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Q&A: Brooks Wheelan

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa native Brooks Wheelan graduated from the University of Iowa in 2009 before moving to Los Angeles to put his biomedical-engineering degree to good use. And he did, for a while, until his comedy took off enough for him to quit his day job. Wheelan was a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” for the 2013-14 season, but he was fired at the end of the year. Now, he’s back to what he knows best with his “Brooks Wheelan Falls Back on Standup Comedy (Sorta) Tour,” bringing him to the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., at 9 p.m. Saturday. Wheelan took a break from watching How to Train Your Dragon 2 to answer a few questions about his time on “Saturday Night Live,” his background in Iowa, and his future comedy plans.

Daily Iowan: What was the best part of being on “Saturday Night Live”? The worst?

Wheelan: The best part was when you got to be on it, and the worst part was when you weren’t on it.

The best days were when I got to be on Weekend Update, and the worst days were when I wasn’t on the show at all. It’s like the highest highs and the lowest lows. It stinks when you don’t make it on because you’d work like an 80-hour week and then have nothing to show for it. It was a bummer.

DI: Now that “Saturday Night Live” is behind you, what’s coming up?

Wheelan: I’ve been doing standup for the last eight years, so that was always the goal — become a really great standup comedian and maybe get an hour special. So that’s what I’m working toward now.

DI: Any thoughts on what that special will look like?

Wheelan: Standup is constantly evolving. Hopefully, every show is better than the one before because you learn something each time. So I have no idea what I’ll be talking about next year, but hopefully, it’ll be great.

DI: Would you like to keep performing sketch comedy or stick to stand-up? What about television or movies?

Wheelan: I’m working on my own television show. I used to live in Los Angeles, and what I was doing there was pitching television shows. Actually, the first two shows I pitched were set in Iowa City, because I think it’s a unique, cool place that would be good for a comedy show. I enjoy Iowa City. So I’ll go back to trying to make TV shows.

DI: Do you have any plans to go back to biomedical engineering?

Wheelan: Never ever. Comedy is what I like. I have a career in it that I like. I treated my biomedical-engineering job like it was McDonald’s — it was just a job to make money.

I remember I got an engineering-tutor job at the Seamans Center because I got a public intox and needed money to pay for that, so I tutored.

DI: What can people expect from your show at the Mill?

Wheelan: I don’t know. It’ll be fun. The Mill is my favorite type of venue. It’s a music venue, it’s not a comedy club. I love performing at music venues because the crowd’s more on board, which lets the comedian be looser and makes for a better show. It’s just not prepared at all.

DI: How do you think growing up in Iowa and your time at the UI affected your comedy?

Wheelan: I wasn’t surrounded by comedy; I came up with my own style. Which was good, that worked, so that when I went to other places I wasn’t ripping off any other comedians. I just sort of developed my own weird way on doing it in Iowa.

DI: Tell me about your performances in Iowa City while you were still at the university.

Wheelan: I was terrible at comedy, but people let me keep doing it, so that was nice of them. I just remember there were a number of times where I would perform, and I’d go to the bathroom right afterwards because I was drunk and had to pee, and I’d hear people talking about how bad I was. And I was: I was really bad in Iowa City, but I kept at it.

One more thing — when I was a senior at Iowa, The Daily Iowan did a feature on comedy in Iowa City, and it didn’t include me, and I just wanted to let you know that I’m still steaming about it. I always said that when I made it big, I wouldn’t do an interview with you guys, but, yeah, I’m still mad at you.


COMEDY
Brooks Wheelan
Where: Mill, 120 E. Burlington
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $10


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