De De T Talks About Finding a Comedy Home in Denton, Why Dallas Comics Are Pretentious and Why Comedy Needs To Be Honest.
Welcome to Humor Us, our column in which Dallas comedian Alex Gaskin interviews other area comedians about the ol’ funny business in order to help introduce DFW at large to the burgeoning comedy scene blooming right under its nose.
Her writing is bold, and lethally sharp. She’s willing to chase humor down through its darkest corridors because that’s where she can find honest comedy, which she greatly values over the safe stuff. And, somehow, in addition to all that, she’s able to weave in these perfectly absurd flourishes.
There’s a wealth of comic talent in this area, but even the best among us can falter when trying to match De De T’s ability to be relevant, creative and really goddamn funny.
Still, Dallas was slow to warm to her, and she found her aggressive style could sometimes put comedy clubs on edge. However, she’s been embraced by the burgeoning comedy scene in Denton, despite it being somewhere she’s only really explored for the sake of doing shows. Just the same, it’s been a good fit: The growing stand-up audience there quickly embraced what she produced onstage, and the comics made her feel like a peer, offering a camaraderie that Dallas had once appeared stubbornly hesitant to extend.
What can you tell me about this show you’ve got coming up in Denton at Andy’s Bar?
It’s gonna be a show at Andy’s Bar with the E Third kids, my favorite people. [E Third is run by Taylor Higginbotham, whom we previously interviewed.]
You do a lot of work in Denton.
Well, Denton, for whatever reason, they like me. I don’t know why. It’s probably because I don’t make any sense. And then I scare white people. Well, I scare their parents, at least. So I think they get off on that, which I don’t mind.
How did you find your way up there in the first place? You don’t live there.
No, I do not. And I promise you I don’t go there just for kicks. I go there for comedy only. But Matt [Solomon] had me up there for the very first time at J&J’s Pizza — it was an all girls’ show — and it was in a basement. I just fell in love with it. [Laughs.] It was one of those, like, “This is some weird shit!” I like weird shit. A lot. Especially weird comedy shit. And the second time was Rubber Gloves, and there was an ear in a jar, so of course I’m never leaving there. When I first went to Denton, it was just a whole different feeling from what I had experienced in Dallas and Fort Worth. It was way more acceptance and tolerance.
So it maybe filled something you felt was missing in other places?
Definitely. It was like they actually… the other comics there actually had respect for me as a peer. They treated me like I was one of them. Instead of writing me off, like, “Oh, she’s just some filthy, disgusting comic,” like, “All she does is go up there and cuss and talk about her vagina,” which I don’t. But still. It was like this stigma around me. But they [Denton comics] were welcoming; they didn’t see me as this horribly unapproachable person that they couldn’t talk to me. It was just real easy to relate to them.
I didn’t realize you’d had that stigma feeling. I feel like I’ve known you almost the entire time I’ve done comedy, and no one was ever like, “Watch out for her, she’s got a stigma.”
[Laughs.] It’s just that people kind of… there’s a hesitance when it comes to interacting with me. Or there was at first. I went to Dallas Comedy House for a while, and literally nobody talked to me — except for, like, Clifton Hall, but he’s a bartender and he has to talk to people, because tips. And he’s a nice dude. And Chris Mack. Those were the only two people who ever fucked with me at all. But then Lauren Davis, after she started interacting with me as a person, that’s when other people said, “Oh, she’s human, great.” Before that, I was just another person just in the mix that didn’t matter.
So Denton was the first place you felt like part of the fold, naturally.
Yeah! It was really easy to get along with them. And it just seems that — and maybe it’s one of those things that people call a circle jerk, of sorts — but we have a lot in common. Y’know, we’re just a bunch of weird quote-unquote “super-liberal nerds” that are just into weird humor.
Denton is weird because most of the comics — with a few exceptions — are newer and younger.
Right! And they have a very unconventional approach to comedy, which I really really love. There’s no form or fashion to it. I think that’s really… for someone like me, that works. I’m not the type of person who’s going to rise through the ranks of the clubs and stuff. That straightforward, “This is what you’re gonna do to be a comic” approach, I don’t think that’ll ever work for me. I wish it could, because it would make my life easier. [Laughs.] But that’s not something that feels right for me. So I appreciate that about them, their just being their weird selves. And not in a pretentious Austin way. Just, legitimately, it’s who they are.
