Bryan Callen is performer who some might call, to use a sports term, a “journeyman.” The term is usually reserved for players who spend time on several different rosters throughout their career, not because they aren’t worthy of a permanent home but because their skill set is so diverse that it attracts a wide variety of suitors throughout a long and illustrious career. You might recognize Callen as one of the original cast members on the long running sketch comedy program MadTV. You might also recognize him as the fast talking wedding chapel owner in The Hangover, or from his countless TV appearances of shows like Entourage, Sex and the City, Oz and Fat Actress. Bryan can currently be seen in MTV’s new hit zombie comedy Death Valley, a role that Callen is clearly having fun with.
“I walk around with an ultraviolet gun, a huge zombie-killing gun. It’s a blast. I can’t believe I do this stuff for a living. I get paid for what I got in trouble for in school my whole life. My dad was always like “stop fantasizing! Stop acting like an idiot! You’re playing grab ass with your friends!” and now I make a living so jokes on him.”
Bryan can also currently be seen in theaters as he stars in Warrior, one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year so far. The film is centered on a huge Mixed Martial Arts tournament, where two estranged brothers each embark on their own individual and very different journey to the finals. The last hour of the film is filled with brilliantly choreographed fight scenes that serve as the collision course for Tom Hardy’s character, former marine Tom Conlon and Joel Edgerton’s much less physically imposing schoolteacher, Brendan Conlon. These fights are called by a pair of commentators, including Bryan Callen, who plays himself in a role that could not be more perfect for the actor, who is not only a huge MMA fan, but is also best friends with the most respected commentator in the world of MMA, comedian Joe Rogan.
“I remember when I was in the room and they were talking about this idea of writing this movie called Warrior and seeing what it became is just so overwhelming for me” Bryan says as he reminisces about how being affiliated with the film from the very beginning.
Not only does Callen add to the film on screen but he also played a crucial part in the movie coming together as a whole, as he is the one who introduced writer Anthony Tambakis to director Gavin O’Connor, most known for directing the well-received sports drama Miracle, about the US Hockey team’s spectacular win over Russia in 1980.
“Anthony was a friend of mine for a year before Gavin had ever met him but I had read some of his stuff and I thought he was amazing. Finally I got Gavin to read some of his stuff and he was so impressed that he hired him to write Warrior. I put them together so I am really proud of the movie in that sense, since I put Anthony Tambakis on the map, who is now one of Hollywood’s biggest writers now that Warrior is so critically acclaimed.”
Tambakis told Callen that he was writing him into the movie as payback for essentially getting him the gig. Tambakis told his good friend that he was writing him in as “Bryan Callen”, the commentator. When Tambakis asked the actor how he saw himself playing the part he responded with, “I’m going to play me dude, since I’m such a big MMA fan. I’m going to play me. Just roll the fights and I’ll call them.”
Bryan’s love for MMA as well as his close relationship with UFC ambassador and color commentator Joe Rogan has given him an up close and personal look at a sport that has been around for years.
“We have been going to UFC way before anyone had even heard of it. I remember like fifteen years ago going to UFC with Joe Rogan in Baton Rouge Louisiana or something in a parking lot essentially, when Randy Couture was just walking around drinking a beer!”
By combining his skills as an actor and stand-up comic with his love for a sport he has followed for years Bryan delivers one of the most convincing performances of an announcer played by someone who would be considered a non-professional. That might not be the case for much longer however, as Bryan says a real life gig as an MMA commentator might not be too far from reality.
“There was an offer tentatively floated out there, at least they are going to talk to me about it. I’ve already been approached and I would be honored to do any kind of commentating.”
It’s rare that an actor can do so many things at once, showing up in such a wide variety of comedies and dramas on both and silver and small screen. What is even more rare is that Bryan Callen is also one of the most successful stand-up comics in Los Angeles, continuing to perform sets around the country. Bryan says he is finally following in the footsteps of his good friend Joe Rogan and starting his own podcast. Bryan’s appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast have certainly benefited his career in a positive way.
“Every time I do that podcast people stop me on the street, they come to my stand up shows and they tell me “I love you on Rogan’s podcast.” I’ve known Joe for sixteen years, he’s my oldest friend in LA. Everything this dude does he does to the fullest. He’s one of the smartest guys I know and of course he starts a podcast and of course it’s amazing.”