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From its stubbornly underpriced hot dog to its absurdly oversized bulk items, Costco is a wonderland of curiosities. Few people have capitalized on the store’s mysterious magnetism as creatively as stand-up comic Matt O’Brien.
When the Canadian-born comedian first started touring the United States, he struggled a bit to come up with relatable material, particularly topics that resonate with small-town audiences. “It is really different culturally from Canada,” notes O’Brien.
He soon stumbled upon a goldmine, located right around the corner from his new home in Los Angeles. All it cost him was an annual membership.
“I remember being on the road and talking about Costco because I just joined and I loved it–and the whole crowd was into it,” O’Brien says during a recent telephone interview.
The warehouse club, which he likes to describe as “a big airplane hangar with no windows,” has since become his “greatest inspiration,” a source of constant material for both his stand-up act and social media musings, he says.
Audiences can’t get enough. “No matter what town you go to, you talk about Costco, people are obsessed with it,” he says. “Even in L.A., of all places, people are just religiously obsessed with this store.”
Now, the touring comic can’t seem to travel anywhere without checking out the local Costco, whether that’s back in his native Canada, where he swears the food court poutine lives up to the hype (“one of the best poutines you can get”), or Hawaii, where the outdoor food court is made up of food trucks (“that was cool to see,” he notes).
Earlier this month, he posted a new video on his social platforms, titled “Secret Costco Hack,” which notably pokes fun at several familiar themes: the crowds, the hot dog, the bulk items, and the staffer who always checks your receipt after checkout.
The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What inspired you to make the “Secret Costco Hack” video? Did you have a really frustrating experience fighting the crowds at Costco?
O’BRIEN: I made a Costco video before that. I made it when I had Covid and couldn’t leave the house. The whole video was like, “I can’t go to Costco, so I’ll green-screen myself there.” I just green-screened myself shopping at Costco and filling up the toilet and then a bunch of alarms go off. It’s very stupid [laughs]. But recently, I’ve just been shopping and it’s been crazy and I’m like, “You know what? I’ll make another stupid Costco video.”
What sort of reaction has the video received?
I’ve gotten so many messages from people who are like, ‘Make this a series. Keep it going.” So I think I’ll just keep green-screening myself at Costco until the big business takes notice of me and gives me money.
By “big business,” you mean Costco?
That’s the one! They’ve got to give me something. I’ve been Tweeting about Costco like every day for the last four years. They should give me something.
What do you think would be the right payoff for all of that? Should you get to be the guy checking receipts at the end?
Oh my god, I would love that! Seriously, when I walk around there, I’m like, “Let me try each job once.” Let me be a deli guy, let me be a rotisserie chicken guy. I’d love to be a receipt checker–also, I want to know what the hell they’re looking at on these receipts! I ask them and no one ever tells me. It’s this little secret, like we’re not supposed to know, us peasants aren’t supposed to know what they are looking for on these receipts. So, I’d love to crack that code.
A couple of times, I’ve joked on stage that I want to record a comedy special inside a Costco and I’ve had PR people approach me being like, “We can try to pitch this, let’s try to get this going, to be the first guy doing Costco material inside a Costco kind of thing.” It would be tough but….
As a fan of TV’s White Lotus, I enjoyed your Tweet about filming the next season at Costco.
I pitched that to the creator of FBoy Island, too. I was like, “You should do that in the Costco food court.” He was like, “Honestly, that would be good TV.”
Bottom line: we can expect more of your Costco videos, yes?
I’m going to keep doing the dumb green screen videos, because I just make dumb green screen videos in general. But yeah, it’s the Costco ones that have really popped off. I can’t stress this enough. Anything Costco, stand-up wise, video, general conversation—it is the ultimate leveler. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, what you believe in, everyone loves this damn store so much and they want to talk about it and they want to hear about it.
So, nothing you have done about Costco has bombed?
Knock on wood [laughs]. Also, I have Kirkland shirts and Kirkland sweaters, and my wife and I will purposefully wear them when we fly because flight attendants are a million times nicer to us. I’ve walked on planes, and flight attendants have been like, “Oh, Mr. Kirkland, do you work with Costco?” Even crossing the border into Canada—if you want to sneak into Canada, wear a Kirkland shirt because they barely asked me any questions. They were obsessed with my Kirkland shirt. They were like “Oh boy, Costco! I love that place.” I’m like, “Me too!” And I don’t even know if they looked at my passport. They’re so hypnotized.
You probably heard that Costco is planning to raise membership fees. Will that really change anything for fans?
I don’t think it’s going to affect them at all. To be completely honest with you, I don’t even know what I pay for membership. I’m so hypnotized by this place. Whatever gets me in the building, I don’t care. I’ll pay whatever. As long as it evens out in the wash. Just keep the hot dog at a buck fifty and I’ll pay you whatever you want.