On this episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, comedian Dana Gould stopped by the studio to talk about his own podcast (The Dana Gould Hour), his return to standup after writing for “The Simpsons,” and his horror-comedy TV show, “Stan Against Evil,” which is now in its second season on IFC.
You can read some of the highlights from the interview here, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Peter Kafka: This is Recode Media with Peter Kafka, that’s me. I’m part of the Vox Media podcast network, I’m here at Vox Studios with Dana Gould, who is a professional comedian, humor writer, podcaster. He’s the creator of “Stan Against Evil,” which is a television show you can watch on actual televisions on IFC. Welcome, Dana.
Dana Gould: Hi. How are you, Peter?
We last talked eight years ago. I was just calling up the YouTube clip when you were sitting in with Adam Carolla when he was a fledgling podcaster. Look at you now.
Yeah. That was the early days, right after the radio show went kaput, and he was just in his garage.
He was actually in his garage?
Podcasting for giggles. Now he’s the king of podcasting.
Now he is, quite literally, he has an expansive network and he has his own studio. I was just on a podcast the other day.
Everyone has a podcast now.
Everyone has a podcast now.
Welcome to my podcast.
The guy who sprays vegetables at our Trader Joe’s has a podcast called Still Spraying, and I was on that. They’re part of some network, and a venture capitalist gave them 15 million dollars to start a humor division of their podcast. And I’m like, “Why am I in my kitchen?” I quite literally do mine in my kitchen.
We can get you some VC money.
That’d be good.
What’s your pitch? How are you gonna disrupt the space?
Here’s the pitch for my podcast: It comes out irregularly, it’s never the same amount of time, and I don’t take notes.
I’m a listener. It’s the Dana Gould ... hour?
The Dana Gould Hour. Never an hour.
Which is never an hour.
But always with me.
And you put it out when you can.
Well, now that I have advertisers it’s usually at the very very end of the month or the very very beginning of the month. It’s one of those things that I started. I do it and I do it on my dime, and I’m like, "Great. I’m gonna do this how I want, when I want, and I’m not gonna take notes.” If I’m gonna pay for it, it’s gonna be what I want to do. It seems to have gotten a listenership despite that.
That’s kinda your career, right? You have a lot of autonomy. You’ve been able to do a lot of cool things, more or less of your own volition. You have your own television show.
Yeah. Harder to hit a moving target. But I do, I keep stumbling into situations where I get very fortunate.
You are here today.
“Stan Against Evil” being the best example of that.
Yeah. Let’s talk about the people who are paying for you to be here today.
There’s a very nice publicist sitting right here, smiling. Describe “Stan Against Evil,” it’s a mashup of genres, right?
Yeah. It’s a horror-comedy. The basic premise is — in fact, this was how I came up with the show — what if Dana Scully on the “X-Files,” instead of being partnered with Fox Mulder, was partnered with my dad and it was set in my hometown? That’s the entirety of the show.
And the dad character is John C. McGinley.
John C. McGinley, based on my real father, who I’ve often described as “Archie Bunker without the elegance and sophistication.”
And you’ve written yourself a role, but John C. McGinley is great.
You may not know who he is when we describe him by name, but you’ve seen him in a million movies.
He’s Dr. Cox on “Scrubs.”
He’s in “Scrubs,” he’s in all the Oliver Stone movies.
He’s in every Oliver Stone movie.
He’s one of the Bobs. He’s one of those you go, “Oh yeah, him.” He’s an amazing character actor, and the origin of the show was I had written a pilot. My dad is this really, not unique, but I look exactly like him and we couldn’t be less alike. It’s really strange. I have four older brothers, they’re all men, they’re men, you know? Can we swear on this?
Yeah. Fuck it up.
As I say, like, “Their balls have balls.” They’re just grr. They’re prison guards and police officers and they’re all a foot and a half taller than I am.
And he said, “I’m going to California.”
I grew up, I did not like sports, I did not go hunting, I did not go fishing. I was funny and I loved horror movies. My father could not figure out how I didn’t like sports and was heterosexual. Could not make that connection. Well into my 20s, could not make that connection.
I did a pilot for ABC based on the premise, what if my dad had to come and live with my wife? My wife is very progressive, we have adopted children from China, and then you put Archie Bunker in the middle of that. Brian Dennehy played my dad and it was really terrific and I had a great time. It got made. It didn’t go to series, but it got made, and I knew after that pilot, “Well, I know that character works.” I wanted to do something with that character, but I didn’t want the show to be about him, because then it’s just that sweaty Norman Lear baloney.
