Silly Storyteller. Witty Wordsmith. Emmy Earner. Spend a morning in the madhouse with one of Colbert’s longest tenured writers, Mike Brumm.
“And when he’d need me to move my face, he wouldn’t say anything. He’d just slap me.”
“We had heard about this town in Haria, in the Canary Islands, where a man would give you a wet shave.” Mike Brumm is telling us about a recent family vacation. He’s leaning casually against a counter in his Upper West Side kitchen, sipping coffee from a mug shaped like a boot. He speaks fast. “So I said I wanted one. And later that afternoon, the man mysteriously tapped me on the shoulder, and I followed him down a series of corridors. He turned out the light and then reappeared with a straight razor! It was terrifying! But there we were – he was shaving me and his friend would watch from the corner of the room. And when he’d need me to move my face, he wouldn’t say anything, he’d just slap me.”
Brumm is a professional storyteller. For the past eight years he’s been a writer for Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. With Colbert getting the Late Show nod, Brumm, too, is slated for a new gig, which he just began in April. So far, Brumm’s 2015 has been relaxed. There was the trip to Europe and the mysterious shave. Yesterday, Mike attended his son Henry’s school to read to Henry’s class. He came in full costume, dressed as an old timey magician. “Vacation’s been fun,” Brumm says. “We got a dog. We wrote some stuff.”
The dog is Otto, an adorable 9-week-old Yellow Labrador. He competes for airtime in the morning with Henry, 5, and Bea, 2 ½. Both kids crackle with charisma. Henry gyrates around the living room to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” “Henry is a gentle soul,” explains Mike’s wife Camille. “But he likes the hardest rock available.” Bea, over freshly prepared frozen pancakes and berries, explains her theory on why the Muppets aren’t funny. This being a household full of jokes, the kids present Mike with a bowl of cereal and milk spiked generously with salt. He pretends to take a bite and gags, to their delight.
“Mornings are a madhouse,” Brumm explains as he pulls on a flannel shirt. He’s going to walk Henry to school. We say goodbye to Camille and Bea, and walk into the cold morning. When we lag behind, Henry spins around, saying, “C’mon you slowies!” Mike just shakes his head. At the 96th Street Subway Station, Mike swipes his yellow Metrocard and then lifts Henry gently under the turnstile. “This makes me feel like a New Yorker every time!” He announces. “Even though it’s slightly illegal.”
“Tossing a joke out to 40 people, and having it bomb or something… My soul used to get crushed. It’s a horrible roller coaster, but it’s really fun.”
Back at the apartment, Mike slides up to a desk, sighing. He taps his fingers on the keyboard. “The house is quiet now, and I’ll usually just start writing,” he says. “It’s like being in an office, kind of – you check some emails, procrastinate for a while, and maybe something comes of it.” On a shelf above his head sit four Emmy awards. Next to them is a painting – sent in by a fan of the show – of Colbert posing next to Darth Vader. The next five months, prepping for the Late Show will be some of the zaniest times to-date for Brumm. “I always have to re-prepare myself for the writer’s room” he says. “Tossing a joke out to 40 people, and having it bomb or something… My soul used to get crushed. It’s a horrible roller coaster, but it’s really fun.”