Greetings! The Review Board here to feature our second Author Spotlight, Brian J. Bromberg. To conduct this special interview is our very own Mini Truth.
Hello Mr. Bromberg and thank you for joining us here today at The Review Board. It’s a true pleasure to be able to be the person that reviews you. Upon having done a bit of research I was able to find many interesting things and I look forward to asking you about them.
Well, I’m happy to be joining you, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects: me. I find “me” endlessly fascinating, and I hope you will too.
1. First, I would love it if you could introduce yourself for those who do not know you. Could you please tell us all a little bit about Mr. Brian Bromberg?
Sure. My name is Brian Bromberg, and I’m a writer. That sounds a lot like introducing yourself as an alcoholic at an AA meeting, doesn’t it? Well, for me, writing is every bit as addictive. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve had many jobs over the years – camp counselor, journalist, teacher, copywriter, content director … there was a stint in there where I cleaned and vacuumed banks. Each job involved telling stories. The story I told myself while cleaning banks, for example, was a wonderful tale about how I was not in fact a janitor. I liked that story.
I’ve always been a storyteller. Through writing, I’ll create a world better than the one we live in, or I’ll create a world in which a Satanic ball of light goes around killing everyone in my high school. I’ve written those sorts of stories too. I have a very diverse list of published work – from picture books for kiddies to more adult stuff like my recent novel, Falling Up, which the kiddies should not be allowed within 150 feet of. So WRITER is definitely a large part of who I am.
But it’s not the largest part. The largest part is my role as DADDY. I have the best, most amazing daughter in the world. She is my inspiration and motivation. As far as jobs go, DADDY is the best one I’ve ever had and it’s what I spend most of my time on. Writing is what I do, but Daddy is who I am.
2. The novel you submitted to us here at The Review Board was Falling Up, which I happened to love, by the way. However, I also see that you’ve worked very closely with Nickelodeon on some of my son’s favorite cartoons. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Well, first of all, I’m glad you loved the novel. That’s definitely my “heart work” and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever written. But yes, I have written a lot for children as well. I’m a very popular writer among people not yet old enough to read.
I think I’m up to 12 children’s books, five video games, one kids’ movie, 8 episodes of Dora the Explorer and 2 episodes of Go, Diego, Go! I started writing for children in 1999 – way before I had a child of my own. I got into it almost accidentally. Owing to my background as a teacher, Nickelodeon hired me as a copywriter for their Consumer Products department, focusing on preschool shows with an educational component. Through that, I became very familiar with the brands, so occasionally, I would write books based on them. My first book for kids was a musical Blue’s Clues novelty book. Eventually, that evolved into writing episodes of the shows themselves. It turned out that I was pretty good at writing for preschoolers, which was initially a surprise to me. In fact, I got an Emmy nod a while ago for an anti-bullying interstitial that I wrote for Nickelodeon. I took the controversial position of “bullying is a bad thing.” And people seemed to like it. Not enough for me to win the Emmy, but it was an honor just to be nominated-blah-blah-blabbety-blah.
So, yes, I love writing for kids just as much as I love entertaining adults. And writing for kids is really not that different from writing for so-called adults. Everyone laughs at the same things, in the end. For example, a preschooler will laugh at the word “bananapants.” There doesn’t even have to be a context. Just say it. A slightly older kid will laugh if someone slips on the banana and tears his pants. A young adult will laugh at a different approach: “Is that a banana in your pants or are you happy to see me?” A more sophisticated adult will laugh at an observation, like, “You just can’t eat a banana in public. There’s no way to look good while doing it. You look like a gorilla in pants, giving a fruit fellatio.” But see how it all goes back to “bananapants?” All comedic writing is “bananapants.” You can quote me on that.
3. Now something that I found incredibly interesting is that you’ve also done Stand Up Comedy. Personally, I love comedy. What would you say is your comedic style and how did it develop?
I got into comedy a few years ago when a co-worker at Comedy Central told me that I was funny and brought me to an open mic night. He urged me to take the stage, and I did. It was my first time, and I got some really big laughs. So that was it for me – I was addicted. I love getting up on stage and making people laugh. For me, it’s like karaoke with punch-lines. I like how it feels – being up on stage and saying things that actually make others laugh. It’s an amazing sensation, like a superpower. I mean, if you think about it, stand-up comedy is a really contrived situation. It’s not like you’re at a party, telling jokes, riffing off others’ comments, having a natural conversation. No, this is an unnatural situation where a bunch of people are sitting there, starting at you, waiting for you to make them laugh, and they’re actually thinking, “You better come through, Funny Man, because I just paid the cover charge and the two-drink minimum, and I told this hottie sitting next to me that this would be a fun second date, so come on, make with the funny.” Being able to deliver on that, and actually affect people’s moods, is a thrill for me.