Slash Donald Trump.
Yeah, but I don’t want to be all, “Dad’s a relic. Oh, Dad.” You make fun of every episode of “Grace Under Fire,” “Hey, we’re gonna go make fun of the blind kid. Baby, we need to have a talk.” I didn’t want to do that, so I thought, well, what if I just took a show that I would like to watch and just put my dad in the middle of it? Put him in a show where he doesn’t belong.
And you’re someone who loves horror and schlock stuff.
Horror movies. I adore them. Yeah. So I thought, what if I took the “X-Files” and just put my dad in the middle of it? And everybody had to deal with him. And that was the show. It was quite literally that.
Was this something you were pitching around for a long time?
Never pitched it. I was going to do it on my own dime for the interwebs. I thought it would be a funny little seven-minute digital series. I was gonna play my dad. I had makeup. I’m very, very good friends with Greg Nicotero, who is now the king of “The Walking Dead.” [He’s] one of the executive producers and runs the makeup. He’s a genius and I’ve known him forever. I literally just called him up. It’s weird to have friends like this in the, like, “Hey, can you make me look like I’m in my ’70s?” “Yeah.”
“For a home movie I’m gonna make.”
Yeah. For the thing. Yeah. “Here, come on up.” They did it and I thought, “Great, I’ll just do this. “Then I was, quite literally, having lunch with Pete Aronson from IFC, and it wasn’t even a show business lunch, we were just friends.
Yeah, two dudes and some chicken. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, I had gotten amicably divorced so he was like, “Hey let’s catch up, see what’s going on.” Because he was at my wedding and I think he was trying to see if he was within his rights to get his gift back. He just casually said, “You know what you should do, you should do like a funny ‘X-Files.’” And I literally said, “I just did. I literally just ...”
You synced up there, but I was gonna ask. It seems like a show that you very well could produce on your own. It’s intentionally low budget-y in aesthetic. For years, everyone wants to make a television show, but in 2017 that’s not a foregone conclusion that you would want to make a thing that runs on television.
Yeah. Most people are just like, “Well it’s on the tic-tac network, you can watch it on your phone if you hold your phone up to a mirror and you’re underwater.” I took it from the other view. I did not think anybody would want to do this. Because to me it was — to paraphrase Andy Kindler — my demographic is men my age who are me.
There are a couple of you.
There is. Apparently there’s more than I thought.
There’s you, there’s a guy in the mirror.
Yeah, there’s more than I thought. When I pitched it to Pete he said, “Well, you’d have to change A to B and B to C and C to D.” And we developed it a little bit. Pete’s a writer, Pete wrote on a show I did years ago. It was very simple and then I took in the revised version and pitched it and they did it.
And IFC does — they’re owned by AMC, which is pretty much “The Walking Dead business — and IFC has all these quirky comedies with David Cross and Marc Maron. Had them in Comedy Bang Bang, kind of aimed at people like me, I guess.
Yeah, totally. You are now a demographic.
Yeah. But I’m wondering what their expectations are for, what your expectations are. It’s by definition a niche program on a niche network.
It is. It’s a niche program, but now all programs are niche programs unless you are “The Good Doctor” or something like that, because of the way media is now. It’s all separated into many drawers.
Obviously they want people to watch it on television, but is the expectation, “Yeah, sure, we’ll get this many views on TV, but eventually this is gonna be something we’re gonna sell on iTunes.”
Well, yeah. What happens is they run it on television and they have whatever their metric is. We did very well. I’m very grateful that people liked the show.
Because you have a second season.
We did, and I think it hit via two audiences, because the show is really funny, John is really funny, Janet Varney’s really funny, Deborah Baker Jr. is really funny, Nate Mooney’s really funny. It’s scary, the people who make it love horror movies and we are always doing homages to horror movies, we’re always doing inside jokes and it’s not sloppy. The rules are very definite.
The rules of the script, or the world. The reality.
The rules of the world, yeah, which is very important. As a result, we get two audiences. We get a comedy audience and we get a horror movie audience. I think that is the reason the show does so well.
Do you want people to watch it on television?
I don’t want anyone to watch it at all. You’re totally misunderstanding my point. I want to be like that group that just made the one album and then that horrible pharma dude bud.
Is that a real thing?
Yeah, it was that Shkreli, the horrible pharma bro that everybody loathes.
Oh, the Wu-Tang Clan.
I want to be the Wu-Tang Clan, I make one episode and then I delete it.
