David Koechner is flanked by Jane Baker, left, and Paula Pell, right, during the 2015 filming of “The Parker Tribe,” Baker’s autobiographical film.
Courtesy of Jane Baker
David Koechner is flanked by Jane Baker, left, and Paula Pell, right, during the 2015 filming of “The Parker Tribe,” Baker’s autobiographical film.

‘Everyone’s struggle is the same’

‘You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,’ says David Koechner, who will perform a comedy show at the Bellows Falls Opera House.

BELLOWS FALLS — U.S. actor and comedian David Koechner brings his brand of stand-up comedy to the Bellows Falls Opera House on Sunday, Nov. 12.

"It's a power-packed 90 minutes," says Koechner, 61, on a recent afternoon phone call from his home in Los Angeles.

This is Koechner's first show back in Vermont since 2015, when he played the role of Pete Parker in the short film The Parker Tribe. The semiautobiographical film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, was written and directed by Jane Baker of Brattleboro, where it shot for eight days.

He won Best Actor at the 2015 New York Television Festival for his portrayal of Pete, whose character is based on Baker's father, Joe.

Koechner is in continued conversations about a Parker Tribe feature based on the short.

Years later, the actor remembers "the excitement everybody had" about the film, calling it "truly a labor of love."

"I read the script, and it really touched me. I knew that whoever the person was who wrote this was a very good person," Koecher says, calling Baker "a friend and a dedicated artist and a lovely person."

An alumnus of Chicago's The Second City theater, Koechner got his first break as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and is an instantly recognizable face in Hollywood, having appeared in varied and extensive roles in more than 200 films and television shows.

He currently co-hosts A&E's America's Top Dog, plays Bill Lewis on The Goldbergs, and recently appeared on Bless This Mess, Superior Donuts, and Twin Peaks.

Koechner also voices characters on American Dad, F Is for Family, and The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants.

In film, recent projects include Then Came You, Braking for Whales A Week Away, Vicious Fun, and National Champions.

His film credits include Waiting, Out Cold, Talladega Nights, Get Smart, Extract, Thank You for Smoking, A Haunted House, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Priceless, Krampus, and the dark, twisted, award-winning thriller, Cheap Thrills.

But most audiences know Koechner as Champ Kind from the film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy or Todd Packer on NBC's The Office.

Those characters couldn't be any more different from the real David Koechner.

"It's ironic that I'm playing those characters, since they are 100% the opposite of me," he says.

Calling the characters of Champ and Todd "homophobic, racist, and nationalist" and "not good dudes," he described them as "very damaged."

"My job is to highlight the pain that comes with that," Koechner says. "They are not even able to investigate their pain; they are in complete denial."

In contrast, he calls himself "a kind, family man who is on the constant search of what humanity means."

Baker agrees. When asked what it was like working with Koechner, she says, "David was a joy."

"I adore David, and the thing I want people to know about him that is very contrary to his comedic persona is that he is the kindest, most sensitive man and a great father, like mine," the actor/director says. "He encourages you to stay in the game, especially when you think it might not work out."

"I've been so fortunate to have wide-ranging projects and genres that I can participate in," Koechner says.

"Any day in show business is a good day, and any day you're on set is an impossibly great day," he adds. "When it happens, you'd better well be grateful!"

Small-town life

Growing up up in Tipton, Missouri, a town of 2,000 people, in a large family, Koechner says he played all of the usual sports and acted in two high school plays per year as a junior and senior.

He says he learned a lot growing up in a small town.

"I was left to my own devices," Koechner says. "You've got interesting characters around you, a large family, and a very small town of mostly farmers."

"There's that old saying - that you can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy," he says with a laugh. "By the time I got to Chicago, that is where my education began - when I got to work with uber-talented people."

He realized he wanted to pursue acting and comedy early.

"It struck me at age 13, when Saturday Night Live came on in 1975. I was starting to watch Monty Python, Abbott and Costello, the Marx Brothers, and those early Saturday Night Live shows."

"I knew that is what I was going to go do," Koechner says. "It was that clear."

Human foibles

When asked if any subject matter is off limits in his stand-up routine, Koechner replies, "I don't do politics in my show. I'm not known as a political comic. That would be someone like Bill Maher or Jon Stewart - they do stuff with the headlines. My material is more based on the human foibles and the struggle we all go through."

He adds that the United States "is so divided, you don't help yourself or those gathered to offer something that is so upsetting."

"I have a certain brand," Koechner continues. "I'm trying to create a lens that everyone is looking through that has messaging that we are all in this together. Everyone's struggle is the same, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

What is it about stand-up comedy that Koechner likes?

"The actual night of the show, you're getting that communion with the audience," he replies. "It's only going to happen one time. There will never be exactly the same assembly of persons in that room."

The performing artist says that he's "always flattered that people are coming to see me" in what he calls "a pretty-high-octane show."

"That better be my job as a stand-up," Koecher says. "I talk about taking my daughters on a manatee excursion in southern Florida which didn't turn out that well. Or that man with the one leg who I met."

His kids are an integral part of his set.

"I have five children, so I don't have a choice," Koecher says. "That certainly informs what happens to my life. My job is to connect that struggle by all of us as parents or all of us as children."

About the role of a dad raising five children, he says, "Every human has to program their own software, as they should. It's so hard to do. Your job is to witness the discovery of who your child is. But we can't help but getting our hands all over it."

'A massive amount of effort'

Brian Joy of Cider Productions and PK's Pub in Bellows Falls is responsible for bringing Koechner to the Bellows Falls Opera House.

"Bringing a name like David Koechner to town - who is so well known for some absolutely hysterical roles on TV and in movies - is really exciting," Joy says in an email to The Commons.

"I really hope people will come out and keep supporting live entertainment and music," Joy continues. "It takes a massive amount of effort to put on shows like this, and the only way we can keep doing it is to keep packing theaters."

"You don't have to go to Boston or New York or Foxwoods or anywhere else. It's right here in Bellows Falls," he says.

* * *

David Koechner will perform at the Bellows Falls Opera House, 7 Village Square, Bellows Falls, on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m.

"Rob Maher is my feature act and will start off," Koechner adds. "He does half an hour, then we do eight minutes together of banter, and then I do my set. He's really good! Rob kills it!"

There are four tiers of ticket pricing: $65, $55, $50, $45, including balcony seats. For more information and to buy tickets, visit bellowfallsopera.com.

For more information on Koechner, visit davidkoechner.com.

This The Arts item by Victoria Chertok was written for The Commons.

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