Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dylan Brody: Humorist, Playwright, Author and Comedian



DYLAN BRODY’s new CD, CHRONOLOGICAL DISORDER, his fourth with Stand Up! Records, was released on February 14th 2012 with liner notes by Elayne Boosler. His previous CD A TWIST OF THE WIT came out in 2011 (liner notes by Paul Provenza) and the two before that were released in 2009 by Stand Up! following a sold out launch event at the Comedy Central Stage. BREVITY, a compilation of pieces originally produced for radio, and TRUE ENOUGH: Dylan Brody – Live. His humorous self-help parody, The Modern Depression Guidebook lived near the top of the Amazon/Kindle comedy best-sellers list for several weeks. His stories, commentaries and humor segments have appeared on KYCY Radio in San Francisco, WBAI Pacifica Radio in New York and KPFK Pacifica in Los Angeles. He makes recurring appearances as a guest on KSRO’s The Drive with Steve Jaxon. He has appeared on A&E’s Comedy on the Road, FOX TV’s Comedy Express and has landed solid punch lines on seasons one and two of SHOWTIME’S The Green Room with Paul Provenza.

Brody’s material runs on XM/Sirius Sattelite Radio’s comedy channels and as part of the Pandora comedy Catalogue. In 2011 his comedic segments ra on the CBS Interactive Network, streaming to approximately 1.5 million listeners daily and he writes and performs regularly for the David Feldman Show of KPFK Radio in Los Angeles. His work has also been heard on Pacifica Radio stations in NY and Texas and he recently found airplay on John Rabe’s OFF RAMP on NPR’s KPCC. Winner of the 2005 Stanley Drama award for playwriting, he is a thrice-published author of fiction for the Young Adult market with one of his books, A Tale of a Hero and The Song of Her Sword finding a place in the curriculum at several public schools in the U.S., earning him a yearly influx of poorly written fan letters and e-mails to which Mr. Brody diligently replies. He has been a regular contributor to The Huffington Post,. As a radio raconteur, whose witty and profound tales of his journey through life are unique, yet utterly recognizable to everyone, he has earned a reputation as one of America’s fastest rising storytellers.

In addition to his regular performance schedule in 2010, Dylan appeared in the George Carlin Tribute at the New York Public Library, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, featuring Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, Ben Stiller, Kevin Smith, Louis C.K., and publisher Lewis Lapham, among others, and produced by Kelly Carlin and Tony Hendra. George Carlin, whom Dylan deeply admired as a child, once referred to Brody as a “very funny young political comic.” This, of course, was back when Dylan was young. And a political comic. His one-person show MORE ARTS /LESS MARTIAL premiered in January 2009 to a standing ovation. The piece takes Brody and his audience on a poignant and often hilarious journey from a childhood of bullied insecurity to an adulthood of martial arts study, personal growth and ultimately true Mastery of storytelling and Taekwondo.

In early 2007, Dylan Brody's Thinking Allowed, brought long form humor and insight, literate and literary, to a broad based audience. The show, the first of its kind ever in the venue, enjoyed a successful six month run on the main stage at the Hollywood Improv. Mr. Brody began performing stand-up in New York the summer after he finished high school. During his sophomore year at Sarah Lawrence College, the world famous Improvisation in Hell's Kitchen accepted him as a regular performer.

Dylan also studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England while he worked London’s comedy clubs and developed a loyal following at the Canal Café Theater where he performed weekly. Returning to America, Dylan worked venues from New York to Los Angeles, sharing the stage with some of the comedy world’s biggest stars including: Adam Sandler, Jeff Foxworthy, Dennis Miller, Jon Lovitz, Larry Miller, Norm McDonald, Louie Anderson, Richard Belzer, Larry David, and Jerry Seinfeld. He has appeared at M.I.T., at Sarah Lawrence College’s vast Reisinger Concert Hall and served as Northfield Mount Hermon School’s first ever Artist in Residence. He has written for dozens of comedians, including Jay Leno, who has used Brody’s work in his monologues on NBC’s The Tonight Show.

Mr. Brody wrote his first play while still in grade school, and went on to become a prolific writer and novelist. His novels, A Tale of a Hero and The Song of Her Sword and The Warm Hello, were published in 1997 and 1999, respectively, and his novella, Heroes Fall, was published in 2009. Brody’s work has been published in periodicals ranging from TSR’s Adventure Fantasy magazine, Dragon, to Harvard Press’ scientific humor magazine, Annals of Improbable!Research.

For more than two decades, Dylan Brody has been making people laugh around the world. He has evolved into an artful anecdotalist with an engaging style all his own.

What is the current project you are working on?