I think you are the Wu-Tang Clan.
I am the Wu-Tang Clan.
You look exactly like them.
Look, you have to give them credit for being a large group of African Americans that thought, “Let’s just call ourselves the clan. Any kind of clan is fine with us.”
And if we play our cards right, in 2016 this douchebag is gonna buy our one album, it’s gonna work out perfectly for us.
Again, we’ll get two audiences. But, yeah, it runs on IFC and Season Two starts November 1st, and Season One is on Hulu. People can catch up or refresh and we have a lot of new fans just from the Hulu run. Adam Carolla said it best, “You used to have an empty swimming pool, you put a big hose in it, and now you have 40 little hoses, but it ends up being the same amount.”
You’ve got daughters who are teens, pre-teens, do you watch them consuming media and think, “Oh, I gotta make something that they’re gonna end up watching on their phone one day, because that’s where this is going”? Or do you think, “I’m just gonna make my thing and however it gets out it gets out.”
No. I’ve always had the theory that the public wants what it gets. That if I’m, as a craftsman, do what I do and put it out there then people will find it. Every time I’ve tried to second-guess what people want, it’s just garbage. My own career. What I find strange about them, my daughters — especially, you know, their mom is in television, I’m in television — it’s their world.
Their mother was an HBO executive for a long time.
Yeah, and now she runs the television department at Annapurna. There’s a character on the Simpsons that’s based on my daughter. Ling Bouvier, the adopted Chinese daughter of Selma, that’s my daughter Lulu. We had it on in the house one day and she was watching the Simpsons and she was like, “Yeah it’s kinda funny,” like she’s passive-aggressive, and Ling Bouvier came on and I went, “Oh honey, that’s you.” And she goes, “Yeah.” And I go, “No honey, that’s you, I wrote that first episode that she was on, and I gave them your baby picture and that’s you.” And she’s like, “Yeah. I like ‘Bob’s Burgers’ though. I like it better.” She’s so funny.
We have this little gift that I can’t divulge because Jamie’s gonna get one and I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but she wanted it signed by the cast, and I had the whole cast sign it, and when I gave it to her she goes, “Oh, thanks. Now how long after you die can I put this on eBay?”
So she’s fully come to grips with the fact that you’re in media, and also doesn’t care?
Totally. Why would she? It’s all she’s ever known.
And she lives in Hollywood and everyone works in media. This is the first show you’ve made yourself, right?
No. I had a show on MTV with Rob Cohen, and a scrappy young man named Pete Aronson on our writing staff, called “Super Adventure Team,” which was the movie “Team America” but two years before “Team America.” But who’s bitter? But they did, in a startling coincidence, hire our entire voice cast. That was also nice.
That works out well. Obviously, you’ve worked with “The Simpsons” for a long time as a writer.
I was on “The Simpsons” for a long time, and I was on “Parks and Rec” and some other shows.
Do you imagine you’re going to make more TV?
Yes. I have meetings on the books.
This is still an ongoing thing for you. This is not ...
Yeah. I have, basically, three careers. I do standup comedy still, I’ll be in Chicago November 2nd, 3rd and 4th at Zanies, and I promise it will be zany. It’s much zanier than the old club in Chicago, Morose’s. My album is out. Mr. Funny Man just came out October 26. So I do standup comedy, but I do standup comedy because I have to do it. Everything else I do comes out of that.
Because you have that itch to scratch?
Yeah. And all my other creative endeavors, I would say being a comedian is the nuclear rod that powers the rest of my output.
But TV pays the bills, it sounds like?
That’s exactly right, yeah. The money I make on standup comedy is not gonna put three kids through private school.
I was talking to a recent LA transplant who says, “The thing about LA is that it’s a one-industry town and everyone gets now that the industry is contracting.”
Yes. Everybody’s working three times as much for one half the money.
And it’s finally sort of sinking in like, “Oh, this isn’t going away, but it is shifting radically,” or, “There’s gonna be less money to go around.” Like you just said, we’re gonna have to work harder at it.
As somebody said, “Welcome to the new economy, your car is a cab and your house is a hotel.”
Is the fact that Hulu is showing up, and Netflix is showing up, and Apple is showing up, are people hopeful, “Oh maybe this replaces the thing that is going away”? Or are people more muted in their ambition?
I think it is more muted. Evolution does not favor the strongest, the strong don’t survive.
I’m looking at you quizzically.
It favors that which is the most adaptable to change. When people, “We need to be strong.” “Great. I’m going to adapt, but I’ll ...”
