Icing: Get To Know DAVE ROSS, The Nicest Guy in Alt Comedy
DAVE ROSS is a breath of fresh air in the Los Angeles alternative comedy scene. From the moment you meet him he exudes a positivity and life force that are unmatched. My first encounter with the kindly gentleman was at his punk-inspired comedy show Holy Fuck. Dave was always welcoming, generous and enthusiastic with the audience and performers which no doubt helped make the show an outstanding success. Dave has moved on to even bigger things these days. He is currently on a nationwide tour, has an awesome podcast called Terrified on the Nerdist network, continues to run the monthly storytelling show Two-Headed Beast and creates fantastic videos with the sketch team WOMEN. Find out what else “the nicest man in comedy” has been up to in our revealing interview. You might be surprised!
COMEDY CAKE: So tell me the truth, has the earth been rocking and shaking because it’s excited for your upcoming tour? Where will you be visiting? What are you looking forward to the most on the road and will there be pictorial evidence of the beds you slept in (like your last road gig)?
DAVE ROSS: Deborah, people are RIOTING about my tour. They DO NOT want me to do it. And by “they”, I mean every single person that has ever met me.
The response has been great, actually. It’s far exceeded my expectations. I’ve gotten a lot of messages/comments/etc. from people around the country excited for the shows. Lots of exclamation points and “I can’t wait!” and stuff. It’s really cool. I’m pretty new to the touring game, and I’m not nearly as known or visible or experienced as your Rory Scovels or your Sean Pattons, so it’s encouraging and downright heartwarming to see so many people excited to see me tell my dumb jokes.
I’m going everywhere. Forty-four cities, I believe. I’m in San Diego right now, then Phoenix, then Albuquerque, then two shows in Oklahoma, three shows in Texas, then Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, DC, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, and on May 30th I’m back home at the Improv. I haven’t been to so many of these places. I can’t wait.
I’m not taking pictures of the beds I sleep in, no! That’s so cool that you remembered that. No, that was fun, but it was a lot of work, and people seemed to stop caring after it was literally always a couch. Sometimes it was a hotel bed, I suppose. I guess I was expecting to sleep on floors and pilate balls and stuff, but as it turns out, people you stay with are not trying to kill you.
I am doing a tour diary, though, with the Laugh Button. It’ll probably come out every Wednesday or Thursday, along with a cartoon or illustration they make of whatever horrific story I have that week. I’m excited to see what they do with it.
CAKE: How’s life been since the end of your HOLY FUCK show run? Do you ever find yourself playing host at home? One of the best things about HOLY FUCK was the camaraderie you built with the audience. What advice do you have for young comics wishing to start their own show? Do you think HOLY FUCK opened doors for you that may have stayed closed had you just stuck to standup and sketch alone?
DAVE: I miss Holy Fuck. I don’t miss all the stress that came along with it, but it was a great home base in Los Angeles, and it had such a warm and wonderful vibe. It was the right time to end it, and I stand by that, but I most definitely miss all the smiling faces and the general feeling of friendship that surrounded that show. Matt Ingebretson and I are looking for a venue right now to start another show, so that will most likely be starting up soon after I get back from tour. We’re looking for a smaller venue, so the show will be a much smaller deal than Holy Fuck was, but we’ll be going for the same we’re-all-friends-and-let’s-laugh-and-high-five vibe. I really do miss it a lot.
The main advice I’d give to people looking to start a show is to love it. Just love your show. Love it and think it’s the best thing ever. If you think that, you’ll treat it that way, and you’ll talk to people about how great it is, and promote it as if it’s the greatest thing, and book huge comics because you think they’ll love it because you think it’s the greatest thing. If you love something, it shows, and people pay attention. Also get to know your audience. When people come that you’ve never met, introduce yourself. Make people feel welcome before the show even starts. Comedy shows are stressful for most people — they walk in and are immediately filled with worry that the comedians are going to make fun of them. Make them feel at home and they’ll come back again.
I definitely think Holy Fuck opened doors for me. It made me visible, for one thing. I met great comics I never would have met, some of whom I’m now doing shows with on this tour. I definitely got some opportunities earlier than I would have had I not had that show on which to meet so many great comics from around the country.
It also made me so much better as a standup, though. It was amazing stage time once a week in front of an attentive crowd that wasn’t necessarily easy to make laugh, but was definitely willing to go with you on an idea. I got to try so many silly things there in my first couple years of standup that I wouldn’t have been brave enough to try elsewhere back then. Holy Fuck was absolutely crucial in making me the comic I am right now.
