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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Guy Branum

Comedian Guy Branum has appeared on “Chelsea Lately” and G4’s “X-Play.” His new book is “My Life as a Goddess.”

Where do you come up with your best ideas?

I do a lot of my best creative thinking in the car. Los Angeles forces you to spend a lot of time in your car, alone, mulling thoughts. Somehow my brain just seems to synthesize thoughts into ideas when I’m stuck on an onramp for the 101. I also have a lot of ideas after I experience good art. After I watch an engaging film or really lose myself in music, I find my brain making new, interesting connections.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?
One summer my then-15-year-old niece read the Odyssey aloud to me over the phone. She knows I care too much about book learning, and she likes a good story, so she sat on the phone for hours reading to me. I also made her stop constantly to discuss stuff. Most people would have gotten bored, most teenagers would have gone insane, but she’s the most patient, compassionate person I know.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?

Every year I have a very splashy, involved Passover Seder. It’s like a dinner party and a talk show and a religious ceremony all wrapped together. I spend weeks prepping menus, writing scripts, and creating games. It’s always at least 10 percent a failure, but it’s magnificent, and invites to my Seder are, like, the most precious thing I can offer.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Inferno II. The men on that season were huge.

That’s a joke.

Growing up in a farm town with very limited educational resources was probably the biggest challenge I faced. We can ignore the way class affects opportunities for success, personal expression, and a range of other things. Most people I grew up with just ended up in working class jobs, and I spent my whole childhood fearing I’d never make it to a world that could appreciate my interests and skills.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?

Be Miss India 1970. I think I really could have done a lot to represent India at the Miss Universe Pageant, and then I probably could have leveraged that into a middling Bollywood career. Then I’d marry a mid-ranking politician and be a doyenne of the Dehli dinner party scene.

Law school gave me an exceedingly organized mind. It’s an expensive skill to waste on organizing facts to support a joke, but I enjoy the decadence of the waste.

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?

I went to law school. It was an expensive, time-consuming mistake. I will never practice law. I use my JD for nothing, officially. That said, law school gave me an exceedingly organized mind. It’s an expensive skill to waste on organizing facts to support a joke, but I enjoy the decadence of the waste. Oh, and law school gave me a ruthless lack of human emotion. If you walked up to me covered in blood and told me you’d just murdered 12 people, all I’d really worry about is how many hours I could bill for your defense.

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
Coming out of the closet before age 23. I was in the Bay Area, at Berkeley, it would have been so easy to do in college, but I waited until law school, in Minnesota, which was much colder and less gay.

What do you do to relax?
Marijuana, alcohol, and a pool usually do the job. When no pool is in play, I do solid work with a bathtub.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?


What is your most indelible childhood memory?

My dad would take me pheasant hunting every weekend during the fall. Until the day I die, I will remember the smell of gutting the birds. It sounds gross to the uninitiated, but really, it was lovely. The inside of a wild pheasant smells like a rice field has come to life. It makes perfect sense and no sense. I complain constantly about the terrible little farm town I grew up in, but I feel profoundly rooted and enriched by this contact with the fundamentals of life.

Describe a perfect day.

“April 25th, because it’s not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket.” – Miss Congeniality

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck?

This is a wonderful question. I change something. That seems stupid and overbroad, but when I’m stuck, I find a variable, any variable, and I change it. Or I go and do something else until my stuckedness gets unstuck.

What is your proudest moment?

Having my own TV show was nice. Finishing my book, “My Life As A Goddess,” was pretty great, but the real truth is that the proudest moments I’ve ever had were all stupid stand-up shows. It’s usually when I stop doing material and talk to the crowd, and somehow manage to find a joke in the moment, in conversation with the audience. That’s the best.

What would you like to experience before you die? 

A thirty-year long, loving marriage with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

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