“You go fight the war, I’m gonna hang back, you tell me how it goes.”
“I’ll go to your funeral.” It’s not just show business, it’s every business. Unless you’re in the prison guard union, which is really strong, because that’s a big business, putting people in prison. Because of it you get things like “Stan Against Evil,” which is a show that, when there were three networks you were not gonna get.
Would never have gone on.
I don’t believe so, no. That’s the beauty of it, is that you get to find your audience. You ever go into a used furniture store and you see those giant cabinets with a bunch of little drawers, like four-inch by six-inch drawer handles?
A nail could go in here.
Yeah, it’s just tons of them and who ever had that? It was like in a print shop or a widget place. That’s what television is like now. It’s no longer just a filing cabinet with three drawers. You can get anything you want.
So you get one of those slots, you’re happy.
Yeah. You get one of those little slots and you’re not set for life anymore. It’s like I have a television show and I’m in Zanies in two weeks.
You got a publicist here, you’re good. Flew to New York.
Yeah, I’m a professional, but it’s not one of those things like you get three years and you can retire.
I’m not retiring off this big podcasting money.
As Robin Williams used to say, “Gotta keep slinging that hash.”
We’re gonna take a quick pause so we can sling hash and make money, or whatever the metaphor is. We’re nodding, we’ll be right back with Dana Gould.
I’m back here with Dana Gould, who’s pretty relaxed. This publicist, Jamie, is ...
Jamie: It’s all good.
She’s so happy.
My brother is also named Jamie, so I have an intrinsic flinch when she’s around.
Everything’s cool. We’re good on the show, right? Anything else you want to say about “Stan Against Evil”? Except, “You should watch it on Hulu, or on IFC, or somewhere else.”
There’s a free episode right now on Facebook. On IFC’s page.
Just go click. Go watch.
It’s our homage to an “American Werewolf in London,” it’s called “Curse of the Werepony.” It’s about a man who, with a full moon, turns into a murderous pony. Stars, in addition to John C. McGinley, David Koechner from “Anchorman,” Steven Ogg from “The Walking Dead,” and a murderous pony. It’s 21 minutes, and if you’re not driven to check that out, I don’t know what I can say to you.
Pause the podcast, come back.
And if you like it, that’s the show.
People get it right away when they watch it? It’s not one of those things that needs a lot of explanation?
Exactly. And it’s one of those things ...
It’s funny, it’s scary.
It’s like “Mystery Science Theater.” If you like this, you’re gonna love it. If you don’t like this, you probably aren’t gonna love it. Joel Hodgson, who’s a really good buddy of mine, used to say about “Mystery Science Theater,” on some of their more obscure references on that show — and when I mean obscure I mean they used to do shout-outs to my act. Like, “Dude, I’m the only person getting this joke.”
Very deep cut.
Very deep cut. But as he said, not everybody will get it, but the right people will get it.
“The Simpsons” famously, now all children’s entertainment works on two levels, right?
Pixar, “Shrek,” my kids are 7 and 9 and I’ve shoved “The Simpsons” in front of them, knowing full well they are ...
Yeah, they’re not gonna, they’re not really clicking at that ...
But they do love it.
Well, they like Bart. And they like dumb Homer.
Yeah. When they first tested the show in ’89 or ’88, whenever that was, the only takeaway was that people liked yellow. That’s the only thing they got out of the testing.
That started as interstitials on Fox.
On “The Tracey Ullman Show.”
Yeah on Tracey Ullman, but now all kids’ entertainment is multi-level stuff.
I think so, yeah.
You worked on “The Simpsons” for how long?
Seven years, eight years.
Seven years. How do you get onto that show?
People hate me for telling this story. I was a comedian in LA and we used to do these shows at this place called Luna Park. This was the heyday of the “alternative comedy movement.” It was this little hipster place in West Hollywood and me, Janeane Garafalo, David Cross, Kathy Griffin, Bob Odenkirk.
And there was Luna Lounge in New York, which was not related, but kind of equivalent.
Not related, but same scene. And Andy Kindler and it was the heyday of that, as I call it. People in suede jackets writing on their hands.
Bringing your notes up onstage.
Yeah, exactly. I was at the birth of, and watched it get mutated from, “Write something today and try it tonight,” to, “It’s not right to memorize your act.” One of them is a good thing and one of them is a bad thing. Long story longer, George Meyer, who was a big writer on “The Simpsons,” used to come to the shows all the time and thought it was funny, and my wife represented him. My wife, at the time, was his agent.