CAKE: Your podcast Terrified has been just one of the projects keeping you busy these days. How’s podcasting different from being on stage? What have been some of your favorite fear-ridden stories to date? How are you able to coax some of the most heartfelt interviews out of people?
DAVE: Podcasting is almost the exact opposite of being on stage! For one thing, I’m not the focus. It’s difficult sometimes to do those interviews, because the focus is supposed to be on my guests, whereas on stage, the focus absolutely has to be on me the entire time. I’ve had to stop myself at times from just telling “ME ME ME ME ME” story for ten minutes.
But it’s more relaxing in that way, too. I ask questions and try to learn about the other person and their psyche as much as possible, but it’s not on me to be there with a joke every two seconds. It’s lower-pressure, is what I’m saying. And it’s fun to learn to interview people! You never would think of interviewing as an actual skill, but it totally is. You have to always have a question in the chamber, ready to go, but you want to keep the discussion flowing like a conversation. You have to focus so intently on the other person while still keeping in the back of your mind the destination you want to reach.
And on that note, I try not to coax things out of people. There have definitely been a lot of heartfelt moments in the show, but I’ve never pushed people to pour their heart out. I think other interviewers do that — that they live for their guests to reveal their darkest moments or deepest secrets — but I’d much rather just let the conversation flow comfortably. I’m not sure if it’s the best way to do things, actually. In an upcoming episode, I interview Alice Wetterlund, and at a certain point she brought up her divorce. I knew that was difficult for her, and I could’ve asked her about it and gotten into it, but I didn’t wanna squeeze pain out of her, if that makes sense. I’m actually wondering if, in order to be a better interviewer, I need to do that. We’ll see, I suppose!
My favorite stories so far are in Jarrod Harris’ episode. Every guest has had interesting stories, because everyone is crazy in their own particular way, but Jarrod’s is unbelievable. He told the story of his life through a long series of deaths in his family. It’s amazing.
CAKE: Let’s talk about the Two-headed Beast storytelling show. How did that get started? We happen to think you have quite the gift for recounting truthful tales from your own life adventures. What’s been one of your favorite stories to tell audiences, in general?
DAVE: Two-Headed Beast started because Jake Weisman and I wanted to be a part of the storytelling scene. We were starting to go to MOTH Story Slams, and do other people’s storytelling shows, and we wanted to contribute to the scene ourselves. I’m so happy we started that show. It’s my favorite part of every month. The vibe is so relaxed and positive. You can’t beat it.
It’s hard to say which story is my favorite to tell. I’ve told some gut-wrenching stories about high school and college at that show — about getting picked on or hurt in some way — and it’s always cathartic to watch audiences relate to you and sympathize with you and accept the hilariousness that is your shortcomings. But the story about getting the shit kicked out of me during sex is fun, too.
CAKE: In light of the whole #CancelColbert drama, do you think edgy content and satire are in danger of extinction? Your sketch comedy group WOMEN is always breaking conventions. Do you ever have to think about who may be offended during the sketch creation process?
DAVE: I am actually surprised WOMEN‘s never gotten any flak for being offensive. I’m talking about the sketches “Divorce” and “Tarry and Barry”. I think the only reason is probably that we weren’t very visible when those came out. They’re sketches about how horrific men can be in a marriage, but it seems like people are becoming intolerant of satire when it comes to minorities nowadays, so you’d think we would’ve gotten some shit.
And on that note, no, I don’t think edgy content and satire are in danger of going extinct (because some people will always do it for shock value at the very least), but I do think some good content that could’ve been created wasn’t, out of fear of reprisal from the angry online comedy criticism horde. And that’s not to say I don’t agree sometimes, I just think people should chill out and focus on the issues that really affect people instead of what makes your liberal alarms go off. Like with Colbert, for instance, he was very clearly satirizing what the Redskins did. It was obvious and direct. And sure, there were some people that could watch and think “heehee fuck Asians”, but for every one of those people, there were 100 more who wouldn’t have realized just how racist that NFL team’s actions were otherwise. Also, it was funny. I like it when things are funny.
That said, we (WOMEN) definitely do think about who our sketches could affect when writing and shooting them. We don’t ever want people of any sexuality or gender or ethnicity to feel bad watching our stuff. We’d like women and gay people, in particular, to feel much safer in this world than they currently do, and a lot of our sketches come from that perspective. “Divorce”, for example, is all about that.
