by Ryan Meehan
Daryl Felsberg is likable, laughable, and liable. After being on the road for over ten years now, he has honed his comedic voice into a character that the industry and fans alike are taking notice of. In 2009 Daryl produced his album “Bad Fattitude” which sold nationwide, and earned him airplay on Sirius XM’s Comedy channels. That same year, Daryl was tapped to be the host of “The Shopper’s Club”; a shop from home show on a regional cable network. He was yanked off the air after only three months for continually mocking the clients and their products, although viewership was at an all-time high. Daryl is recognizable from many commercials, as well as several voiceover gigs. His rants on obesity, society, and the absurdities of everyday life keep audiences laughing and on guard. From stage to TV, the only thing bigger than he is are the laughs and that’s why we’re delighted to have Daryl Felsberg as our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: What was your first time on stage at a comedy club like; and what was the first joke you told that resulted in a positive response from the crowd? What was so special about that feeling that made you want to step on stage and do it again?
DF: I finally stepped on a stage in 2000 at an open mic in Amarillo, Texas. I had been going for several weeks watching other people either try their hand or work on new material. One night, I saw a local TV weatherman go up and he was terrible, however you wouldn’t have known that by the group of people he brought with him. They whistled and hollered at him and he crowd worked with them. I immediately asked the MC if I could go up, and he said “Yeah,…now.” After that the affirmation, and admiration from people was enough to fuel the fire….I did it, and they liked it. My first joke was terrible I’m sure, it likely was an opener like “It’s nice up here, the stage is 8 x 12 and I’m 8 x 8 so….that’s gonna’ make for a nice evening for all of us.” Now you can see how bad the weatherman was.
RM: When you were initially developing your act, what kind of subject matter did you write about in order to get a basic structure down pat? Were there any topics that you had the tendency to avoid early on?
DF: I’ve never steered clear of a topic, but I wrote about me and my life and the environment around me. I started stand up when I was 27 so I had been around the world a little bit, and seen enough to know how and when to connect. If you don’t create a mass appeal and only connect with one demographic then your time is short lived till you reinvent yourself. When I first started, a lot of my material was written about my weight and my Texas culture. As I developed and began to work on the road more, I clearly had to rethink the Texas bits in order to connect. Now a great majority of my act is improv, and my standard bits are stories about me, life, kids, and culture.
RM: I feel like I have to ask this just to know for my own personal knowledge if nothing else…How would you best describe the production that is an East Texas home shopping program? How did you even end up getting that job to begin with; and how were you informed that your services would no longer be needed on the set of that show? (Also, please tell me you have video clips of this…)
DF: I had hosted a little entertainment bit for a local news channel along with some other projects, and the idea of a shop from home show management thought, would be huge. I had previous experience in live charity auctioneering that started when I worked in pro-hockey, that turned producers on to me. (How is that for a confusing mumble of dumb words?) We would get products from regional retailers and distributors and sell them just like on QVC or HSN. Same graphics package and editing….everything. Problem was the products were not very exciting. The producer and I both agreed that no one was really watching since sales were mediocre at best. So we just started screwing around and mocking the products and the situations. It became fun….for us, not for the sponsors. Around the area people would begin to recognize me from the show, and said they loved how I joked about everything. (Might I add my other entertainment accomplishments never tipped them off to who I was.) One day we walked in and they said “it’s over.” But they gave me some other projects that were fun. As far as clips, I had not followed back up on that, I think I need to. I really was an ass on the show, and some of the shit I said should have had me fired long before from the gig.
RM: You recently blogged about a local talent show that you were asked to host where you drew the ire of an individual who was wearing a hearing aid after you made a harmless joke about it in your opening bit…When something like that happens to you, do you ever wonder if we have gotten to a point in this society where it’s almost impossible to say something humorous without somebody somewhere feeling as if they are offended by it? How do you think as a culture we have allowed ourselves to get to this position with regards to the way we respond to material that is supposed to be comedic in nature?
DF: No matter how out of line he was…..I still felt bad. I never want to hurt anyone. Period. But, this asshole was out of hand. I think people use those circumstances as an excuse to be a victim and to vent anger. I have only had it happen two or three times ever. This one circumstance you are referencing and another were rather vivid. I once did a gig in Houston Texas on a one-nighter and I told a bit about renting a cheap car that had no electric features…manual windows and locks, mirrors were manual, and no cruise control. However on the console there was USB Port. So the punch line was like “You can’t roll up your own windows Kia Rio, but you can download shit from my Iphone? You’re like an autistic teenager.” Well, after the show selling merch, this group of about 6 ladies come up and are really nice. One of them was three sheets to the wind, and began crying. She babbled on how the group of ladies were on a mothers night out and they were all parents of autistic children, she would sob then laugh then sob, then laugh all within a minute. One of the other ladies leaned over and said “She’s just smashed, it was a great bit, we all loved it.” So I button it all up, and have some time so I figure I’ll go over to their table and have a drink with them, to let them know I care. Well, Laughy-McCryer is at it again. Now she’s hugging on me, and when her jam comes on she procedes to give me a lap dance for about 20 seconds. Then looks at me and starts to cry, and says “Have you ever come home to your kid throwing shit on the ceiling through the ceiling fan?” I replied “Uhuh.” Then she kissed me on the cheek. Again….someone who needed to be the victim. I felt bad. The ceiling? Jesus…
RM: You also mentioned in your blog that your son went with you to a set of corporate shows, and even ran the merch table…What is the most important thing you hope he is able to take away from the whole experience of having a stand-up comedian as a father?
