On the eve of filming his first movie, “The Machine,” Bert Kreischer was lying in a hotel bed in Serbia trying to fall asleep to a Joe Rogan podcast.
Instead of providing an ambient touch, the episode became a rallying cry for the shirt-averse comedian.
“I forgot who [Joe] was talking to but he said, ‘they don’t make f – – king comedies anymore. They don’t make hard R comedies that are gutsy, ballsy and taking chances.’ I was unaware that they stopped making comedies. I only paid attention to stand-up,” Kreischer, 50, told The Post.
“I am in bed thinking, ‘I’m making a comedy, and I literally start shooting tomorrow.'”
He woke up his co-writer, and they reworked the opening scene giving it a harder edge, courtesy of a vulgar C-word exchange with his on-screen daughter played by Jess Gabor.
After studio bosses saw the new scene, they sent a message: “They said to go harder,” Kreischer recalled.
Going hard has always been Kreischer’s specialty.
Bert Kreischer poses with his “The Machine” co-star: vodka.J.C. Rice
Like a latter-day John Blutarsky, the Florida native attended Florida State for nearly seven years or “most of the ’90s.”
During his sixth year there, he was the subject of a Rolling Stone profile called “The Undergraduate” which chronicled his legendary alcohol consumption and hard partying ways.
The article would inspire the 2002 movie “Van Wilder” starring Ryan Reynolds.
Bert Kreischer during his European travels back in the ’90s.
He had no involvement with that early aughts classic, but the “The Machine” (premiering Friday) is also based on his superhuman boozing. It was so impressive, it won him favor with the Russian mafia.
In a now-viral tale that Kreischer told in his 2016 Showtime special, he went on a class trip to Russia in 1995, where they were chaperoned by the mob.
Despite not knowing the language, he had worked on a sentence to introduce himself to his new minders.
A throwback image of Kreischer posing with his stomach out.
But he froze when coming “face to face with a real Russian gangster with the wife beater and the tattoos with the track pants and the cigarette … I f – – king panicked … all I said to him in Russian, in his doorway was, ‘I am the machine,'” Kreischer said in the special.
The gangster cracked, and Kreischer introduced himself to the other goons. The legend of “The Machine” was assembled, as Kreischer downed vodka bottle after vodka bottle with his illicit friends.
In his retelling, the wild story ends with a bender on a train to Moscow. After Kreischer drinks vodka all night with the mobsters, they make him rob the train, including his own classmates.
Kreischer holding his 2014 book, “Life of the Party.”John Chapple / http://www.JohnChapple.com
“You ever tell a story so much, you wonder if it’s true,” he said of the Russian train odyssey. “I’ve had a number of classmates hear the story and say it’s legitimately true.”
Initially, Kreischer was hesitant to tell the insane tale during a stand-up set, but Rogan encouraged it. He eventually gave in, and after years of perfecting it, “The Machine” took his stand-up career to new heights.
“I think I hadn’t found my voice … Little did I know it was the biggest stage story I would tell in my life. I’m a good storyteller but I’m not the one who recognizes the good stories.”
Kreischer and Mark Hamill, who plays his father in “The Machine.”©Screen Gems/Courtesy Everett Collection
Kresicher has happily milked it ever since. He used his real life story as a springboard for the movie plot, where his train robbing past comes back to haunt him and he’s kidnapped by the Russian mob two decades later.
It was imagined as “The Godfather II” meets “The Hangover.”
While it does deliver on the laughs and misadventures, it’s also heartwarming.
At its core, it’s a movie about fatherhood, which he explores through his relationship with his dad (played by Mark Hamill) and his fictional daughter.
“It mirrored so much of my own life, so I think we got a lot of emotion that we didn’t expect to get. I cried three times in the movie,” he said. At the time, the father of two girls was clashing with his oldest, who had discovered pot and hard seltzers.
Kreischer and Mark Hamill during a scene in “The Machine.”©Screen Gems/Courtesy Everett Collection
“We were having a hard time. I was livid, and I was parenting it all wrong,” he admits. He was also trying to rectify his onstage persona with his life as a family man.
Then the flick collided with another bit of reality: the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which led to a backlash against anything Russian from vodka brands to athletes.
He worried “The Machine” would be sent to the scrap heap.
“I’m not so cautious to an absolute fault. Stuff like this does not hit my radar. I just didn’t get it. It’s not a love story to Russia at all. Russia is in it,” said Kreischer, who took matters into his own hands.
Bert Kreischer poses with his shirt off.J.C. Rice
Last November, he leaked the teaser on an episode of Rogan.
It blew up online, stoking interest, not just from devoted fans. Sony came calling asking to distribute it.
Now, Kreischer hopes it leads a comedy renaissance at the box office.
“I know this is unrealistic but this is my dream. I hope it does $152 million opening weekend. Mind you a Marvel film makes around $130 million. I want it to do such big numbers that every studio is clamoring for the next one. And all my friends, guys like Tom Segura, Shane Gillis, Tim Dillon and Mark Normand, get movie deals.”
And he expects to squeeze more out of his opus.
“I hope [producers] Legendary signs on to do a Machine, 2, 3 and 4. I will have four Machines. It will be my ‘Rambo,'” he said, adding, “I don’t want to be an actor, I want to be a movie star.”
Kreischer morphs into an action hero in “The Machine.”©Screen Gems/Courtesy Everett Collection