You mentioned your approach not really fitting the conventional club mold. Do you feel like your style’s been pretty consistent? Did you come into comedy with an idea of what you wanted to talk about, and how you wanted to talk about it?
Yeah. I started a little older than a lot of people. I think when I started I was… 26? 27? And then I’ve been writing forever. So I already had an approach to what I thought was funny. I already knew my own voice, and what I believed, and what I thought. I already had a galvanized view of the world, and a galvanized sense of humor, to where it wasn’t that hard. For me, it was all about delivery that I had to work on. I really just had to get my delivery together. As far as my comedy voice, that hasn’t really changed at all.
Generally speaking, you’re not afraid to hit on topics that can alienate crowd members.
Oh, I love alienating people. That’s my favorite thing to do is to make people — not to deliberately make people uncomfortable for shock value, it’s just that I want you to understand that, when you walk outside your door, you’re gonna have to deal with people who think differently than you. You just have to. And you need to get over that shit. You need to grow the fuck up, and realize that everybody doesn’t think the way you do. People are going to challenge you for what you believe. Because people challenge me for what I believe. I tell jokes, and people afterwards come up to me and question me about my jokes. And I don’t mind that, because if I say it, I think it’s appropriate to have me answer for it. And I will. I have a suicide joke, and somebody came up to me afterwards and asked, “What makes you think you have the right to talk about stuff like that?” Because I’ve been suicidal before. Next question. I’m not about to just sit here and say shit just to say it.
That’s nice, because you have people who want to say anything onstage, but they don’t think about the fallout, or they don’t want to deal with it. Is there any particular moment that stands out for you, as far as having someone talk to you about your set after a show?
Well that one, with the suicide joke, this dude really challenged me on it, and I could see it upset him. He went into this long story about how he found his girlfriend after she committed suicide. She hung herself in the bathroom, and he found her. And that was something that triggered something for him. And I guess he wanted to know that I wasn’t just saying it insensitively, and just making light of it. And it made him feel better talking about it, knowing, “Oh, she’s dealt with it, too.” So she’s not just saying shit just to say it. Because I think people have that idea about comics, that we’ll say anything just to get a rise out of people, just to get a reaction. And I think maybe some of us have integrity, and we’re speaking from a real place where it’s personal for us. And that’s been my whole thing with comedy. I’ve always wanted my comedy to be true to who I am as a person, because I think that’s a lot funnier, if it comes from a real place. Just making shit up is cool if you can make up funny stories — if you can just do wall-to-wall stuff, I appreciate it — but I have laughed hardest when I know that somebody is coming from a place of, “This kinda really happened to me. I may have thrown some extra stuff in there, but this is a real part of who I am as a person.” But, yeah, that was probably the most memorable time where someone has challenged me.
That’s gonna be hard to top.
Yeah! Yeah, it is. And I hope nobody tries. Please God. [Laughs.] Do not do that to me at a bar when I’ve been drinking, and I’m a little high. Don’t come to me with that shit. Please God. [Laughs.]
It’s funny, because sometimes there’s that expectation that as a comic, you want to be controversial and push the crowd, and that’s great. But also, we’re supposed to convince people to financially support this. We have to push back against people who paid to see us. It’s a weird thing that can come up, but it’s like, “If I want to do this right, I kind of have to jeopardize the business a little bit.”
Which is why I think the club thing… I understand why I haven’t really gotten booked at a club by the club. Because I know that I’m gonna say something that’s gonna push back against the crowd — not purposely, not because I’m trying to upset anybody. This is actually who I am, and I’m not gonna hide it just so everybody around me is comfortable. I did that for a long time. I’m 31 years old; I don’t have time for that anymore. So, yeah, I get it: People paid you to make them laugh; they paid us for their entertainment. But these are real people. Comics are real people standing there and talking to you, in front of you. That’s a real personal thing. I’m standing in front of you, telling you all this shit, I’m essentially baring myself to you. I’m sorry that I don’t feel pressed to censor myself. Because why would I? Why would I come up here by myself, alone, to talk to you, the audience people, to not be my real self? I feel like that’s cheating them out of their money more than anything else.
