Dan St. Germain has been regularly performing in NYC and around the country for the last 6 years. He has been seen on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, John Oliver’s NY Stand-up Show on Comedy Central, and on various shows on VH1, MTV and Fuse networks.
Today Mr. Germain will be recording his first album at the Comedy Studio in Cambridge, Mass for A Special Thing records. I recently interviewed Dan about this latest career development, and about his thoughts on the industry. From life on the road, the age old NYC vs. LA dilemma, to what is his next steps. We also discuss his new Web series Kicking Dan Out on My Damn Channel and his podcast My Dumb Friends on the Cave and the Creek Network.
This week you’re recording your first comedy album, entitled “Bad at Good Times” at the Comedy Studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. What is the worst thing that could happen?
I would say not getting laughs but with an album it is more about being clear with the words. Even if a joke doesn’t work you can play with the audio a little bit. I’m a bit nervous, the early show is at 6 and that is so early. The other one is 8. I kind of wish I was doing [later times], but it limits the space. And if the show is a complete disaster then we’ll re-record it. Maybe go out to LA. But I’m not trying to think about that. I’ve got enough material at this point that I should be alright.
Why the Boston area?
I’ve always had some really great sets at the Comedy Studio. I like Cambridge. It’s a smart crowd, and I find that it’s a place that really does listen. There is also a blue collar element to being in Boston. And New York is all over the place. So many people have [recorded] sets at Union Hall, but I kind of wanted to switch it up. And practically, I’m not a huge draw, so you want to have a place that already has a comedy base. I would love to be able to say lets do it at Roseland Ballroom, but I’m not going to fill anything with the word ‘Ballroom’ in title–not yet anyway.
Having A Special Thing records put out your first album is a huge opportunity.
I think so. I hope it works out. I [just] don’t think there is one way to break anymore. Those days are gone and now it’s really about building up a career. Look at Louis CK. There is no more an example of evolution than that. His first sets were the very standard 80’s comic then to embracing the alternative movement to what he is now and how many different shows he has written for. Even the evolution of his show from HBO to winning awards for Louie on F/X. I’m not comparing myself to that but, when you see people like CK, Patton Oswalt, Bill Burr, and unfortunately I wish he was still around, Patrice O’Neil, you know these guys were in it for years. It wasn’t like back in the day where you have Eddie Murphy popping in and he’s huge.
Even the days of getting your Late Night shot. Now it’s about developing your brand and building an audience through all the different outlets available, especially web content and social media.
Now your expected to be at your best when you’re in your early 40s not your late 20s. I think its kind of cool now that comedians are supposed to be putting out their best work [later in life]. Which is really how it should be. In a way I hope I am embarrassed by my material when I’m 40.
You put in the time to develop a fully realized voice and unique perspective.
And I really don’t think as a person you have any clue who you are until 25. That’s when you start to kind of get it. And I’ve been lucky I guess. I met some good people and really been able to grow. You kind of start to see when you have a bad set somewhere you’re like: “oh my god its over.” When really that’s not true at all. It’s the same reason when you have a great set: “oh I’m in.” It’s not true at all. It’s a working living thing.
How long have you been in New York?
I started stand-up here and I’ve been doing it here for 6 years and one month.
You recently just got back after a stint in LA, what are your thoughts on the city?
I like going out there for a week or two. The first time I went out was for pilot season last year, and I ended up getting more work in New York. I flew back after and I did two shows, John Oliver’s NY Stand-up Show and a Geico spot. In New York even if you have nothing to do you feed off of the infectious nature of the city. And you’re always working. There you got to drive to a Starbucks, put your money into the meter, look at everyone else’s laptops opened to their shitty screenplays–there is just this feeling of hopelessness.
Any place where the majority of its economy is based around the entertainment industry is going to be vapid and empty.
There are some shows that are terrific. Unfortunately, performers can’t get up on as many as you do in New York. There are a lot more smaller shows which really helps if you’re working material out. When I went out it was awesome–I did Meltdown, a bunch of spots at the Improv, the Riot Festival. And that’s only when you’re there for a week cause you give off that vibe of: “well I’m limited as far as my time” so that everyone wants to give you time. If you’re like I’m here indefinitely then everyone is like “eww gross.”
