I’m sure a lot of you have heard of Brian Stack. At least, I hope you have. I hope you’ll read this and tell me that you didn’t need it, because you were already aware of the nicest person in comedy, thank you very much.
But I’m writing this anyway, just in case. Because Brian Stack is one of those rare people in the world that everyone should celebrate.
After honing his comedic wizardry in Chicago at The Second City and iO Chicago, Brian Stack spent more than a decade working as a writer for Conan O’Brien, first at Late Night with Conan O’Brien, then following him to The Tonight Show and Conan.
In that time, Stack wrote and took part in numerous sketches, appearing so often with some of his recurring characters that we now have some nice compilations like this one of Hannigan the fast-talking salesman:
Or this one of the ghost crooner, Artie Kendall:
(FYI, that’s an hour of Brian Stack for you right there, for when you need a little pick-me-up. Thanks, random internet hero!)
More recently, he moved back to New York to write for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he’s arguably been the most visible member of the writing staff, appearing in a large number of sketches, as well as voicing God and Cartoon Trump.
He’s also played some of the random weirdos who pop up in some of your favorite comedies, like Theodore (i.e. Ted, the guy they toss in the lake on Ted Party Day) in Parks and Recreation, or Jorgensen in 30 Rock, who gets to do fun things like get blamed for everything:
These sorts of roles are vintage Brian Stack: he’s never the focus, instead always making the people around him better.
Stack is also a cheerful presence on Twitter, with updates on his dogs…
When you're not sure whether to stay out or go home. pic.twitter.com/DU1zu4R9Kk— Brian Stack (@BrianStack153) August 12, 2017
"Think someone's at the front door?"— Brian Stack (@BrianStack153) July 30, 2017
"Possibly. Should we freak out like he's here to murder everyone?"
"Of course." pic.twitter.com/G2lwGc9YTU
…or providing a glimpse of comedy history…
…OH MY GOD HE EVEN LOVES BOOMTOWN…
@Tambone He's in for a treat, Tami? Has he seen "Boomtown"? Very underrated, Peabody-winning cop show from around '02 or so. Damn good.— Brian Stack (@BrianStack153) August 1, 2014
(That last one might have just been for Lord Castleton.)
By now, hopefully you agree that everyone should know who Brian Stack is. Perhaps you’re even shocked to discover just how often he’s brightened your day over the last twenty-plus years.
But the point of this wasn’t just how funny and entertaining Brian Stack is. This is also about the fact that he happens to do all of this while remaining a nice, genuine, decent human being.
Back in 2005, my interest in television and comedy led me to an internship at Late Night with Conan O’Brien. On my first day, I was given a quick tour of the offices by the internship coordinator. She knew I was an aspiring writer, so when we got to the writers’ offices, she looked at me and said:
“Everyone here is nice, but remember that people are busy, and interns come and go a lot, so don’t expect the writers to remember your name.
Oh, except Brian Stack.”
She wasn’t wrong. From day one, somehow, Brian knew who I was. Over the course of my time as an intern, he’d ask how my day was going, and, you know, genuinely mean it.
And every time I happened to pass him in the halls, he would smile, and say “Oh, hi, Dan!”
I was not special. He was like this with everybody. As far as I can tell, virtually everyone he’s ever met has stories like this about Brian. And in an industry where being friendly and kind is, too often, about what someone might be able to do for you, Brian does it just because he’s a nice guy. And in doing so, by treating everyone around him with respect and kindness and like a peer, he makes everyone feel special. Much like what he does as a performer, he takes the focus off himself, and makes the people around him better.
Years later, in 2013, I was backstage at iO West, a comedy theater in Los Angeles, preparing to do an improv show with some friends (clearly, I grew out of the whole comedy thing).
We could hear the show before ours finishing up, the crowd laughing and clapping as we mentally prepared to go on stage and try to make people laugh. The group that had been performing walked backstage, through the dark, narrow doorway. As we stood there, waiting for them to walk past, smiling and nodding, I hear it.
“Oh, hi, Dan!”
It’s Brian. And somehow, nearly a decade later, on the other side of the country, he recognizes me, one of the hundreds, maybe thousands of interns he’s met over the course of his career, and remembers my name.
Of course he does. Because he makes the people around him better. Because he’s the nicest person in comedy.