He heard that I had written a pilot for myself that got made but didn’t go to series, and he’d heard that I was writing and he said, “Would you want to come on the show and maybe like a day, a week and punch up jokes?” And I was so arrogant I was like, “Yeah, but I can only do it Monday or Tuesday.” Because, I would go on the road on Wednesdays. I was such a jerk. The opportunity of a lifetime, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.”
It’s “the best show,” or “one of the best shows,” or a famous show, but it’s a writing thing and if you’re doing standup comedy, especially back then I assume there was still this aspiration that, “I’m gonna have a television show,” that was the Dana Gould Show.
I thought I was gonna be a superstar. People with really nice cars told me I was gonna be a big star and I had no reason to doubt them. Driving that car.
So that was the plan, was you were gonna be Seinfeld.
Yeah. And I did 100 pilots of that. “Dana helping out dad. Tin full of biscuits.” I did a bunch of them and then I got sick of sitting down with writers and trying to get my voice across and so I said, “Well, let me write one.” By the way, I worked for some really amazing people, Jace Richdale from “The Simpsons,” Linwood Boomer and I did a pilot together and it didn’t go and then he wrote one called “Malcolm in the Middle.”
Heard of that one.
Yeah. Once he rid himself of me, things really clicked.
But that was the aspiration for multiple generations of comedians.
Yeah. You’re gonna go and you’re gonna be Seinfeld.
There’s a middle period where you’re not Seinfeld yet, but they write you a big check.
Several big checks.
A holding period where you just hang out and ...
Yeah, you get paid. We’re gonna do a pilot. They’re gamblers, that’s what they do. “We’ll roll the dice on you, we’ll roll the dice on you.” I could speak and wasn’t physically grotesque.
So writing for “The Simpsons,” in your mind, was a step down?
No, it wasn’t a step down. It was a strange time in my life where I did a pilot, that was a really clever idea that I was a big fan of, called “World on a String.” I did it with Jay Kogen from “The Simpsons” and it was basically Seinfeld in the world of “Peewee’s Playhouse.” It was like a conventional sitcom set in a reality where it didn’t belong. Just like “Stan Against Evil.” Are you seeing a pattern? Putting shows inside of other shows like a Russian doll. That’s the algorithm.
I had a really fun time writing it and we didn’t go to series, but we had a blast making it. I realized, “I like this.” I’m also just about to get married. My wife and I had just bought a house. I was in my 30s and I had been doing standup comedy since I was 17. I thought, okay, what if I’m not a giant, enormous star?
What if this is my life?
I have a great relationship and I’m successful. The idea of being an adult suddenly became really attractive. Like yeah, I’ll get up in the morning, I’ll go to work, I’ll come home at night. I’ll still do standup. So, when they offered the day a week I was like, “Yeah, it would be better if I could do it then.” Because then I could still do standup. I did that for a while and had a great time and then, one day, Mike Scully, who ran the show, who’s the greatest guy ever, came in and said — I was sitting at the table — “I think your contract expired.” And I went, “Oh crap.” I was literally gathering up my stuff to leave, and he said, “Do you want to come every day?” And I went, “Yeah, that’d be fine.” And he went, “All right, I’ll call your agent.” And then he went, “Sucker.” That was it. I was there for seven or eight years, I think.
It seems like that’s ...
People hate me for that story.
Because it’s so established, and it seems like there’s grownups who run it.
Who do you know there now?
Oh yeah, I know Dan. I did a show with Dan.
Dan’s the best. Hey, Dan. I’m sure he’s not listening.
It seems like that is a fairly calm workplace. Partly because it’s animated so you’re not crashing stuff for next week, you don’t have to do stuff well in advance.
No, you’re still crashing stuff. There’s a different kind of workload, but because there’s no physical production you don’t have two months’ hiatus. You just work 50 weeks a year. It’s like working at Emerson Paint. You drive up, you go to the lot, you check in, you write jokes. Sometimes you grind down. For a while I used to call it the Bataan joke march.
I liked the idea of, and I really enjoyed this for a while, of being a grownup. I had a nice house. My wife and I would wake up in the morning, we’d go to work, we’d go out on the weekends with our friends, then we had children and it was great. And then one day I wake up and I was like, “This is not who I am.” I missed performing, and I missed doing what I was born to do, not to sound airy-fairy about it. I was at a party and someone said, “Are you Dana Gould?” And I said, “I used to be.” And my wife said, “You gotta quit, you gotta get out of there.”