So as a New Yorker, does LA live up to its reputation as being the fucking worst?
Yeah well there is some good food. The Getty is gorgeous. But you have to drive 40-50 minutes out of town. Then you’re stuck in traffic–that’s two hours. Plus, my GPS wasn’t working. I got into a fight with the guy from rent-a-wreck. But as far as an actual business trip it was good. I had really good meetings and the shows went well.
Would you consider moving out there?
If there is a job waiting for me–then sure. If not then, I’d rather stay in New York. But there is a lot more of opportunity especially on the writing side.
The writing side and also for comedic acting?
With stand-up, no. And of course we’re all going to be out there eventually is another realization. But in the mean time I’m going to hone my craft here. There is so many friends and family that I have [in New York]. And for mobility. Here you have people freaking out–like I miss people yelling at each other. I like a city the isn’t only exclusively entertainment based…maybe I’m a snob?
So performing stand-up is that your focus? You also have experience writing and with comedic acting, what is your ultimate goal?
I always wanted to be a stand-up with a show. But I’m definitely still really focused on the stand-up more so than anything else. I did just do a 5 minute short with Dan Powell (Ugly Americans) and we just animated it and it has gotten some good reception. So we’ll see where that goes. I’ve got my own web series on My Damn Channel called Kicking Dan Out which recently premiered. So I’ve got four episodes of that. Besides that I’ve got tons of scripts. And I’m hosting this show we’re shopping around. And part of the reason to [all this] is just so you can actually headline rooms. I really never want to give up on stand-up.
So the end game?
The end game is to be one of the best performers in world and to keep making a living doing comedy. Developing a show is something I’ve always wanted more than anything. I’ve always wanted to be the guy behind a Trailer Park Boys or Larry Sanders Show. To have some sort of legacy that way would be tremendous. Ever since I’ve started that always been a goal. So I mean I want both. I don’t have the fire in my heart to act that other people do, but I also am not naive and know if you are on a show your demand for stand-up increases exponentially. So am not also opposed to it. But to be behind a show where I’m staring or it’s loosely based around me has always been a dream of mine. Which is by far the most egotistical dream.
With Kicking Dan Out is it the same players from the pilot?
No its different people each time. We have Chris Gethard in one. Ted Alexandro, Jeesie Cantrell, Brent Sullivan, Emily Heller, a bunch of different folks. Its going to be a rotating cast of characters. And I’ve already have an idea for the last one if we ever get to it, cause I do want limit and have an end to the series. I would want to do one more season.
You’ve done a lot of work with MTV, VH1, and more recently Fuse. How do you find this exposure as a young comic?
Those are the kind of first jobs you get in comedy. They really are looking for the youngest people. I like that Fuse Videos By Trial show and I’m gonna be on the new Best Week Ever.
VH1 is bringing it back?
Yeah, I’m in pilot so I hope that I continue. I put 100 Hottest Bodies on VH1 as a credit, but I was one of the last guys to come in and do it. And by that point they already have enough material from everybody. So then its like you have to do material on Jamiroquai’s brother-in-law. And you don’t even know if any of those jokes or topics will make it.
Do you have cable?
I don’t have a TV right now so I watch everything on Hulu and Netflix. Peep Show, Trailer Park Boys, the Larry Sanders Show. I love Parks and Recreation. I saw Eric Andre Show and was really impressed. My Boy Chris Gethard is getting something through IFC. Also, Modern Family. I like all the stuff that’s good.
Me and Mike Lawrence were talking and he made a really good point that every single sitcom that’s coming out now looks like the same show. Just a bunch of inoffensively attractive people–they’re all really pretty but not Sofia Vergara pretty. Just pretty enough. And they’re all comfortably awkward.
It’s a lot of recycled themes and ideas.
