A Few Minutes With . . .
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AWARD-winning humorist, playwright, author and captivating storyteller Dylan Brody describes himself as a “purveyor of fine words and phrases,” and that’s just the beginning from a man who has shared the stage with some of comedy’s best-known celebrities, including Adam Sandler, Jon Lovitz, Larry Miller, Norm McDonald, Louie Anderson, Richard Belzer, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. Robin Williams called his writing “brilliant”; George Carlin described him as “a very funny political comic’; and David Sedaris calls his voice “unique and unpredictable, funny and fascinating.” The Los Angeles performer brings his new solo show, “Dylan Brody’s Driving Hollywood,” to Chicago’s Apollo Theater through May 20 before taking his multi-city tour on to Barcelona, London and New York City. Brody is one of a kind when it comes to the ability to turn moments in his life into a hilariously riveting walk down memory lane. In an interview prior to his arrival in Chicago, the Stanley Drama Award-winner talks about “Dylan Brody’s Driving Hollywood,” what he hopes to experience in Chicago and what thoughts he hopes Chicago audiences walk away with after his show.
Tell me about “Dylan Brody’s Driving Hollywood,” and what should Chicagoans expect when they come to see it?
Dylan Brody: “Dylan Brody’s Driving Hollywood” is a very funny show about the friction between art and entertainment. (It centers around his driving into Hollywood to meet an influential person who could change the course of his career.) It’s about the heartbreak and hope that perpetually exists at the intersection of art and commerce. As a humorist and storyteller, I’m always trying to find ways to make what I do funny enough and entertaining enough to reach an ever-widening audience. For 15 years I was a road comic, and what I do no longer really fits into comedy clubs because I don’t adhere to a strict 4 to 1 laugh ratio anymore. What I’m presenting now is a far more weighty, substantial experience than you’ll get in a comedy club. It is essentially a one-person play about life in comedy and in the arts while living in the city that is an entertainment industry.
How is this show different from other presentations you have done?
Dylan Brody: This grew out of a standup style special that I shot and is currently streaming at nextupcomedy.com. When I originally presented this set of stories, I stood behind a microphone, was shot on several cameras and it was a gorgeous special and won some independent film awards. When Blue Panther Productions picked it up to put it on tour, they asked if I was willing to do this as a proper theatrical solo show––bring in a director, have a set, lights and so on––and I said I would love that as long as it didn’t turn into a PowerPoint presentation. Since the advent of the “Ted Talks,” there has been a movement in solo shows toward turning them all into slide shows. I created a script for this that included a general description of the set I wanted and how it would be enhanced through lighting and movement.
You’ve worked with several major celebrities during your career. Have you ever felt apprehensive about working with any of them?
Dylan Brody: When David Sedaris first invited me to start opening for him, I was shocked because I thought what I do is far too close to what he does for him to feel comfortable having me open for him. He told me he loved having me open for him because what I do is nothing like what he does. With this new format it’s not literary but theatrical material I’m presenting, which is tremendously exciting for me.
You’ve been described as one of the best storytellers around, so what makes a good storyteller?
Dylan Brody: Honesty without a strict adherence to the facts, and vulnerability. The desire to change the world for the expression of one’s own experience.
What do you tell people who seek your advice about comedy and storytelling?
Dylan Brody: When people ask about learning how to become a comic or storyteller, in both cases I’ve always started from the same premise, whether it’s comedy or story. I say that rather than starting from the question of what would be funny––or in the case of storytelling what would be interesting––always start from the question of what you want to say and then build the material out from that foundation.
Brody is a multitalented entertainer who has written for many celebrities, including Jay Leno.
You’ll be in Chicago for more than three weeks. Anything you look forward to experiencing during your free time in the city?
Dylan Brody: I’m told Chicago is a good walking city, and I want to explore a good deal of that. I want to check out The Comedy Bar. I want to check out the local Laugh Factory. I want to see the venues that exist in Chicago where I might be able to really make a lasting presence [not necessarily move to Chicago]. When I was a road comic, there were towns where I had home clubs, and I always knew that when I got into town, I had a place where I would feel comfortable and be able to work to audiences that enjoyed me and I enjoyed them. I would love to be able to establish a presence in Chicago and really meet some people there who are in my world and develop a community in that town because it is such a vibrant voice in the world of humor, comedy and theater. Plus, I want to go to some bookstores and meet people and enjoy the smell of books because my Kindle does not smell right.
During your performance, what do you hope resonates with the Chicago crowd?
Dylan Brody: We have reached an inflection point in our national history at which name recognition has come to be more valued than skill, competence or intent. I believe that this set of stories as entertainment is a delight, but at another level at the same time, I hope it will inspire people to begin looking at the quality of the work they engage, the quality of the work they do more than the passive idea of whose work do they already know and how can they simply line their own pockets through what they do. I say in the piece that ‘entertainment’ is the word people use when they don’t want to take responsibility for their art. I think we as a culture have willfully abrogated our responsibility to critical thinking and allow success to be the compass rather than conscience. It is my hope that through the beauty and the joy of the work that I present through the laughter and the empathy that an audience gets to feel in this piece they will be reminded of the importance and value of their own humanity.
Photo Credit: Cat Gwynn
"Dylan Brody's Driving Hollywood" continues through May 20 at the Apollo Theater (2540 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL). All shows are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $35 for VIP front row seats plus post-show meeting and photo op. For tickets, call the box office at (773) 935-6100 or purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com/Apollo-Theater-tickets-Chicago/venue/57346. Also go to www.dylanbrodysdrivinghollywood.com for tickets and information.