In the comedy world, few faces are more ubiquitous than Brian Posehn, an ultimate “that guy” actor in pop culture. The tall, bearded, bespectacled Posehn is famous for playing geeks or dweebs who have an unexpected edge, dropping in lines of biting alacrity with a deadpan delivery.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I know a lot of writers, so when they’re thinking, ‘we need a tall dork who says this,’ I usually get the call,” says Posehn, who’s performing five shows at Cobb’s Comedy Club this week.
Posehn attributes that notoriety to his early days as an actor and writer on “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” an HBO sketch show created by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross that became a cult classic, influencing a generation of comedic performers. Posehn, who was born in Sacramento and spent part of his youth in Sonoma, actually met Odenkirk and Cross while performing in San Francisco, so a foundation of his comedy career can be attributed to the Bay Area scene.
“At that time in the ‘90s, a lot of standup clubs were starting to close down, so it became pretty clear that to succeed, you needed to be a writer,” says Posehn. “After meeting Bob and David, I moved down to L.A., where they were working on ‘Mr. Show’ and were looking for sketches. And I had some sketches, so it worked out nicely for me.”
Because he writes, acts and does standup, Posehn has enjoyed an unusually broad comedic career. While many recognize him for his roles in subversive productions like “The Sarah Silverman Program,” “Reno 911” and “Tim and Eric, Great Show Awesome Job!,” he’s also carved out an enduring presence as a character actor on network shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “New Girl.”
“My sensibilities at the core—what really makes me laugh—are things like the Sarah Silverman show and Mr. Show,” said Posehn. “But being on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ is what attracts new people to come check out my standup shows, so there is a nice balance. I actually have a lot of respect for sitcoms —how they can write a joke on Monday so that it can work by Friday.”
Typically hyper-prolific, Posehn enjoyed spending time with his family during the pandemic, with the yearlong break easily being his longest hiatus from standup since he started performing more than two decades ago. He returned to the stage in San Diego at the end of May, his first extended performances since the onset of COVID.
“It was definitely strange,” says Posehn. “I had a little nerves for the first time in a while, but once I settled in, it felt great to be back.”
Posehn said it would be impossible to perform a standup gig without mentioning the pandemic, although he isn’t going to flood his act with references to the quarantine. A self-avowed nerd who is a diehard “Star Wars” fan and comic book aficionado (he’s written numerous issues of “Deadpool”), Posehn understands his place in the pantheon of the comedy world, and he thinks his audience will find solace in connecting with his long-established identity as an unabashed dork.
“There are going to be plenty of self-deprecating jokes,” said Posehn. “I think my audience knows to expect that from me at this point.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. June 17; 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. June 18-19
Contact: (415) 928-4320, cobbscomedy.com