Dave Hill’s Twitter bio reads, “Entertainer/Man-About-Town” and that he is. I first came to know Dave after seeing him perform at a friend’s fundraiser for President Obama’s re-election in 2011, and I really didn’t want to attend. He was so good that I actually donated $10.00. Hey, if you know my political views you would know that $10.00 is a big hit to my pockets. There was something so refreshing about his style. He had jokes, instruments, music, groovy clothes, and antics. It was like a modern day, hmmmm…dare I say Steve Martin? Hell yeah, Steve Martin.
As much as I love comedy, I couldn’t understand why Dave wasn’t on my radar though. I was so disgusted by the fact that I had to learn about him at a f***ing political fundraiser, and even more upset that he wasn’t on my “show stalk” list. Oh, show stalk? It’s when you happen to arrange a date in the area of a person you want to see perform, and somehow you end up at that show as part of the date.
I show stalked Dave for a couple of months, then it started to feel like I was actually real life stalking him. We have a few mutual friends in common, so I found myself getting more and more face time with him at house parties, elevator rides, at his UCB shows, before finally running into him in the East Village, and saying, “Look dude, I love your comedic style. Can I get a damn interview?”
Dave Hill: Hi. Thanks for inviting me in.
Chalaire: Off the top, I need to admit that I’ve been comedy stalking you.
Dave Hill: Really? How?
Chalaire: Attending your shows and I actually tried to get you a gig tweeting for a project at CBS. Without you knowing, this was your audition tweet. “Great- my University of Phoenix application was rejected after barely reading all those articles. This is bulls**.”
Dave Hill: Wow! That’s cool. Did I get the job?
Chalaire: (laughs) no. Talks crumbled, but we loved the tweet. So, where are you from?
Dave Hill: Well, I’m from Cleveland.
Chalaire: Ew, Really?
Dave Hill: Yes, I actually lived there. Cleveland is wonderful.
Chalaire: Right, so I’ve never heard.
Dave Hill: (laughs) Cleveland is the Paris of Midwest.
Chalaire: Another thing I’ve never heard.
Dave Hill: Man, Cleveland gets a bad rap.
Chalaire: Did you start doing comedy in Cleveland?
Dave Hill: No. I never planned to go into comedy. I liked it, but I didn’t grow up worshiping stand-ups and thinking I’m going to do that.
Chalaire: What brought you to NYC?
Dave Hill: I was a freelance writer. A friend of mine got me a gig submitting jokes for a TV show in NYC where I had to attend the writing meetings one hour each week, but I lived in Cleveland. I would come to NYC for the writing meetings, but never told them I lived in Cleveland. I wasn’t hiding it, but they never asked. Finally, they offered me a full-time job, so I never went back to Cleveland.
Chalaire: That’s cool! Your first job in NYC was a writing job?
Dave Hill: Yes. It was a good job and paid very well.
Chalaire: What show was it?
Dave Hill: It was called Crash Test on Spike TV, but it got cancelled.
Chalaire: Don’t feel bad, all shows on Spike TV get cancelled.
Dave Hill: Mine did. Then I wrote for some shows on VH1.
Chalaire: Nice! Were you one of those talking head comedians?
Dave Hill: I tried it, but those shows are too high energy and quick. I was told I was too laid back. Plus, they are all pop culture, and I just don’t give a f**k about that stuff. Even people who are genuinely funny come off looking lame talking about Britney Spears on those shows.
Chalaire: I can talk about Britney Spears all day, but I’m used to looking lame. Now, are you low energy on purpose?
Dave Hill: I don’t think I’m low energy, but others do. I’m just laid back.
Chalaire: Laid back and shy, right.
Dave Hill: I don’t know. Do you think I’m shy?
Chalaire: Well, I saw you walk into a house party last summer and I thought “Yes, this is going to be crazy” but you were incredibly quiet. I wanted my money back, except I hadn’t paid.
Dave Hill: (laughs) well, if I walk into a room full of people I will probably be low key. I don’t want to walk in like, “HEY EVERBODY I’M HERE!” **jazz hands**
Chalaire: How did you transition from being a writer to a performer?
Dave Hill: The show that I was working on was a hidden camera prank show, so I would act like an idiot in the office all the time. I would be acting out how it should go down, and then the producers wanted me on the show, but the network executives said no because they thought I was “too strange and volatile.”
That started it. There’s a special skill to writing jokes for someone else and I don’t really have that. I realized I was writing jokes that I wanted to see, not writing for the performer. So, I started playing around with video stuff. That’s when I got hired as a comedic correspondent for a show called, Smoking Gun TV.
Chalaire: When did you get into improv?
Dave Hill: I’ve actually never done improv.