Hah! I am always involved in more than one project. I have to keep incredibly busy and productive in order to stave off the ever-looming threat of stasis-based depression. Right now, in no particular order, I am putting together the material for my next CD to be recorded in October, gearing up to travel to Baltimore for the opening of my play, MOTHER, MAY I at the Strand Theater in September, doing some final revisions on a collection of stories that my literary agent will take out for me, booking a mini-tour ofWestern Massachusetts that will include performances of my one-person show MORE ARTS / LESS MARTIAL and some other, more generalized story-telling shows. I'm also always writing and performing sketches for The David Feldman Show on KPFK and writing and performing commentary for Off Ramp With John Rabe on KPCC. Also, I think I've found the perfect young woman(Michele Martin, interviewed for this blog recently) to play the lead in an indie film I wrote the screenplay for, so I may need to get into a rewrite on that pretty soon. I'm leaving things out. This is a pretty busy time for me.

How do you define success?

My definition of professional success changes from day to day, from year to year and from project to project. Because financial reward is intermittent at best for me and the arts are so subjective in their reception, I try to stay focused on my own satisfaction with the work. That is to say, if I am proud of the stories I tell on a CD, the sound quality, the final product, I call it a success. If critics agree with me or sales numbers are strong, those things indicate that the work hits the mark for other people as well and reassures me greatly in my own assessment, but I try not to let those be the markers of my success. That's not always easy, but I try. I assume it is professional success you were asking about.

As a human being, I define success as being decent to those around me significantly more often than behaving like a jerk.

How do you handle rejection?

Much better than I used to, thank you. I used to take every rejection as a personal attack, an indication that I was an abject failure, that I should not be showing my work to anyone as it was clearly not ready for the world. Martial arts played a large part in my learning to take rejection as a passing thing. Once I learned that I could be kicked in the head and keep fighting, I started to figure out that someone saying, "this script isn't for me," or "I don't think you're right for our theater," didn't mean I had to give up, lie down and start from scratch. That is not to say I don't still feel each rejection deeply. I just don't let getting kicked in the head from time to time stop me from doing what I've set out to do.

What and/or who influences you?

I am most influenced, oddly, by the music I listen to. John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats writes lyrics that affect my work and my desire to be more succinct, more intuitive in my use of language and to explore implication and nuance. Dar Williams reminds me of the power of simple sincerity. I adore the writings of David Sedaris and Ann Patchet, they both inspire me to write more thoughtfully, to consider and reconsider structure. Any performance, be it stand-up or theater or dance, any writing, be it prose or poetry or lyric anything that sparks my imagination tends to lead me down paths toward greater creativity and inner journey.

What's it like writing for the Huffington Post?

See? I told you I was forgetting things in the list at the top. The Huffington Post is great in that it lets me reach a wide audience when I have an idea I just want to get out there fast. It doesn't pay, so there's no pressure to put anything out on a regular schedule. I think of it as away of broadcasting ideas when I want to do that. A couple of times HP has rejected really good pieces of mine for what I can only assume are political reasons. That has troubled me a little and has led me to write less frequently for that outlet than I might otherwise. I do like it, though, that I have that open to me as a way of putting my work into the world.

What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?

I couldn't begin to tell you. I have half a dozen screenplays of my own languishing on a shelf in my office. I'm working to sell a novel and a collection of stories right now. I've lived in Hollywood for twenty-six years and I haven't starved to death so . . . you know. A lot.

Is there anything in your past that you wish you could change?

Oh, sure. I regret some opportunities that I stepped on when I was young and stoned and arrogant. I regret some relationships that I handled badly, both professional and personal. When I was nine, I accidentally killed my gerbil by grabbing him too hard when I he tried to skitter away from me. Damn you, John Hoff! Why do you make me think of these things?

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to make it in your business?

Give yourself permission to do what you want to do. The idea of being discovered, of finding a manager or an agent or a studio deal that allows you to be who you want to be is pure mythology. Do the work you want to do. Show people the work you have done. Do more.

How would you describe your education?

I have the impressive but over-credited education of the gifted child. I went from public school to prep school to college, always focused on writing and performing. I went to Sarah Lawrence College and then did my senior year in London, studying with faculty at RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) and LAMDA (The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts), all of which sounds very impressive and, in fact, sort of is. I learned a great deal, but in truth, I learned most of it through osmosis and practice. I rarely did the assigned reading and when I did, I was stoned at the time. I genuinely believed for many years that if something didn't come easily to me, it wasn't worth doing. The result is a spotty but very impressive-on-paper education. I've recently started reading some of the books I was supposed to read in college. Some of them are pretty damn good.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I remember lying on the hardwood floor of my family's house in upstate New York, my head resting against Dusty, the great, coffee-stained sheepdog of my youth, reading comic books by the shaft of sunlight that slanted through dust-motes to the four-color page.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

