Ever inadvertently stumble upon something exceptional before everyone else and think of yourself as a pioneer on the cusp of the cutting edge? Like that time you happened to catch Destiny’s Child open for Das EFX at an early ’90s Juneteenth concert in Houston, or that time you totallllly saw Reservoir Dogs , like, six months before anyone was even talking about it? Of course you have. Because you’re a fucking trailblazer, friend—a true blue, born-and-bred trendsetting LEADER OF MEN.
You are Simon Cowell. You know talent when you see it. You can spot the X Factor. Which is why there’s no way on God’s green earth you’re going to be anywhere but at Connie’s Ric Rac when comedian Dan St. Germain makes his way to town this week, drawn to it you will be like a bee to pollen or a racist to the comments section of Philly.com.
Germain jumped the river of his then-home of Jersey to new-home New York City in 2006, and has already made quite a name for himself on the comedy circuit there. He was just on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon , and has written for the Onion Sports and News Networks. He was a Best Emerging Comic nominee at the ECNY (Excellence in Comedy New York) in 2009 and a finalist for ECNY Best Male Standup in 2010. He also has other resume bullet points we could list for you to skim over, but we won’t. (We lied, here’s one more: shoutout to that semi-finalist nod at Boston Comedy Festival, y’all!)
Germain’s act leaps smoothly between all points observational and introspective, and he can riff on both the mundane and absurd with aptitude and effectiveness. PW caught up with him to talk about his dad’s illicit affair with Lisa Bonet, the idea of “selling out” and the awe inspiring wonder that is Sbarro. We love him. You will too. (See first paragraph.)
The comedy blogosphere has been rumbling recently about late-night standup comedy spots and how they’re not the career changers they once were. As someone who was just on Fallon (awesome job, by the way) how do you see it? Is there an “I’ve made it” moment anymore? Or do you even see your career in that way?
Hahaha. “The Comedy blogosphere.” (AKA 10 guys living in their parents’ basements who watch standup when they’re not writing sci-fi erotica.) I think they’re right and wrong. This year’s been great for me in the sense that, a year and a half ago, I had no manager, agent, TV credit, no staff-writing credit. Then I got a role on the Electric Company on PBS and quit my overnight security job and afterward things slowly started to happen.
Fallon was awesome and this has been a really fun year, but it’s not like I’ve made it forever. I’m making a living now through writing or standup so that’s “making it” enough for me. Having said that, there’s no “one way” to get over anymore. It’s not like when there was Sullivan and Carson and you get on and you’re a household name, or at least set for a while. Instead of “make it” moments, it’s more about working consistently. That’s making it. I’ve been on six different TV shows this year, but I could be back doing temp work in a couple months. You can’t tell your landlord, “But I had a lot of buzz around me four months ago!” All of this “career talk” gets in the way of doing great work. Cause what’s the point of having a “make it” moment? Do you settle down and just make serious documentaries or something? Did [Louis] CK stop being funny after he got an Emmy on The Chris Rock Show? Naw, he keeps going because he loves it and he’s the best in the world.
Did your dad being a writer have any influence on you growing up? He wrote for The Cosby Show, didn’t he?
My dad definitely had a lot of influence. I’ve always been better at writing dialogue, and jokes within dialogue, then just straight joke jokes. That’s from watching and reading so many plays and having a lot of really great things to read and watch around the house.
Did you ever meet Tempestt Bledsoe? Have any good stories about your dad being in that world?
My dad actually had an affair with Lisa Bonet for years after the show was done. It destroyed my family. He did tell me a few stories. The head writer saw my dad’s play and asked him to write an episode. He got on set, and saw that they had added a scene to his script, so he asked, “Why did you change what I wrote?” And they were like, “It’s not called the True to Each Writer’s Artistic Vision Show. It’s called The Cosby Show and Cosby wanted to do a scene with a seal.”
Most people probably know you more for your standup than your writing. Do you prefer one over the other? What do you want to be known as? Does it matter?
I’ve made my living primarily as a writer. Late-night appearances and panel and standup pay, but it’s not consistent. Not surprised [people] see me as a standup. No one sees me writing around town, and if they did, that would be the worst performance art ever. Most comedians make their living doing both. It’s nice to be known at all.
You once said you don’t give a shit about money or fame. Does that still hold true? You’ve been nominated for tons of comedy awards. Does recognition in the industry matter to you?
Hahaha. I was in one of my Basquiat phases when I said that. Maybe not fame, but I’ll be out of a job in three weeks so money’s a different story. Hey, it’s nice to be nominated for anything as long as it’s not ‘Most likely to stalk and kill Obama’s kids” or something. I’m a comedian so industry liking me is important. You know what else is important? Everyone else liking me.
Who are your favorite comedians right now? Who do you look up to?
[Louis] CK, [Patton] Oswalt, [Marc] Maron, Patrice [O’Neal], Pete Holmes, Kumail [Nanjiani], [Kyle] Kinane, [Eugene] Mirman.
Adweek recently ran an article about comedians being hired to make ads (videos), which is happening more and more often. How do you feel about taking jobs for advertisers? Are you morally opposed, like a Bill Hicks, or is it just another paying job?
I really think it depends on the product. One second, I’m just going to take a sip of this refreshing MOUNTAIN DEW I’ve been drinking.
Q&A With Comedian Dave Hill