by Jason Hensel
It’s almost that time again! Obviously, the most wonderful time of the year, Dallas Comedy Festival (DCF) kicks off on Tuesday, March 22. To help you put together your festival schedule, we want to make sure you get to know as many of the fabulous out-of-town acts as possible that will be dropping into Dallas Comedy House.
Let's first get this settled: Yes, I'm friends with Adam. Known him for a while now. More than decade known him. But you know what? I've never seen his stand-up in person. That's a knowing shame. (OK, I'll stop with all the "knows.")
Adam didn't start performing stand-up until he moved to Chicago after he wrote an article about comedy for a local magazine. After that, it was nothing but a slingshot to the stars with appearances on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, Doug Loves Movies, and The Bob & Tom Show...heck, you can read Adam's bio on his website, where you can also watch videos and download his album. In the meantime, let's get to know (sorry) him a little bit more.
You're from the U.K. How does being from another country influence the type of comedy you perform in the U.S.?
I think it's different for everybody, obviously. I guess there's this idea that you notice things that are so ingrained in the native culture of the country that you've moved to that the locals kind of take them for granted. I have a story that might be a little different from other people's. I actually have tended to downplay that but I'm addressing it more onstage. Some people demand that you talk about it. My accent is pretty muddled but there have definitely been instances where I didn't address it and people have yelled out, "Where the hell are you from?" Some people say my style is different but I don't know if that's true.
How did you get involved with Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!?
They tape the bulk of their shows in downtown Chicago, so I guess it's convenient for them to have a local. There was a local guy, a very funny man named Brian Babylon, and he moved on to L.A. so they were looking for a replacement. Some of the producers (including the house producer, Tyler Greene) had seen me skulking around stages in Chicago and I guess they thought I'd be a good fit. What's crazy is: in the early days of my doing comedy, I didn't have a lot of goals for myself but the one thing I thought I might be OK at is that, so, so far so good.
What are you looking forward to in Dallas and in performing at the festival?
I just like comedy festivals in general because it's such a mash-up of big draw acts and then you get the real comedy nerd stuff, the comedians' comedian stuff that's just a chance to see funny people who are kind of outside your wheelhouse. I also haven't done a ton of shows in the south and have done zero shows in Texas despite the fact that's where I first moved when I came to the states. I'm very interested to see if Dallasites dig what I'm doing. I'm also looking forward to beers that are poured at zero kelvin; no one knows how to do cold beers like Texas.
Who are some of your stand-up idols and why?
One of the first guys that really clicked with us as kids was Steve Martin. His 1970s' stand up was untouchable. Woody Allen's stand-up records are also really incredible and a huge influence on me. My version of teenage rebellion was listening to Bill Hicks. I just couldn't believe anyone could be that profane and smart and goofy, and ultimately humanist and optimistic in his comedy. There's a bunch of British and Irish influences, of course. Dave Allen is amazing, as his latter-day torch bearer Dylan Moran. Also, Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard are just great. In terms of people performing today, Maria Bamford has always blown my mind whenever I've seen her, and it was really helpful to come up in the Chicago scene with the likes of Hannibal Buress, just to see that evolution of style and prowess. Also, speaking of Chicago-based comics, Nick Vatterott is just the bee's knees; probably the funniest guy in the country. There's also a bunch of funny people who are not strictly stand-ups that are huge for me—people like Spike Milligan, Peter Cook, Phil Silvers, Flann O'Brien, S.J. Perelman, and the Marx Brothers.
Why is football (soccer) not as popular in the U.S. as in the rest of the world?
I don't know. It's definitely becoming more popular and it's the most popular sport in the states in terms of actual participation. People have interesting theories. I never tire of Americans telling me how we should "fix" soccer so that it's a better game. I have my theories but they're probably all bullshit. I think there's a certain predictability to a sport like American football that's comforting; the idea of plays and players that have a certain reliability to them that's a known factor. Soccer/football is the opposite of that. It's all about last minute upsets and these precarious margins between defeat and victory. Also, we make up songs about our players. Why do you guys not do that? Just take your favourite player and find a song that kind of fits his name and belt it from the stands whenever they come on. Tom Brady? Slim Shady. Rolando McLain? Either Abba's Fernando or McLain in the Membrane. Fun for the whole family.
Adam Burke performs on Thursday, March 24, at 10:30 p.m. with Tom Devenport, Clifton Hall, and Jamie Pierce, and on Friday, March 25, at 8:30 p.m. with Clifton Hall, Nick Sahoyah, and Andrew Woods.
Jason Hensel is a DCH graduate who regularly performs in the troupes The '95 Bulls, .f.a.c.e., and the DCH Book Club. He also has perfect kneecaps.