A middle-aged comedian stuffs his leopard-skin shorts and shoots for the stars.
Then, around 1994, things went kablooey; a series of tragic events caused him to disappear professionally for about fourteen years.
First, he got caught up in a harrowing tailspin of a bad relationship that left him emotionally exhausted. Then he had to undergo double bypass surgery in 1996. Meanwhile, his mother fell ill and required constant attention, followed in unlikely succession by his elderly aunt, cousin and father.
Though his family was far from perfect, once again Dingwall set his dreams of the big time aside, and submerged himself in the full-time role of caretaker.
“I didn’t realize ... how long I would wind up caring for everyone,” he says.
Dingwall disappeared in the world of odd smells, pill bottles and pain, only resurfacing last year. All four have passed away one by one, his father last.
Since his father’s death last September, he’s been firing on all pistons to make his comeback count.
This time, he says, he’s ready to take it to the top.
Dingwall emerges onto the set of the Dave Dingwall Show wearing jeans, sneakers, a powder blue tailcoat with white piping and a denim patchwork golfer’s hat.
It’s the only heat wave of the summer and it’s hot as hell in the Woodshop Films studio as Director Marc Brodzik stomps about, preparing for the maiden taping. Brodzik, Woodshop Films founder, director of White Boy and creative force behind cult Internet hit music-review show Breakfast at Sulimay’s, is a big believer in Dingwall’s star power.
“His humor is so bad it’s almost brilliant. I only wish he saw it that way,” says Brodzik. “It takes a lot of balls to put your shit on the line for something that will most likely never pay off. Trust me, I should know … I see a lot of myself in the Dingwalls, the outsiders with the undying urge for full self-expression.”
Dingwall’s sense of humor is indeed terribly brilliant. It falls somewhere between Larry David’s awkward pause and the dry, knowing overplay of Seinfeld’s Newman. In casual conversation, it can be disconcertingly hard to tell whether he’s being serious or not.
The tiny set is surrounded by towering images of the surreal left over from Brodzik’s days as a painter: a huge portrait of a woman squatting in clear stripper heels with a McDonald’s logo nailed to her ass; an eight-foot tall, three-dimensional T-bone steak; a naked man sporting goggles and Thundercat hair thrusting his cock into an understandably sad-eyed dog. Woodshop Films is a funhouse of the absurd, and there’s no better place to re-invent old-school Dingwall—a classic casino creature—into a 21st century Internet star.
Brodzik envisions the Dave Dingwall Show as a happy anachronism, a variety show where Dingwall’s inimitable ‘70s crooner vibe meets modern viral video humor.
“It’s fucking chaos in here,” says Brodzik, storming through the jungle of wires, cameras and lights. Dingwall waits patiently, standing alone on a small platform in front of a green screen, face reddening from the heat, waiting for his cue. The clapboard slaps on take one and Dingwall springs to life, busts a little soft-shoe and starts singing in a crisp, clear, bluesy voice.
But the karaoke software isn’t working right. Then the electricity shorts and the industrial fan cuts out along with the lights. Dingwall’s razzle-dazzle is cut abruptly short.
The crew scurries and within minutes everything’s fixed, or fixed enough.
“I can do a moonwalk next time, if you want to zoom in on it,” offers Dingwall, as he wipes the sweat off his face with a paper towel and the slate slaps for take two.
Then the magic: Dingwall’s shoulders start bouncing and his face takes on the expression of an 18th century tap-dancing butler offering the most excellent of crumpets. He launches full-on into a crooner version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” complete with Sinatra-esque exclamations (“I’m a creep, yes! I’m a weirdo! That’s right!”).