It isn’t often that a comic credits playwrights to be a major source of influence, but if you ask comedian Dan St. Germain the ‘Who’s influenced you’ question, that’s what his answer would be. The New York comedian made his late night debut on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” just a couple of years ago, and he’s since performed on Comedy Central, FUSE and MTV.
After being a guest on a slew of podcasts – from Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer’s “You Had to Be There” and Myq Kaplan’s “Hang Out with Me”– he started his own, “My Dumb Friends,” on Heavy.com with fellow comic, Sean Donnelly, .
Dan St. Germain recently talked with The Smoking Jacket about making light of dark situations, performing on TV, and why the realization of a dream can be the most terrifying thing imaginable.
The Smoking Jacket: Thanks for talking to me. I first saw you on “Fallon” and had wanted to do this since; what a great set.
Dan St. Germain: Oh, thanks man! I guess that was almost two years ago now. Wow.
TSJ: Was that your first “Late Night” spot?
DSG: It was my first comedy stand up spot, for sure.
TSJ: With all he has done with “Late Night” it seems it was a great place to make your debut.
DSG: It was awesome! Jimmy was great. What helped me was that I got bumped the first time because one of their segments went too long. But that sort of got all of the nerves out so when I did it the second time it was likeWell, I’ve been here before. [laughs]
TSJ: Was it like, We’ll see if this even happens the second time around?
DSG: No, they gave me a date on the spot. It was almost like that first one was a test run, you know?
TSJ: Absolutely. With performing stand up and traveling the road, when TV comes up, is it any different?
DSG: Yeah, I remember it being a little overwhelming. Honestly, what was more overwhelming was that I did that “World of Jenks” show on MTV. That was scarier because there was someone around me at all times, and it wasn’t like I was doing a five-minute spot. It was very different. But I think everything prepares you for something else, you know?
TSJ: I saw that spot. They were really with you the whole night.
DSG: Yeah, it was cool. But with “Late Night,” Jimmy was so great. He really tries to help the comics. He tells the audience that it’s your network debut; he really is cool.
TSJ: So fast-forward to today. You’ve done “Fallon,” MTV, Comedy Central and I know you did FUSE. Have you gotten more comfortable in front of the camera?
DSG: Definitely. Everything is a new challenge. Now I’m doing a half-hour at the end of January actually. But I notice now that I’m starting to headline; that can be nerve-racking. With TV audiences, they will try to make you look good. If you’re headlining on the road, it’s your show. You’re the fucking last spot on the bus. [laughs] That stuff makes me nervous. So doing things like “Best Week Ever” or some web series, that stuff is not as scary to me as headlining on the road.
TSJ: It’s funny — headlining is the dream to comics and then once it comes, there’s this ‘Holy shit, I have to do this! Can I do this?!’ realization.
DSG: Oh, yeah! So much of a young comic’s careers is ‘Fuck them. I’ll show them!’ Then when you get there you’re like, ‘Holy shit; I hope I can show them.’
TSJ: It’s interesting to me that you find less pressure on television.
DSG: Yeah, it’s weird. There’s so much that you can’t control with TV but there’s also so much cushion there. I guess with a show like “A Different Spin with Mark Hoppus,” I wrote on that and was on it so I had the benefit of knowing not many people watched it. [laughs] I wish more people would have, obviously. But because of that and being a performer all of my life I’ve realized that acting is so much easier. And TV is sometimes more of a performance than a set because nobody is going to heckle you. It’s not the same. Also, I know people who will say differently.
I think a lot of it is the pressure people put on it. Like doing Letterman and coming out in a suit. But if you’re doing a Comedy Central taping the audience is so fucking excited to be there. Whoever books the crowd is great – I can’t remember her name – but she is awesome. It’s a cakewalk man. Much better than if you’re doing a fucking Long Island room and the crowd is full of Republicans who hate you once you get onstage. Comedy Central, it’s a walk in the park. That’s the reward though; you have to keep that in mind if you’re doing stand up. Those really good rooms are the rewards. It’s all of the crap you’re doing in between that’s the challenge, or the work. Then when you get on the best, they’re kind of easy.
