David Koechner didn’t become a superstar from his stint on ‘Saturday Night Live’ like fellow alums Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase and Will Ferrell. After all, Koechner only lasted one season on the sketch show and didn’t forge any indelible characters, the kind Hollywood desperately tries to spin into comedy franchises.
Instead, Koechner emerged as one of Hollywood’s more trustworthy comic supporting players in films like ‘Anchorman,’ ‘Extract’ and ‘Thank You for Smoking.’
He may not see his name above the marquee, but chances are if he’s co-starring in a comedy it’ll contain a few extra laughs. Together with fellow comic actors Joe Lo Truglio (‘I Love You, Man’), Thomas Lennon (‘Bad Teacher’) and Ken Jeong (‘The Hangover’), Koechner is one reason why the state of modern movie comedies is as robust as it is.
Koechner recalls watching ‘SNL’ for the first time at age 13 and knowing he would one day grace that NBC Studio stage. He just didn’t figure his time on the show would be so brief. He says he got fired by the same NBC executive who let go popular Weekend Update host Norm MacDonald – Don Ohlmeyer.
Getting canned did have an upside.
“Six months after I left the show I met my wife. Things happen for a reason,” he says.
Koechner may have scored with subsequent hits like ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby’ and ‘Get Smart,’ but he wishes more people would check out some of his less heralded films like ‘Extract.’
“Mike Judge is our Woody Allen,” he says of the film’s director, best known for creating MTV’s ‘Beavis & Butt-Head.’
At this point, Koechner says the film industry is more than ready to typecast him as the go-to “loud, broad” type, and he fears being trapped by those dimensions.
“I’m hoping to do a serious film or guest spots on TV dramas,” he says.
It’s why he’s so fond of ‘Tenure,’ a 2009 gem that never got a theatrical release. He plays a bearded college professor obsessed with finding Sasquatch. The role let Koechner show another side of his often zany screen persona.
These days, audiences can find Koechner on the road with a stand-up routine he glibly describes as “an old tent show revival meets a panic.”
“I have a pretty regular show. I talk about my wife and kids and do lines from my movies. I’m not a political comic,” he says. Doing stand-up calls upon his improv skills while giving him more control of his career.
“It’s a great promotional tool, better than taking ads out,” says Koechner, who will be visiting Denver and Roswell, GA next month. “It helps build awareness.”
It’s also embraces a cold reality in our economically fragile times.
“The media is changing. There are going to be greater opportunities for those who want to take advantage of it,” says Koechner, name checking podcaster Adam Carolla as just one example. Koechner is in talks to streamcast a comedy program called ‘Carneyville’ with fellow comic Dana Gould.
“You get to express yourself in any way you want to, rather than doing something others are providing to you,” he says.
Of course, even freewheeling venues like podcasts and stage shows come with restrictions. Just ask Christopher Titus, who caught flak for a death threat gag against Sarah Palin in a comedy podcast, or Tracy Morgan, who ended up doing an apology tour after he promised to kill his son if he turned out to be gay.
“We all have to battle for our independent selves,” he says, likening those cases to the battles once fought by the likes of Lenny Bruce. “It’s not just comedians who are gagged. It’s everybody.”
Koechner has a cameo in the early 2012 comedy ‘This Means War’ as well a larger role in the upcoming horror sequel ‘Piranha 3DD.’ Audiences will also see in in more episodes of NBC’s ‘The Office’ and ‘Chuck.’
But he’d really love to clear his schedule for an ‘Anchorman’ sequel – if it ever happens.
“It seems like a no brainer,” says Koechner of the 2004 Paramount Pictures comedy starring Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate. “I don’t know if it’s political or budget, but from what I’ve heard the budget is in line. In any other studio in town it would be made.”
“All I hear [from fans] is, ‘where’s the next one?” says Koechner, who loves being a part of a film that struck a nerve with the public. “It’s crazy … sometimes you get lucky.”