You’ve gotta go perform for a living and do that thing with all the attendant work and uncomfortableness and non-steady paycheck.
Non-steady small paychecks. I had to restart my career, because I had been off the road for seven years I had no draw at all when I went back to it. It was exciting because it was like, “This might not work. This might be a giant disaster.”
You say you’re born to do this.
That’s terrible. I didn’t mean to say that. It’s what I do.
You did it when you were 17, and traditional route, and small clubs, and bigger clubs. If you’re Dana Gould starting off in 2017, do you think you’d do that same path or do you have a YouTube thing?
I guess you have that. You have to have a multi-platform social media.
Sure, but that’s the marketing of it. Do you think you’re still performing in front of a live audience?
Yeah. Nothing beats that. I’ve been doing it for a long time and I have a very dedicated fan base that’s moderately sized. Let’s go to a music analogy. I wanted to be The Clash. I’m X.
Exactly. Really happy to be X.
That’s great, people know who X is.
I’m going to see them day after Thanksgiving. I’ll go to a town and I’ll be performing at the club, at Uncle Lucky’s Chuckle Hutch, and somebody is performing at the enormo-dome that I’ve never even heard of, and it’s like, “Oh yeah, they have a YouTube thing. They watch people play video games and make fun of it. And they have eight trillion hits.”
Yeah, that’s a weird thing. I don’t know about the half-life of that career.
I don’t know either, but my whole take is, “God bless ’em. Way to go.” Eventually you realize it’s a parade. Sometimes you’re on a float, sometimes you’re on the sidewalk. Eh, it’s still a parade.
We’re gonna take another quick break to hear from our excellent sponsors.
Are you able to use the internet to bring people to a club that you wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise?
In the heyday, people used to go to the club and see a comedian ...
And see a funny thing.
And see a comedian that happened to be you. Now they go to see you. When I go out, it’s about, “I’m gonna be here,” and you’ve gotta bring ...
So you find them on Twitter or wherever.
Twitter and Insta and all that stuff. You have to have that marketing stuff going on. It’s funny, you used to want to get on late-night shows and do Carson and Letterman when I was coming up. It was Carson and Letterman and then it was Leno and Conan or Letterman. I’ve done all those shows, but that’s not what I get, two things, when I go on the road. “Love your podcast, love you on Carolla.” It’s the podcast.
It’s that reach.
That’s the reach.
So if you go on Conan, happy to do it?
Happy to do it, love Conan, love Andy.
I don’t hear it. People who listen to your podcast, you become a part of their life. Especially my podcast, the Halloween one is three-and-half-hours long. You’re a part of their life. They feel connected to you, so when you go to town it’s like I am with the ex.
It’s super intimate.
They’re my friends, I have to go see my friends.
Off air, you were talking about your kids. I’m like, “I know all about your kids, I’ve been hearing you talk about them for years.”
Exactly. People know my nicknames for my kids, like, “How the hell do you know that?” You knew about what happened with my pets. Oh yeah, I talked about it. You engender your audience that way.
What I find really gratifying is that “Stan Against Evil” is a very natural extension of my act and my stuff. I’m a funny person and I’m really into horror movies. My act is dark and weird, my podcast talks a lot about weird movie stuff, and my show is an example of that. It’s all of a piece. I think that’s a lucky accident and a happy accident.
There’s a great segment you do on the podcast where you do a history lesson, like here’s the story of “The Twilight Zone” and Ron Sterling, it’s great. Where did that come from?
Thank you. The new one’s about Roger Corman and it’s half an hour long and it’s great.
It’s a produced thing and you spend time writing it and scripting.
Not a lot of time writing it.
It’s not just two guys talking like this. What was the impetus to do that?
People would ask, “When are you gonna do a podcast?” I didn’t have a good idea.
You do have comedians talking.
Yeah. I didn’t want to do my crappy version of Marc Maron’s good podcast.
That’s what I do.
Or my crappy version of Chris Hardwick’s good podcast. That’s not true. We’re not in a garage, to begin with. We’re in a nice, clean office.
This is the old Goldman Sachs building.
Is it really?
Yeah. Feel the money ghosts.
Yeah. Interesting. There used to be a show on NPR in Los Angeles called “Joe Frank in the Dark.” Not to be confused with Joe Franklin. Joe Frank. It was this brilliant guy, he’s still out there, and he would tell these weird monologues. It would be a story, he would speak in a very rhythmic tone, and he would have music loops under it. It would start out as a very serious story about four men climbing Mt. Everest, and it would go into great detail about their preparations, then he would talk about two of them split off from the group and the other part of the group moved on.
