Today, Dan Cummins new comedy EP Chinese Affection has become available to the universe. In addition, he’s recently become the new host of The Playboy Morning Show. And to top it off, he’s just announced his next hour long comedy special taping with Warner Bros. that will take place Saturday, April 25th at the Depot in Salt Lake City. You can grab tickets here. Cummins got his first taste of stand up back in 2000 then in 2001, he entered the Seattle Comedy Competition, finishing as runner-up. Now with 15 years in the books, 3 albums behind him along with specials, a brand new EP, and the new special in April, it’s clear Dan has chosen wisely leaving his small town in Idaho behind for the life of a comedian. We had the chance to catch up with him in New York City in celebration of his new EP, Chinese Affection, and he explains to us why we all need to buy laser rockets, how we should re imagine Bill Cosby’s comedy catalog via Skrillex, and his upcoming special.
My last name is Seman, and I don’t know you remember this, but you and I, along with Whitney Cummings, Courtney Cox and Andy Dick, we all put money down for a sexual harassment law firm which hasn’t seen the light of day yet, but hopefully we will get some returns on it. We will see it right Dan?
That’s right, that’s right, for now it’s just Cummins and Seman.
We’re here in celebration of your brand new EP. This is interesting because most comedians don’t release an EP, that’s a band move, but here you are pulling off an EP. It’s called Chinese Affection, and is that affection for their government, just so that you’re safe down the road in what 50 years? They always say 50 years right?
Just a random joke that came from a larger bit. Like a little kind of segway, that name I just thought it was funny and it would be a funny name for an album. And the EP was fun, this is basically an in between album where it took me longer, since the last CD to get something new out. I didn’t just stop writing. I kept writing, kept writing, and I just got where I had 90 minutes of new material that I wanted to do something with and I really wanted to do a new special. So 60 minutes of it, we are going to record in April, at the Depot in Salt Lake City. April 25th actually. But then, 30 minutes of it, I was like I didn’t want to just not have it go anywhere. So Pandora actually did this exclusive recording for me in the fall, where they were testing out a new program. I used the 30 minutes for that and I’m like, well, I don’t want to have it just be gone now, and so we decided to release it as an EP. I am much more into music than I actually am into stand up. I don’t listen to anybody stand up wise really for the most part, but I listen to music all the time. So yeah, it feels a little rock and roll to do an EP!
Yeah, it’s a slick move. I like it and the way you are describing it also with, “Hey look I’m in between albums here,”it’s better to get it out whether it’s timely or not.
Exactly, and people are hungry for content, more than they ever use to be. So I just wanted to get something else out there because I don’t do a podcast myself right now. I don’t have regular audio content coming out. I didn’t want to wait any longer between albums. I wanted to get people who like what I do something new to hear.
Now lets talk about the Pandora Comedy Spotlight because it’s kind of a unique thing. You are the first person to do this right?
Yeah, we worked on it for a year before it came out. I found out that they were looking for somebody to kick off a new project with, where you would do exclusive content with them and I actually kind of had that in mind also. So it was fortuitous that we both wanted the same thing. But I just started noticing people showing up at shows and they kept referencing Pandora, and basically streaming stuff. Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, but mostly Pandora. To the point it started happening on a regular basis. I tried to figure out how many people were listening to me on Pandora and I found this little thing. I don’t remember how I found it, but if you back slash on your station and type in fans, it will show you how many people like you. Kind of like a Facebook like and I didn’t know that was a thing. And then of course just being a comic, you are always comparing yourself to other people’s careers. I’m like, “well I wonder how many this person has?” It’s like Googling yourself, but even more narcissistic.
So who did you backslash? After you back slashed yourself?
I did Kyle Kinane, because I feel like he’s a really good guy and has gotten a lot of exposure And at least in my own mind, artistically, I am at the same level, even if I don’t have the same fan base. So I’m like, “well I’ll try that.” And I had way more than him. So I was like “oh, well the one place I had more exposure than he does.” Not that I’m in a race with him. That was just an example, because I’m not.
You are just on a different path man.
Yeah, a different path. Exactly, and you get a little in your head, where it’s like “oh I had this route where I had Comedy Central like my Live at Gotham and than a half hour, and than an hour, like, Boom, Boom, Boom, and you expect things to keep going at that ascent. And then after that, the special was well received, but it wasn’t well rated and so I kind of went to purgatory with them. At least in the sense that they weren’t’ just going to give me another hour. They were going to move on and see if someone else would pop. And then I had a couple years from that, I started getting in my head, and I’m like “maybe I’m just not that funny.” “Maybe people really don’t like it.” “Maybe they were right, not to give me more opportunities.” You know, whatever. And the Pandora thing was such a validation because there is nothing in it for anybody to like one of my tracks. There is no incentive, they are not going to get a f*ckin prize. You know?