“YOU’RE LIKE GOOD WILL HUNTING BUT WITH TITTIES”
TSJ: So those little rooms, they’re more rewarding?
DSG: Well, all my material seems to fly in a lot of rooms. Club rooms, half of it does and then the other half is crowd work; that’s how I survive in a lot of those rooms. I’ve gotten much better at crowd work. When there’s a bunch of people from different places you kind of have to fuck with them to open them up because your joke about Ides of March is not going to fucking fly. [laughs]
TSJ: I guess you can’t really see that until you get up onstage though.
DSG: Yeah. I was thinking about how much you don’t realize how you’ve grown until you are there looking back. Back then everything was huge! But you have to do open mics so people know you’re funny; then you have to do small shows and have great sets there.
TSJ: Speaking of starting out, you’re from Jersey. Had comedy always been the thing?
DSG: No, I went through phases of watching to be a psychiatrist to a director to an actor/comedian. I did stand up like three times in high school; bombed on all of them. In college I wanted to be a serious playwright. I was really influenced by a lot of playwrights. But at the time I was drinking a lot so my ideas were a little disorganized. And when I was twenty-two and got to the city I did the PIT open mic, while still writing and acting. But now it’s been about six years, four months now and I’m still in it.
TSJ: Were you surprised how hard you took to it?
DSG: No, I’ve got a pretty obsessive personality, whether it’s stand up or eating or alcohol or women; I’ve always had an addictive personality. It’s always something for me.
“I don’t know, man.
There’s something so fucking dispiriting
when you go into a Starbucks and everybody has a screenplay.”
TSJ: The psyche behind the different types of humor is really interesting to me. How much does your own self-doubt, darkness, compulsive feelings or whatever, drive your stand up?
DSG: I’d say a lot. My comedy can fall into two categories I think: confessional but also upbeat acting. Maybe observational too.
TSJ: But even with those darker things you always seem to deliver them in a light way. It’s very cool.
DSG: Yeah, I try to. What’s the point if you can’t make things lighter, you know?
TSJ: I know you do ‘My Dumb Friends’ podcast. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
DSG: Yeah! We’re on Heavy.com. I love Sean Donnelly; he’s one of my best friends and I have such a great time with him. We give each other shit. He’s always pointing out the retarded things I do. [laughs] I thought we should have a guest on and do it as a podcast. I’ve tried podcasts before and it just hasn’t worked, but this is something that’s working. Thankfully! It’s so easy man. And it’s fun.
TSJ: I bet. There’s something really cool with a group of comics just sitting around bullshitting.
DSG: For sure. I really respect podcasts, especially Todd Glass’. There’s so much thought in there. Mine is the opposite. [laughs] It’s a bunch of guys ripping each other, not necessarily in a vicious way. Out of all of them though I think Bill Burr’s podcast might be the only one I listen to religiously.
TSJ: He’s fantastic.
DSG: I know. It’s great. It’s just one guy being a fucking nut in a room. [laughs]
TSJ: So traveling the road, where do you enjoy performing these days?
DSG: It’s hard to say because you can have good sets and bad sets anywhere. But almost every LA show I do goes well. I love those shows; can’t say the same about the city.
TSJ: Not an LA fan? What don’t you like about it?
DSG: I don’t know, man. There’s something so fucking dispiriting when you go into a Starbucks and everybody has a screenplay. [laughs] But I’d head there if I were psyched about a job there. But New York is the greatest place in the world; it just doesn’t stop.
TSJ: Yeah, that New York comedy scene is paramount.
DSG: It is. Plus there are killer comics here. And there are a lot of opportunities here to rise up. When you’re doing thirty shows a month those opportunities are amazing.
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