By Ryan Meehan
Dan’s unusual observations and unique autobiographical stand-up have earned him numerous television performances on The Tonight Show (both Conan and Leno have invited him over to the couch!), Showtime’s “Live from Amsterdam”, Comedy Central Presents, a one-hour Comedy Central special – “Crazy with A Capital F”, Last Comic Standing, Nickelodeon’s Mom’s Night Out, and on many other late night and cable programs. He was a cast member for the last three seasons of The World’s Dumbest on TruTv, and has appeared on several other pop up commentary series, including VH1’s I Love the 2000’s. Expanding his resume into behind the camera work, Dan’s also written or helped produce numerous reality shows the past few years, including Duck Dynasty on A&E, Porter Ridge on Discovery, Town of the Living Dead on SyFy and he is currently writing for two upcoming series being produced by Red Bull. Never taking a break from standup, Dan continues to tour and will be releasing Chinese Affection, his fourth album on Warner Brothers Records, in 2015. This new material was originally recorded for Pandora after the leading internet radio provider chose Dan as their very first comic to spotlight due to his popularity on their stations. Dan will also be recording another special with Warner Brothers in 2015, and, you can now watch him every week, Monday – Thursday, 9-10AM PST on Playboy, as he is the new co-host of The Playboy Morning Show, the network’s most popular and longest running series. So do you yourself a favor and start listening to him, and check him out as my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: Your Twitter bio reads: “Your guess is as good as mine. But I’m going to go with mine.” Since you began doing comedy, do you feel that your confidence in trusting your own judgment has been one of the more important keys to your success in an industry that depends so much on the judgment of your art by others?
DC: Yes. But, if I viewed stand up as less of an artistic endeavor, and more of just a business, I might have had more commercial success by hitching my wagon to the alt-scene, or focusing more on TV friendly material. I just know that to continue to have fun with stand up, I have to be pleased with what I’m doing above anyone else. And, I’ve met a lot of comedy insiders over the years, and, in my opinion, some of them are the last people I’d want input from concerning what’s funny.
RM: On your website, you have a section called “Starascopes” which is this sort of disturbing horoscope blurb, but there is only that one entry. Is that something that you had planned on doing regularly; and if so why did you not continue on with that series of bits?
DC: Ah! Forgot about that. Cleaning up my website is definitely a goal for 2015. I originally wrote several nonsense horoscopes for Laughspin.com, but they either lost interest or got to busy (or lazy) to post them on a consistent basis, so I stopped the series. I have tons of them written, and, if I ever get the time, may re-release them as either a blog or a book. I love writing them!
RM: You have a great bit about winning the lottery and then making other people’s lives miserable with the money…What kind of creative project would you put that kind of money into if you actually did hit the big time and not lose the ticket on your way to claim the scratch?
DC: Actually, I’m developing a series concept with a production company in LA that would be dream project. X-Files is my favorite show ever, and I love the world of the paranormal, even though I don’t believe in most of it. I’m working on a paranormal project that has a lot of fun with the concept of “experts” in areas like extraterrestrials and cryptozoology, and dramatic reenactments of the “true” stories they have. If I could pay to fund this whole project myself so it would at least be available on the web if not TV, I would.
RM: Looking at your body of work, a lot of your comedy is based around wild ideas involving hypothetical situations…Do you think that you do that because you’re bored with a lot of the same topics that other comedians have talked about for so long; or do you just chalk that up to having a big imagination?
DC: Both actually. Recently, I’ve been doing some relationship material, because it’s true and unique to my life, but in general I hate the same ol’ standup comics hundreds of comics do: relationships, travel life, annoying family members, etc. I have a very short attention span, and I have always had a crazy imagination, so strange or intense subjects just hold my interest longer than mundane, pedestrian stuff.
RM: What did you do differently when writing the new material that would eventually become “Hear This” as opposed to that which appears on “Revenge is Near” and “Crazy with a Capital F”? What’s the biggest difference between the comedian you are now and the comic that recorded those two albums?
DC: I was very joke focused on my first two albums. How can I make the quickest, cleverest joke, or series of jokes, about the topic and then move on, sans segue, to the next one was my philosophy. But then, shortly after recording Crazy with a Capital F, I just got bored with that model. I felt like a joke robot as opposed to a funny person, and my act felt a little soulless. I became more interested in my own actual life and opinions, and I started choosing material based on what triggered a strong emotional response out of me (usually anger or frustration) instead of what I just thought was incongruous or “funny”. My act is much easier to perform now, because all my stories are true, instead of just strange stuff I’ve thought about. My stories now have happened. You get a much truer window into who I really am as a person watching my act now as opposed to back in 2010 and before. I feel I really connect with the audience now, instead of just amuse them.
RM: Back in 2011, you performed at a comedy festival in South Africa…What was that whole experience like for you; and what are some of the good and bad aspects of doing festival gigs instead of club work?
DC: South Africa was amazing. It was great for my confidence as a comic to have good shows in a country across the club, doing material that was largely written while I was there. Festivals are like summer camp for comics – you get to hang out and perform with peers and idols you normally don’t get to spend time around, or meet. And, I feel like it brings the best of you as a performer, because you don’t want to look bad in front of your contemporaries. The bad part is, unless you’re lucky enough to have your own show at a festival, the show isn’t about you. Headlining clubs, you kind of get used to being the main attraction, and then you have to check that part of your ego at the festival door.
RM: What are the biggest structural differences between the two podcasts that you are involved with; (“Fired Up with Dan Cummins” and “Naked and Fearless”) and what do comedy fans need to know about Tom Saunders and Doug Mellard?
DC: Ah man, those two podcasts are long dead now. I may reincarnate Fired Up, which was a podcast that was either just me ranting about one particular topic (e.g. corporate homogenization of America’s retail businesses), or talking about one topic with a guest or two. It was fun to really deeply explore one particular thought on something. The concept behind Naked and Fearless, with TV writer Tom Saunders and fellow comic Doug Mellard, was to reveal intensely personal and true stories along a theme each episode, like your most embarrassing sexual experience. The point was also to share things you’ve never told anyone outside of a therapist before. It taught me to really open up and to not be afraid of revealing my most shameful secrets. Doug Mellard is a great comic and super creative guy, and he just recorded a CD, Fart Safari (even though he does no fart jokes), with Standup Records. You should get it when it comes out! Tom and I will begin pitching a sitcom concept we developed in the coming weeks – hope we get lucky and sell it, and that someday you can watch our dark, quirky family comedy.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
DC: I hope 2015 is a big year! I’ll be releasing a new album on Warner Brothers called Chinese Affection, and recording a new special with them I’m tentatively calling Daddy Bear. How well these projects are received will largely determine how much and where I tour and perform going forward. So like them!! Also, I am the new co-host of The Playboy Morning Show, the Playboy channel’s most popular and longest running series. I interview artists, actors, hosts, musicians, writers, models, and various experts of various fields, I’ll do monologues and rants and whatever I feel like talking about, and I’ll host games featuring Playboy models in various states of undress. Not a bad gig! And I’ll do it every week, Monday through Thursday. So, use it as a good excuse to subscribe to Playboy, and tune in!
Official Website: http://www.dancummins.tv/
Dan on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dancumminscomedy
Dan on Twitter: http://twitter.com/d_cummins
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