The two of them opened up a small French café halfway up the face of the [mountain]. And they had great arguments about scone size. And then it would go into the other guy was attacked by a bear, well he was actually fed to the bear by the other guy, and these stories would slowly unravel and he would never modulate his voice and it was hypnotic and brilliant and so well written. There would be these chunks, and then there would be music, and then there would be another chunk.
So I thought, I’ll steal that idea. What if I can do that with conversation? The original idea was I’ll talk to somebody for an hour, cut it into segments, and put it in random order with music in between it. Then I realized it was better I do two interviews.
Yeah. I take two 60-minute interviews, cut them into six ten-minute segments, hopscotch them with music in between them. We would always get into a groove about something and I thought, I’ll take a break and explain what it is and give a little history lesson because I do have a lot of interest in really weird minutiae. That’s now my favorite part. You know about Roger Corman? You’ve heard of Roger Corman, but do you really know about Roger Corman?
Here we go.
Yeah. Got his degree in industrial engineering and worked as an industrial engineer for four days and then quit after eight years of schooling.
That’s your sweet spot. Older Hollywood, popular culture, but it’s usually we’re gonna take you back to the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s.
The premise is that everything that we have now has been done before, it’s just a little bit different. Everything is just a rehash of something else. Donald Trump is Richard Nixon, just a little bit more. One day there’ll be Donald Trump, but a little bit more. That’s hard to imagine, but somewhere out there, there’s an orangutan that likes to shoot people with a super soaker full of cat pee and he just got elected to a school board. When Prince died I was watching a documentary about him on television and I was visiting my folks and my dad went, “Little Richard died.” “Yeah. Pretty much.”
Sort of like that, with a guitar.
I was gonna ask about Trump. We had talked to Samantha Bee this week about Trump and whether she senses any fatigue about that as a topic. Every media outlet — we do it — spends a lot of time talking about Trump, but then we’re also thinking, how much of this do we want to keep doing? And there’s stuff that would have been an amazing story six months ago and now it’s just Donald Trump insulting a U.S. senator on Twitter and we’re used to that.
Yeah. That’s the danger of it, as Jim Brooks, my old boss, wrote in “Broadcast News,” “What do you think the devil’s gonna look like? He’s gonna have a pitchfork and a tail? No, he’s gonna be a guy in a suit and he’s just gonna slowly lower our standards everywhere they’re important.”
That’s crazily an underappreciated movie now for some reason. I guess because it’s old, it’s an ’80s movie, you should go watch it.
Yeah. “Broadcast News” was great and Albert Brooks was just the best. “I can sing, while I read, I am reading and singing both.”
You should watch real life.
George Carlin and Albert Brooks were my two, if I could only be as good as these guys. I got to know them both and they’re both excellent human beings.
Albert Brooks stopped doing the comedy so much.
He doesn’t do standup anymore. He has an animated series with Louis that’s coming out on FX.
Yeah. One of my top five greatest show business moments was at a “Simpsons” party just eyeballing him. He looked at me and he went, “Hello, Dana.” Because we had met before, back in the day, but I didn’t know he remembered me.
I would not make eye contact. That’s scary.
Then we chatted, talked about kids. He’s scary great.
On Trump, when you are doing your comedy ...
We’re talking about Eric?
Obviously. Do your audiences in clubs, when you’re performing, do they want Trump stuff? Do they not want Trump stuff?
Here’s the thing. I did a very mild joke about Donald Trump in Portland, Oregon, and a guy threw a bottle of beer at my head.
Because he was a Donald Trump fan?
Really? And he’s your fan? He’s at your show?
He came to the show. There’s no play with the diehard Trump people. People walk out every week. I’ve been doing comedy long enough that when I started I did jokes about Reagan, and everything was fine.
Like you were just saying. The people who come to your shows come to see you. They’re not randomly in a bar.
I think because of Adam I have a lot of ... because Adam has a lot of right-wing ...
They don’t realize that you’re Dana Gould and that you don’t love Donald Trump?
They don’t put it together. I don’t think they’re ...
And they show up ...
And they show up and they’re horrified. What I find, the way I do it, the way to sneak it in, I touch upon it enough, because you have to acknowledge the elephant in the room, but it’s not where I go, comedically. I think George Carlin used to ...
You’re not a political.
