Brian McGovern is a well-known Chicago based sketch and improv performer, praised for his work with groups like Pizza Party, Kill All Comedy, and the Other Other Guys. He's teamed up with Pitbull, a Grammy-nominated musician whose chart-topping hip-pop hits like "Bon Bon" and"Give Me Everything" are beloved worldwide, to present a new hourlong sketch showcase called Pitbull & I: A Comedy About Friendship on Thursday nights all month long here in Chicago.
I was lucky enough to speak with Brian and Pitbull about their partnership in advance of tonight's premiere at the Public House Theater at 8pm. I've been assured by Brian, as well as by Pitbull's publicist, that this show is 100% legitimate and not any kind of joke, but in fact all real.
The Steamroller: How did you two meet? Was the relationship personal at first before you set out to work together on a professional, creative level?
Brian McGovern: This question is addressed in a little more detail in the show, but I will say it was a little bit of chance and, in my mind, a whole lot of fate. Though we didn’t know exactly what it was at first, the two of us knew there was a reason we came together. There was just a cosmic energy in the room. It was like when Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez met — only this was mostly non-sexual and it’ll last forever.
I personally think there’s no distinction between the personal and professional and the creative. If you’re a passionate artist, it is always those three things. Life is collaboration, and I try to turn every personal relationship I have into a monetary venture. Because I’m an artist.
Pitbull: We were pissing next to each other in a trough style urinal. DALE!
You know billion is the new million I got to grind anyway I can. Voli Vodka got me paper. Bad Boy Latino got me paper. I’ve got a line of little boy first communion suits coming out. That’ll get me paper. If I can have a few laughs while the paper’s getting got, that’s a great thing. It’s like what my main man Sean Combs said “Mo money. There are no problems.”
TS: What's it been like writing this show together? Have you found your perspectives and sensibilities are complementary or did you find yourselves butt heads during the development process?
Brian: I think Pitbull was a little apprehensive to open up at first. I’ve done a lot of stuff that have been perceived as “ironic” or “insincere” in my past shows, and Pitbull (being a huge follower of the independent Chicago comedy scene) was very aware of that. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing this to make fun of him.
He pointed out how it had been alleged that I invented my connection with Mike’s Hard Lemonade for both the first and the second annual Mike’s Hard Hard Laughs Festivade sketch comedy festival, but I assured him that I was indeed a trusted and beloved member of the Mike’s Hard Fam-onade. Why else would this exist?
Pitbull knew he could trust me and that I wanted to work with him because he was genuinely a great comedy writer, not because I wanted to make fun of his music or to ride his coattails.
Pitbull: When Brian first asked me to collaborate I was like “whoa, is this a MIB 3 situation?” Turns out I got tapped to do the soundtrack for that movie because they thought it would be funny to make me rap about aliens. Jokes on them. ALL MY SONGS ARE ABOUT ALIENS. I’ve got secrets that go deeper than the Masons, baby. The truth is out there, and it turned out that the truth was in Brian and that there’s truth in comedy. Once we stopped frontin’ I knew Brian could be a loyal member of the 305 crew. DALE!
TS: Your cast features some of the best and brightest of Chicago's underground sketch comedy scene, what was the casting process like?
Brian: It’s interesting. We set out to write a two man sketch show. As we started writing we realized this show was bigger than that. This show was, to borrow a phrase from Pit, worldwide. This was no longer a two man show. We were writing sketches where two men walked into one of the man’s mansion wearing jackets. Now, how are we supposed to get the jackets off ourselves? We needed a butler character to come in, take off our coats, and silently walk off stage. So we needed to cast that.
Another example, we wrote a sketch that takes place in the VIP area of a Miami club. It’s a two person scene where I talk to Pit about how I want him to be the Best Man at my wedding and there’s this funny joke where Pit says “I’m the best man at every wedding” and then he teases me for being loyal and loving to my fiancé and it’s super funny. And Pitbull makes a lot of good points. But then we realized. Wait, if we’re in the club, there’s got to be a crowd of people noticing that Pitbull is in the club. So we cast a couple guys and a couple women who realize they are feet away from Pitbull, that they should be at a less cool club, and then silently walk off stage.
Also dancing. We needed formally trained back up dancers who also had comedy chops. Kyle Chorpening, Lee Barats, Ryan Asher, and Emma Pope were the first names out of our mouths. Kyle and Lee are Madonna’s go-to guys when she’s shooting a music video that needs hands to reach in from off screen to touch her face. Ryan has done a lot of work where she's slowly dancing next to a guy guitar solo-ing. The 2004 rom com Shall We Dance was based off of Emma’s life. It’s sort of weird they cast Richard Gere to play her, but it’s still a great flick.
Pitbull: We casted this show just how I date women: with no call backs. DALE! I kept on getting hot but I also look the sharpest in a jacket. You know I gotta stay guapo for the chicas, tu sabe? So we told people Brian knows that if they kept taking my jacket on and off they could say they were actors in this show. They are not the stars. I am the star. I’m up in the Milky Way, shining down on all the haters. We were supposed to have more backup dancers but we had to get rid of them after - Hi, this is Linda from the Public Relations Department of RCA records. I just needed to chime in to say that the additional dancers signed a release agreement and each received a cash settlement after their lawful dismissal. Thanks.- but that’s how the cookie crumbles. DALE!
TS: You had a preview show last Thursday, how did it go? Did you have to make any big changes before tonight's premiere?
Brian: I think it went really well. Usually the shows I’ve worked on opening night is the first time we’re running the show on stage. A lot of times it’s the only time we’re putting it up. This is the first show I’m writing, directing, and starring in so it’s nice to see it in front of an audience before opening night. It was stressful but ultimately a relief that we had a chance to work through some kinks.
Pitbull: I don’t do previews, so I said f- Linda here again, just want to clarify Pitbull’s answer to this question. His contract with the Public House Theatre never specifically stated the need to do a preview show. For that reason it was his legal right to cancel his appearance. Pitbull’s legal team has already issued an apology for his behavior outside the theater during the performance. His claims that he has the power to do some ‘world-ending damage, dale!’ and the vague threats to Japan and Iran have all been revoked. Pitbull loves all countries worldwide and is excited to perform on opening night this Thursday. Thanks. - I take back nothing. It’s going down!
TS: Brian, what's your favorite Pitbull song? Pitbull, do you have a favorite sketch of Brian's?
Brian: Hands down: “Secret Admirer.” It’s a slow jam that shows Pitbull most like how I see him: personal, sensitive, caring.
Pitbull: I think his best shit is popping off in our show. There’s this hilarious one that’s like ‘shit that’s funny’ where Brian can’t stop puking and the whole time I’m flirting with his girl and then at the end she gives me her number before she takes my jacket and silently walks off stage. That’s my shit right there.
TS: Is there anything audiences should know going into the show? Is there anything you hope they'll learn?
Brian: I think people should know that they should leave their preconceived notions at the door. Sure you might think that Pitbull is already so good at so many things, this has got to be a misstep, but I have to tell you: Pit shines.
And I hope they learn that more than money or fame or influence, friendship is important. Because if you don’t have friends… what do you have?
Pitbull: The people gotta know that 305 is worldwide, baby. This show’s gonna be hot, so you better wear something that’s barely there, tu sabe?
I hope they learn that it’s lonely at the top… unless you got somebody underneath you. Ha ha aha DALE!