Right, it’s a funny way of looking at it.
Yeah, they are not going to get money. It’s like the only reason for them to ever do that. I’m not ever asking anyone to do that. Like literally ever. It’s just, if you want to hear more of it. And when I saw that thousands of thousands of thousands of people had made that decision and I then talked to Pandora and found out that I was one of the most received comics in the rotation. It was just like “f*ck, thank you!” Alright, this isn’t just me jerking off on stage.
Yeah, you are not crazy! You are not crazy.
Yeah, like people actually like it, and it made me re-motivated about my career. Which lead to seeking them [Pandora] out. And then it was cool. I got to do some interview videos, I got to curate my own station. They call it a mix tape, but of my favorite comedy. And I got to do a half an hour. That stuff is off of there now, because the next guy is doing it. It’s called the Pandora Comedy Spot Light. So it was cool to kick that off. I feel that that is where the future of stand-up is. Like we do podcasts. Everybody is used to getting their content for free. Talking to Warner Brothers even, my record label went from compact discs to downloads. And that was a huge transition for sales. And now it’s going to one at an even faster rate. It’s going from downloads to streams and there really is nowhere to go from there. There is just different types of streams I guess.
Just don’t cross them right?
Yeah, yeah exactly!
How do you feel about that by the way? The Ghostbusters reboot, if I can ask you that? Because you seem like a pop culture guy. You hear Ghostbusters is coming out, are you like leave it alone? Are you happy for the ladies?
Nah, I’m in the leave it alone camp.
Do you think that there are some comedy albums that can get re-made? Do you think it would be funny if people started re-making comedy albums? For instance, that Lenny Bruce album man, could really use a re-boot!
Yeah I guess, I mean, that’s interesting to do somebody else’s album.
Because that’s essentially what you are doing right? Like Russell Brand as Arthur. How do you take somebody’s character and re-do that?
God. Yeah, you would have to do it as a tribute! But you’re right, if you did it word for word, like the original person did it, as a tribute. If 15 other comics each re-did a track of Hedberg, that might be interesting to hear. But only if the money went to some foundation he cared about. But it’s unlike a movie, I mean, they don’t do that. The author I guess profits but to redo an album, that’s interesting! I think we should redo all of Cosby’s albums. But have no audience track. Just a weird speech with spooky f*ckin noises in the background! Can you imagine how creepy those albums would be now? If you just sucked the audience track off of it and replaced it with a “woOoOooOoOoo” weird ambient sounds in the background and put it on YouTube!
How much do you think his back catalog is going for right now? I mean, the money we make from the sexual harassment law firm we can put right to this, but at the same time, protect ourselves because we’re a law firm.
If Seman and Cummins could just take on all of these plaintiffs and then go after Cosby, and in the plea bargaining part of it work out a deal where we get access to his catalog to uh…
Yes, that’s where we’d make our real money. I wish I could think of sound bites from his albums getting played in weird Skillex type EDM
He’s so the guy to do the album.
Right, because he’s always got those clips that are like “Oh My God” and then the big drop.
Maybe Trent Reznor too… could write some creepy stuff.
Oh f*ck. Yeah, I actually want to hear this now.
I’ve got to ask you about the album art. It’s awesome, and like you were saying before, “What is Chinese Affection?” Cool name for an album, but then what’s on the cover?
It all relates to one of the jokes. This concept, I was just day dreaming or whatever, and you know, commercials now are so surreal and stuff. So imagine if you had a lot of money, like Bill Gates type money, people like that. It’s great that they always give money to worthy causes, as they should. But they could also fund the most elaborate practical jokes. And I thought one of the best giant practical jokes would be if you created a commercial for a company that didn’t exist and a product that made absolutely no sense. But then didn’t tell anyone it was a joke and aired it on TV for several years. You could just mind f*ck society because people would think it was weird, and the human brain needs answers why things have happened. When something bothers you and you can’t find an answer it drives you mad. So with this commercial going on for years and years, people would just be like pulling out their hair going like “what the f*ck does it mean?” And there’s some shadowy corporation linked to another shadowy corporation. You could never follow the paper trail back far enough. So the commercial is what the album cover is about. The commercial opens up with this Chinese father stroking his Chinese son’s hair affectionately by the side of a serene pond. And then, that’s where the Chinese affection came from, though I would act it out like “maybe he’s ruffling it or pulling it, or maybe he’s poking it, I mean, I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know a lot about Chinese people, I’m not an anthropologist. And I’m like he’s showing his son some god damn Chinese affection however that looks”. And I thought that was just a funny thing to say. But then the commercial was, all of a sudden a spaceship zooms in. It beams down a Tyrannosaurus Rex, it storms through the water and attacks both of them. Then scampers off and a scientist pops into frame and just says, “As you’ve probably heard by now, alien dinosaurs have taken over most of Asia. It’s time you get yourself a laser rocket. LASER ROCKET! And that’s the whole commercial.