I have other ways of earning my living, so I don’t need to be funny in order to eat or make rent. So the pressure’s off, you know? I just go up on stage and say things as I naturally would, and I think that’s why it works. My style is a lot of sarcasm, and me being flabbergasted by the incredibly stupid world around us. I like to exaggerate the part of my personality that is just endlessly put-out by other people’s idiocy. Think Lewis Black, for example. He’s a big influence on me. So is George Carlin, and Louis C.K., of course. If you like comedy, you have to like Louis C.K. It’s required. I once got the honor of opening for Louis C.K. – and by that, I mean doing my set right before he did his. It’s not like he asked me to be his opener or anything; it just worked out that way. And I got to talk to him after the show, and thankfully, he’s a really cool guy, just like you’d want him to be, not like a behind-the-scenes dick or anything. And he actually said to me, “You did good out there.” And that was a huge validation. So I just decided to keep doing it. And I live in New York, so there’s never a shortage of material. Just walking two blocks, you’ll see about 80 funny things, if you have the right eyes for it. So I just started writing these things down. They didn’t want to go into a short story or a book, and they were too “adult” for my juvenile work, so I made them into comedy sets and just started performing.
4. We all know that laughter is the best medicine, but have you ever met someone that has not appreciated your sense of humor, and if so I’d love to hear the story?
Well, I’m divorced, so I think we can safely identify at least one person who did not always appreciate my brand of humor. But ex-wife aside, yeah, not everyone finds the same things funny. I remember one time on stage, during a comedy set, when an entire audience just did not laugh at all. You could hear a pin drop, it was so quiet. And these were jokes that had killed two nights before. I had an audience rolling in the aisles with the exact same material. But that night, it was like the club had bussed in a group of Hungarians or something. Either they didn’t understand English, or understood it perfectly and just didn’t get me. And truthfully, that night was one of my favorite comedy experiences. I know it’s a little perverse, but bombing like that was so funny to me. It’s like singing a Guns N Roses song at karaoke really badly. You can’t hit the notes, you can’t dance like Axl, you just look ridiculous. But it’s fun and funny. Inside, I was cracking up at the fact that no one else was cracking up. It was just surreal, and I just started laughing. But I guess that goes back to my personal philosophy. There is nothing as powerful or as important in life as laughter. I believe that. I think the point of life is a great big belly laugh. So do what you love, do what makes you laugh. Hopefully, others will laugh along. If not, then enjoy the fact that you are so alone in finding something funny. Because that’s strangely funny too.
5. From whence do you hail Mr. Bromberg? What was it like where you grew up?
I was born in Queens, New York. My family moved to South Florida without even consulting me when I was 2. I grew up in a place called Coral Springs. When we moved there, it was referred to as “The City in the Country.” Now all that country has turned into malls and department stores. Growing up there was nice when I was under 13. It was the suburbs in the 80s, so all the kids could ride their bikes even when it got dark, go outside and play, hang out, and everyone knew everyone. But a place like that gets old when you’re a teenager. It was a quiet town, with no real crime, which meant it was a crime just to be a teen. The police would harass us a lot because they didn’t have much real work to do. So by the end of high school, I was ready to get out of there. And I always hated Florida weather – I sweat easily, so I basically walked around looking like a drowned rat for nine months a year. I like seasons – even harsh winters. It shows you that time is moving. In Florida, the weather makes you feel like you’re in stasis. Which is great if you’re a retiree, and don’t really want time to march on, but it’s not fun for a restless kid. I still go down there once or twice a year to visit my parents and grandparents, and now that I’m no longer a restless kid, I can appreciate the town a lot more. But it’s always nice coming back home to New York. I love this city, if you couldn’t tell from the book.
6. Would you mind telling us a bit about your family life?
For me, Family IS life. I truly believe that. As I said, being a Daddy is really what I am all about. And not a father – any creature can get excited and spawn. I mean, an involved, loving, always-there Daddy. That is my life. I have an amazing seven-year-old daughter, and I would rather hang out with her than do literally anything else. She’s with me every other weekend, and a few nights throughout the week. And I love our time together. It’s my happy place.
My girl and I are incredibly close, and I think part of that is due to a very unique thing we went through together. For five years, we were separated. She was in Spain, where her mother is from, and I was back in New York. Or more accurately, I was in Hell. Being apart from her was the worst period of my life. I flew to Madrid to see her once a month, sometimes only for a weekend, sometimes for up to two weeks. And I flew her over here to be with me in New York three times a year. The rest of the time we filled in with webcam and phone calls. It was not an easy thing to go though, and it’s not something I would wish on even my worst enemy. But on the plus side, it gave my girl and I this amazing, untouchable, unbreakable bond with each other. She is definitely a Daddy’s girl, and I am lucky to be that girl’s Daddy. She’s my everything. Of all the things I’ve ever had a part in creating, my daughter is definitely my best work.
