David Koechner says George Wendt roast ‘wasn’t too harsh’

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David Koechner at the George Wendt Roast at The Second City. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Looking back at the celebrity roast of George Wendt at Second City, comedian and roaster David Koechner described the experience in one word: “magical.”

In recalling the event — which was not open to the press — the entertainer, who started his career doing improv in Chicago at iO Theatre and Second City Northwest, revealed that Wendt’s real-life kindness made roasting him a challenge.

“We all did pretty much the same approach: picking on everyone else who was there, rather than picking on George,” said Koechner, well-known for his role as Champ Kind in the “Anchorman” films and as Todd Packer on “The Office.”

“There was an understanding that if you were on that dais, you would get a few chips from your fellow roasters. We spread it around, so it wasn’t too harsh. … Nobody was going to go out there and say anything truly hurtful, because we all know that George is truly a guy with a heart of gold that we all love and adore. I’d describe it as respectful teasing.”

Knowing he had to zing Wendt a bit, Koechner decided to focus on the “Cheers” star’s marriage. “George’s wife Bernadette is truly very attractive, and so bright and talented. So I said, ‘Like most people in this audience, we just have to wonder, why is she married to George?’ I surmised that because Bernadette is such a strongly religious woman, she went to confession and instead of 1,000 Hail Marys, the priest told her she had to marry the guy on the back pew — who just happened to be George.”

In addition to the tweaks of Wendt delivered by roasters including Betty Thomas, Bob Odenkirk and surprise guest Chris Rock, Koechner loved how the event — benefitting both Gilda’s Club and the Second City Alumni Fund — handled the live auction.

“They did the classic Bears ‘Superfans’ sketch from ‘SNL’ with another surprise guest, Robert Smigel, plus Joel Murray, Jason Sudeikis and George. They auctioned off the chance to join the sketch right then and there. So the woman who was the winning bidder got to go up and do it right then.

A Saturday night stand-up comedy show at the Metropolis in Arlington Heights will mean a return visit for Koechner, who quipped, “I’m double-dipping in Chicago. I can’t remember the last time I was back in town twice in one year, let alone twice in one week!”

The father of five calls his show “Symphony of Chaos,” because he talks a lot about his personal life and “the title reflects what is going on in my house at any given moment — pure chaos! By and large, that’s my life, my work and my day-to-day business.”

Yet, Koechner was quick to express his gratitude for the eclectic nature of his career.

“I’m so fortunate that I get to work in every entertainment medium. I get to do movies, television, theater and stand-up. It changes every week. I’m working on [the Uptown-set] ‘Superior Donuts’ now. Last week was the roast. This week it’s stand-up. The week after that I’m going to Atlanta to shoot Bobcat Goldthwait’s new anthology series.”

As for “Superior Donuts,” Koechner explained there are two reasons he loves doing the series: “First of all, it’s set in Chicago which I adore, but secondly, it shoots 10 minutes from my house in L.A.

“For an actor it’s as close as it gets to a regular, 9-to-5 job!”

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