And that’s it.
That’s it. No number, no website. Nothing. That’s all you ever know about that commercial.
This is War of the Worlds 2015.
Yeah, exactly. Thought it would be such a fun visual. I’ve always wanted to do a graphic novel-y comic book type cover.
Well if these are your ideas, I think you need to be putting out more EPs.
Well, you know what was fun about the EP is that I felt there was less pressure. For a special, it’s like a wider gamut of premises, but in the half hour I’m a little more free to get weirder. I didn’t worry about any kind of ark. If this works on any sort of level, I think I’m going to do more of them. I mean, it is funny, when you think about rules. My manager was more traditional in the past, but the more I do this I realize there are no rules. Especially with the way things are changing now. Why do I have to do a 45 min one? If I want to do a half hour one then who gives a sh*t?
So let’s talk about this new gig you have.
It was six months of auditions. But not six months waiting for me. It was The Playboy Morning Show on playboy’s, initially it was a radio thing, then it went to radio and TV, on the playboy channel and then it went to basically just TV. They do have a podcast version. But the guy who had the job before me, this guy Kevin Kline who had the job for 9 years. He was there for the beginning of it I believe of the radio show and when it switched to TV. He was there for the very beginning of that. So it was kind of like his baby. So he moved to do terrestrial radio in San Francisco and had an FM morning show. And they found it was really hard to replace him. It sounds like it’s such an easy gig, you know you interview a couple celebs and you hang around some naked models. You just talk for an hour what’s the big deal? That’s how it looks. But no, there’s a rundown every show, four minutes we’re going to talk about this. For five min. we’ve got to play this game. And yes because it involves getting some models naked, it’s redundant on that show, so you have to find a thousand ways to skin the same cat. And you have to find a way to keep being creative in your parameters that relates to your guest, or something in the news. So when you are coming up with ten ideas a day for four live shows a week, it’s a grind.
Do you feel like you are getting new material out of this gig or a new way to look at comedy?
I think it will help me become more uninhibited which is always good for a comic to become freer on stage to talk about whatever. There are some things that I research that are just societal things that probably aren’t right for our show but I think, oh, I could use this in my stand up someday. And just poise, because you have to be good at just faking in.
Can I hear your best fake laugh?
Hahaha, oh man, that’s great, oh man god, it’s such a good movie, I can’t wait to see it. April 14th, that’s when you can check out bingy bingy boo that’s on Video on Demand. So great to see you today.
Not bad. Not bad Dan Cummins.
Hahaha, yeah, I do a lot of that.
When did you realize you had a grip on your voice, the way you deliver your comedy? Did it take awhile to find it? Or is it continually in development?
I think it’s continually in development. But I do feel like, 5 or 6 years in, it’s gotten a bit more consistent. I use to do shorter form jokes. But now I think it’s just a long form of the same delivery style. I don’t know where that comes from but it’s funny when I write stuff now, I write it rhythmically. I hear myself saying it on stage. I like to talk in a certain rhythm when I’m up there. I like to have fun with phrasings and playing with the language.
So what do you think sticks with your audience the most? I seem to not be able to let go of Squirrelador.
Haha, yeah, that joke seems to stick. I don’t know what sticks, because what other people might think is weird, I don’t. A reviewer once said about me, “A lot of comics tell you what you are already thinking, but Dan tells you only what he is thinking”. Haha.
I love that. It’s like, “he’s” bringing you these inventions.
Yeah, at first it was like, here are weird abstract thoughts I’m having. But now it’s, here’s what I’m truly thinking about. They’re all 100% true. That wasn’t the case with the first couple of albums. I would tell obvious lies. Tongue and Cheek. Now, I don’t exaggerate it like I used to. I’ve made a real effort to give the audience the authenticity, even if they don’t agree with it or think I’m wrong or crazy or I’m silly. This is really what I’m thinking.
Well, congratulations on Chinese Affection.
So now on to the new special right?
Yeah man, April 25th, Warner Brothers is recording it, not sure where it’s going to end up but I got the hour prepared and I’m feeling good about it. If you like Chinese Affection, it’s the same ilk. Just broader subject matter. Same style. And hope people come out to the taping on the 25th.
Always good to see you Dan.
Yeah man, Seman and Cummins!
Dan Cummin’s new EP Chinese Affection is in stores now, pick it up now on iTunes.