by Ryan Meehan
Dave Thomason is a stand-up comedian living in Los Angeles. He has appeared on Adam Devine’s House Party on Comedy Central, and was a finalist in the Comedy Central UP NEXT Competition. He performs at festivals across the country, including the SF Sketchfest, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, and the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival. Dave’s stand-up has also been featured on NPR’s “Snap Judgment”.
RM: You grew up in the Bay area, where you were obviously around some really great art, music, and of course…comedy. How much of your interest in performance art was due to the fact that you were around it so much; and if you had grown up in Nebraska do you think you’d be doing this interview right now?
DT: Yeah, I think so. I built up the interest in doing comedy by watching so much stand-up on TV, which I would have done regardless of where I lived. I grew up way in the suburbs – I wasn’t aware of any art around me that wasn’t piped in through the television, internet, or movie theater. I think once I decided to actually pursue comedy as an adult, that’s when it mattered for me to live around a lot of other people making interesting things.
RM: When you were in the ska band you joined in high school, what instrument did you play and what was the band called? Do you still listen to that kind of music, and do you still consider yourself to be fluent at that practice?
DT: I was the drummer, but I was really bad and my friends didn’t have the heart to kick me out, so they eventually made me the singer. We were called Can’t Stop Lamar. I don’t really listen to ska anymore. Sometimes when I’m feeling nostalgic I’ll throw on an album, but after a song or two I’ll think to myself “Why did I like this? Was I insane?” I think ska was just the right music for who I was at that time in my life (I was a huge dork who wanted to dance).
RM: I saw you the other night on “Adam Devine’s House Party” and I thought your set was great…Did you have to alter your set list at all because the format of that show is more like performing at a party as opposed to a comedy club? Throughout your career, what’s the closest that you’ve ever came to doing a show such as that one?
DT: Glad you liked it! Nope, I didn’t really have to alter my set. The audience that Adam drew was awesome; they were up for pretty much anything. I just did the set I wanted to do, and they were on board. Probably the closest experience I’ve had to that is opening up for W. Kamau Bell at Largo in Los Angeles a couple years ago. He was great, and it was a great venue, and so it’s hard not to feel a bit of pressure; but the audience was so stellar that once I got on stage it was just a blast.
RM: I notice you’re not on Facebook a lot and a little while back, you returned to Twitter after a two week hiatus…Was it a conscious decision of yours to take a break from Tweeting during that time period, and how would you best describe your current relationship with social media?
DT: Haha, no it was not a conscious decision. I just was working on other stuff and got neglectful. I’m trying to use Twitter more consistently. I honestly enjoy Twitter; there are some people on there who are absolutely brilliant (for example: Jake Weisman, Bridger Winegar, Aparna Nancherla, Matt Ingebretson, Alison Stevenson). Sometimes I lose interest in social media when it becomes an echo chamber for people to get on a pedestal about whatever issue everyone is outraged about that week; but as a place to go to read short jokes about things like dogs and boners and depression – I love it. I think I just forget it’s a thing I can spend time writing for. But I’m trying to pay more attention to it.
RM: When it comes to writing jokes, what aspect of that process do you feel like you struggle with the most? Why do you think that is; and do a lot of your bits come from real life experiences or hypothetical situations that you come up with on your own?
DT: I think the hardest part is saying something interesting. Ideally, I don’t want to just be funny; I’d like for whatever thought or story I presented to still be worth listening to even if the laughs weren’t there. Something that makes the audience go “Oh, that’s a good point” or something. Not every bit I write has that, but it’s what I aim for, and it’s hard to make happen. And I think it’s hard because I’m dumb and probably don’t have that much worthwhile to say. But I’ll be goddamned if I won’t give it a shot!
My bits are based on real life experiences now. Some of my older jokes were absurd situations I invented, but I found it was hard to smoothly hop between those and honest things that happened to me. I felt like I had to pick one or the other, and I have more fun talking about the real stuff.
RM: Of all the comics that you’ve had the opportunity to work with, who has been the one individual that you have learned the most from watching on a stage you just got done rocking? What was it about their set that really stood out to you as something that you can use as a learning experience?
DT: Chad Daniels. He was the headliner for my first paid week working at a club, and to this day it’s still some of the best comedy I have ever seen. He’s seriously one of the most underrated comedians out there. What I took away from watching him is that as long as you couch your jokes in honest experience, you can be as clever or dark as you want. We were performing for a pretty suburban crowd, and sometimes I think the reputation for those places is that you’ll have to pander or hack-it-up to do really well because the people there are just too square. But Chad was able to do super smart and challenging material, partially I think because he rooted a lot of his bits in stories or observations about his wife and kids. The crowd was on board for his weirder or darker stuff because he gave them an honest experience that they could grab on to.
RM: If you had to name the top three elements that are necessary for a really good comedy show, what would they be and in what order of importance would you rank them?
DT: 1) Funny comedians 2) Everyone can easily hear & see the show 3) The audience is there because they specifically want to see that show… (not just “comedy” in general).
RM: What’s up next for you in 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
DT: I’m doing shows! Check out davethomasoncomedy.com and go see one. I’m also currently the writer’s assistant on @midnight on Comedy Central, which is a great show that everyone should watch.
Dave’s Comedy Central Profile: http://davethomason.tumblr.com/
Dave on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davethomasoncomedy
Dave on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dave_thomason
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