Chalaire: You’re on a lot of posters at UCB. I thought you were Mr. UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade).
Dave Hill: Yes, I do a lot of stuff at UCB. I used to feel intimidated by UCB because it felt like a club and I felt like an outsider there. Then I did my show there and I loved it. Everyone has always been so nice and supportive of whatever I want to do there.
Chalaire: When I first saw you perform it was straight stand-up, then I saw you at another venue and it was more musical. What made you merge the two?
Dave Hill: It took me a while to figure out how to mix music and comedy. I’ve been joining them more because I’ve always played in bands and I love the guitar.
Chalaire: It was a total surprise, but I was equally entertained when I saw the musical comedy.
Dave Hill: Yeah, most musical comedy I don’t like. There’s some stuff I think is great like, Flight of the Conchords and Tenacious D, but I don’t like the other stuff when people play 3 chords and rhyme fart with heart.
Chalaire: Fart and heart, no? There goes my shot at trying to do musical comedy…carry on.
Dave Hill: For me the guitar is more introverted and more my comfort zone. I don’t have to talk as much. I can turn a 5 minute set into a 10 minute set. There’s a part of me that feels talking on stage is the last thing I want to do.
Chalaire: Really? You seem very comfortable on stage.
Dave Hill: Well I like it when it’s happening, but for example I have a show tonight and all I can think about is how much I don’t want to do it, but I’ll be glad that I’m doing it when I’m there.
Chalaire: I’m getting the feeling being around people bothers you. Are you social at all?
Dave Hill: Yeah, I hang out. Hanging out with a few people is more appealing to me than going to a big party. However, I’ve figured out a party technique to get away from people at parties because sometimes I wonder, “How do I go from here to across the room?”
Chalaire: Please share.
Dave Hill: I give myself an errand. I pick someone that I’m going to say I’m looking for. Like, hey where’s Joe?
Chalaire: I can’t let you go before I ask you about your dear friend Kim Jong-il. You kill it on Twitter, but what’s up with those tweets?
Dave Hill: Oh, that was fun. I loved doing that.
Chalaire: Dude, you tweeted non-stop Kim Jong-il jokes every 5 minutes for what felt like weeks.
Dave Hill: I remember being in London when he died, and I tweeted one thing and people reacted. I tweeted something else and more people reacted, so I thought…I could do this endlessly.
Chalaire: How long did it go on?
Dave Hill: It went on for like 4 days and people were begging me to stop, like PLEASE PLEASE STOP.
Chalaire: I saw a lot of people encouraging you to keep going. It was annoying, but funny at the same time.
Dave Hill: It was interesting to watch because I was gaining thousands of followers really fast, but I was also losing a ton. That was part of the fun, alienating people with uncomfortable comedy. I’m partially trying to destroy social media.
Chalaire: Well, you kill on Twitter. I love comedy with discomfort whether live or on Twitter. Who inspires you now?
Dave Hill: No one really, I’m more inspired by music, but I do enjoy comics who people deem as weird or crazy. People like Chris Elliot, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Pee-Wee Herman.
Chalaire: …Anyone from the 20th Century?
Dave Hill: (laughs)
Chalaire: Pee-Wee Herman huh? You’re not masturbating in movie theaters, are you?
Dave Hill: I would. When Fred Willard got caught I thought we should all go to theaters and jerk off. They can’t arrest all of us. Everyone jerks off; he just had a location problem.
Chalaire: You started off your career writing for a TV show, a dream job to some people. What advice would you give to an upcoming performer?
Dave Hill: Move to L.A. There are more jobs there and you don’t have to be that smart.
There’s a Darwinism to NYC which makes NYC so great, you can’t be a f***ing idiot and survive here. You will get destroyed. L.A. is a place where morons can stay and do well.
Chalaire: I agree. Before you go I have to point out that you’re decked out in a purple pinstripe suit in 85-degree weather. Is this normal attire for you?
Dave Hill: Yeah, I like clothes. It came in the mail the other day. You don’t like it?
Chalaire: I dig it, and I dig you. Thanks for coming in.
-For more on Dave Hill: Pick up the paperback version of Dave Hill’s book Tasteful Nudes (St. Martin’s Press) on Sept. 3.
-Check out Dave’s band Valley Lodge’s third album ‘Use Your Weapons’, available on iTunes Sept. 3.
Valley Lodge plays
Mercury Lounge in NYC
August 2nd — 10:30 p.m.
Outside Lands festival in San Francisco
UK tour with Janeane Garofalo
Chalaire Miller contributes to Us Weekly, E! Fashion Police, MTV VMA’s, and is an improv artist, stand-up comedian, and comedy blogger. You can also check her out on Twitter @laire and That’s What She Said