By Ryan Meehan
Loud. Soft-spoken. Intelligent. Dumb. Those are some adjectives that have been used to describe comedian Danny Kallas. He’s all over the place, as he finds this the best way to keep the audience’s attention. All of Danny’s material is delivered in his thick, blue-collar accent. He sounds like he could easily be your neighborhood mechanic. Yet within a few minutes of watching his act, you find there’s much more behind the voice. Danny was a finalist in the Laughing Devil Festival 2012 in New York City, the winner of SnubFest Chicago 2009, and has participated in numerous other comedy festivals including Just for Laughs 2011 and 2012 in Chicago and the Laughing Skull Festival 2011 in Atlanta. He was named to comedy.com’s list of funniest Chicago comedians and is co-creator, co-producer, and member of the stand-up comedy collective, Comedians You Should Know, whose 2011 self-titled album debuted #1 on the iTunes comedy chart. Thank you for reading this thing which Danny obviously wrote himself. Danny Kallas is our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: First off, could you tell us a little bit about “Comedians You Should Know”? What is it about those comedians that we should know? What is the goal of forming a troupe like that?
DK: Comedians You Should Know is a comedy collective of six Chicago-based stand-up comedians: Marty DeRosa, Joe Kilgallon, Mike Lebovitz, Drew Michael, Michael Sanchez, and me (Well, currently five stand-up comedians and one filmmaker, Sanchez, who has taken a leave of absence from stand-up to focus on films.) We have produced a very successful and critically-acclaimed weekly stand-up comedy showcase in Chicago for the last five years. In 2011, our self-titled album debuted #1 on iTunes comedy, which led to a Midwest tour.
The name “Comedians You Should Know” was thought of five years ago because during that time niche groups were very popular like “Latin Kings of Comedy” “Blue Collar Comedy Tour”, etc. There was even a group that toured back then named “Five Funny Females and Five Funny Fags”. While a lot of those comedians in those groups were and still are funny, they were marketing to a specific group of people, which I guess is a good idea but not something I am into. I don’t want someone coming to a CYSK show simply because we both have Greek last names or because we both have halitosis. I want them to come because they think I’m funny.
CYSK came together organically. We all came up in the open mic scene and quickly became friends. I think the common thing that links us all together is that we feel like we can perform in front of any type of audience as long as they’re open-minded, not dumb, and get that all we’re trying to do is make people laugh. So, I guess “Comedians You Should Know” is short for “Comedians You Should Know If You Are an Open-Minded Person Who Likes to Laugh and Isn’t a Fuckin’ Idiot”.
The goal of forming a group like CYSK, at least for us, is to help each other out in our pursuits of becoming national headliners. All individual projects are plugged on our CYSK Facebook and Twitter pages from out-of-town stand-up gigs, to podcasts, to video projects, etc. When we do a new club and the booker asks about the best stand-ups in Chicago, we always refer each other.
FOH: Your Twitter bio says: “I know a lot about a little and a little about a lot” What exactly do you mean by that? How does that relate to the material that you discuss on stage?
DK: “I know a lot about a little” basically means I am very educated on very few topics. I can go on and on about sports, words, Chicago history, the best thrift store to buy underpants, and that’s about it.
“I know a little about a lot” basically means that I am interested in many other things, yet I don’t know much about them, but will try my best to act like I do. Like if we were to talk about politics, I could have a five minute discussion and sound very well versed on the topic; however, after that five minutes, you’ll quickly realize I know nothing other than the few minutes I just spouted.
As far as how its related to the material I do on stage, I try my best to talk about different topics.
FOH: Chicago has a very long and rich history of successful comedians…Do you ever feel any added pressure when you are performing at a club where maybe a legendary comic has stood on that same stage? Is it best sometimes to just think of yourself as a separate entity that doesn’t have anything to do with those comedians?
DK: When I first started performing at Zanies, yes, I definitely felt the added pressure to do my best. It is by far the oldest stand-up comedy club in Chicago and growing up, even during the comedy boom, it’s the only local club I heard of. When you walk in there, you can feel the history.
As far as thinking of myself as a separate entity from other comedians, yeah, I’d like to think I am. Every comedian wants to think of themselves as an individual; however, the Chicago comedians that came before me and the ones I am around every day have had a big influence on what my comedic sensibility has become.
FOH: Is there a certain club in Chicago that you call “home”? What’s the best comedy club to perform at in the Chicago area?
DK: Comedians You Should Know every Wednesday in Chicago is my home club and the one I feel most comfortable. The stage is low, the room is intimate, and the crowd is smart. It has everything a stand-up wants.
As far as an actual comedy club in the Chicago area, my favorite places to perform is at whatever venues book me. If they don’t book me, fuck ’em. Unless they book me, they un-fuck ’em.
FOH: What’s the best experience that you have had on stage so far as a comic? The worst?
DK: There have been a lot of great ones and I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s definitely one that sticks out. I featured for Jim Norton at Zanies almost three years ago and everyone was there to see him. I did really well and at one point, I told a joke that most of the audience “ooohed” at. I stopped my set and said to the crowd, “Whoa, did I just get ooohed by a Jim Norton crowd?! This is may be the most unexpected and greatest moment of my life!”
As far as the worst, it is every time I bomb. It rarely happens anymore but when it does and it’s in front of a paying audience, the feeling is indescribable. It’s like being at your own funeral.
FOH: Do you feel as a comedian that you are constantly writing as you go about your daily life, or do you set aside a certain time every week where you just brainstorm different joke ideas from scratch?
DK: Yeah, I am constantly writing. If something I think’s funny pops in my head, I try my best to write it down. I am out in bars every night, so I usually end up writing it on a napkin. It’s only a few words or a sentence. So, I’ll try to talk the new bit out in my head throughout the next day and if I still think something is there, I’ll try it at an open mic. If it gets a fews laughs, I know I got something there and will continue to refine the joke. If it gets no laughs, that’s when I sit down the next day and try to write it out.
I will add tags to established jokes at showcases and clubs, but I never do an entirely new bit because I respect paying customers too much. About once a week, I free-write for an hour. It’s amazing the things that can come from your brain from free-writing that you never knew were in it.
FOH: What’s next for Danny Kallas in the twelve months to come? Anything big in the works?
DK: My goal is to record my first solo DVD/CD in the spring of 2013. If I can get everything lined up that I envision, then the project will most definitely happen. It’s something I’m very excited about but know that if everything isn’t the way I want it, I will delay the recording and release. I’m in no rush.
This is where I’ll put any social networking links as well as plug any upcoming shows that you might want me to promote.
Comedians You Should Know Website: http://www.comediansyoushouldknow.com/
Danny on Twitter: @DannyKallas
Danny on Facebook: www.facebook.com/dannykallas
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