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Brody Stevens, Standup Comedian, Speaks Out About his Infamous Twitter Meltdown

Brody Stevens
Brody Stevens
Nanette Gonzales

Show business, they say, is all about big highs and big lows. That

certainly has been true for comedian Brody Stevens -- in recent years, he

both nabbed roles in major summer blockbusters and had a mental

breakdown. On Twitter. In front of 15,000-plus followers.

So now a

guy who defined himself by living in the San Fernando Valley, where he

grew up, has been forced to move. Now the funny man who was starting to

hit the big time is trying to claw his way back.

But you can say this for Stevens: He didn't hide anything when he was cracking up, and he's not hiding anything now.

"I

had an episode, and I had to move out of the Valley," is how he begins.

A tall, swarthy 41-year-old who pitched for Arizona State, his greenish

eyes can range from aggressively mischievous to suicide-bomber intense.

"So what started out as a story about a guy who's from the Valley

living in the Valley, went to a guy from the Valley who's now living on

Hollywood Boulevard. The nicer part of Hollywood Boulevard. The

seminicer part."

Stevens performing with Chelsea Handler on Chelsea Lately
Stevens performing with Chelsea Handler on Chelsea Lately

Stevens -- who was born Steven Brody but reversed

it for performance purposes -- had gone on a 12-day trip to comedy

festivals in Dublin and Montreal in late July. He was extremely

emotionally high from a few recent successes. He hypothesizes that this,

combined with recovery from a brutal case of strep throat he caught on

the trip, plus running out of his prescription antidepressant Lexapro,

added up to a physiological perfect storm of manic, supercharged

behavior upon his return.

"A close entertainment friend tells me

I'm being too loud and leaves me a mean voice mail: 'Don't talk to me

like that in my house.' It was really bad. This guy told me he didn't

like my new attitude. But I was happy!"

Stevens' last few years

had been a roller coaster. Among the lows: the sudden, bitter end to his

three-year audience-warm-up gig on Chelsea Lately, the result

of butting heads with producers who, in Stevens' estimation, just didn't

understand or appreciate his job there. He also had a falling-out with

longtime friend, and now ex-roommate, Johnny Spanish over a shared

podcast.

But the highs were considerable. Stevens' longtime friend Zach Galifianakis got him small but notable roles in The Hangover (the original and the sequel) and Due Date.

Galifianakis then helped sell HBO on a quasi-reality show about

Stevens; they successfully shot a pilot. Stevens' sets at prestigious

comedy festivals had won accolades, and he had recently guest-hosted TMZ for a week while Harvey Levin was on vacation.

"TMZ went very well," he says. "And I start tweeting a bit: 'Brody & TMZ -- power couple!'

"A

few people thought I was too 'up,' or this wasn't the Brody they knew,"

Stevens says. "Well, I was happy. I was doing a victory lap."

That

Saturday, Stevens went to a party thrown by Sarah Silverman, where he

hung out with David Cross, Robert Smigel and Garry Shandling. He felt

that he'd connected with Marilyn Manson. But he recalls that Silverman

asked him, "Brody, does it all have to be about you?"

Stevens chats with Kevin Nealon at The Laugh Factory
Stevens chats with Kevin Nealon at The Laugh Factory

Stevens, who

has logged more than 17,000 tweets, reaches a dedicated (and sometimes

influential) audience. But the "wrong" tweets can have consequences.

After his friends' comments provoked him, the very next day, by Stevens'

own account, he went "nuts" on Twitter.

"They upset me by saying

that stuff about me: 'What are you doing?! This isn't the Brody we

know.' So you're telling me to go back to being miserable? I'm happy

for, like, a week. Let me be happy."

Stevens tweeted a flurry of "fuck yous" to people he felt had been disrespectful jerks. Other tweets aimed inward.

I'm

off Lexapro & I have a gun in my mouth! Do you believe me? #trust

#me & #magnets - #5150 on roof, ok? #PositveConnection #belief

#daisy

"People started texting me: 'Brody, what's wrong with you? I'm afraid for you.' They're thinking I'm gonna hurt myself."

Many in the comedy community interpreted the behavior as some kind of performance art.

"I

know @AllThingsBrody," one fan wrote. "He ain't killing himself. But he

might kill you. He's just sick of taking shit. And sicker of the

Dodgers' record."

Added another, "I firmly believe that

@AllThingsBrody's Twitter meltdown is just the best viral marketing

tactic in the history of media."

Stevens retweeted that remark. When someone on Twitter compared him to Charlie Sheen, he retweeted that, too.

"That's the danger of his 'persona,' " an astute commenter would later write on the alt-comedy Web forum aspecialthing.com. "It was very difficult to discern the difference between a bit and a genuine breakdown."

That Monday, LAPD showed up at Stevens' place. One of the cops recognized him from The Hangover and TMZ.

