where the norm is to create your audience and that’s all you need if you do it well. You don’t need the infrastructure. To see it happen after being part of the other equation for so long is mind-boggling. It’s funny because when I used to meet people I was that guy from that show or The Hangover or whatever. But now I’m Bryan Callen.

It’s striking how personally the fans react to the show. They get really angry if it comes out a day late or if they disagree with something you say.

Bryan: We are in people’s ears for hours a week. Some guys may be working jobs they don’t like and we provide entertainment. We become support. I’m a lot older than a lot of these young guys. But I always say that I’ve found success, but I had to make a lot of mistakes, and I talk about them. But we’ve been checked by our fans. Sometimes we step over the line and they make us think about it. I feel connected to our fans and I respect it.
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Jeremy Hallock