Performing at Opening Bell tonight with Salim Nourallah will be Noted Regional Comic (if that title isn’t on his business card, it should be) Dave Little. The pairing makes perfect sense, of course. Who better to open for a heart-on-his-sleeve roots-rocker than a dry-witted smart-ass comic?
Really, the combo makes a little more sense than you’d think if you only knew Little from his stand-up comedy performances. Little is in the middle of recording at Nourallah’s Pleasantry Lane studio, at least when the Old 97’s aren’t in the way. His Nourallah-produced 2006 CD Uncomfortable Moments has songs with the comedy he’s known for, but also includes a few (mostly) serious songs. His third album (possible title: Critically Ignored) will have the same split personality. We spoke with Little before a recent Section 8 performance to find out more about his musical endeavors, uncomfortable sex and why he hates punchlines.
Were you a musician before you went into comedy?
I was kind of writing songs, and they just kind of turned out funny. So that’s where I went. If I do a comedy song, it’s a funny bit. If it doesn’t have four or five or six laughs, why do it at, say, The Improv? So I just started writing all these other songs. I hang out with musicians more than comics -– Danny [Balis] and Salim, Carter [Albrecht], Ward [Williams], Chris Holt and those guys -– and I’ve always thought music and comedy is a great mix. It really opens up the audience and makes for a really good show. What I like to do now is the songs I wouldn’t normally do at the Improv. I’ll talk a little, but won’t do any stand-up per se.
Some of your songs are not totally serious, but definitely not comedy, and others are comedy songs. Why mix the two on one CD?
I think it’s natural. I would just write songs, and even my serious songs--I love John Prine, one of my favorite songwriters, and Randy Newman, guys like that, Loudon Wainwright III--even when they’re singing about something serious, they’ll have a dark lyric in there or something. It’s just my personality.
How do your CDs sell?
I’ve got a lot left. The first one I did (1998’s Another Leggy Supermodel) was all comedy. ... You’ve got to do it for yourself. If people like it, that’s great, but if they don’t at least you’ve got something you’re proud of. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of figured that out. You think, “Oh man, I can’t wait for people to hear this.” And then they do, and life doesn’t change for them.
Why don’t you like punchlines?
I never wanted to be wacky or crazy. My favorite comics were people that were kind of an extension of themselves onstage, where if you talk to them offstage, they’re pretty much the same. That’s what I’ve always tried to be. I always liked Steve Martin, Bill Murray, guys like that. I like to take it really slow when I’m on stage and almost dig myself a hole. Because to me that’s the fun. That’s why I do it. I may say or do a lot of the same jokes, but depending on the crowd it’s different every night.
Digging yourself a hole onstage--is that one of those uncomfortable moments that your CD title came from?
Yeah. Just the look people have given me, like “Really? That’s what you’re doing? Really, that’s what you’ve chosen to do after all these years?” So, probably so. Because isn’t that what life is about? It’s just a bunch of uncomfortable moments strung together with periods of not-uncomfortable moments, whatever that word would be.
“Sex”? Well, I guess that can be uncomfortable too.
It is the way I do it. But anyway, I think it’s just acknowledging that. -- Jesse Hughey