"They

say you might be suicidal, or wanna hurt somebody," the officer told

him. To which he replied, "I'm fine. Why would I -- I just hosted TMZ!"

Stevens performing at the Laugh Factory
Stevens performing at the Laugh Factory

Stevens

hit Twitter even harder, then took video of himself harshly telling off

a guy asking for money outside a 7-Eleven, adding the caption: "Brody,

cleaning up the Valley, one 7-Eleven at a time."

"I was putting

out positive energy," he maintains. "The minute somebody was a jerk to

me, or I picked up negativity, I said, 'Fuck you! That's why nobody

knows you. You're an asshole, I'm a nice guy!' "

He then got into a

confrontation with a stranger at Starbucks. After Stevens nudged him

about how they were wearing the same shoes and similar Dodgers jerseys,

the guy got irritated. Stevens went off, loudly calling him a prick and

announcing he'd be waiting outside.

LAPD officers came and cuffed Stevens. But after the sergeant showed up, he talked to Stevens and let him go.

"I

knew I had to get out of town," the comedian recalls. "I was on a

six-day comedy bender, but I was ready to take a break. I was done."

But the tweets kept coming.

Send

over LAPD. I want FUCKING officer HOFFMAN outside my apt on Magnolia in

one FUCKING hour!! #ok #bring cameras if u want a show!! #818

The

following night, a comedian buddy of Stevens' accompanied him to a

North Hollywood Starbucks, then McDonald's. In the car, the guy got a

call from his manager, who happens to be Stevens' ex-manager and remains

something of a friend. Stevens grabbed the phone: "Dave, it's Brody.

I'm with Howard. I've got a gun." Then he added, "I'm just kidding."

The

disclaimer was not effective. After Stevens returned home, more police

officers entered his apartment and pulled him out of the shower, not

even letting him get dressed before they took him away, he says.

Stevens

was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center's psychiatry department, where

he slept in a waiting room, wearing a robe. Then they put him in

solitary.

"No one would talk to me," he says. "I was treated like a patient, not a person."

After 30 hours, Stevens was transferred to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center's psychiatry wing in Westwood.

"First

they put me with wackos, then they put me in intensive care -- where the

nurses were mean to me and said: 'If you don't listen to us, we'll give

you a shot.' Then they put me in Addiction, which was better. I'm not

addicted, but it was more mellow there."

A psychiatrist told him

he thought his behavior was being caused by bipolar disorder, with an

accompanying manic episode. Stevens' stay totaled 17 days, with bills

for $37,000. (Most of that is covered by insurance.)

While Stevens

didn't feel a strong urge to bolt -- much preferring first to be told he

was OK -- the weeks of quiet rest off the grid were tough: "I'm missing

gigs, I'm missing opportunities, there's no Internet. I did sneak in a

phone."

In person a few months later, Stevens' demeanor is

subdued, although he does manage to wig out a little over the

independent café's lackadaisical baristas.

"I like Starbucks," he blurts, a hint of Rain Man

OCD mixed into the roaring delivery that onstage becomes all-out

carnival barking/drill sergeant. "I like knowing it's the same every

time. It's consistent."

Stevens was put on the powerful

medications Depakote and Seraquel, which he takes in doses high enough

to prohibit driving after dark, thus necessitating a move over the hill

to Hollywood, where he can walk to his club gigs.

"I like how

these drugs work, but I've been a zombie for around two months, and I

don't like that. One of the bad side effects is no exercise; another is

that I don't sleep well," he says. "It's like 10 hours of tossing and

turning."

(Stevens and his psychiatrist have discussed safely

lowering his dosage, reducing side effects while still safeguarding

against future manic episodes.)

"I comment on all this in my act,

but it doesn't make me who I am." He holds up a plastic lanyard ID from

his time in the psych ward: "But I still wear the badge." He also refers

to the episode, frequently, on Twitter. "I'm normal, but I have to live

with this fucking stigma. I lost some friends."

The kind waitress

finally brings Stevens his individual, spherically shaped glass coffee

pot, then later offers him a free refill pot for the delay. The coffee's

"all right," reluctant but solid praise from the ball-busting Stevens.

He seems to have made peace with the unconventional hot beverage

situation, just as he seems likely to make peace, eventually, and

rebuild from this shocking life disruption.

But is the irony lost

on those who took offense, or turned away, that the same outrageous and

aggressive behavior they applaud onstage suddenly became unacceptable

when the magnitude was turned up in real life? In the performing arts,

the line between "creative genius" and mental health patient can be

difficult to draw.

"I was onstage, basically -- acting like Twitter was my stage, real life was my stage," Stevens says.

That

stage act was deemed more worrisome than funny by those around him.

Stevens crossed a line that's not allowed. He knows that now.

Now there's a quieter, calmer -- but still funny -- Brody Stevens, working his way back to good. Maybe even back to HBO.

"As for professional connections, it gets better each day," he says. "Each day I don't fuck up."

Follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.


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