Carl Kozlowski's not about to let narcolepsy keep him from pursuing a career in comedy. Although he's forced to take buses and trains all over L.A. since crashing his car after falling asleep at the wheel in 2003, he keeps busy as co-host — with Jake Belcher and Brant Thoman — of the online radio show Grand Theft Audio, among many other credits. Kozlowski presents Asleep at the Wheel as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival this weekend.
L.A. WEEKLY: Narcolepsy — that sounds dangerous, and not at all funny. How do you find the funny in something like this?
CARL KOZLOWSKI: What's not funny about waking up six miles from where I intended to stop on the bus, feeling like I've just drugged, kidnapped and abandoned myself? Or doing a faceplant into my computer keyboard in front of everyone at my newspaper office while engaged in a breaking-news interview with the mayor of Burbank? How about having Hilary Swank wonder if I'm choking to death and asking if I need her to give me the Heimlich maneuver when I started snoring horrifically during a question-and-answer round table for her new movie? Maybe it's just my personal way of dealing with situations that bizarre, but I gotta laugh, and lots of other people have been laughing at my “episodes” for the past 10 years, so I thought it's time to see if the rest of the world finds this funny, too.
What's the worst thing that's happened to you while asleep?
One night I was riding the 720 bus home down Wilshire after midnight when I drifted asleep into a dream in which I was on a date with a cute girl at a movie theater. In my dream, I had just gently placed my hand on her knee, when I suddenly was jarred awake by a cold sensation. I opened my eyes to find the Latino guy next to me was looking upset and holding my wrist with his hand, directly in front of my face — just before he proceeded to slap me in my face with my own hand as the other 50 strangers onboard burst into laughter at my expense.
Are there any famous narcoleptics?
Well, Jimmy Kimmel is one, which is kind of inspiring, as what's helped me kick my habit is the fact that I showed my doctors a story on how he cured his and that made them think harder for a solution. Ironically, I even fell asleep in the studio at a taping of his TV show in 2003 amid his cranking house band and supercold studio temperature, only to wake up when the incredibly loud laughter of the audience members around me stirred me awake. I opened my eyes to find an ABC cameraman hovering directly over my face, putting my shameful sleepiness out before America on live national television as Jimmy wondered aloud if he was doing a bad job that night. So, Jimmy, gimme a call. There's great video of me there you can show again, and I can personally thank you for saving my life by sharing your story.
What have you missed because of your narcolepsy?
Unfortunately, my entire love life. Fortunately, the Bush administration. But unfortunately, not too many meals. I'm a good, solid 320.
Have you ever used narcolepsy to your advantage? Like pretending to be asleep to get someone to stop talking to you?
Huh? What? Did you just say something?
What can we expect at Asleep at the Wheel?
A mix of harrowing tales like the morning I totaled my car by falling asleep at the wheel on the L.A. freeway, surprising insights on what it's like spending five days locked down at L.A. County Hospital, funny stories of things I've seen in eight years of riding L.A. buses and trains, embarrassing tales of celebrity interviews gone awry due to my falling asleep on famous people, even more embarrassing photos taken while I was asleep across America.
Fri., June 17, 11 p.m.; Sun., June 19, 8 p.m., 2011