Today we welcome Neal Brennan. He is a director, writer, actor, and comedian most known for co-creating and co-writing the Comedy Central series Chappelle’s Show with Dave Chappelle and cult movie classic Half Baked.
Neal received three Emmy nominations for Chappelle’s Show; one for directing, and the other two for writing and producing. He has also performed stand-up on Last Call with Carson Daly, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Lopez Tonight, and Conan. Recently, his comedy special called Blocks was released on Netflix.
In this episode, I talk to Neal Brennan about his comedy and upbringing. As early as 8 years old, Neal has been interested in comedy for its “fairness”. He reveals who his early influences were and what it was like working with Dave Chappelle. In this episode I gave Neal some impromptu psychological tests to help us both understand more about his unique mind. We also touch on the topics of relationships, mindfulness, cognitive distortions, and neurodiversity.
- Neal’s family background
- When Neal discovered comedy
- Meeting Dave Chappelle
- The aftermath of Half Baked
- The highs and lows of Chappelle’s Show
- “We contain multitudes”
- Neal’s relationships and reality dysmorphia
- Vulnerable narcissism test
- How vulnerable narcissism develops
- Cognitive distortions
- Mindfulness, drugs, and therapy
First time listener, long time Neal fan. LPCC-S. and School Counselor here. Wondering if birth order (baby of 10) and “lost child vs clown” role of ACOA could better account for personality traits rather than covert narcissism? Who doesn’t want warm fuzzies?! Plus compound it with sibling who’s emotionally and physically abusive bc he’s jelly of Neal’s success while he’s experiencing his denouement might better account for more feelings of inferiority and imposters syndrome???
Hi! Long time listener, love your show–I have learned so much about the world of psychology, myself, and others. I appreciate you so much, Scott! I found the covert narcissism discussion extremely fascinating. My initial thought is that we should campaign hard to change the title of the condition (disorder?). It seems tragic for someone who has deep shame for wanting their basic, human needs to be met to be called a narcissist. In a clinical sense, isn’t that counterintuitive? Logic holds that calling someone a narcissist for having shame just piles on more shame. I get why the term “narcissism” is used (it truly is obsessive focus on the self), and I get that it’s a totally different diagnosis from grandiose narcissism, but that subtle difference is not discernable to people who don’t geek out over this stuff. I know you did express that it is an unfortunate nomenclature, but I wanted to double down on this point.
As discussion–My husband and I are both from alcoholic/codependent backgrounds, and when I heard this podcast I immediately recognized some of the covert narcissism characteristics in both of us. I shared the podcast with him, but he (not being someone who studies these topics much) misinterpreted the content and, therefore, my intent. He basically thought I was calling him an a**hole narcissist. An argument ensued and it became very clear that he wasn’t grasping the difference between covert and grandiose narcissism. It caused him to feel negatively about himself until we cleared it up. Everything is okay now and it was a great learning experience for both of us. Point being, I think this terminology is dangerous for laypeople who are trying to figure themselves out but have fragile self esteem, maybe to the point that it could undermine treatment.
Side note question– I am assuming that covert narcissism is treatable through CBT while grandiose narcissism is not treatable? You mentioned CBT in the pod and I have made progress working on my own covert narcissism in therapy. But grandiose narcissism is not treatable through CBT, correct? Which, to me, is more evidence that they are not the same thing and should not share a nomenclature. I am no expert, so I could be starting from an incorrect premise, but I thought I’d mention this, too. Thank you for your wonderful contributions to the world!
Really great comment which I am contemplating deeply. Do you have any suggestions what we could replace the term with?
Inauthentic external validation disorder?
Ha! I don’t know… I keep coming back to the idea that the motivation of a covert/vulnerable narcissist boils down to profound people pleasing–that the covert narcissist has replaced their own, authentic goals with the artificial goals of others’/society’s. So, now, instead of identifying and pursuing goals in line with their own values and person, their self worth is tied up in impressing others (or, at least, achieving goals they *think* will impress others). They accept that these external goals are their own goals–it is an inadvertent betrayal of self. They are stuck in in this endless rat race and mistake this path as a quest to please themselves. They have superimposed the perceived goals of society (or specific individuals) onto themselves and it drowns out their actual, authentic selves. (There is still an argument that it is an authentic path because none of us are perfect and we’re all just walking our paths in our imperfect, human ways. I think that’s important to acknowledge.)
It also seems there is a spectrum of malevolence-benevolence at play from the grandiose narcissist to the vulnerable narcissist. And maybe another spectrum within the vulnerable narcissist category. The person I am referring to above could be just moving through life, benevolently believing that they will have lived a reputable life if they can just be generically perfect and meet all these external goals (therefore receiving the external validation). It also seems they could be malevolent–judgmental of others, just as critical of others as they are of themselves, putting people down along the way, etc. There is a difference between vulnerable narcissists who are trying to recover and those who are not.