As lanky as Peter Brieck is, you might think running downhill would be dangerous. But that's just how the local comedian likes it.
When a set builds momentum — when he's riffing and ad-libbing stuff on top of his prepared material and the audience is full of energy and willingly along for the ride — that's the feeling for which Brieck is going.
“Running downhill, letting gravity carry you … sounds bad, but I like it. Just don't try to slow down,” he said in an interview at Shadowbox Live's Backstage Bistro (one of the only venues featured in this year's Whiskey Bear Comedy Festival at which Brieck won't be performing — he's doing no fewer than four sets during this year's festival).
Brieck grew up on the Northwest Side, the family's middle child and a kid who never had to try hard to be funny.
“That's how I got people to like me,” he said. “I could always do some goofy face or voice and get a laugh. That's been my main social coping mechanism.”
He carried the funny-guy-in-the-group thing into adulthood, and, about five years ago, encouraged by his friends, he attended one of the city's comedy open mic nights.
“I was always kind of the funny guy in my friend circle, and I had a friend who told me I should go to some open mics and try it out. So I did, and I sucked at it,” Brieck said. “But eventually I hit a point where I figured out how I could be funny on stage in front of strangers. … When I had my first set where I made people laugh — real laughs, good laughs — it was like, ‘Oh, I'm hooked. This is awesome.' So I've always chased that feeling.”
Brieck draws on what he described as his natural awkwardness for material.
“My subject matter is pretty weird, and I take it in this really out-of-hand and awkward direction — but an endearing awkward,” he said. “I'm just this weird, tall, lanky dude, and I just tap into that. You want to get weird with it and tap into this absurdity, but don't want it to be alienating. The more I make myself look like a fool the better it works for me. I sort of carry that burden for the audience, shouldering the awkward.”