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Brian Posehn’s in a metal mood

Sonoma County high schools have graduated some successful actors over the years. Petaluma High School boasts that Winona Ryder and Lloyd Bridges are alumnus. Early ‘60s TV show “Room 222”’s Karen Valentine attended Analy High.

Sonoma Valley High School has Brian Posehn.

Posehn (Po-sane) is a well-known and widely recognized actor, comedy writer, stand-up comedian, and heavy-metal band leader. He has a new album, full of his sardonic wit, and a single/video to accompany it called “New Music Sucks.” The busy man was generous with his time and easy with his laugh when he was reached by phone last weekend in his home in the Los Angeles area. He spoke of his career, growing up in Sonoma Valley, and these crazy COVID times.

The ex-Dragon, a member of the class of 1984, was a normal kid who operated largely under the radar until he hit Los Angeles in 1994. He migrated there with dreams of becoming a writer for TV and to perform stand-up comedy.

Almost upon arriving, Posehn was told there was a part in an upcoming movie that would be great for him. He auditioned and got the part. “My first audition, the first thing I’d ever auditioned for, I got. It was an episode of ‘Empty Nest.’ I thought, ‘Yeah, this is easy.’”

He has lived in L.A. ever since and his career includes roles in more than 30 movies and over 75 TV shows. He has also voiced five video games. As a band leader, Posehn has released two albums with his heavy metal band, “Grandpa Metal.”

Actor, comedian, musician Brian Posehn.
Actor, comedian, musician Brian Posehn.
Brian Posehn, left, in an undated childhood photo.
Brian Posehn, left, in an undated childhood photo.

Posehn’s early love of music landed him jobs as a high school kid in Sonoma working at the Rainbow Records and subsequently Tower Records in Maxwell Village. He later moved over to sell records, cassettes, and the then-new format of compact discs to music lovers at Record Depot, now the site of Redwood Credit Union.

While working in those stores, jobs he calls “cool kid jobs,” Posehn dove deeper into his love for heavy metal music. His mother was not at all pleased with his frequent trips to San Francisco to see heavy metal bands perform at the defunct nightclubs the Stone, the Keystone Corner, and Mabuhay Gardens.

“We went to a metal show at Mabuhay once. Next thing I knew I had a guy wearing a spiked wrist band landed on my head. My head hurt, as it would.” Posehn went on, with a chuckle, “Then I went home to Glen Ellen, like everything was OK. Got up the next morning, and my mom freaks out because my entire head was matted with blood. I had no idea the wristband had done as much damage as it had to the top on my head.” Good times!

Posehn, now 54, attended Dunbar School, Altimira Middle School and SVHS. “I was raised by a single mom, so I had a small audience at the dinner table. It took a while before kids knew I was funny. I was a geek. I got picked on at Dunbar. Altimira and the high school were not much more fun. But, by my junior and senior year I had turned it around and people knew that I was funny.”

Brian Posehn at Dunbar Elementary School in Glen Ellen.
Brian Posehn at Dunbar Elementary School in Glen Ellen.

The principal of Sonoma Valley High School during Posehn’s tenure was Bob Kruljac. The retired administrator described Posehn as “a fantastic kid, quite a character. We inducted him into the Hall of Fame in 2017.”

The SVHS Hall of Fame was begun as a place to enshrine the school’s outstanding athletes. But Kruljac, ever eager to toot SVHS’s horn, realized that there were many alums who had made considerable contributions to society after graduating, and a “Outstanding Performance After High School” category was added. Posehn was one of the first so honored.

Despite being a self-described geek, the mischievous young Posehn still was determined to make his mark. One incident that Posehn recalls that involved his love of metal unfolded during his shift at the PA at the high school. Selected students were given the electronic soapbox to make the daily announcements for all to hear. They then were allowed to play some tunes of their choice for the student body.

Posehn thought he might try his luck with a Van Halen song, one that contained a not-so-subtle F-Bomb. “I was aware that there was an f-bomb and I played the song anyway, thinking there was no way a teacher would hear.” Posehn recalls that Principal Kruljac stormed up the stairs, told him to take that song off, and ‘don’t do that again’.”

