The Fighter & The Kid

Standup comic Bryan Callen and former UFC fighter Brendan ‘Big Brown’ Schaub make up the podcasting duo The Fighter & The Kid. The unlikely union of the bit part actor and former gladiator found its origins in the early Fight Companion episodes from The Joe Rogan Experience.

Joe Rogan’s immensely popular podcast brings in a staggering 30 million listeners a month as revealed by Rogan himself in May of 2016.  One of the less formal recurring elements of the three-hour podcast is the increasingly more frequent Fight Companion podcasts. As the name suggests the companion cast was intended to provide insights and commentary that fans of mixed martial arts could sync up to select non-pay-per-view UFC fights, to essentially be a fly on the wall for the conversations held by people close to the sport. A fairly consistent combination of Eddie Bravo (10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu), Joey Diaz (comic), Bryan Callen and Brendan Schaub join Rogan to fill the roster of regulars. Assorted other fighters, commentators and individuals close to combat sports drop in from time-to-time in what has quickly become an excuse for Rogan and his crew to hang out and talk a little shit. Providing several disclaimers before each Fight Companion, the usual educational aspect of Rogan’s podcast is unapologetically reduced to ‘broscience’, Bravo vehemently defending conspiracy theories, Callen as the consenting whipping boy, impressions of Alex Jones, Joey Diaz and occasionally the Rogan crew touching on the fights going on in the background.

Established early among the crew of largely standup comics was the ex-heavyweight fighter’s ability to throw down punchlines as well as he throws opponents around in the octagon.

The former San Francisco 49er (practice squad) turned UFC fighter became either loved or hated and was often debated among other media outlets and the legion of JRE faithful. The same fans were instrumental in renaming the California native from ‘The Hybrid’; to his going fight name ‘Big Brown’.

With the success of the companions as well as the galvanizing loose tongue of Big Brown, it made sense that he along with Mad TV alum Callen the longtime close friend of Rogan would branch off to develop a podcast of their own.

The cast was immediately successful bringing in four million downloads a month from multiple countries worldwide. The Fighter & The Kid was also the catalyst in Schaub’s decision to walk away from the dangerous sport before sustaining any more physical damage. Though a very public plea from Rogan to Schaub about considering head trauma and other dangerous aspects of the sport on the backside of the fighter’s career after Schaub sustained a couple noteworthy losses in a row nudged the retirement process along as well.

The Fighter & The Kid were in Vancouver for two shows this week and for the first time as a comedy pairing. With both the Wednesday and Thursday show coming out of the famed Commodore Ballroom, the Vancouver shows were another in the growing list of premier venues only for Schaub during his two-year stint now as a professional laugh maker.

The sheer volume of people in the audience displayed a substantial contrast to a year ago (almost) to the date (21-23) when a solo Callen brought his unique blend of hilarity to The Comedy Mix on downtown’s Burrard Street. Granted the comic spread his last stay over three night’s a year ago at the 220 seat venue, to just two at the  995 maximum capacity ballroom. The first night of the live podcast saw fewer bodies in chairs than did Thursday’s outing, but reports of a decently healthy Wednesday indicate that Live Nation saw a return in their investment in their decision to promote the current Fighter & The Kid mini-tour.

Every Fighter & The Kid show starts with five to eight minutes of Schaub exercising his stand-up chops, and occasionally getting his chops busted by (at times) overzealous crowds. Having laughed countless times at Schaub’s witty retorts and banter in podcast form, Thursday night’s live podcast was a stark reminder that there is a massive gap between one being funny and one being witty.

That is not to say Schaub is out of his league on stage with just a mic, a stand, and a stool.  Nor is it meant to imply that in UFC heavyweight can’t grow into a convincing comic, but having only been on stage an estimated (by Callen Thursday night) 30 times showed on many occasions Thursday night.

Schaub is no way warming up any pens responsible for drafting up HBO Comedy Special contracts, however, given the company he keeps and his natural inclination to make people laugh and in a few years, he may have the last of those laughs.

The athlete has clearly already taken the advice from fellow comics to subdue the physically intimidating man with good looks burden he bears, by deploying self-deprecating humour to ‘win’ audiences over.

Given how genuine the friendship of the Callen and Schaub seems to be, while factoring in the increased ticket sales Callen is likely to see with the fighter attached to the billing might be putting the Keto-Kid on a  fast track to being a reputable standup comic (if those words can be joined side-by-side?).  

Like a pressure release valve being lifted, the crowd showed their appreciation upon the introduction of Callen to the stage.

After rifling their humourous act of David vs a dozy Goliath jokes and an abundance of gay jokes the duo transitioned into the dismissable go-to for performers struggling to round out a set; improv games with suggestions from the crowd.

Until the show transitioned into community theatre it was chalked full of laughs with only a small bit of that feeling that the Fighter could take a fall at any moment. Oddly it was Callen with the most egregious folly when much to the crowd’s disapproval he referred to our city as ‘Toronto’.

All in all, there was a great energy in the crowd that mirrored the very funny Callen and easy going Schaub’s good-natured antics.

The live show is definitely a work in progress, but the podcast and especially the JRE Fight Companion podcasts are well worth the listen. The Brendan Schaub that is very worth laughing along with is the Brendan Schaub that speaks freely about subjects he can relate to, in a comfortable environment where he does not feel he has to dwarf his personality for an onlooking third party.

The always funny Callen just gets better as a stand-up and will soon have another spinoff he hopes sees the success of his last. ABC and Sony pictures are making plans for the longtime actor and (falsely) rumoured brother of Joe Rogan to reprise the role that he currently holds on the hit TV show The Goldbergs, in a new sitcom for the media conglomerate.