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.
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
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
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!'
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.”
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?”
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.
off Lexapro & I have a gun in my mouth! Do you believe me? #trust
#me & #magnets – #5150 on roof, ok? #PositveConnection #belief
“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.
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
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
“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.
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.)
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
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
(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.
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.