Well you look at a show like 30 Rock, and you wouldn’t be able to do that without the Larry Sanders Show and probably wouldn’t be able to do that without the Mary Tyler Moore show. So that doesn’t necessarily turn me off when shows borrow or expand upon what come before. But what does is when you can clearly see a show seems like it was made around a focus group.
Would you agree with describing your style to someone unfamiliar your work as confessional?
Yeah that’s actually a good way to put it. Well that’s just cause I’m not good enough of a writer. I wish I could be more like Brian Regan.
The Joseph and the Technicolor dream joke always kills, at what point did you develop the thick skin put out such confessional material?
Dude I’m sober. That has to come with some humility. If you have to go to a meeting and be like “hey I fucked my life up.” Everything else is water under the bridge. And don’t get my wrong I still have a lot of pride, there are still things that really erk me. But for me I mean what is the big of a deal if some guy blew me? That’s not even top hundred shameful or bad sexual experiences I’ve had. Do whatever with my dick as long as you don’t chop it off.
It strikes me as you’ve reached a point where you really don’t care what other people think.
Right. And I do but I mean if it gets a laugh, it gets laugh. That’s the sad thing. I was talking about this with Hari Kondabolu, where he was more of the mind that comedy should be used for change. And I’m all for that, for great really well thought out jokes, but at the end of the day if all I could do was hit myself on the head with a hammer to get a laugh I would probably do it.
How do you find life on the road?
It depends. Its less about traveling and is more all about the show. Cause when I went to Newark and Augustana College in Illinois I had great sets so hey it was a good trip. But there is nothing to do in Rock Island, Illionis or wherever the hell that I was. Or in Newark–unless you want to be part of a documentary about urban decline. And If you have a bad set I don’t care where you are, the whole street could be lined with jelly beans and breasts and you’d still be bummed out. And I mean breasts connected to women not like some weird serial killers fascination with Candyland.
Do you have any horror stories?
Johnson City, Tennnesse about a year and half back. It was just after doing Fallon so I was feeling pretty cocky, I was writing for a show, had a beautiful girlfriend. I go on this southern tour, the one really good show I end up having to push back a day cause I had to do Big Morning Buzz on VH1. Which all they asked me was, “hey you kind of look like Zach Glalifianakis.” Which was totally demeaning. And hes great but it’s a shame when you share the same physical attributes as the most famous comedian in the world.
So I went to Johnson City, and everybody looks like they just saw the girl from The Ring, their faces are all sunken in. I was not sober then so I was not in my right mind. I’m on two nights at this place, the guy who hosts is named X. He shows up 45 minutes late each night. They said it’s a comedy club but there is no security, no wait staff, its just me in this room. Now I’m doing a Cat-guy bit that I did on Fallon and this guy from the audience dressed as a cat jumps up and starts dancing with me. I leave to a smattering of applause and laughs. I go upstairs to the office to get my money and its this huge guy with a mullet and wife beater on. He got a pit bull in cage right next to him and you just know he is into sex trafficking. He is counting money using one of those machines and slams it on the table and is like “how was it?” And for first time in my life I didn’t lie through my teeth after a shitty gig. I go “honestly man, it was pretty shitty.” And he goes “I figured.” The place was probably just a front for something. Then I’m stranded sleeping at a Howard Johnson motel. So bad.
My Dumb Friends is a podcast you do with fellow NYC comic Sean Donnelly, on the Cave and the Creek Network. How did that come about?
Well I got back from rehab, and me and Sean wanted to do a podcast together. Now in my professional life I never show up late, get deadlines done on time, do 110%. But in my personal life I’m a disaster. And I kind of wanted to have a show that celebrates our downfalls. There some real human connection that happens, [Marc] Maron calls it drama bonding, but when you put everything out there [I find]there is some kind of connection in the rubble.
What do you have to say to the other Dan St. Germain, the web developer, that took the .com?
Thank God for Google is all I gotta to say. Cause no ones cares about .com or .net anymore because of Google. But if someone gives me shit about .net, it does sound like a fake thing. But I guess I would say I to him hope your fucking happy with yourself you piece of shit. Meanwhile he is dying of cancer.
Follow Dan on Twitter @DSGermainTweet