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Comedian Dana Gould Talks Exclusively With CultureMob

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The always hilarious Dana Gould is coming to Seattle to perform two shows at the Triple Door on June 2nd. The $29-39 tickets are still available through the Triple Door, but be sure to get yours soon. You don’t want to miss it.

In a self-deprecating way, he calls himself the X, or Yo La Tengo of comedians. It’s true, if by that he means that he’s a master at his craft, and other comedians watch him with equal amounts of adoration and envy. Dana was kind enough to talk with CultureMob about where he’s been, what to expect here in Seattle, and the other irons he has in the fire.

Tom Mohrman: What brings you to Seattle?

Dana Gould: I performed there earlier this year, and any excuse to perform with Cathy Sorbo, I will get on a plane for her. She’s one of my favorite people. I performed with her at the very beginning of the year. [Seattle has] among the best audiences in the country. Any comedian would be a fool to not come up here. (And I save on sunblock.)

You find there are a handful of places across the country where you can be guaranteed that you’re not fighting an uphill intellectual battle. Seattle is one of them. Unfortunately you only need two hands to count them. (The way I count, I promise you Seattle is always the middle finger.)

TM: How long have you and Cathy been acquainted?

DG: I have known Cathy since we both lived in San Francisco in the mid 80s. (We were both three.)

TM: How long have you been back in stand-up, or did you never really stop?

DG: Well I never stopped doing it, but when I was on the Simpsons I certainly had to curtail my time on stage. I couldn’t tour. When I left the Simpsons a couple of years ago I got back to it, but I had a lot of writing commitments that sort of took up my time. So it’s really only a few years now that I’ve put it back on the front burner, and started giving it my full attention again. I couldn’t be happier.

TM: How was it different?

DG: Well my life is very different from when I was on the show. When I was on the Simpsons I was a guy living with his girlfriend. And then when I ended the show I was married with two kids. Still have the girlfriend- my point is… and now I have three kids. I’m just happy to get out of the house.

I heard somebody say their fantasy is being with two women. I live with four women, my three daughters and my wife. My fantasy is being with four women and having them not ask me to do anything.

TM: You were a writer on the Simpsons for seven years, and now you’ve gone back to performing instead. What was the reason for switching careers again?

DG: I never had a giant master plan. I just did what I thought was funny. I started doing stand-up when I was seventeen, and I was making my living at it by the time I was twenty-two. I haven’t had a real day job that’s not related to show business since I was twenty-two. As long as I kept being funny, I made money, and I’ve been pretty consistently funny. (Funny enough.)

George Meyer, now a Seattle resident who will probably be at the Triple Door I’m sure, he sort of offered me– he and Mike Scully were show-running the Simpsons and they were fans of mine. They asked if I wanted to come over a day a week to punch up jokes. I was like ‘great, what an honor!’

You walk in to the Simpsons on the first day, to be a writer there, and you have the same look if you’ve ever watched Let it Be when Billy Preston comes into the recoding session. It’s like ‘you’re going to play with the Beatles now.’ That’s how you feel, like ‘I’m not supposed to be here.’ Then I worked there for a couple of months. Mike Scully came in one afternoon and told me my contract was up. I thought he was kicking me out. He said, ‘you want to come every day?’ I hadn’t really given it any thought at all. I didn’t assume that offer would ever come. I was just about to get married, and we had just bought our house. I was like, ‘job security, health insurance, sure!’ And then seven years later, I realized that I really missed being on a stage.

When you’re performing a lot, and you’re in shape perfuming wise- like right now I know I could go on stage and do an hour, no problem. When I was on the Simpsons that muscle went slack. I could go on stage and do five, ten, fifteen minute sets, but I was really out of shape. I couldn’t do a full set. I was just too flabby, and I really felt it psychologically.

For whatever it’s worth, I do know that a lot of my self-worth is tied into knowing how good I can do when I walk out on a stage. Once I got back into shape I felt like myself again. So…if people don’t come to the show, I just might kill myself. My happiness is in your hands.

TM: Tell me about the The Dana Gould Hour.

DG: The world’s most overproduced podcast.

TM: Did you get in over your head as far as production goes?

DG: Literally I’m going back and forth right now with my sound editor tweaking seconds, like ‘trim that here,’ or ‘see if you can get a music thing there.’ The show is exactly what I want it to be and if it comes out every two to three weeks, that’s okay. I can’t make it freer.

TM: Do you think you’ll ever give over those responsibilities to somebody you trust?

