STORY WRITTEN BY DAVID KLEINMAN
For 21st Century Media
Greg Behrendt, a jack-of-all-trades, warmly embraces his moniker as “That Guy From That Thing.” His self-imposed calling card even served as the name for his most recent stand-up special.
And that’s what Behrendt is first and foremost, a comedian, despite the fact that he’s taken an unexpected sharp left turn along the way. He’s tried on quite a few hats during his career but it’s the one title he never sought out, “relationship expert,” that proved to be the most celebrated.
Toward the end of the zeitgeist run of “Sex and the City” Behrendt was brought on board as a script consultant in an effort to incorporate a straight male’s perspective into the series. The show frequently parlayed real-life stories from the writer’s room as material for the characters to explore.
Art imitated life in the sixth season when Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) went on a date with a gentleman who declined her invitation to come upstairs. Looking for some straight-talk from the lead character’s boyfriend, Berger (Ron Livingston) uttered the six words that would change Behrendt’s life forever: “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
“A conversation with a girl who was seeing a guy who wouldn’t sleep with her, that was it. It was a real thing that happened for real at lunch and it sort of spun into an episode and then it spun off into a book. It was just one of those rare things that sort of takes a life of it’s own,” he recently said. “The episode sort of sparked and I thought ‘We’ll see if there’s a book in this’ and Bob’s your uncle.”
No one was more surprised than Behrendt when “He’s Just Not That Into You” debuted on the New York Times Bestseller’s List at the number one spot. Seemingly overnight, he was transformed into the “Dr. Phil” for a new generation.
“The second I got off of ‘Oprah’ the very first time I was like ‘Oh my god, this was amazing’ and then afterward I was like ‘What have I done to my stand-up career?’ You have a moment where you feel like ‘Oh, OK. Suddenly people are paying attention to me who didn’t, people want to represent me and I’m getting offers to do this and do that’ but it’s very fleeting.”
The film adaptation of “He’s Just Not That Into You” was a box-office smash with an all-star cast while Behrendt continued to ride the wave with more self-help tomes and his own daytime talk show. Hosting wasn’t a gig he had hoped for but when the offer for “The Greg Behrendt Show” came about he decided to give it his best shot.
Like all good things, it came to an end: “The Greg Behrendt Show” wasn’t renewed for a second season. Network executives must have sensed the conclusion of a craze when “Greg Behrendt’s Wake-Up Call,” a “relationship rescue”-stylized series commissioned by ABC, was dumped on sister station SoapNet.
“It’s like they squeezed everything they could out of that tune, they’re done and now they’re moving on with the next thing because people always want the next thing. Once it was over I was left sort of saying ‘Well, now what happens?’ but you know, my career has been very nice and my career continues to be awesome.”
Today, Behrendt continues to dispense dating advice, most recently on “Oprah’s Lifeclass,” but primarily focuses on his first true passion: stand-up comedy. He parlayed his newfound name recognition into a successful comedy podcast and a busier touring schedule, including five dates at Helium Comedy Club Jan. 8 through 10.
“It used to be all women [in the audience] and now it is literally a can of mixed nuts. It’s everybody; it’s somebody who saw the talk show, it’s somebody who likes my podcast, it’s somebody who liked me when they were growing up and watched me on Comedy Central, it’s somebody who saw me on ‘Oprah,’ it’s somebody who just saw a picture of my face and thinks I’m somebody else.
People thought I was [Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s] Ty Pennington for a long time, that’s why I had to cut it into a Mohawk. I had to distance myself from Ty and dye it lavender. Move that bus, buddy,” Behrendt laughed.
IF YOU GO
What: Greg Behrendt
Where: Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St., Philadelphia.
When: Thursday, Jan. 8 through Saturday, Jan. 10.
Tickets: $16-$26 general admission; $24-$34 reserved.
Info.: Call (215) 496-9001 or check www.heliumcomedy.com