In the Wake of Several High-Profile Tours, Comedian Dave Hill Brings His Standup Show to the Winchester

The Northeast Ohio native performs at the Lakewood club on July 13

click to enlarge Dave Hill. - Dan Dion
Dan Dion
Dave Hill.
A Cleveland native who's a comedian, writer and rocker, Dave Hill has somehow managed a multi-faceted career. He's written humor books with witty titles such as The Awesome Game. One Man's Incredible, Globe-Crushing Hockey Odyssey and released albums with his terrific indie rock band Valley Lodge. He's done some acting, and he's taken his standup show on the road.

In this email exchange, Dave Hill, who brings his standup show to the Winchester Music Tavern in Lakewood at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 13, talks about some of his latest projects and what it was like to recently open for the wildly popular satirical rock act Tenacious D.

Just the other day, I saw someone here wearing a Dangerous Snakes Who Hate Bullshit T-shirt. What’s it like knowing you have gang members here in Cleveland?
It feels great. I started the Dangerous Snakes Who Hate Bullshit, one of the most dangerous street gangs on Earth as far as I and several other people are concerned, about a dozen years ago when I was home visiting my dad one Christmas in University Heights, a tough town if there ever was one. Back then, it was just about survival and making sure no one messed with me outside of Pizzazz, but the the gang has been growing ever since. There are now members on every continent except for Antarctica. But it’s really hard selling T-shirts in Antarctica. That’s been our biggest hurdle as a street gang so far, I think, since Antarctica is mostly penguins. But it feels good knowing the Dangerous Snakes Who Hate Bullshit are pretty much running Fairmount Circle, the shopping center down the street from where I grew up, at this point.

You were recently a guest on the game show After Midnight. I think you finished in last place. Talk about what it was like to appear on the program.
I did “lose” on After Midnight, but the savvy viewer knows that it was a strategic move since they give you some extra screen time to talk about losing and its effect on your mental state and general sense of self. But I had a lovely time on the show. I got to see a lot of friends and I got my hair and makeup done and they gave me a lot of snacks in my dressing home, some of which I still have in my suitcase weeks later. I can’t wait to go on the program again for all of those reasons. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to living my Charles Nelson Reilly dreams.

If you could take back one answer, which one would it be and why?
I made a reference to jack boots while responding to something that somehow worked Designer Shoe Warehouse and Mussolini into the same sentence. It felt like a home run to me, but it seemed like the majority of the in-studio audience didn’t have a strong working knowledge of WWII Axis powers footwear. I blame our schools.

You opened for Michael Shannon and Jason Narducy on their tour that paid tribute to R.E.M.’s Murmur. How would you describe the typical R.E.M. fan’s sense of humor?
That tour was a blast. All four of the R.E.M. guys came out to the Athens show at the 40 Watt and afterward we had a pizza party with the two bands, me, and a handful of other people, including the actor Ansel Elgort, who starred in one of my favorite new TV shows, Tokyo Vice. He was really nice and also taller than expected. And Michael Stipe gave me some solid NYC bakery recommendations since we both live there. Anyway, if someone would have told me back in high school that I’d go to a pizza party with R.E.M., I would have laughed in their face. But I’m not laughing now. Not by a long shot. Wait — what was the question? Oh yeah, I think the typical R.E.M. fan has a great sense of humor, at least based on that tour. They were “up for it” as we say in the business. And Michael, Jason, and the rest of the guys in the band killed it every night.

You’ve been on the road with Tenacious D. I would think that you were a hard act for them to follow. How well did Jack and Kyle do?
Yes, I just finished my second tour opening for them. This time, it was Dublin and the UK, and it was insane, sold out arenas every night. I would be in a panic for about two hours before each show, thinking I should have listened to my parents and gotten a “proper” job, but I felt great once I got out there. Anyway, as you suggested, I am a very hard act to follow, maybe the hardest in all of show business now that Tina Turner has left us, but Jack and Kyle and their band are the greatest so, once the fog from my fog machine had cleared, they had no problem establishing their dominance. The arena would be practically shaking from the sound of the whole crowd singing along to every word of every song they played. Take that, Taylor Swift! Tenacious D are also the nicest guys on Earth. And while we didn’t have any pizza parties on the tour, we got Indian food on a night off in Birmingham that was probably the best Indian food I’ve ever had in my life. I realize this has nothing to do with the question, but I still feel it was important to mention. Also, I had the aloo gobi but if I tried to tell you I didn’t sample any of the rogan josh I would be lying.

Valley Lodge just put out a new album. Are there any candidates on the album that could replace “Go” as the opening tune on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver?
I hope no song ever replaces “Go” as the opening tune on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, but I’d say “Daylights,” the first song on our new album, would be a contender. I never write music with the idea that someone might use it for their TV show, but once we finished that one, I started hoping someone with a new TV show might hear it and give us a ring.

If Jeff Lynne hears “Secret Lover,” I think he’ll be super jelly and wish he wrote the tune. Do you agree?
Thank you. I like that song a lot. I don’t know if it’s good enough to make Jeff Lynne jelly, but I’d be psyched if he somehow heard it one day, and it gave him a sense of well-being. Also, one of my buddies and all-time favorite musicians, Happy Chichester from Royal Crescent Mob, plays keyboards and does some hot vocals on that one, which makes it extra special for me. Being able to collaborate with my heroes is my favorite thing that happens in show business aside from the free snacks.

For your last book, you went on a quest to discover why hockey is so awesome. Recount some of the trials and tribulations you experienced in writing that book.
My last book, The Awesome Game: One Man’s Incredible, Globe-Crushing Hockey Odyssey, in case anyone wants to buy it immediately, was a challenge in that I wanted to write a book for people that love hockey like me but also for people who have zero interest in sports, which is also me with the exception of hockey. I started writing it during the pandemic and, once things opened up a bit, was able to travel a bit for the book. The first place I visited was Katowice, Poland, where my sister-in-law’s cousin’s son was playing pro hockey. The games there were the craziest sporting events I’d ever seen. Imagine crazed soccer hooligans but at a hockey game. I felt like I might get my ass kicked the whole time but I really appreciated their hockey enthusiasm. I also got accosted by police for jaywalking almost immediately once I got to Poland. They take pedestrian traffic seriously over there. I almost went to prison. I also went to Nairobi to play hockey with the Kenya Ice Lions, the only hockey team in all of Kenya, for the book. I assumed, what with me being a 1/4 Canadian and all, that I would destroy them at the game, but I was very wrong. While I was there, I saw a baboon steal loaf of bread from a bunch of school children, and it was maybe the greatest thing I have ever witnessed in this life.

What kinds of ideas do you have for your next book?
At the moment, I’m writing a comic book series for Oni Press, which is exciting as it’s totally new for me. That should hopefully be out next year. And then, I’m very slowly also working on a novel, which will hopefully be my next book that would hurt if it hit you in the head. I hope that doesn’t happen. I just mean it will be a long hardcover edition.

What will your upcoming show at the Winchester be like?
I’m excited to come to the Winchester. I’ve performed there before, but I’ve never done a full solo show there, so that will be fun. The show will feature some jokes, stories, some sweet guitar solos and at least a couple ill-advised feats of strength. I’m hoping Westsiders who haven’t had a chance to see me before all come out. And if they don’t, I will turf their lawns. In fact, I’m getting a rental car for this very purpose. Consider yourselves warned, Westsiders!

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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