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Brian Haner Walks the Line of Serious Musician and Comedian

Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Updated: Friday, June 1, 2012 14:06

Brian Haner started his comedy career by calling someone’s bluff.

After 25 years as a professional musician, Haner spent four years opening for Jeff Dunham on more than 500 shows. They played all across the United States and Europe as well as South Africa and Australia. Haner’s songs are outrageous and can get political at times.

Additionally, he’s an author with two novels under his belt. He also happens to be the proud papa of Synyster Gates, the guitar player for Avenged Sevenfold. In fact, he is known affectionately by Avenged Sevenfold fans as Papa Gates.

He describes himself as an “acquired taste” but has a diverse fan base. In the end, he said he never tries to think of what will make people laugh and instead just tries to make himself laugh.

College Times: How did you know that you wanted to make comedy a career?
Brian Haner: It took me a while. I was always funny, but I was always a serious musician. I was actually at a publishing deal in Nashville and I was writing serious songs like country songs. I got known around town for writing funny stuff and eventually I was approached by someone who said, “Have you thought of doing comedy?” and I said no. He said, “I think you’d be great at it,” and so I kind of called his bluff, assuming nothing would happen. I said, “Okay, sure.” It turned out he was one of the biggest comedy agents in the business actually. The next week I was opening for Lisa Lampanelli. It happened really quickly and fortunately I did well. That led on to some more jobs and ultimately the job with Jeff Dunham. Literally within eight or nine months I went from opening, doing five minutes for Lisa Lampanelli, to doing a half hour for 10,000 people in front of Dunham every night. It went by very quickly.

It must have been nice bypassing dive bars to hone your craft.
Yeah, but you know I did that when I started out as a musician. I didn’t avoid it. I avoided comedy clubs. To make a living you have to take every job that comes. I did the smoky, seedy bar scene back in the ‘80s. It was an interesting time, from what I can remember of it. It was the ‘80s, so what can I say?

It seems like you enjoy pushing buttons and giving your political opinions.
It depends. As soon as you pick a side you have 50 percent of the people against you immediately if it’s anything political. Depending on your stand, if it’s a hard enough stand, you might have even more than that against you, which I’m not really worried about. The people that are against me are never going to buy tickets or CDs, so I’m not worried about them. I’m more worried about the people that will buy my stuff.

It’s hard. I try to keep it funny, and I try to be pretty much equal opportunity. I try to pick on both sides as much as possible. I do have my opinions but my philosophies don’t follow left or right. In some ways I’m very liberal and in other ways I’m quite conservative. It just depends on the topic. Every topic is a different take, which tends to piss off everyone in the end. You take a pro-choice stand on one thing and an anti-immigration stand on another thing and they’re like, “Who is this guy?” I try to be true to myself and say what I think. There’s enough people that like it so I’m still doing it for a living.

You have a song about Arizona [and SB1070]. Have you played it here before?
Yeah, I did with Dunham a couple times. Dunham has a very conservative audience over all. The song went over very well but even in that song I’m playing both sides. If you look at the lyrics, part of it is tongue in cheek … I think something needs to be done about illegal immigration but I think it needs to be done in a sensible way. I don’t think you can just round everybody up.

It’s interesting when you see the response a song like that gets online.
When you do stuff like that, it brings out the best in some people and the worst in others. You see the racist [comments] and you’re horrified because that’s not what the song means at all. I think I’m more disappointed in how stupid people are that they either don’t get what I’m trying to say, or they can’t write in coherent sentences. Either one is pretty depressing. It’s fun to read that stuff. It’s definitely entertaining. I have a very diverse fan base. I have a lot of people that know me from my YouTube stuff, and then I have a huge source of Dunham fans which are more conservative. And then I have a bunch of fans from my son, he’s the guitar player in Avenged Sevenfold. They’re very young and very liberal so you get that mix in there and it’s just a huge shit storm. It’s kinda funny when they square off on each other. You see that at my show too. You’ll see more older, conservative people my age, middle-aged people, and then you’ll see a bunch of rockers dressed in black with tattoos. It’s kind of funny. The only litmus test I have is it has to be funny to me. I never try to think of what will make people laugh, I just try to make myself laugh.

Brian Haner, Stand-up Scottsdale!, 6820 E. Fifth Avenue, Scottsdale, 480.882.0730, Friday and Saturday, June 1 and 2, 7 and 9p.m., $10-$15

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