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Adam DeVine’s Path to Comedy

Adam DeVine is STOKED to be featured in High Times Magazine, especially since—once-upon-a-time—his journey through comedy almost never happened. “High Times Magazine is so cool for me, man. If you were to have told an 18-year-old-me—we’ll say 18, but really 16—that I was going to be interviewed by High Times Magazine, I would have lost my mind. And still, a 39-year-old-me would have lost my mind the same exact way, like I did a couple of weeks ago when I found out I was going to do this interview.”

As a kid, DeVine was involved in a serious accident, one that—to this day—left him with lasting physical ailments. Yet despite such a horrific experience, he was able to conquer his fear of death at a very young age and come to the very mature conclusion that if you’re blessed with the gift of life, you better make the most of it and do what you love.

When we connect by phone, the comedian, writer, and actor is doing just that—gearing up for a brand new season of The Righteous Gemstones on HBO, a spinoff series of the Pitch Perfect movies Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin on Peacock, a big action comedy The Out-Laws on Netflix, and a new Workaholics movie that’s aiming to start production sometime toward the beginning of 2023.

Over the course of our conversation, DeVine shares more on how tussling with a potentially untimely demise propelled him to pursue the intersection of what he loved and what he was good at—making people laugh—and the role cannabis plays in his creativity, his day-to-day life, and it’s influence in helping craft one of the most legendary stoner comedy shows of all time.

High Times Magazine: Growing up in Nebraska, did you always know comedy was the path you wanted to pursue? 

Adam DeVine: I don’t know if I chose comedy or if it chose me. It was something I liked, and I wasn’t innately good at anything else.

When you’re a kid and you’re trying to figure out what you want to do in life, you have to look at what interests you one, and two, what you’re innately good at. Hopefully those things align and what you’re interested in is what you’re innately good at. For me, I was always pretty good at making people laugh. I enjoyed doing it and it was an easy thing for me to get involved with. 

You hear people all the time who are like, “My parents said ‘What are you doing?! Why don’t you just become a doctor?’” When I told my parents I was going to pursue a career in comedy, they were just like, “Yeah, we see that for you.”

Was your parents’ support essential in making it OK for you to pursue that path? 

Yeah, it seemed less scary since my family had my back.

When I was 11 years old, I was hit by a 32-ton cement truck and couldn’t walk for almost two years. I had 25 or 30 surgeries or something like that, and after having such a near death experience as a kid, comedy was my warm blanket. It was something that made me feel good, I liked making people laugh, and it was something I could do from a wheelchair. I didn’t have to be an athlete to be able to make people laugh. Once I didn’t die, I think my parents were like, “OK, if he wants to do comedy, more power to him. He’s not dead so he can do whatever he wants.”

I honestly don’t know if I would have gotten involved in acting or comedy if I wouldn’t have had the accident. I’m from Omaha, Nebraska. I didn’t know anyone who had a career in comedy or acting. It wasn’t a “real” job to have. Overcoming a great obstacle like not being able to walk and almost dying, I think after that it was sort of like, “Anything is possible. You only have one life, you might as well try to live it the way you want to live it.” As much as it sucks—I’m still in residual pain from the accident—I wouldn’t trade it for the world because I know I wouldn’t be here doing the things I love to do if it weren’t for it.

Adam DeVine
Adam DeVine at the 2016 MTV Movie Awards held at the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, USA on April 9, 2016. Photo credit Tinseltown/Shutterstock.

“You could use marijuana as a creative tool, but you just have to know yourself.” – Adam DeVine

Did the near death experience also embolden your perspective that it’s a gift to be able to live your life your way if you’re able to? 

At a young age when a lot of people are worried about what society expects of them or what their family expects of them, I didn’t have that. After almost dying as a kid, it really puts everything into perspective like, “Look. It could all be gone tomorrow.” So I’m not going to go to college to get a degree to do something that I don’t love to do just to make my family happy or appease society in general.

A lot of times, that awareness and perspective comes much later in life. 

Yeah, it made everything click into place pretty young. That being said, it’s not like I’m not driven or ambitious, I’m just driven and ambitious for the things I want to be driven and ambitious towards, not things that don’t excite me just to make a living. 

You ended up going to Orange Coast Community College and meeting your Mail Order Comedy crew. Was that sort of the jump off point?

I just knew I had to get to California to meet other people with similar interests as myself. So along with a friend of mine—Austin Anderson, who’s a very funny stand-up in his own right—I moved to Southern California where we went to Orange Coast Community College. The plan was just to go for a few years and then transfer to UCLA. I told my parents the plan and I think they kind of knew if it was bullshit—I knew it was bullshit, but it was just kind of a thing I said to get out to California.

I ended up meeting Blake [Anderson] and Kyle [Newacheck] day one at Orange Coast Community College, which was sort of like meeting brothers. We spoke the same language, we thought the same kinds of things were funny, and we’re the same age so we have the same cultural touchstones. It just felt right, and from then on, we all had the same ambitions of making a career of being funny. It seems like an insane thing to try and make a career out of, but again, we all had the same ambitions and all sort of pushed each other forward.

How key was that creative and professional alignment between you all?

Fuck, I think finding collaborators might be one of the most important things that a young person can do when they’re trying to break into whatever business they’re trying to break into. Finding people you can bounce ideas off of or that can help inspire you is crazy important. Without those guys, we would all probably be having a great time working in a factory somewhere. 

After you all met, was there a moment or set of experiences where it clicked that the career you wanted in the area you wanted was indeed happening?

