Hi, I’m Brian McElhaney. And I’m Nick Kocher. I’ll be writing in ‘bold’. And I’m writing in ‘normal’.
Together we’re a sketch duo known as BriTANicK. BriTANicK is a combination of the name Brian, the name Nick, and the word Titanic. You know, the famously successful boat?
The name means nothing at all, we came up with it when we were 19 years old and had just decided to follow our dreams, which is a cute fun thing to do at age 19 and then at age THIRTY SEVEN becomes deeply depressing.
I don't think it's depressing, I think it's kind of cool. Explain. How many other people do we know approaching 40 can say they're in a two-person club? None. Exactly. I'm not sure the point you've made.
We’ve been performing live and making YouTube videos for 15 years. We’ve written for Saturday Night Live and a few other American TV shows you probably haven’t heard of. And every few years we get cast to act in a movie or TV show after a bunch of other people have turned down the role.
It’s actually not that different to what 19-year-old us thought “following our dreams” would look like, except for our significantly fewer mansions.
Anyhow, let us tell you some of our favourite moments from over the years in our really cool secret club. Stop calling it a 'club'. And how is it a secret? We're writing this on the internet…
ACCIDENTALLY OPENING FOR ROBIN WILLIAMS
In January 2008, when we were 21, before BriTANicK had ever performed live or posted a video online, we got accepted to the San Francisco Sketchfest. It felt like we had just won an Academy Award.
Our parents flew out to see our first show, and when we got to our green room, occupying it was none other than Robin Williams.
When he asked who we were, we said we were a sketch group closing the show. "Not anymore" he said with a wink.
Backstage he hung around with us, made fun of our costumes right up until we went on, and proceeded to watch our entire set from the wings.
After we finished he was so excited, and said some of the most encouraging things we've ever heard from anybody in this industry to this day.
That night he improvised onstage for over two hours as we watched him, sitting in the audience with our parents, drunk and totally in love. The next day we posted our first video online.
It’s all been downhill from there.
PERFORMING FOR NO ONE
A million years ago, we were in an eight-person improv group called Gadget. Every Friday at 11pm, we did an improv show in a leaky theatre in Kips Bay. (If you’re reading this and don’t live in New York, this is essentially no man’s land. If you’re reading this and live in Kips Bay…sorry).
Early on, the audience consisted of roughly four people, one of which was our opening act. We also weren’t very good, so those four people weren’t laughing.
At first, this would make us panic, but eventually we got OK with not making the audience laugh, which made us more comfortable on stage, which made us better at comedy, and slowly we started making those four people laugh, then seven people, and after a year we were doing great shows to a packed house.
While we don’t miss those early days of zero laughter, we’re eternally grateful to them.
WRITING TOM HANKS’ SNL MONOLOGUE
Our first month writing for SNL was terrifying. Being new writers, you’re just trying to get your piece on TV and not get fired.
When Tom Hanks hosted for our third episode, we had the idea of him playing “America’s Dad” and literally personifying the character. Tom liked it, and so they let us do it.
All through the Tuesday writing night, the two of us and Tom Hanks stayed up for six hours crafting his monologue, which was him offering advice to his son, “America”, one week before the 2016 Presidential election.
When it actually went live, that was definitely a moment where we felt a part of something larger in our industry, and maybe that we were even doing something important, swaying the country’s mind through well-crafted and intelligent comedy.
Then Donald Trump won the election three days later. It was nice while it lasted.
THE 2022 EDINBURGH FRINGE
Both of us had wanted to do the fringe for a long time, but life had always gotten in the way.
Last year, we were finally scheduled to do it, but I had second thoughts. We were in development on several scripts and I thought performing 27 shows in a row would be at best “fun” and at worst “a massive distraction”.
But Brian talked me into it and I couldn’t be happier that he did because it was one of the best things we’ve ever done for our souls (and probably one of the worst for our physical bodies).
Not only did we have “fun”, we fell back in love with live theatre, met some fantastic new friends, and saw some of the most inspiring comedy we’d ever seen (Josh Glanc, Liz Kingsman, Flo & Joan, and Randy Feltface, to name just a few).
PERFORMING MIME BEFORE WE MET
One of the most important moments in our history was one that we were both completely unaware of. When we were kids, we actually attended the same performing arts summer camp every year without ever meeting each other.
At this camp, the end-of-week shows we would perform for our parents were the MOST IMPORTANT PERFORMANCES OF OUR LIVES, and to our parents they were probably two hours of torture watching vastly unprepared 8-13 year olds performing African Dance and trying to juggle.
Later, when we were in college, we started looking back on old VHS tapes of these shows. Miraculously, we found a performance of us performing MIME next to each other, age 11, completely clueless of the other’s existence.
It seems that the universe tried to put us together quite early, but our ADD intervened and we officially met seven years later.
BriTANicK will play at Soho Theatre, London from Mon 27 Feb – Sat 4 Mar 2023; buy tickets at sohotheatre.com. You can also catch them at the Brighton Komeida on 5th March and in Manchester on 6 March.