Dave Hill looks for 'like-minded people' who won't think he's crazy ... just funny
NORTH ADAMS — Mr. Dave Hill is awesome, thank you for asking.
The internationally touring comedian is known for his humorous storytelling, including books of the non-self-published variety (see "Parking the Moose," Penguin Random House), stand-up, podcasts, and electric guitar-driven musical collaborations ranging from "Live from Here" with Chris Thile to a black metal live show born out of a series of awkward emails and an unexpectedly successful appearance at South by Southwest.
Dave Hill is coming back to the Berkshires and neighboring New York's Capital District Region this week to share his own distinctive brand of humor and musical musings.
Previously hosting sets and performing at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's High Mud Comedy Festival, Hill will be off-Broadway, so to speak, headlining Thursday's Comedy Night at HiLo North Adams. The slated two-hour set starts at 8 p.m., and will feature appearances by local host-promoter Thomas Attila Lewis and Ethan Ullman (Howard Stern Show).
After that, Hill and the gang will make the rounds for Comedy After Dark on Friday at The Park Theater in Glens Falls, N.Y., and Pretty Much the Best Comedy Show on Saturday at Underground at Proctors, Schenectady, N.Y., before Hill jet sets to Norway next month to perform in Oslo and other European destinations.
We caught up with the Renaissance funnyman by phone whilst he was walking the streets of Evanston, Ill., before a gig last week and chatted about life in comedy, as experienced through different cultures and channels.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Q. How do you create comedy that's relevant and that translates through all these different cultures and mediums that you work with?
A. Well, you know, I think for me I just tend to do what I think is funny and then hope that I'm not crazy and that there's going to be like-minded people out there.
In going to other countries, you learn. I used to try to do research, you know, ask people before a show this and that about a place, but lately, over the past couple of years, I've just kind of enjoyed figuring it out on stage.
Though sometimes there can be one word that doesn't translate and it can be like a speed bump to your joke.
I remember doing a joke in London that really went well in America about buying a gyro, or "jai-roh" as I call it. So, I'm telling this story in London because they're going to love it, I've perfected it, I've gotten it down. I can't wait to tell it in London in a crowded club. So I tell this story, and I start talking about the gyro and people are just not into it and confused. Then someone after the show told me "giro" here is like a food stamp, but sounds like you were actually trying to talk about a kebab. But when you say giro here and talk about eating a giro, it sounds crazy. So next time, I changed it to "kebab" and it worked.
Q. In traveling so much, how do you read a room?
A. You can feel it, honestly, when you walk out on stage. Before you even say a word, you kind of feel the energy and kind of know what you're getting into, and that's part of the fun and it's part of the challenge. It drives me crazy when sometimes you see a comedian that's having a bad show or a bad set and they blame the audience, and I hate seeing that! I never do it. I think I did it once, one night in Switzerland I kind of lost my cool. [Laughs] But I think the challenge is always for the comedian to figure it out and figure out how to align with the energy of the room.
Q. So how do you stay fresh?
A. Sometimes the crowd sees a lot of stuff and sometimes a comedian goes out there talking about really familiar stuff that's been sort of covered a lot already. If the audience has seen a lot of comedy they might just be like, "oh, screw this, I've seen this a million times over the years." You can see this performing around New York, where you've got, like a million people talking about how they're on Tinder now. So for me — well, I've never been on Tinder or anything like that — but I probably wouldn't want to talk about that because all these other people have it covered. So it's like what's something I can offer that's different to people? And hopefully, I succeed in that.
Q. What keeps you interested in working across all these different platforms like you do?
A. I think part of it is that I'm genuinely interested and curious and easily distracted and it's easy to talk me into something. [Laughs] I like to have fun and experience new things and meet new people, so for me part of the reason I like doing all this stuff is like if someone comes to me and is like, "Hey, let's go do this thing" I'm like, "yeah let's do it that sounds fun!" Part of the reason why I do a lot of international touring is because, just as a human being, I want to see how people live and I can fortunately use what I do as sort of a way to get there.
Q. Having a career in comedy is complex. What keeps you at it?
A. There are some days where I'm like, ahhh, I'm gonna quit, but then I'm like, what else would I do? I don't want to go to work every day. Granted, I'm kind of working all day every day, but I just wouldn't fit well into waking up and showing up somewhere every day. So I'm just better off doing my own things that are exciting to me, you know, comedy and writing and music, and I've been lucky enough that it's turned into a living. Hopefully, knock on wood or whatever, I'll be able to keep doing it. I think I'll be OK, unless I screw it up or get a head injury or something. Maybe I'll be better if I get a head injury, I don't know. There's no telling. Besides, it's too late to turn back. If I ever did get a regular job, how would I explain that gap in my resume? I would be sent home before noon.
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