Considering half the things that come out of Todd Packer’s mouth, it’s perhaps hard to imagine he’d be a family man.
David Koechner, most commonly known for his roles as Todd Packer in “The Office” and Champ Kind in “Anchorman,” is a Second City comedy troupe alumnus and “Saturday Night Live” darling. He’s been making his way up the comedy ladder for years, all while balancing a family of five kids and a wife. Koechner is performing a stand-up show on Thursday in Wilson Hall at 7 p.m. for those who want an inside look at the super-dad who’s also behind all the crude humor. The Breeze recently spoke with him to get in on a few of his secrets.
You used to be a political science major when you were at the University of Missouri. What made you switch to improv and comedy?
I realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer and/or a politician. So I just kind of quit going. You know, to be a success in that field, you have to be the best in that particular field. In politics, I felt like you either had to come from a political family, have a lot of money or be the smartest person in any room you walked into, and I wasn’t any of those things. So I decided to move on to something else.
When you come to universities, how do you tailor your stand-up act to a college audience?
I like to find out what’s been happening on the campus. I investigate what the history of the school is, what the legacy of the school is, what the scandals at the school are, so it gets a little local flavor.
What inspires most of your jokes?
Life. I have a wife and five kids, so as much as I paddle against having too much family material, it is a struggle because it’s right in front of me all the time. What I find — usually I’m able to pull out of my current life situation — happens to be universal enough that it appeals to all ages. You don’t have to have kids to get the jokes, you don’t have to be married to get the jokes. It’s pretty universal.
Speaking of your family, what does your family think of your acts?
My wife loves it. My kids haven’t seen all of it. They know they’re in it. They sometimes say, ‘Dad, don’t put me in it.’ A lot of the places I perform, they’re not allowed to come into. A lot of clubs have an 18-or-over policy. My oldest boy, Charlie, is actually very funny. He sometimes comes up with a few jokes. I’ll pass it by him. He’s 16. If it doesn’t make sense to him and he doesn’t think it’s funny, then I might think twice about using it.
Are any of your kids into show business too?
He’s expressed a little interest. What we try to do with all of our kids is expose them to everything as if it was equal. To me, having them do basketball or soccer or take an acting class, for me, are equal pursuits. We want to expose them to as many things in life as we can. If he wants to take an acting class, that’s great. We’re like, ‘Yeah, try it, see if you like it. You might have a proficiency in it.’ We look at that the same as the other stuff. Or chess, or cards or whatever. And then you beg them to keep their grades up.
Is there anything new and exciting coming up in your career?
Yes. But I can’t talk about it. I’m working on a project that is very secretive but I’m very happy to be part of it. That was really, really cool. Aside from that, I’ve done a few dramas as of late. I did this drama with Gerard Butler and Willem Dafoe. It’s called “The Headhunter’s Calling.” It’s an amazing script by this writer named Bill Dubuque. It’s one of my favorite scripts I’ve ever read and he’s just an amazing writer. We struck up a friendship, which is a lot of fun. That was great. I got to hang out with a lot of great actors.
I guess I’m busier than I usually am. This week, I’m working on three television shows. I’m also writing a screenplay with a partner and developing a television show and going to at least a couple basketball games and cheer practices and dance recitals. It’s a pretty full life. And I’m on track to squeeze in some stand-up this week too. It’s wonderful, it’s all manageable. It’s all good stuff.
What do you miss about your time at Second City and SNL?
Second City was … You finally got a job and that’s the best part. That feeling of, I have a job as a working actor. You don’t have to do anything else and that feels pretty awesome. I guess the other part of Second City is that you are there with all of your friends and you’re doing the things you love. Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world and you’re just having the time of your life, so that was pretty wonderful. I miss that. There’s a certain innocence to it because you don’t know how complicated life is going to get because it’s pretty simple. I didn’t have a wife and kids or a mortgage or cars or all of that stuff. And SNL is an exciting place. There’s something new every week that’s going to be unexpected. You’re going to create something that week that will only exist that week with that group of people and that time, which is a lot of fun.
Do you have any advice for students who want to go into comedy?
You’ve got to get your stage time in, you’ve got to read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell that is basically talking about the 10,000 hours theory. You should write every day, you should read every day and you should perform every day. I guess the other thing I’d say is, you’ve got to remember, it’s show business. There’s only one person that’s in your way, and it’s you. People like to complain about so and so got the part, but it’s really up to you.
Contact Julia Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.