Dana Gould headlining at the Wheeler Opera House
If You Go …
Who: Dana Gould
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Friday, March 11, 8 p.m.
How much: $45
Tickets: Wheeler box office; www.aspenshowtix.com
For years he wrote episodes of “The Simpsons” and “Parks and Recreation.” He acted on “Seinfeld” and “Family Guy” and “Maron.” But for Dana Gould, getting onstage to perform stand-up has always been the center of his comic life.
Throughout his career — even when he’s been writing full time on TV shows — Gould has kept doing road gigs, like tonight’s headlining spot at the Wheeler Opera House. Each, he said, informs the other.
“They both make each other better,” Gould said. “To make a music analogy, it would be like recording an album in the studio and then playing it live — they’re very different disciplines, and they’re each informed by their environment. You create things in the studio that you wouldn’t do live, but when you’re live, the energy and the audience creates a completely different thing.”
Currently he’s developing a new show for IFC — the horror comedy “Stan Against Evil,” set to shoot this summer and debut in the fall.
“It’s basically what ‘The X Files’ would have been like if, instead of David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson was partnered with my dad. And I would describe my father as Archie Bunker without the elegance and sophistication.”
Gould, a 51-year-old Massachusetts native, is recently divorced and is now a single father of three, so that experience has made its way into the act.
“I’m single for the first time in 21 years,” he said. “That’s been quite a revelation.”
And, like nearly every American comic, he’s grappling with the circus of the U.S. presidential campaign and the political rise of Donald Trump. But how does a comedian ridicule something that is already so ridiculous on its own?
“It’s quite a challenge,” he said. “I’m not one of the comics that thinks it’s great for comedy that Trump is running — I love the country too much, and I actually put the needs of the country ahead of the needs of my act. But it is interesting to see vast amounts of people genuinely terrified.”
Gould got his start during the comedy boom of the 1980s, when clubs popped up in every town across the country but getting on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” or “Late Night With David Letterman” were the only vehicles to national recognition. Over the past decade or so, with the onset of podcasts and the rise of social media, comics can cultivate an audience directly and — as in Gould’s case — develop a personal relationship with fans that would have been unthinkable in the ’80s.
“It’s really the primary vehicle for reaching your audience,” he said. “And everybody has their own owned-and-operated business.”
On the road, his audiences these days tend to be full of listeners to his hilarious monthly “Dana Gould Hour” podcast.
“Most people who come to my show come because they know me from the podcast and they feel a personal connection with you because you spend an hour to two hours with them alone in their house or their car,” he said. “And you’re not doing your act — you’re just communicating about whatever, so people have a very personal connection.”
But there are some more obvious differences between the comedy scene now and when Gould got started: “There’s a lot less cocaine and fewer shoulder pads,” he said with a laugh.
Gould played Aspen a handful of times during the run of HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, but he hasn’t been back since.
“It was always interesting,” he said. “It’s one of the few places where comedians would come but, before they arrived, they were prepped on how to breathe properly. I always thought there was a little too much emphasis on that.”
He’s learned to ski since his years playing the festival, so this time around, Gould will finally get some on-mountain experience here. Maybe you’ll hear about it tonight.
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