Former Glen Ellen resident Brian Posehn in an undated childhood photo. Posehn, who attended Dunbar Elementary School in Glen Ellen, is a self-described nerd.
Former Glen Ellen resident Brian Posehn in an undated childhood photo. Posehn, who attended Dunbar Elementary School in Glen Ellen, is a self-described nerd.

Upon graduation, he stood 5 feet 10 inches. While a student at Santa Rosa Junior College the next year, Posehn added eight full inches to his height. “I had brutal growing pains. My bones were actually stretching in the middle of the night like I was in a horror movie, like ‘American Werewolf in London’ or something,” Posehn said.

Former Glen Ellen resident Brian Posehn grew to 6-foot-7-inches tall and has since appeared in such TV shows as 'Seinfeld,' '’The Simpsons' and 'The Big Bang Theory,' as well as dozens of films.
Former Glen Ellen resident Brian Posehn grew to 6-foot-7-inches tall and has since appeared in such TV shows as 'Seinfeld,' '’The Simpsons' and 'The Big Bang Theory,' as well as dozens of films.

His fondness for the heavy metal music is still a focus in his stand-up comedy and other projects. Posehn has a band called Grandpa Metal with a few of his friends, “who are really good,” he said. “I just write the songs and sing like Cookie Monster.” The band has a new album out called “Grandpa Metal.” It has a song and requisite video called “New Music Sucks.”

Posehn has no compunction about naming names of those he feels are most responsible for the sad state of popular music. In support of his thesis that new music sucks, he rips One Direction, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Fall Out Boy and “Mumford and his Shitty Sons.”

“It’s not because I’m old,” he said, noting a similar disdain for Billy Joel. His sarcastic humor drives the song’s lyrics and adds fuel to the catchy chorus.

Brian Posehn, center, as Artie, with Michael Richards, left, as Cosmo Kramer and Danny Woodburn as Mickey Abbott in a scene from the 1998 'Seinfeld' episode 'The Burning.’
Brian Posehn, center, as Artie, with Michael Richards, left, as Cosmo Kramer and Danny Woodburn as Mickey Abbott in a scene from the 1998 'Seinfeld' episode 'The Burning.’

In one small but impressive acting role, Posehn was cast in an episode of “Seinfeld,” called “The Burning” (1998) where he played a medical student in a scene with Michael Richards. He shared, “Jerry liked me right away. He knew what a crappy situation it is to audition for something and was very encouraging to me. He knew I was a stand-up and he was incredibly cool to me.”

Posehn also had a lengthy run on the TV show, “Big Bang Theory.” Over a six-year period, he appeared in 15 episodes as Cal Tech geologist Bert Kibbler.

Brian Posehn (Bert) and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) on ’The Big Bnag Theory’ on CBS. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS.
Brian Posehn (Bert) and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) on ’The Big Bnag Theory’ on CBS. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS.

Posehn has had a more varied career in Hollywood than many actors. At this point in his career, he doesn’t need to audition too much. “A lot of the things I’ve done, I’ve been cast without auditions. Being a part of the writing world was smart thing, too. I know so many writers, they just say, ‘Oh, Brian can do this.’ Whether it’s ‘Just Shoot Me’, or ‘Big Bang,’ those were all just phone calls. ‘The Mandalorian’ was like that.” Posehn has a cameo in the film released last year, a part of the Star Wars series of movies.

The pandemic has changed things for Posehn. “Stand-up has gone away. We still don’t know when people are going to be back in comedy clubs. It’s been a weird year.”

In the meantime, Posehn is enjoying being home and not being on the road. He stays near home, walks the dog, hangs out with his 11-year-old son. Posehn says, “I couldn’t be more normal.”

Normal, if you are a 6-foot 6-inch, bearded, very recognizable actor with black eyeglass frames and a highly distinctive voice. Look for Posehn on a screen near you. He is hard to miss.

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