‘That guy’ Koechner brings standup act here
by mike thomas Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org May 23, 2012 4:36PM
♦ May 24-27 (showtimes vary)
♦ Laugh Factory Chicago, 3175 N. Broadway
♦ (773) 327-3175;
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:44AM
As a radio DJ once told him excitedly, “You’re the guy that’s in all the movies I love!” And it’s true: Chicago-trained comedic actor David Koechner, whose name is less familiar than his face, turns up in scads of flicks — many of which enjoy wide theatrical release and an extended afterlife on cable. Here’s a small sampling: “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (he plays screw-up sportscaster Champ Kind), “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “Thank You For Smoking” and “Snakes on a Plane.”
Lately, though, the Tipton, Mo.-born cut-up is perhaps most widely recognized for his recurring role as moronic lout Todd Packer on NBC’s “The Office.”
In cyberspace, Koechner appears on a series of improvisational web ads for the restaurant chain Denny’s. During the smart and quirky humor segments, dubbed “Always Open,” he chats up and creeps out famous funny folks — including Sarah Silverman, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, the latter two of whom produce the ongoing series through their company dumbdumb.
The father of five kids, one of them still toilet training, Koechner also can be seen alongside his blogger wife Leigh in spots for Huggies diapers.
For the past couple of years, Koechner has traveled the country doing standup. He’ll perform at Chicago’s Laugh Factory May 24 through 27.
Question: Growing up, was humor a defense mechanism for you?
David Koechner: Oh, yeah, without a question. I’m the third of six; you gotta get attention. That’s my guess, looking back. And then knowing I could also [use humor to] control the situation around me. You notice it works, so you keep doing it.
Q. Did you enjoy riling people up, authority figures especially?
DK: Yeah. Certainly in class. I was a discipline problem. I would climb the walls; I had some sneakers I could do it with.
Q. Now that you’re famous there’s probably a school wing named after you.
DK: No, Tipton [high school] has not decided I’m worth mentioning. [Laughs] I think you’ve got to donate money for that. My money’s all spoken for.
Q. What can you reveal about Champ Kind’s next adventure in the forthcoming “Anchorman 2?”
DK: I don’t know, but my guess is there’s got to be a huge breakdown. That’s got to be Champ’s arc. Champ is dynamite waiting to blow up. Here’s a guy who’s a severe alcoholic but can hold it together at work. He’s a misogynist, but he’s also a latent homosexual. And he’s battling both of those things. I don’t think he has one healthy relationship in his life, and he suffers from extreme loneliness. And at the same time, he’s in extreme denial. So basically he’s the perfect American male.
Q. Where does he fall on the spectrum of your characters in terms of how much you enjoy playing him?
A. Oh, he’s a lot of fun. There’s no question. There’s so many similarities between him and Todd Packer [Koechner’s character] from “The Office.” They’re both pretty awful guys. And so people generally assume, “Well, the actor’s gotta be something like that.” The thing I have in common with those guys is I’m loud, but [otherwise] I’m not like that at all.
Q. Do people approach you and say, “I thought you’d be a bigger idiot?”
DK: Yes. People have a general attitude. I’ve also had directors casually mention, “Well, this isn’t [the type of role] that you’ve done.” And I’m like, “I’m a good actor. Just because I’ve done those [idiot] roles doesn’t mean I can’t do something else. So just give me that chance. It’s gonna be OK.”
Q. But at least you’ve carved out a niche for yourself.
DK:Have I carved out a niche or dug a hole? [laughs]
Q. Why did you decide to start doing standup a couple of years ago?
DK:I’ve always done live performance, from my days in Chicago to my first big job at “SNL.” And I’ve always done improv shows here in L.A. When the recession hit, jobs got tight. Stuff that I would normally get automatically, stars were doing. And so I realized there was a change in the marketplace and thought, “You know what? I’d better have a backup.”
Q. It must be challenging to do an extended set.
DK: Having a background in improvisation, I never panic. There’s no real fear for me in terms of “is this going to work?” because I’ve already decided the outcome in my mind. Whether everyone in the audience agrees or not is a different story.