My favorite film of all time is Local Hero. I also love The Stunt Man. I can watch any old swashbuckler with Errol Flynn over and over again, and the Marx Brothers almost everything by Woody Allen. When I was a kid, my father taught a film class at Skidmore College and he used to pre-screen all the movies on our living room wall to make notes before he took them in to show his class. I remember seeing Truffaut and Renoir and Antonioni flickering on the wall of the living room, and being amazed at how different the subtitled movies of the auteurs were from the American movies you could see in the theater. Blow Up, Small Change, I loved that stuff. Of course, as a martial artist, I go to see anything new from Jackie Chan or Jet Li then I wander around muttering, "I don't train hard enough," for hours afterward.

The television I watch is often a source of shame for me. I like some of the hour-long crime dramas, the Law and Order franchise, that sort of thing. I've been loving Leverage and Burn Notice, but I'm embarrassed by that because I like to present as being far more erudite and sophisticated than my actual taste would imply. I'm a huge Aaron Sorkin fan. I think of him as a television auteur. His series could be structured by nobody else. He puts his stamp on his work and there is no question that each episode is crafted by the hand of a master.

Which is more difficult writing jokes or writing a book?

All writing comes pretty easily to me. A book takes longer 'cause . . .you know . . . a joke is generally just a few sentences.

How would you describe the comedy "scene" where you live?

I live in Los Angeles, the heart of the entertainment industry. For many years the comedy scene here was all about people trying to get into television. Lately there's been an explosion of alternative clubs. Remember, I don't think of myself as a comic any more. I'm more of a story-teller and humorist now than anything else and people seem to have started recognizing this as a valid distinction. Story-telling rooms are proliferating, reading series, all sorts of interesting venues. It seems to me the scene is thriving, evolving and developing into something far more interesting than it was in the days when everyone was just working to put together a tight six.

How has social media changed your life?

Social Media have (notice the plural, man. "media" is plural.) been a huge boon to me. I've met people I would otherwise have had no way of encountering, and readers and audience members who might never have found their way to me have been able to do so. This is a very good time, I think, for artists and performers and writers. Social Media represent a huge opportunity, a powerful set of tools.

How do you balance your personal and professional lives?

I don't really. My personal and professional lives overlap and intersect all over the place. Most of my favorite people are people I work with or at the least who work in the same general milieu. My wife and my dogs show up in my stories. Parties I attend are thick with associates and colleagues.

What's your favorite quote and why?

Right now I've been living on something Garry Shandling said. He said, "it can't happen too late." This has layers of resonance for me.

Che Guevara said, "Let me just say, at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love." I think that's pretty damn great and insightful.

Quotations sort of stick with me for a while and then get replaced by others. It's not like I have a motto that I took from someone and live by. Oh. Also, this. At the coffee station at a job we worked together, Opus Moreschi (now writing for The Colbert Report) once said, "Half and half and half: Now with fifty percent more!" Man, I wish I had written that.

If you could have any super power, which would it be? Why?

I would love to be able to fly. Really fast. I hate airline travel.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Any life in the arts is difficult. We expose our egos to battery, we risk financial catastrophe, we live with constant gnawing doubts about our own adequacy. Most of my time in therapy has revolved around paying someone to remind me that the creative process is inherently anxiety producing. Still, I think artistic creation is a worthwhile endeavor. As a culture we have gotten used to taking in information at an alarming rate; a great deal of that information is generated and broadcast by people who are not actually artists, they are craftspeople and bean-counters whose purpose lies not in the exploration and revelation of truth and insight but in the maintenance and support of a profit margin and a corporate status quo. Sometimes the corporate structures can be used by artists to get ideas and creations out to the world but that is not their primary purpose. Ultimately, it is up to the artist to create, to present and to distribute the work. It is up to us to generate our own momentum, our own careers, to find our own audiences, our own ways and our own media. It is up to us to create our own definitions of success and to have the discipline to find the success of our own definitions. The simple act of creation is not enough. Every aspect of a career in the arts falls ultimately to the hands of the artist him or herself. If it were easy, everyone would do it. It's hard work. It's worth it. Humanity needs art. Humanity needs art more than it needs entertainment. I would love to see everyone come play in the sandbox, but when you step in, you'd better be ready to use the bucket, the shovel and your hands, 'cause nobody is here waiting to build a little castle for you to play with.

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Thank you so much for doing the interview Dylan. I wish you the best of luck with your many projects. I'm sorry I made you think of your childhood gerbil.  If you're ever in the Boston area let me know. I'd love to see a show.