by Ryan Meehan
Dave Ross is a comedian and storyteller in Los Angeles, CA. He is a regular at L.A.’s Nerdist Theater at Meltdown, and at the Hollywood Improv, and performs at literally every festival, club, theater, bar, fire hall and bombed-out stone building that will have him. He is the host of the podcast Terrified on the Nerdist Network and a MOTH Grand Slam winner. You might have seen him on Tosh.0 with his sketch group, WOMEN, or heard him telling stories on KCRW. In 2014, he got hammered on Drunk History on Comedy Central, and in a blackout demanded that everyone in the world be nice to each other. That’s pretty much Dave in a nutshell. He loves you. He loves you kind of angrily. I am thrilled to have Dave as my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: In three words, how would you best describe your onstage persona?
DR: Dumb, smart and loud.
RM: How did you first get involved with the Nerdist network? How is Hardwick able to manage everything going on with all of those podcasts at once; and how much of a hands-on approach does he have when it comes to shows like yours?
DR: I have NO idea how Hardwick manages everything going on his life. It’s incredible to me that he does all he does. I aspire to it. He certainly has a lot of people helping him, but he still hosts multiple TV shows and a podcast and somehow manages to be nice to everyone. He doesn’t have a very hands-on approach with the podcasts, but he does seem to delegate well, specifically to Katie Levine, who runs the production side of the podcast network, and Perry Michael Simon, who runs the business side. There are other people too — Aristotle Acevedo for one, who records and produces my show and a lot of others, and some who I don’t know well because I’m in-and-out of the recording studio usually, busy with a million things myself. One of those things is stand-up, actually, which is how I got involved with Nerdist! My friend Eli Olsberg runs a stand-up show at The Pleasure Chest in LA, where Sex Nerd Sandra works, and one of the times I did his show, she saw a set of mine and asked me to co-host her show with her. That was so lucky. That show changed my life. It brought me into Nerdist, for one thing, but also taught me how to co-host and gave me a bunch of fans — tonnnnnnns of people listen to that show. Two years later when I left, I emailed Hardwick asking if I could pitch a show and he said yes. I pitched Terrified to him and he didn’t write me back, so I thought it wasn’t going to happen, but then we did a stand-up show together a few months later and he offered me the show there, in person. Blew my mind. Stand-up is everything. Seriously, in a hundred different ways, I would be nothing without stand-up.
RM: What do we need to know about “Women” and the other three dudes that make up that sketch group? What is the best part about that whole project for you?
DR: WOMEN is the greatest thing I’ve ever done. It’s the thing I’m most proud of in my life. We make the darkest, dumbest comedy and I seriously just fucking love it. I know it’s weird to be so blatantly immodest about something you make, but it’s hard to not be, because of how insanely dumb and crazy our sketches are. And I guess it’s easier to brag about your shit when it’s a group and not just you. Those other three guys are some of the best friends I’ve ever had and possibly my three favorite comics. Pat Bishop is maybe the smartest person I’ve ever met, and some day everyone in the world is going to agree. I’m sure of it.
RM: Other than having a good premise and being really funny, what are some of the most important characteristics necessary for a great comedy sketch?
DR: Be a dick. Or rather, let your sketch be a dick. You should be a nice person, but sketches don’t need to be. Let your sketch say the things you won’t say.
RM: On the “projects” tab of your page, you have three projects listed as “current”…Then on the right hand side of the page, you have fifteen previous projects including “Holy Fuck” and the like that are labeled as either “past” or “on hiatus”… Does that page serve as kind of a guideline for you to not lose your focus on the projects that you have invested the most amount of time in; or do you simply not have enough hours in the day to maintain everything that you set in motion?
DR: This question is interesting because it hadn’t occurred to me, until you asked, that those classifications are unconventional. I suppose I could just list everything on their as projects of mine and not divide them up into “current” and “past”, and the only real reason I can give for why I divided them up is that I have obsessive-compulsive disorder and I’m a nerd who likes categorizing things. I don’t really look at the page as a place to keep me focused on current projects, though I do have a similar, personal list that is VERY LARGE that I look at every day to remind myself of the five million things I’m working on. And also, yeah, I don’t have anywhere near enough time to keep all the projects going that I’ve started, or even that I want to keep going. But! I also think projects should end. I think it’s important to find a logical stopping point for everything you create, both because a creative person should always be moving on/up to stay fresh and excited, and because every idea has a shelf life. If you end something when it’s supposed to end, then it will be remembered well by both you and its audience, and will exist in history as something with meaning, not something that desperately clamored to stay alive.
So I made that “Projects” page as an archive of what I’ve done and what I’m currently doing. I’m proud of all of it and I want people to be able to see all of it. Maybe some of the past projects will start back up! Who knows.
RM: You’re big into stand-up, sketch comedy and podcasting…What are the advantages and drawback to each one of those art forms; and which one do you think that you’ve improved at the most in the past twenty-four months?
DR: This is a huge question. I don’t know if I could give comparable advantages and disadvantages of each because they’re very different things. I suppose what stand-up has over sketch is its ability to relate directly to people, and the insane amount of control given to the performer. Sketch is great, though, because it’s limitless in creative possibilities. It doesn’t even have to have a beginning or end. Comedy sketches can involve countless characters, situations, locations and concepts. You’re not relating directly to the audience, though, which is why stand-up is my favorite. I like to be there, with the viewer, having fun with them it’s great and feeling weird with them when it’s weird. Both are so fun, though.
Podcasting is basically unrelated in my mind, except in that comedians do it. Podcasting can be anything — it can be stand-up, or sketch, or interview, or storytelling, or music, or whatever. It’s just audio on the internet. I do like my podcast, though, probably because it gives me a chance to relate to my guests (and co-host) one-on-one. I think that just means I like interviewing, though.
And I have no idea which I’ve improved in! I mean… I know I’ve gotten better at all three. I think! I dunno. They all feel good lately. Stand-up and sketch especially. I haven’t been able to focus on Terrified (my podcast) as much lately because of the demands on me from sketch and stand-up right now, but I still love it and have so much fun doing it. I dunno. I think I have both improved in all three but I also may have regressed completely in literally everything, back to the point of not even being able to move my arms or speak English.
RM: Which aspect of the writing process to you tend to struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which part of writing jokes would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular fragment of the operation?
DR: The hardest part about writing to me is the whole thing. I have trouble with all of it. It’s the hardest thing in the world. I’m kind of a whiz at coming up with an idea, but then when I have to sit down and write and craft the beats and lines, it’s almost impossible. It takes forever. Writing a good joke basically takes me five years. My specialty is delivering the joke. Once I have it written, HOO BOY am I good writer.
In all seriousness, though, I love to write and I do it all the time and it’s impossible.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
DR: WOMEN. Watch out for WOMEN.
Official Website: http://www.davetotheross.com/
“Women” Official Website: http://womencomedy.com/
Dave on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/davetotheross
Dave on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/davetotheross
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