The Road Ahead

Comedic voice actor Jon Benjamin goes on tour after his ‘Van’ show was canceled

Jon Benjamin had a van, but it’s gone now.

More specifically, Jon Benjamin had a TV show called “Jon Benjamin Has a Van,” until Comedy Central canceled the mock news show after just one season. He had already booked a tour to prepare himself for season 2 when he got the bad news.

Now, Jon Benjamin Has a Tour — a seven-city jaunt that puts the 45-year-old comedian and voice actor on the road for a rare string of stand-up gigs. Best known for his distinctive baritone — as the voice of several cartoon characters; see below — Benjamin shows off his dry, absurd and sarcastic humor at the Black Cat on Wednesday.

Are you ready for the tour?
No, I just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t, but I will. I have to get myself psyched up, I have to get my psych-up outfit on.

Will there be any videos?
[Me and my “Has a Van” co-stars Leo Allen and Nathan Fielder] did a show at Sketchfest in San Francisco this year, so we’ll use that as a template. We showed some video from stuff that we shot but didn’t make it to the show. So we’ll show those, which didn’t make it for a reason.

Why not?
They weren’t funny.

That’s a great sales pitch: “Come to my show, I’ll show you videos that aren’t funny.”
Well yeah — that’s something. Nathan, who makes a lot of videos, will show some videos. I will show some videos. There will be a lot of video. A lot of introing videos. If you like intros you’ll love this show.

Why go on tour?
We actually did plan the tour to revolve around the second season and then we got canceled. This tour is kind of like the cancellation tour. In a way, we’re making the best out of a horrible thing and in a way we’re not. I don’t tour much; I’d like to maybe do more of it. I’ve never been fan-friendly and I want to change my ways.

How will you do that?
Touring is the first step, then I think just being nice to people. I have to stop saying “[Expletive] you” to every fan that comes up to me.

Why do you think your show was canceled?
It didn’t do very well ratings-wise. And to be honest, it didn’t catch on. I don’t know why. People didn’t immediately connect to it. I think they’ll be proven wrong, someday. I don’t think it was a failure, it was just weird. Some people really did like the show. But there were very few of them.

Your speaking voice sounds just like the characters you voice. Is that just how you talk?
It is. I think it was always like this.

Do you get to improvise on “Archer” or “Bob’s Burgers”?
“Archer” is very little improv. “Bob’s Burgers” is a lot more hanging around kind of messing with scenes because everyone is in the room. Sometimes we just start to snipe at each other and it works out to be a scene in the show. Like I’ll look over at Kristen Schaal and be annoyed and say something and that line will make it into the show.

Are you working on anything else?
I have a few ideas for shows I’m going to go out and pitch soon. Hopefully those will fail as quickly as “Jon Benjamin Has a Van.”


His Roles

Meet Jon Benjamin’s TV lineup.

Sterling Archer, “Archer,” right
A male chauvinist with an affinity for booze and loose women, Archer is also one of the world’s top secret agents.

Bob Belcher, “Bob’s Burgers”
The patriarch of the Belcher family, Bob owns a burger shop that brings him more joy than his three children.

Coach John McGuirk, “Home Movies”
Benjamin’s breakout role, where he voiced an incompetent and alcoholic soccer coach.

Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; Wed., 8 p.m., $15; 202-667-7960. (U Street)
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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Rudi Greenberg | April 24, 2012