Comedian Dave Hill grew up in Cleveland and initially thought he’d become a big-time rock star. With bands such as Uptown Sinclair and Sons of Elvis, both of which played the local circuit during their day, he came to realize he had the gift of gab and could entertain fans as easily with his jokes as he could with his music.
“Both those bands talked a lot on stage,” says Hill via phone from Los Angeles where he was taking care of to “high powered show business things.” He’s become a successful author and standup comedian and has just issued Let Me Turn You On, his first comedy album. “I always had fun doing that. The difference is that when you’re in a band and talking on stage, anything you say is good. If you make a joke, it’s a bonus. When you’re doing it as a comedy, they all have to land. In general, I find playing in a band is way less stressful in terms of the actual performance.”
He can distinctly remember an Uptown Sinclair show at the Grog Shop that gave him the chance to see just how funny he could be.
“One of our amps blew out,” he says. “We had this big gap in the set. I talked the whole time. I had fun doing that. I thought I wouldn’t mind doing this the rest of the set. It was probably the germ of [doing standup]. I don’t say I have a rock ’n’ roll attitude but maybe I don’t care as much and I’m just into doing what I’m doing. With anything, whether it’s comedy or writing or music, I try to entertain the fans and myself. I want to do what I would want to hear. A lot of people do that, but that’s the best place to come from. I think playing in bands helped me be in that place more.”
On Let Me Turn You On, he intersperses bits from a stand up show recorded live at Union Hall in Brooklyn with some material he recorded in the studio. He’s been working for the comedy circuit years but says he wasn’t ready to release an album until now.
“I’ve been doing live comedy now for ten years but I feel like I’m just starting,” he says. “I feel like I’m just learning how to do it. Even now having recorded the album, I feel like I have gotten better now than in the fall when I recorded it. It was that and just finding someone who wanted to do it. I was talking to one label at one point and then I met the guys from this label, Aspecialthing, and it felt right. I’ve been thinking about it the last couple of years and they’re cool dudes. They do a lot of comedy albums for people I’m friends with. They’re a well-respected label. It’s a good fit, as they say.”
Dubbed “Irritable Chimps,” the opening routine is based on a true story about a chimp attack that occurred in 2009.
“It’s my version of that story, but everything in that story is factual,” says Hill. “If you plug in chimp attack, sanctuary, testicals, you’ll probably find the original story. The reported bits are spoken word things from things I had written that I used to do on stage. I wanted to release them in some way or another. When I did the live album, I thought it would be a good way to break it up and have it be more one-on-one with the listener so it dips in and out of the live show. [The chimp attack] really happened with the couple. I saw an interview with the guy and he was really fucked up by it. I think they’re back on track, as much as one can be.”
Hill says the follow-up to his first book, Tasteful Nudes, is currently with an editor and should be out next spring.
“Hopefully this is a progression,” he says of the forthcoming book. “A part of me thinks it might e like a trainwreck. It might be like the third Big Star album where people are like, “What the fuck is this?’”
He’s also working on a pilot for a TV show with Rich Fulcher from the comedy showThe Mighty Boosh. They sold a program to NBC Universal and Steve Carell is producing it.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he says. “I’m also doing some tour dates with Janeane Garofalo. I’ve opened for her a bunch on the road. I’m hoping to do more Metal Grasshopper stuff with [Pantera’s] Phil Anselmo. We’re trying to figure out how and when to do it with our schedules.”
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]