Dan Currie is a local comedian who’s performed hundreds of stand-up gigs across the state over the last few years. As co-host of Mac’s Monday Comedy night, a long-running weekly event in Lansing, he’s not only honed his own skills as a comic, he has also helped dozens of up-and-coming comics cut their teeth on stage. Currie chatted with City Pulse about a prized possession:
My favorite thing is a notebook I acquired back in 2014. Over a four-year span, I’ve had it at hundreds of shows. My friend and fellow comedian Carl Johnson booked me and a group of other comics for a tour in Canada. He bought it for himself, but was disappointed when he found it was basically graph paper on the inside as opposed to it being lined. I’d been looking for a small book to write set lists on and take on stage with me, so he gave it to me.
I finally filled the book a year or two ago, and each page represents a show where I was trying new material or strengthening material. I started comedy in 2007, but I think between 2014 and 2018 was when I really started to figure out who I was as a comedian, and this represents that.
The thing is, I wouldn’t actually write jokes in the notebook. I’ve found I’m better at “writing” on stage. I have an idea, and I put it on the list for that night. Then I go on stage and work it out. I don’t sit and write because I become too attached to how every word is supposed to be. I sound robotic. It’s easier to write down one quick thing and then just riff on it. I sound more natural. I don’t write the way I talk, and the way I talk is how I should do comedy.
Looking back at this particular notebook, I can definitely see a growth and a change in the pages. The first page has five joke ideas, and none of them had any legs. Some are jokes I wouldn’t even think of doing anymore. As I turn through, it’s fun to run across a joke I still do, then see a joke I only tried once or jokes that lasted for a brief time, but then faded from existence.
Before I was given this in 2014, I had a big notebook I’d write in — a Moleskin with the folder in the back. I had that and I would write things on scraps of paper and then shove ’em in there. I had all of these papers spread everywhere. So, I really needed this little notebook.
Flipping through, I also see different phases. The goal with comedy is to actually have fun. I think when you start, you’re doing it for fun, but when you get a few years in, you start to take it almost too seriously. You beat yourself up when a joke doesn’t work, you beat yourself up about a bad set. A good comic makes it look easy. When you’re trying too hard, the audience feels that. They’re like, “Man, whew, this guy cares way too much.” But once you step back and realize that, you start being able to have fun up there again. The beginning of this book is when I was really trying too hard. The end of the book is when I started to have fun again.
Another thing I noticed in there is a rough idea for a joke. I jotted down, “I’m always afraid I’m doing something wrong.” This is on Nov. 10, 2014. At that point, I was struggling to talk about my anxieties and things like that, but that’s where I see my first attempt at it. I was like, “Oh, that’s when I first started talking about anxiety — and it didn’t go well!” So, for the next few pages, it’s some jokes about Cap’n Crunch Oops! All Berries and other not-personal subjects.
Now, I have a whole section about my anxiety in my act. In November 2014, I wasn’t ready to handle it or deliver it correctly. I feel much more comfortable talking about it now. Last year, that chunk of my act got me 2nd Place in the Funniest Person in Grand Rapids Contest.
(This interview was edited and condensed by Rich Tupica. If you have a Favorite Things suggestion, email email@example.com.)