After two years, I realized I wasn’t going to go to UCLA and broke that news to my parents, and Kyle had left the year prior to go to Los Angeles Film School to learn how to be a director. I decided to move up [to Los Angeles] and live with Kyle and essentially try to break into the entertainment industry.

I got a job working the door at The Hollywood Improv Comedy Club and considered that one of my first big breaks because at that time I was seeing stand-up every day at work. Every night I was seeing some of the best comics in the world— the Chris Rocks, the Dave Chappelles, the Sarah Silvermans, the Zach Galifianakises—and then during the day, I would write with the guys and we would come up with different internet videos. At the same time, I’d just met Anders [Holm] in an improv class at the Second City Conservatory in Los Angeles, and it’s after we met Ders that I think everything started to click into place.

Blake and myself have more of a performing background, while Ders had less of a performing background and more of a writing background. He was a few years older than us and was writing scripts, which we hadn’t done yet. Seeing the work ethic he had with writing and realizing… Ders is a very smart guy, but he’s also just as dumb as the rest of us. Sometimes I think you build up a thing in your head of “Well, only the smartest people in the world write movie scripts,” like you have to be a genius or something. But really it’s just about sitting down and doing the work. Ders showed us that was possible, which sort of opened the doors for all of us to start writing together. I feel like with our powers combined, when one person is lacking in one thing, it’s another person’s strong suit. We really complimented each other well and that’s when things started to click into place.

Adam Devine attends “Jexi” Los Angeles Premiere at Fox Bruin Theatre, Los Angeles, CA on October 3 2019. Photo credit: Matt Sayles

“It’s nice to just, at the end of the day, smoke a little joint. Whether it’s with friends or just sitting by myself, it’s a nice end-cap to the night. As opposed to dads from the 1950s with their scotch and their recliner, I feel like I’m that new-age where I sit there and smoke my little pre-rolls at night.” – Adam DeVine

You each brought a skillset to the table that made your individual brains more powerful as a collective. 

And I still think that. I still think when I write with those guys it’s when I’m at my funniest. When the four of us are together or the three of us are on screen together, I think I’m at my funniest and I think those guys are also at their funniest when we’re all there to prod each other along.

Do you liken it to being in a band where you’re inspiring each other to try new things artistically?

All the time. We actually mention that quite a bit, that essentially we’re just a band. Now it’s weird because now we’re a veteran band. We’re a band that’s been together for like 20 years, so we’re finding new ways to do the same thing differently while still giving the people what they like and expect from us.

In terms of what the people want and expect from you, is it a process whereby you guys are tapping into what you find funny on an individual and collective level, and it just so happens that what you guys find funny resonates with other people?

We were very fortunate to be given the opportunity to come out with our show [Workaholics] at the time that we did and have it resonate with a lot of people who were within five to 10 years of our age on either side. So I think it really connected with a wide group of people who were either about to go into college and were like, “Oh, that [show] is what college life is like,” or who just gotten out of college and were like, “This is my life exactly,” or who had been out of college for years and then looked back and were like, “Wow, I remember when my life was so free and all I had to think about was how I’m going to get drunk and high that night,” instead of having all of these actual responsibilities.

On that tip, what role does getting high play for you creatively and in your life in general? 

I feel like of all the guys, I probably was the biggest stoner. It’s a real battle royale between me and Kyle for that title nowadays. You could use marijuana as a creative tool, but you just have to know yourself. You have to know how much is too much, how it affects you as a person. It’s the kind of thing that is a tool in your toolbelt, but it won’t make an unfunny person funny or a non-talented person talented. If you don’t have the goods to begin with, it won’t help you, but it can be used as a tool to free up your mind every once in a while. 

If you can’t crack a story or you’re working on a video that you can’t get just right, you’re able to tweak it by smoking a little bit. You think about it, you free up your mind, you’re not married to what you’ve already written and what you’ve already worked on and you’re able to work on the problem from a different point of view. That’s how I’ve viewed marijuana and I think it’s helped me along the way.

“If you can’t crack a story or you’re working on a video that you can’t get just right, you’re able to tweak it by smoking a little bit” – Adam DeVine

Is there a particular strain or type of weed that you enjoy unwinding with the most? 

I feel like the pre-rolled minis are perfect for smoking by yourself or with one other person. I smoke a lot of Lowells and I tend to like the energetic sativas. Even at night, I like that they get my mind moving in a good way. I also like Selfies, which are a nice little size, and a little smaller than Lowells as well.

I also drink Cann, which, full disclosure, I am an investor in, because I feel they’re remarkable cannabis beverages.

They have 2 mg THC, so you treat it like you’re having a glass of wine and you can have a few. I do like that ritual of having something to drink at the end of the night and Cann is a good way to not have the excess calories and the unneeded headache the next day.

The older I get, when I drink, I’ve been starting to get these gnarly hangovers. I used to pride myself on being the guy who never got hangovers who could pop up the next day and be like, “And I’m baaaaaack.” Admittedly, it is catching up to me, and it’s nice to just, at the end of the day, smoke a little joint. Whether it’s with friends or just sitting by myself, it’s a nice end-cap to the night, as opposed to dads from the 1950s with their scotch and their recliner. I feel like I’m that new-age where I sit there and smoke my little pre-rolls at night.

Just put your dad hat on and you’re good to go.

Yup, get my cardigan on and enjoy my edibles.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. It was published in the February 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

The post Adam DeVine’s Path to Comedy appeared first on High Times.

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