I am very close with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, their kids, my grandparents, and my aunt. My whole family is very tight; we’re a tribe: endlessly supportive, always there for each other, crazy like all families, sure, but overall, fun and funny. Once I got over my “tragically cool” phase as a teenager, I realized that I actually did have a really cool family. I enjoy being with them. I know it may be more interesting to come from some broken background with distant parents, but I don’t have that. My family rocks. I don’t know how else to say it. And within that, I must include my incredibly loyal, wonderful, partially psychotic dog who I refer to as my hairy son. It’s amazing how much unconditional love comes from that animal. He’s been there for me through my darkest hours, and he’s every bit a family member. He’s also a great audience. He’s patiently listened to every word I’ve written over the last nine years. Without him as an audience, I might have never finished my final proofing of Falling Up. He’s a great listener. I’m thinking of making him my agent.
7. Apart from writing and comedy, do you have any other hobbies or spurts of creative genius in which you are keen to indulge?
Outside of parenting, writing, and comedy, I barely have time to breathe. So I don’t have a ton of other hobbies. I do indulge in long dog-walks; a lot of creative ideas have come to me while walking my dog in Central Park or exploring a new neighborhood with him. And I read a lot. I go to the gym all the time (not true), and I also love seeking out the best restaurants and bars in New York City. That’s the whole point of living here – eating your way through the metropolis. I also love going to comedy clubs to listen (as well as perform) and live theater, although when you have a kid, many of the shows you end up seeing have puppets in them. They can’t all be Tennessee Williams.
8. What are three things that you simply cannot live without?
My daughter. Laughter. And air. No one can live without air. But since that’s fairly obvious, let’s go with “creative expression” instead. Without all the outlets I have for my creativity, I’m pretty sure I’d end up talking to padded walls. Being creative, and creating, that’s what keeps me going.
9. Let’s play make believe, shall we? Once upon a time Mr. Brian Bromberg found himself caught in the middle of that zombie apocalypse… what happens next?
Oh, I’m eaten. I’m definitely eaten. It couldn’t be avoided. The first thing I do is protect my daughter, get her to safety, lock her in the apartment with me. And we’re safe for a while, no question. Because the building is pretty big, and with the elevator out, and the amount of people in the building, it’s easy to defend the stairwells, and the zombies aren’t making it up five flights of stairs anyway. Plus, the doorman never lets zombies in unless they clearly announce who it is they are here to see, and with their drooling and moaning, they can’t pull that off. So we’re safe. But eventually, I have to walk the dog, that’s the problem. I can’t have him piss and shit all over my rugs. So I take him out for a walk. And we walk quickly – we can definitely outrun the zombies. They really are the worst monsters. I walk with a limp, and I can still run faster than them. They’re really not intimidating. But here’s the thing: New York is very strict regarding the rule on picking up your dog’s crap, and I always have a hard time getting the little baggies out of their carrying case. And then when you do get them out, it takes forever to figure out the end to open them from, and while I’m fumbling with the baggies, BOOM. Eaten. I don’t see how else it could possibly go down.
10. Now it’s time for a question about Falling Up. Please share with our audience where the idea for Falling Up came from and why you felt compelled to write it?
Falling Up actually came straight out of a conversation with my brother, Gregg. We were having a boozy brunch one day, and I was telling him about a new story I was working on, and suddenly, he INTERRUPTS me to say, “Yeah, you really can’t write anything good when you’re happy.” So, first of all, by implication, he was telling me that the idea I was sharing with him was utter shit. And he was right. But also, it’s true that a lot artists feel like they have to act the part of brooding, self-serious, beret-wearing ar-teests. So I wanted to lampoon that. That day, when I got home, I started Falling Up. I loved the idea of a writer who needed to make himself miserable in order to be happy with his work. I loved the idea of a man destroying his real life in order to improve his fiction. And taking him as far down that rabbit hole as I could was such a thrilling journey. He’s so misguided and all his priorities are wrong. On top of that, he says and does things I could never do or say – I think that’s why I enjoyed writing him so much. But it all came from that convo with my brother. And as a tribute to that, not only did I name the main character “Gregg,” but I also put our conversation in the book. It gave me the idea for the novel, so I figured a similar conversation would be the catalyst to inspire my character to sabotage his comfy life. So after all your readers go buy their copies(at brianjbromberg.com or amazon.com), they’ll need to remember to send a mental thank-you to my brother who helped it to all come together in my mind.
Thank you so much for inviting me to babble at you for a while. I appreciate it.
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