DG: I have two things pending right now that would sort of grab a lot of time. I’m writing a pilot that I would be in with Dave Grohl as one of the producers. It’s a half hour single camera show set in the music industry. And then there’s another hour long drama series that I might just be acting it. I’m kind of waiting. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

If that were the case, then I’d hand it over to somebody, but it’s hard because comedy timing and rhythm is so intimate. It’s hard to just give it to somebody and expect them to know what you want. I’m very finicky. ‘A nightmare’ is how my sound editor puts it. (I’ll show him a nightmare…)

TM: Will the podcast continue how it is?

DG: Right now I don’t know a way to do the show any funnier with the people that I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded with. Eddie Pepitones aren’t common. You get them when you can. And Matt as well, they go after every ball. They come to play.

TM: Can you reveal any more about the FX show?

DG: It’s based on two things. It’s loosely based on Metallica’s experience with Some Kind of Monster. It’s about a band that’s starting to fall apart. They have to work with a therapist to stay together. The therapist they agree on is in the middle of a mid-life crisis, and he can only kind of learn his own lessons by projecting onto the band. In that regard, it’s not a re-telling of that story. It’s its own story. The other big influence on that story is– I have a very good friend, a musician named Andy Paley, who was in the Paley Brothers. He’s very close with Brian Wilson, for years. I’m fascinated by the idea of people, big celebrities and rock stars, when they encounter like a therapist or somebody that doesn’t have to take their shit. That, and I’m fascinated by the idea that a band– it is a marriage. But unlike a marriage, sometimes they don’t date that long at all. They answer an add in the paper, and they’re in a band. You suddenly have to make this very complicated relationship work. I thought it was a good basis for a show. If you can imagine A Hard Day’s Night if Larry David was their manager, I think that’s a good example of what we’re going for.

TM: Do you feel like comedy is on an upswing right now?

DG: Absolutely, and it’s because of social media. Because of Twitter and Facebook specifically I think. And podcasts. That’s the big three. Comedians now have all these tools to reach their audience and cultivate their audience on a much more regular basis than any time before. Thanks to podcasts, there’s no one in-between. I mean, I don’t have to sell it to a network, I don’t have to take notes from an executive– I come up with an hour show, and I send it out. In the old days you had to tack up flyers. Because of podcasts and Twitter and Facebook, people are able to go out and grab an audience, maintain them, and cultivate them.

And then from just an nuts and bolts standpoint, comedy always does well in bad economies. One, people want to laugh, and two, it’s cheap to produce. You don’t need reverb, a mixing board– you pretty much show up and go.

TM: Unless you’re Reggie Watts.

DG: Exactly. He, like me, is the architect of his own demise. And I will say that I vastly out-spend him on conditioner.

TM: Will the show at the Triple Door be like a cabaret?

DG: It’s not just people talking into a mic. Cathy is way too creative to be pigeonholed, and the people that she travels with. It’s… the farther you get away from an actual theater, the more I enjoy theatrical experiences. Like to me the best version of a theatrical experience is a really good haunted house around Halloween. I much more enjoy that. An unemployed hygienist in bad zombie makeup coming out of a closet, I get a much bigger thrill out of than being in Lincoln Center.

What I love about Cathy, and why I work with her so much, is that she’s not pigeonholed into one way of performing. She has the point of view that it can be music, it can be scenes, it can be a character– her point of view is consistent, and she’s always re-defining how she wants to present herself in terms of an audience. I wouldn’t say it’s a cabaret, but if you just come expecting people to gab into a mic, you’re going to get a lot more than that. Except when I’m on. Then, you’re going to get exactly that.

TM: You know, I think people will be okay with that.

DG: When you work an hour a night, it had better fucking be good… I’m building up material for my next hour long special. Right now I’m about forty-eight percent there. It will accelerate towards the end of the year, and I’ll record it at the end of this year, or the beginning of next year.

TM: Are you planning on releasing it online, like Louis CK, or Aziz Ansari?

DG: I’m open to that. I thought that was great. Bill Maher has done it with a lot of success on his last one, and that’s just a sign of why comedy is booming, and how things are changing. It’s very punk, by definition. It’s workers controlling the means of production. (That’s a little bit more than punk.) So that’s very exciting and I really like it. Networks need to step up. That development has not gone unnoticed. It’s a shot across the bow.

TM: One last question. Do you ever go a day without thinking about Ed Wood?

DG: No. I actually have a famous 8×10 of him where he looks like Errol Flynn. I have one of those autographed by him, signed in 1950. It’s right on my desk, so I see him every day. So no, I can not say that I ever go a day without thinking about him.

For more on Dana Gould, be sure to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and his homepage. See you at the Triple Door!