George Carlin used to call them lay-ups. Yeah, you shoot some lay-ups, but you want to get out there and really try and score. The way I do it is I do the fake compliment. “I’m tired of people putting down the president, let me tell you some things that are great about the president. Remember when we had a First Lady that didn’t have a girl-girl photo gallery on Pornhub? We have that now, okay?” Stuff like that. It disarms them.
But you are consciously thinking, “I do not want to upset some segment of my audience.”
I don’t mind upsetting them if it’s for a legitimate reason, but I’m also aware of the fact that these people have paid money, they hired a babysitter, they came out, they don’t want to be lectured or hectored. This is a night out for them and I want to be entertaining, but it’s also I have my opinions and I’m not gonna ...
The album is out now, Mr. Funny Man available on iTunes and Amazon, so now I’m writing the new hour, and a big chunk of the new hour is, I have big chunk about guns, and I have to give this sort of preamble ...
As if you’re running for office.
Yeah. I’m not talking about people who use guns to do things that they love, because I come from those people, I had a rifle.
This is like a Democrat campaign.
I had a rifle cabinet in my bedroom as a kid.
Where you have to explain your affinity, that you know people, that you appreciate the segment, but ...
Yeah. If you have guns because you love to go hunting or you want to protect your family, I get that. I really get that. I’m talking about people who love guns, and talk about loving guns, and if you love guns, you have a mental problem. Because that’s like saying you love a flashlight, it’s not gonna return ...
But you feel like you have to have a preamble.
Yeah, and then I go into what guns mean to those people. Which is, a bigger better penis than the one God gave them. That’s why those arguments get so heated, it’s long, it’s hard, and if you squeeze it just right it explodes, and if you just swap out the words — and there are many many memes — it all becomes apparent. “You’ll pry my dick from my cold, dead hands.” “My grandfather took me to the woods and taught me how to use a dick and I’m gonna do the same for my boy.”
That’s the “Full Metal Jacket” scene, right? Where they’re walking with their guns and grab their dicks.
Yeah. That’s exactly right.
But what you do by doing that, is by doing that preamble you allow people to laugh at it. Because all of our politics now has nothing to do with politics. It’s just innate, biological, homosapien tribalism. You take a group, leave it alone for an hour, and you have two groups. The reason that 37 percent of the population is never gonna abandon him is because they’re never gonna say, “I’m wrong.” Which is the whole thing.
What do you make of, in late night, you’ve watched Fallon go from being very popular to being less popular because he’s not being political. Colbert steered into being political. Kimmel touched it a couple of times and that was a big explosion. That part I get a little more, you’re turning on TV and you don’t expect to be challenged, especially on broadcast TV. Again, I’m just surprised at people who come to see you don’t know what they’re getting.
Yeah. I think 95 percent do and 5 percent don’t and this guy was a drunken jerk. He never came close to hitting me and he was on the sidewalk before I realized what happened. It’s a non-event, but I get people who walk out if you make fun of Trump — and they’re the first people to call you a snowflake if you get offended by something — but they storm out because, I think it’s also they know they made a mistake and they can’t admit it and they don’t want it in their face.
My version of it is I listen to Adam Carolla a lot less now, after the election because I got enough Trump ...
He’s sorta eased off it.
Yeah. Periodically, I’m like I wonder what he would say about that, and now I don’t want to know.
They don’t want to talk about it. They don’t address it. The world is loud, and noisy, and hectic. If you want to get a little bit of peace and quiet, just ask somebody who was angry about Benghazi what they think of Niger. It’s crickets, birds, they don’t say a peep.
Should we end it there? Should we end on the Niger? No.
It’s funny, because it wasn’t sexy, what I was saying, but my voice went to a very sexy place.
The quiet storm.
The quiet storm. That’s my new album. Dana Gould: The Quiet Storm. I’m gonna get that ...
You can get Dana Gould’s new album, The Quiet Storm, out on iTunes.
From the producers of Afternoon Moods.
You should watch Dana Gould’s show on IFC.
Hot cup of talk. Yes, let’s get the plugs in.
Let’s plug you. IFC, Hulu, “Stan Against Evil.”
“Stan Against Evil,” Season Two premieres November 1st on IFC. Season One is on Hulu now and a free sneak of Season Two is right now on IFC’s Facebook.
Dana Gould Hour, which you can ...
The Dana Gould Hour podcast, where podcasts are sold, and now in your grocer’s freezer.
Yes, just like this one.
And Mr. Funny Man available on ...
And go see Dana live, do not throw a bottle at him.
Don’t throw a bottle.
Dana, you’ve been extraordinarily patient with me.
I can tell you this hour has been Kafka-esque.
Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.