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Interview Tue Oct 04 2011

Interview: Dan Telfer

telfer8224.jpgDan Telfer is one of the hardest working people in Chicago: he co-produces Chicago Underground Comedy, his comedy album, Fossil Record, went to number one on iTunes in 2010, and he has performed on stage with some of the most respected comedians of this generation. This weekend, Dan is opening for Maria Bamford at the Mayne Stage Theater, and he recently took some time out of his day to chat with me about comedy, superheroes, nerd culture and the A.V. Club.

You opened for Garfunkel & Oates this past weekend and you're opening for Maria Bamford this weekend: how has working with talent like that affected your perspective and performances?

It has made me terrified of @humblebrag on Twitter. I am very grateful. If I ever make a decent living from this it will be because of the generosity of other comedians who have taken me on the road like Maria and comedy bookers like Chris Ritter at the Mayne Stage. But since you ask specifically about Maria, Ricki and Kate, I will say something to that effect. I hate nothing more than when I'm on the road and I have to open for someone who insults my lack of masculinity the entire time. Two weekends of opening for laser-witty comics who don't play shitty status games with me? Yes please. I mean I can say that about Garfunkel & Oates because we just finished our weekend. Maria might betray me this weekend and just beat the shit out of me with a tire iron in the green room for two nights. Probably not. We'll see.

Will you talk about Pop Pilgrims, and the work you're doing with A.V. Club? How did that series come about? Are you going to pursue more on-camera projects?

Josh Modell approached me because he knows me from my stand-up. The A.V. Club has been friendly to me for a couple years now, which by the way is amazing. You will not meet smarter, warmer, funnier nerds. They asked me to send a reel, I was almost going to host the whole thing because their other host dropped out, but then he cleared his calendar a bit and we ended up splitting hosting duties. You can hear a little more about that on their Reasonable Discussions Podcast, episode 6. So I didn't pursue that so much as it pursued me. I have never received a break because I bent over backwards to solicit my soul to a stranger, but I'm "open" to anything. We live in an age where you can create your own podcast or viral video with zero overhead, I'm not even sure what kind of person is a serial auditioner.

You recently got to sing backup for They Might Be Giants. What was that experience like?

It was amazing. They are the nicest dudes. Thank you to the Onion A.V. Club and the guys at Picture Show Films who film their A.V. Undercover series and Pop Pilgrims. Jamie and Brendan at Picture Show were the ones who were shooting Pop Pilgrims with me and were like "Uh, isn't TMBG your favorite band? You know they're coming to the A.V. Club office in a couple months right?" The whole band signed a copy of the Bed, Bed, Bed book for my 3-year-old. You can find both the A.V. Club studio version and the live recreation on YouTube. One of the highlights of my life.

How has doing stand-up affected you as a producer, and vice versa?

Before stand-up I produced sketch, improv, and theater. Every genre of performance has parallel problems. The second a fellow stand-up texted me something along the lines of "I let you in my unpaid show, I think you owe me a spot in yours" I was like, this is the kind of shit that destroyed Clarence Royce on The Wire. I'm not trading favors, you book me if I'm a good performer and I'll do the same for you. So no, when it comes to ChUC I don't even really tell people I'm a producer unless I think they can make ChUC more special and they need to be coaxed for some reason.

Fossil Record was a big success: any plans for a new album anytime soon?

On an OCD level I will always think back on Fossil Record as "the thing I'm proud of but didn't perform thinking it would be a CD." I would love to plan a CD setlist. And I have loads of material I'd love to put on one, more than I could fit really, but I'm still relatively unknown so I'm in no rush.

I had a conversation recently about whether nerd culture is on the rise. Care to opine?

Well Patton Oswalt just wrote a piece for Wired on how nerd culture has met its logical ending and it now needs to be destroyed. I wouldn't want to argue with him, he's too good at making references I couldn't match. But yes, as technology makes the saddest introverts YouTube stars it stands to reason we don't need luddites playing gatekeeper anymore and can take over anything we want. Including culture. It already happened, really. The era of Steve Jobs came and went. We're post-nerd now. Douches need to learn how to manage their fantasy leagues online and all that.

Who would win in a fight: Superman or The Hulk?

Superman, because his powers are broad and impossible to pin down. There could be a solar flare and his dick could turn into a moon-sized piston and hammer The Hulk into hydrogen dust. If you can never burst out of your pants despite growing 20 times your original size you're a bit beholden to physics. But I was always a Marvel guy so I'm kind of just trying to give Superman a backhanded compliment out of ignorance.

~*~

For tickets and more information about this weekends show, visit the Mayne Stage website. For more about Dan, visit his personal website.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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