There’s something profoundly dystopian about Bunk, the not-exactly-game-show that’s finishing up its first season on IFC. On it, stand-up comics and sketch performers are forced into improv-based challenges that include insulting puppies or drawing new appendages to the crotch of Michelangelo’s David. And all the while, the barefoot host — played with terrifying confidence by New York-based comic Kurt Braunohler — will do things like force his intern to sift through glass shards or threaten to murder his viewers.
Braunohler is about to take the stage at the Highline Ballroom tomorrow night as part of the Comedy Bang! Bang! LIVE! tour. I caught up with him to talk about chaos, breast milk, surfing, and much more.
The host character you’ve created on Bunk is lovable, but he’s also alarmingly unbalanced. Have you invented a backstory for him?
The one storyline that like to imagine for him is, because he’s barefoot, he was just a homeless man who confidently walked in and started hosting the show, and no one knew where he came from, but he was so confident and good at it, they just continued to let him do it. Like, he doesn’t get paid. And he’s done horrible things in his life.
It’s really a parody of someone in power. It’s a parody of a game-show host, because they’re these weird– game-show hosts are weird people. They have authority for no reason. I think that’s fun to make fun of.
What game shows did you watch, as a kid?
Family Feud, that was a good one. Family Feud was crazy. Like, who were they polling? They must constantly be doing polls! Like, they have to do hundreds of pools all day. And if you were at home and someone called you up and was like, “This is a Family Feud poll,” you would just give an answer that would throw everything off. I would! Like, one person says, “Orangutan.”
One thing that’s struck me is how typical material never works on the show. Like, when people try to joke about relationships or politics on Bunk, it’s never as funny as the more abstract material that guests like Eugene Mirman and Kumail Nanjiani bring.
Yeah! What I like about it is– really, the best answers are when people just open their mouths and unguardedly say something. Then, we can pull that out of them and find out why they said it, and it really does go back to that old improv rule of truth in comedy. The funniest stuff is when people are vulnerable, when they’re on the spot and they open their mouths and something crazy comes out. You’re like– you have to investigate where this crazy thing came from.
Are we going to see the Points Chicken again? He was just on one time, so far.
Twice! He came out for a Bird Mitzvah. There was a Bird Mitzvah.
Oh, got it. So he just wasn’t there in his capacity as the Points Chicken for that.
Yeah, but it was the same chicken. I wanna bring the Points Chicken back. That’s how we ended the first pilot: everybody’s points got eaten. I loved that.
It’s just so cruel to have everyone’s points disappear like that.
I love the idea! We were trying to figure out how to end it, and I was like, “We should just have a chicken that comes out and eats all the points.” And everyone was like, “Yes, of course we should.” And I love the idea that I just didn’t feed him that day, and he eats points, and I know that, but I just didn’t feed him, so he’s so hungry.
In February, you did a great story for This American Life about a bizarre period in your sexual life. Has that exposure affected your career at all?
The main thing is, I’m developing that story as a TV show. That’s kind of the main thing. Before, I was just like, a guy who no one has heard of. And now I’m a guy who no one has heard of, that has been on This American Life. (Laughs)
You were on an episode of WTF with Marc Maron earlier this year, and you talked about how you’re unusually healthy because your mom breast-fed you until you were six. On top of that natural advantage, do you have a workout regimen to keep your figure?
I hate working out, but I like doing things, so I surf a lot. I was just surfing in the past two days, and that’s pretty much my workout regimen. I actually have a bungalow in Rockaway Beach, Queens. I can take the subway to surfing. I share it with nine other surfers.
That seems ripe for a reality show.
It’s pretty chill. In the water, it can get aggro sometimes, because there’s such a small area where everyone can surf. But for the most part, it’s cool.