We touched on this when we talked about Denton earlier, but can you give me your thoughts on the DFW comedy scene?
I mean, it’s cool. There’s a lot of cool people in it. It’s so vast, though. And I’ve noticed we don’t all know each other. It’s a little bit segregated. Because there are black comics I know that I’ve never seen at a DCH open mic, that I’ve never seen at a Hyena’s open mic. And there are white comics I know that I’ve never seen at Arlington Improv, and I know I’m not gonna see them at Legends. I don’t even go to Legends; you can’t see me at Legends. But that’s because it’s far. I’m not driving to Duncanville that late at night. But, yeah, it’s a little bit segregated, but… it is really diverse. It’s so many different things. I started doing comedy in San Antonio.
Yeah. I started there. I did it for, like, three months in San Antonio. It was just so… they were so uptight. And then they weren’t even that funny. Like, “Y’all aren’t even that good.” And maybe it’s me, maybe I’m just too new to tell what comedy is now. But when I came to Dallas, and I went to DCH open mic for the first time, I’m like, “Oh, these people are fucking amazing!” Like, these people are really, really funny. They’re really good at this. But that’s the first thing that stuck with me: Dallas comedy has real talent, people who are legitimately funny. I do appreciate that. It’s just that it’s kind of pretentious and stuck-up. But other than that, there’s a lot of talent — like a lot.
Have you spent much time outside this scene? Aside from here and San Antonio?
Not a lot of time, no. Mostly DFW. San Antonio, I was there for a little while. I know people that do comedy in New Orleans, but when I first wanted to do comedy, it was way back in 2009, and there was only the one club, La Nuit, and I didn’t even know how to approach it. I didn’t even know how to find an open mic or anything. So it was… it didn’t seem feasible. But yeah, just mostly here.
That’s funny, because New Orleans… I mean, I haven’t been, but I know they have a big, comics-run…
They do! You can get to two to three open mics a night! Like, “You motherfuckers do this after I leave? I’ve been here all my life, I’ve been waiting for this all my life, and then after I leave and move to this horrible place that I hate, you want to just start booming in the comedy realm?” Thank you for that. It’s like you were waiting for me to go, I hate that shit.
Like they were hiding?
Right! Like they were just hiding under the covers: “Oh she’s gone, it’s safe to come out and be funny.” But I even worked with a dude at Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro, and he did stand-up. He told me that. And I was like, “Wait, you do stand-up? In New Orleans?” And he told me about this place, La Nuit, but I had no idea how to approach it. I didn’t know what I even needed to do to be a stand-up comic. I entertained the idea of taking their improv classes, but I never acted on it.
So you missed the New Orleans comedy scene, but you caught Denton right as it was starting to develop?
I did! And I’m glad for that. Because I love Denton, and I love that it’s a new scene, and it’s so organic, the way it’s coming about. I love that I can do comedy in somebody’s backyard, or at a convenience store, or in a basement, or in these weird dive bars. I love it. It’s such a refreshing thing to see that they’re making such good use of what they have. They’re not making excuses, like “Oh, we don’t have a club, so we can’t really…” They said, “Fuck it, we’ll make comedy wherever we are because we need comics first. Damn having a comedy club or anything else, or a proper venue. We have comics, so let’s make comedy happen with the comedy that we have.” I love it.
Do you think Dallas could stand to do a little more of that?
They could do it if they got their heads out of their asses! It’s just, everybody’s so… it’s so pretentious sometimes. It’s like everybody’s locked into this mindset where this is what comedy has to be. This is what it is, this is how we’re going to do it, and that’s that. And anything less than that is invalid. I mean, I do feel it to be necessary insofar as preparing a serious comic for the rigors of a career in entertainment. But I’ve heard DFW comics saying that Denton isn’t a real scene, or if you do comedy in Denton you’re not a real comic yet if you do it mostly in Denton. Unless you come to Dallas/Fort Worth, the Hyena’s open mics, the DCH open mics, the Improv… the idea that, unless you do that, you’re not a real comic yet, it’s just completely invalidating. They [Denton comics] have a lot of raw talent, they have a really unique, fresh point of view that’s unaffected. And I just think that Dallas comedy would need to loosen up a bit. Because they’re a bit uptight.