How did you get to the point where you were talking to HBO and
BD: I was working at Second City in Chicago and the Aspen people used to
just come there as one of their stops, but for the past few years
theyíve been just calling and asking whoís there doing what kinds of
material. I had done several one person shows in Chicago so the Second
City people told them that one of their cast did solo work, and they
came, and my friend Matt, and I, and a few other people auditioned in
Chicago. They had a callback in New York out of 120 people who
auditioned. I got to Aspen and did a 23-minute version of my one-person
show there, and also did [Second City alumnus] Catherine OíHaraís
midnight lounge show, and the world opened up to me from that.
Coming from Second City, itís a very big deal to some people, but you
make $450 a week and the industry part of things doesnít really exist in
the Chicago world. So this was my first introduction to agents, managers
and development deals, and the network or a studio, and what all that
was. I had to learn it as I went, and it was a sudden onslaught of being
wined and dined by all these big agencies and management companies.
Everyone was aggressively courting me and I didnít know what was going
on. I had to really take my time and figure out what the right questions
were to ask and really think about what I wanted to do, and what I
didnít want to do -- and who to set myself up with who would best allow
me to do what I wanted to do. It was a set of questions I never really
had to ask before because those options werenít really out there.
At Second City, you could either go to Saturday Night Live or Mad TV and
work as a writer and performer, but you donít know anything about doing
a development deal with a studio or setting up a pilot. That world
doesnít really infiltrate the Second City world very much. I had to
learn it and do it at the same time. I was really lucky and ended up
with some really great people, and met great people who werenít managers
or agents who I could trust to help me through that whole process. There
were three or four months right after Aspen where it was insane. It was
like Pinocchio when the shady actors are trying to coerce him into doing
all the wrong things. But the good news was I was in a position to take
my time and make some good decisions. That was how everything exploded.
Before that I was working at Second City, doing six shows a week and
making $500 a week and totally happy with that.
J: When you came to New York, how was that part of figuring out what you
wanted to do?
BD: I always wanted to move to New York and that gave me the opportunity
and the money. I moved to New York right after I did the deal with HBO,
because I always wanted to be here, and it finally made sense for me to
be here and I finally could afford to be here. I wanted to come to New
York, and have a dog, and those things became possible. Iíve been here
for a year and a half or so and the bulk of that time was waiting for
this deal to happen or not. But now thatís over, Iím a lot more
motivated and excited to get onto whateverís next.
J: How do the improv and solo shows that youíve been doing here fuel
BD: I donít know; Iíve struggled a little bit to figure out where I fit
in this community. A lot of people come from Chicago and move here, and
I know a lot of them, which is nice because thereís a lot of familiar
and friendly faces around. But I didnít spend 10 years in Chicago
improvising and was never really known as an improviser. So I was never
really comfortable as an improviser, even when I was with Second City
and was playing with a lot of people who were so good and that was just
not my thing. So it took me a long time here to start playing and
improvising and having fun with that.
I came here with my one-person show -- I came and did my show, and I
left, but I wasnít and still arenít really a part of that Upright
Citizens Brigade community, and a lot of people who come from Chicago
have been improvising for a very long time and have a whole set of
friends here. They get jobs on SNL, Colbert Report or The Daily Show and
have more of that social element built in, but Iíve always done solo
stuff. When I moved here, I was doing solo stuff, so it was a solo kind
of feeling. Because I was working alone, I wasnít going to an office
every day and being around a lot of people, so itís only really been
very recently that Iíve started playing more, improvising more and
getting out there more. Iím surrounded by all these people and thing,
ĎWow, I really like that person, I wish I knew them and we worked
together.í Iím just now starting to take that step.
Part of it is, doing a one-person show, you sort of become a one-person
show. But I started playing with people I really like and admire from
Chicago. Writing a new one-person show isnít quite as urgent as learning
other things like writing a half-hour comedy and understanding that
world. It would be naÔve for me to say I have experience in television,
but I feel better prepared to go out as a writer and pitch a pilot.
J: Could you cite a best and worst performing experience?
BD: I did a musical number [at Aspen] that I was told by some people was
a very bad and very risky idea that was nearly a career-killer. It ended
up being something that clinched a lot of opportunities for me. The
running order was Eugene Levy, Catherine OíHara, Cheech & Chong, me
(laughs), and then later in the show, Jeff Garlin and Paula Poundstone.
Being in the green room with all those people and coming up big knowing
that I had just killed was one of the most exciting things that had ever
happened to me --making my mentors laugh and impressing them. The show
was very much about mixing in up and comers with the famous people at
the festival. My song was very much about Ďwhat the fuck am I doing in
this show?í That was a major turning point for me, not only in
performance, but in realizing whatís important to me. Blowing these
people away and feeling like I could do a show with Catherine OíHara.
The whole experience was a life changer.
Months and months later, GO NYC magazine had a party for their ď100
Women We LoveĒ issue at Crobar, and it was a great forum for a band or a
hip-hop act, but not for comedy. It was just fucking awful. But Iíve
been in shitty performance situations before and you just keep going and
say to yourself, well youíre not wrong to be doing the material youíre
doing. In that situation it was just the absolute worst venue decision
possible. From a promotion point of view, you donít have a comedian do
stuff if you have a band. I was up there doing my Dr. Seuss lesbian
thing, which is my lesbian bit, and everyone wanted to dance and drink
and make out, and they just hated it. Iíve never felt so much wrath and
venom from, like, 4,000 lesbians. I thought, ĎWait a minute, these are
my people, this is my audience.í But I just chalked it up to wrong
place, wrong time. Had it happened three years ago, I would have cried
for a week. But I just got off and danced and drank. I had a woman in
the front just screaming at me to get off and that I was ruining
everyoneís life. Had I been in that audience and someone was trying to
engage my attention with that kind of material, I probably would have
thought, Ďdude, not here.í I totally understood it.
J: Would you do anything for them again?
BD: I know the people and theyíre very nice. They were appreciative. Ö
They just didnít realize. I had a rough year at Boom Chicago [an
Amsterdam theater featuring ex-pats from the Chicago improv scene]. Seth
Meyers worked there, and half the cast of Mad TV, and Jason Sudeikis.
Itís become a major feeder for Mad TV and SNL. But I wasnít ready for
that kind of experience and spiraled downward to a bad place. Now of
course I can laugh about it, but at the time it was murder. I took so
many drugs and lost my mind, because I was 20 and living in Amsterdam
and I had never really done that before, never lost control. And I
couldnít imagine why I was having a bad time there and got a bad
reputation. Until then I had always been the funniest, and most
talented, and the person everyone wanted to do a scene. Suddenly I was
the last person anyone wanted to play with, and it was really hard. So
to make it better, I would do mushrooms by myself. Performance wise it
was like being the kid on the soccer team who canít walk properly.
J: Like being the kid who gets two minutes at the end of the game.
BD: But not even in an endearing way, like [the movie] ďLucas.Ē I would
have liked to be [even that]. That was really the first time I
experienced that. It took me several years to pull myself back together
from that, but when I did, it turned out to be one of the most positive
things to ever happen to me because I got through it. I just felt so
shitty after shows there because I had no confidence, no personal
confidence. I was a fucking wreck. I would get offstage and cry. It was
But originally, I went to summer camp as a kid and started doing sketch
comedy Ö and all the things that made me weird, different and funny
before were celebrated, valued and encouraged, so I was really lucky in