DF: I hope all of my family is proud, especially both of my children. There is an inherent power that comes from making people laugh when YOU want them to and laughter equates likability. Good stand up is engineered and developed with a precision of timing that walks people down this “path” that YOU want them to go with you. It’s a strong skill set and useful to all areas of life. I hope that he sees the strength in confidence and character and applies it in his own life. He’s done a set on stage when he was eleven and was great, although he hasn’t returned.
RM: When you’re doing corporate gigs, how much online research do you do in order to familiarize yourself with the company you’re working for? Do you ever feel obligated to end your set on something motivational due to the fact that it is a corporate environment?
DF: I like to do a lot. I spend 20-30 min on the phone with the contact person to learn about the current culture. You’ll find there are some new policies handed down everybody is groaning about, or new programs. I write a lot of “custom” material that is relatable and improv off of it. The people’s faces light up when they see I know and understand their corporate culture, and product. Those generate big laughs and applause. That equates to return shows and references. I try not to do anything motivational unless they want it. I have a great piece from my club set that is slightly rewritten which imitates a motivational message they seem to enjoy. Besides, I’m an overweight comic, how the fuck can I motivate them? Maybe they should be motivating ME!
RM: How much crowd work do you generally do during a headline set? Do you view crowd work as something that you have to set aside a certain portion of your show in order to make it effective, or do you find that you only go to it when your planned material isn’t hitting the way you’d like it to be?
DF: In the last 8 years I have really found my strength is in improv stand up. Crowd work is really cliché in the idea that you’re asking them for data to set you up and in some cases is ineffective. So I use the circumstances and what’s around me to get it going. I would say 15-20 minutes minimum of improv is protocol for me. I never do improv in lieu of planner material, if anything the opposite. I use written jokes as guide posts along the way to keep me on track. I know there are some required bits that need to be delivered and everything between is up for grabs depending on their mood, and for that matter my mood. If I veer off on some evil tangent, I can see the guidepost, and get back on track without a crowd knowing.
RM: Which aspect of the writing process to you tend to struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which aspect of writing jokes would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular component of the practice?
DF: I think I struggle with initial premise. Once I have a solid premise, I can have it in legitimate joke form within a week or sooner. I find that a lot of premises require so much mining to find the funny in them that I shelve them for something else. I seem to have a knack for punchlines, and have reworked thousands of jokes for other comics that are really successful. Maybe I should do it for myself…
RM: When do you know that it’s time to eliminate a bit in your act that has been successful for some time? Do you have a certain set of criteria for evaluating jokes that could potentially be nearing the end of their life cycle?
DF: There are a lot of good theories and many great comics have their own policy. I’ve seen some throw a whole set away after years of success. That usually means they were worn out on it themselves, which happens frequently. I believe an ongoing policy is 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3. A third is new, a third is a 6 months old, and a third is on its way out. When the new 1/3 comes in the old 1/3 goes out.
RM: What’s the biggest difference between the comedian you are today and the comedian you were five years ago? Why do you think that part of your onstage personality has changed to that degree of significance?
DF: I’ve paced my stage presence. I used to try to be a high energy comic, and that doesn’t fit my stage presence. I have a very commanding, dynamic and big stage presence so I didn’t need to get “animated”. It’s changed because I realized my “voice”; I’m the guy that is at midlife, that doesn’t take shit from anyone, is tired of people and whining, doesn’t care about politics or pop culture. Angry at the right things and don’t care about the wrong things. I don’t follow trends…..I’m me. Seems to work, and people like it, including me. I love where I am at in life. I love Barbeque. I get to be a 40 year old boy.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
DF: May 1st and 2nd I recorded a new album finally. I am working on a treatment for a travel / comedy TV show. We’ve done some work on it and looks like there is some opportunity there to really put it together. My comic friend Brandon Davidson and I are working on a super unique comedy tour that I can’t let out of the bag yet, but it’ll be so neat that it should be documented. Fun.
Official Website: http://www.darylfelsberg.com/
Daryl on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/daryl.felsberg
Daryl on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DarylFelsberg
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