From the Stage To The Big Screen: Bert Kreischer Turned A Joke Into A Movie

READY FOR A CLOSE-UP: Comedian Bert Kreischer is starring alongside none other than Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, in “The Machine,” an action-comedy movie based on his standup routine that went viral on social media. (Courtesy Sony Pictures)

The summer solstice may be June 21, but in the film industry, the summer season is well underway and began on Cinco de Mayo with Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” From now through August, audiences will be bombarded with movies based on intellectual property such as “Fast X” and “The Little Mermaid” — even “Barbie” has a film out this summer. But amid the tentpoles of heroes in tights and extraterrestrial robots saving the planet are a few palette cleansers that provide a different escape, including some from the comedy genre.

One of those offerings comes from comedian Bert Kreischer, whose upcoming movie “The Machine” was born from a joke about his experience with the Russian mob. The funny bit from his comedy special went on to become a viral sensation on social media and will now be a feature film with Kreischer starring alongside none other than Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.

“I loved it so much,” Kreischer tells Pollstar about starring in his own movie. “I never thought I ever wanted to make a movie in my entire life. I never thought I wanted to be an actor, and I walked away from the experience still not sure if I want to be an actor, but 100 percent wanting to be a movie star.”

Kreischer’s popular bit garnered more than 52 million views on YouTube, inspiring him to pitch a film that continues his real-life story. However, studios balked at the idea and Kreischer gave up on the project until a Legendary Pictures executive asked him what movie he wanted to make. On the spot, the comedian said he wanted to make a film about him getting kidnapped by the Russian mafia. The executive’s eyes lit up and he told the comedian, “Sold. That’s our movie. … It’s ‘The Hangover’ meets ‘Godfather II.’ … I love it.”
Kreischer, who is managed by Judi Marmel of Levity Live and represented by United Talent Agency, says, “I walked out of the room, and I had no idea what I just sold. So then, the next thing you know, we’re in Serbia making a movie.”

The upcoming film not only aims to deliver laughs but to revive a moviegoing experience rarely in theaters these days. The mid-budget comedy has been relegated to streaming networks in this digital age with studios unwilling to take a chance on the genre in the cinema.

“The big inspiration for this movie was ‘Romancing the Stone,’” Kreischer says. “It was such a great movie that it didn’t need to be funny because it was a great movie. I think going into this, we thought, ‘Let’s make a great movie that also happens to be funny.’ And I think we accomplished it.”

Film is just another medium for Kreischer to showcase his talent as a comedic storyteller, an ability he learned at high school in Florida.

“Without a doubt, going to school at an all-boys Catholic high school taught me how to tell a story because our currency wasn’t women or money,” Kreischer says. “We were all boys, so no one gave a shit about that stuff. When you were at school, your currency was, ‘Are you interesting, are you funny, can you play sports, and can you kick my ass?’ … That and being in a fraternity. Being in a fraternity really shaped how I tell a story because you had to tell a story quickly and get everyone’s attention.”

It’s safe to say he’s mastered the skill as he’s become one of the top comedy touring acts worldwide. Since 2007, Kreischer has sold more than a million tickets and grossed nearly $64 million based on 256 headline shows reported to Pollstar. And for Kreischer — even with his movie deal and popular “2 Bears, 1 Cave” podcast with Tom Segura — there’s nothing like performing live in front of thousands of fans.

“You don’t get it in acting. You don’t even get it in podcasting. And in podcasting, you’re kind of doing it on an island, not even realizing anyone hears it. [Performing live is] very immediate. I’m a junkie for immediacy. I want things delivered yesterday,” Kreischer says. “I don’t think I have success. I think I just work really hard, and it looks like I’m successful. I think I just bust my ass on the road. A lot of comedians like to take time off. I just don’t understand that. What are you going to do with your time? Why wouldn’t you want to work?”

With “The Machine” out in theaters May 26 and Kreischer selling out arenas around the country, that hard work has certainly paid off for the often shirtless comedian. s