And on that same note, since we don’t want to hurt people, we shit on literally every demographic possible in our Twitter account.
CAKE: Jake Weisman, ASW and Pat Morris are your WOMEN sketch comedy cohorts. How did you all meet up and decide to make comedy together? What do you love/hate most about working with these guys?
DAVE: I love everything about working with them. We work so fluidly now that I forget collaborating can get contentious. We write, shoot, and hang out together a lot, and I love it so much. Those guys have been my savior in both comedy in life at many times, and I should really thank them for that more often than I do.
We met during sex.
CAKE: Can you give us the scoop on what WOMEN has planned for the rest of 2014?
We are writing a TV show and a short film. I fucking love both of them. God damn, I hope we get to show them to people.
CAKE: I caught your appearance on the NerdTerns season 2. What was it like being a part of that Nerdist madness? Have you been inside Hardwick’s house? If so, did you steal anything?
DAVE: I love being a part of Nerdist. Everyone there — both at the podcast network and the theater — are total sweethearts and bust their ASSES to make good comedy. The only reason I’m not listing names right now is that it’d take me all day. (DANIELLE KRAMER, AARON BAKER, KATIE LEVINE JK I’LL STOP.)
Chris Hardwick lives in a place called “Fire Mountain”, which hovers above Malibu twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then disappears into the mist. I have been inside, yes, and I stole condoms.
DAVE: Will there be more Hopeless Records vids? We enjoyed them so. How did you get that gig? Will you be performing at any music festivals this year? Will punk live on forever?
Hahahahaha punk will most certainly live on forever because there will be frustrated young kids forever. Punk is the perfect release valve for a life that doesn’t make sense. There will also always be broke people and poor people and people that like to make things, and punk is great for that, too. I am fully aware that what I am saying right now is cheesy as fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck, but I also fully believe it. Punk is this incredible thing that allows kids (and adults) to be loud and angry and violent and release their fears and worries into the air while still being communal and positive and supportive and friendly and nice. Anyone can make punk music, or a punk site or zine, or put on a punk show, and because of that it’s a place where anyone can go, as long as they’re accepting of what’s happening around them. It’s similar to comedy in that way. It’s my favorite thing in the world.
As far as Hopeless, Matt Ingebretson introduced me to them! (Matt, whom you know, is a very good friend of mine and a great comic. @mattingebretson on Twitter. Also he’s very tall, LADIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!) He’d been working with them, and then I randomly got an email from Megan Thompson, their photographer/content producer (another hilarious person whom you should fall in love with), asking me to write a movie for them. It was a great moment. I’d just quit my job the day before and Hopeless Records was an important part of my childhood. I looooooooooooved their bands. Working with them is a dream come true.
Working with them is also great because they’re all great people. It’s been really fun. We’ll definitely be making more videos with them. Allen (@totallyallen — very funny — not very tall but still sexy) and I just shot a fake game show with Megan and the band Neck Deep we’re really excited about. I got to be mean to British people.
Oh and I will definitely be doing some music festivals this year. Allen and I are doing FEST, the big punk festival in Gainesville in November, and I’m curating the comedy at Echo Park Rising this year. This interview is getting me so excited for this year! God damn, Deborah!
CAKE: Can we expect more video blogging from you? Please say “yes”. Did you really see your grandma’s boob?
I DID SEE MY GRANDMA’S BOOB. It was horrifying. It was so insanely big. The biggest I’ve seen to this day, and I’ve seen porn.
And I do plan to do more video blogging! Idiot Dog, my video blog, is fun to make. It’s just one of those things that takes a back seat whenever I have a lot of work to do, and I always have a lot of work to do. I’m really proud of it, though, and I’m hoping to have a lot of free time on this tour, so hopefully I’ll get to make more.
CAKE: What other projects does Dave Ross have stewing in his comedy cauldron? What comedy shows, movies, web series or TV programs are you most looking forward to this year?
I’m working on a couple things that I can’t really talk about yet, but I’m really excited about. I want to make something animated. I want to start that new show with Matt, and I want to do another WOMEN live show. I also want to start a radio show in L.A. I miss doing radio. So we’ll see!
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Mentions: Check out Dave on tour. Listen to Dave speak with YouTube sensation Grace Helbig on Terrified this week. Watch more WOMEN videos. Keep up with everything else at davetotheross.com and remember to give him a huge hug.