An Evening with Comedian Dave Dyer

At 5’7” and 240 pounds, with broad shoulders and a gray scattered beard, Dave Dyer looks like a miniature lumberjack. He is quietly intense with soft eyes and a heartwarming smile, and is every bit as genuine as one could be. Casually dressed in a thermal sweatshirt and blue jeans, his friendly and gentle disposition somewhat resembles that of a Wal-Mart greeter.

 

From this first impression, you would probably never guess that he has been a stand-up comedian for the last 16 years, opening for such comics as Drew Carey, Lewis Black and Bobcat Goldthwaite, or that he has contributed material to ABC’s Politically Incorrect. But despite 16 years in the business, Dave is taking his time down the long road to fame. In fact, fame is to Dave Dyer like a touchdown is to the Detroit Lions; he dabbles in it every now and then, but he just hasn’t quite committed yet.

 

Relaxing on the sofa backstage at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, one arm resting across the sofa back, the other stretched lazily over his head, Dave’s body language says, “Ask me anything.” So I do.

 

“Do you have any groupies?” I ask, silently considering the woman seated to his left (who later turns out to be the MC MaryAnn Demoss).

“No, not really,” he smiles, but I sense a hint of something else.

 

So I press, “Do you wish you had groupies?”

 

“You know, I’ll tell you what,” he laughs, “Having been in a band, the people that stick around after a rock show and the people who stick around after a comedy show; it’s a totally different crowd.”

 

Dave held several different jobs prior to his start in stand-up, including writing radio jingles, bartending, and men’s clothing sales, which he says that he was never very good at, “I probably sent people off more than once for a formal occasion wearing a turtleneck and a tie.”

 

In fact, Dave admits that he was never really good at working for other people, which is part of the reason comedy works so well for him, “The thing I love about comedy is it’s just a stage, a microphone; it’s just you. It’s my thoughts, its stuff I created. I go out there, I spit it out for an hour, and then that’s it. It doesn’t get any more complex than that.”

 

Like many comics, Dave’s start in the business began at an Open Mic Night at a comedy club in Lansing. According to Dave, Open Mic Nights can go one of two ways, “You get 5 minutes and it would be either the most fun you ever had, or if it went bad it was the longest five minutes of your life.” Dave’s five minutes became his audition for a Grand Rapids agency called Funny Business, where he was soon booked for guest spots, then worked up to MC, then feature, and several years down the line as a headliner. He is now managed by Comedy Castle owner Mark Ridley and headlines comedy shows across the country.

 

Dave says that his family is and has always been very supportive of his non-traditional career choice. He recalls a comment that his late father made about a year after he started doing stand-up, “’You know, you’re getting pretty good, you should start doing some of Rodney’s jokes.’ He thought I was good enough to the point where, ‘your stuff isn’t that good, but you should start doing some of Rodney Dangerfield’s jokes now’.”

 

I ask him about his two young daughters, curious as to whether it is still “cool” at that age group to have a comedian as a father. “You know, I think they’d think it was a lot cooler if I was more famous.”

 

So what are the perks of being semi-famous, you ask? “I got to park right up here next to the club. That’s about a 20 yard walk up to the door”, he nods thoughtfully, and I decide it would be best not to tell him about the valet service.

 

Aside from putting together new material for his act, Dave has also been working on a screenplay, though he is pretty vague about the details. He mentions that though he really hopes that his screenplay will take off, he would also be interested in some television ventures, like a sitcom spot or a comedy news correspondent. And as he continues to describe his current projects and career goals, his eyes glow with excitement like a child on Christmas morning. It is at about this point that I begin to wonder if this sweet and earnest teddy bear might just be too soft for my delicate comedic palate.

But when he emerges onto the stage in a black button-up shirt and dark rinsed blue jeans, standard issue comedic attire, a transformation occurs. While the seemingly sweet and meek comedian begins throwing out f-bombs, I feel a bit like a lost student who has accidentally stumbled into the teacher’s lounge during lunch hour. But I like it.

He is no longer Dave Dyer, comedian, but he is now become Uncle Dave at Thanksgiving dinner. His smooth, flowing sets and engaging style of observational comedy have the crowd laughing and responding as if he were speaking directly to each individual. Like clockwork, each punchline prompts a roar that resonates like canned laughter on a sitcom. He relates to the crowd with his own life experiences, like gaining weight (as he compares himself to a Silverback Gorilla) and quitting smoking.

One particularly loud and responsive group in the back, drunk and probably celebrating some upcoming Star Wars Convention, find a connection to the comedian through Attention Deficit Disorder. Dave bounces back and forth for couple of minutes with the group’s pack leader, a twenty something nerd sporting a Burger King crown and a goofy smile.

“Anybody else with the ADD out there?” Dave asks the crowd.

“Wha-whoo!” crows the King.

“Take any medicine?”

“Occasionally,” the King barks back.

“Occasionally?” Dave persists, “When you can find it? That’s pretty much how I take mine. Every couple weeks, I’d be like, ‘Oh f**k, here it is!’ I wondered why everybody was so angry with me!”

“Let me ask you sir, do you think it’s hereditary?” Dave probes the King once again.

“Yeah.”

“Do you have family members that you think had it?”

“No, I do not.”

“You just screwed up the joke, sir…I think it is, because I know my Dad had it. My Dad couldn’t stay on task with anything. My Dad had a terminal illness. They said, ‘You’re gonna die in two years.’ It took him eight.”

After the slightest pause, there is a roar of laughter and this is the moment where the crowd realizes that comedy is a form of art, as the artist sketches the crowd in and out of his sets so smoothly you’d almost think it was scripted.

Dave Dyer may not be the most well known comedian. He may not even be Michigan’s most famous comedian (thank you, Tim Allen), but one thing is for sure. Dave Dyer has officially secured his place on the list of comedians that should be more famous.

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