Going Hollywood: Meet Dan Cummins

People were going Hollywood long before Bing Crosby starred in the 1933 film musical Going Hollywood. Certainly, though, countless unknowns have packed their bags and moved to Los Angeles in the years and decades since then, hoping for show business to discover them and make them a star! New York City may be the city everyone goes to make it there before making it everywhere, but Hollywood remains the place where stars are born and made. It’s Show Business, USA. This is a recurring feature, a complementary West Coast version of Meet Me In New York, The Comic’s Comic’s mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of the Southland surrounding Los Angeles. It’s called Going Hollywood.

I’ll always have a soft spot for performers and artists who have emerged from the wilds of the Inland Northwest, as I spent my first two years after college in the part of America that exists in a time warp, or at least it enjoyed doing so before the Internet came to town. Dan Cummins, in his younger days, sported long hair, but now has a cropped top and a rugged beard. Kinda represents both facets of the Inland Northwest. Which look makes him seem more like a playboy, though? Cummins just started a new gig as co-host of The Playboy Morning Show.

Lest you think he’d leave his stand-up roots behind, Cummins also has a brand-new comedy EP, Chinese Affection, out today. It’s a six-track half-hour of sharply written jokes and bits — recorded on the Warner Nashville label, and the first album featured in Pandora Radio’s new Pandora Comedy Spotlight. If you want to know why the Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t stand the test of time, or why the government could learn a thing or two from Starbucks, then check it out! In between Northern Idaho, Eastern Washington and going Hollywood, Cummins also released two full-length stand-up albums and cracked credits on The Tonight ShowThe Late Late ShowLast Comic Standing, as well as half-hour and hour specials on Comedy Central. He’ll record a new one-hour special this April.

Let’s catch up with Cummins now and see where he’s come from and where he’s heading at this crossroads of his career!

Name: Dan Cummins
Arrival date: January 2010
Arrived from: Spokane, Wash.

When and where did you start performing comedy? Aug. 3, 2000, I went into a comedy club for the first time, and did 5-10 minutes of garbage at a Sunday night open mike. It was a club called Laugh’s, inside of a hole-in-the-wall sports bar called The Season Ticket, which shared a parking lot with a giant thrift store called Value Village. Classy all the way around. I’m so glad I recorded it – it is as deliciously awful and embarrassing as a first time should be – I had a mullet wig and a tabloid for some sort of “closer.” As bad as it was, there was only about six open mikers in all of Spokane at the time, all of them were even worse than I was, and they needed bodies for shows. The perfect storm of mediocrity. So I got to come back the next week, and the next week, etc., etc., etc, getting all the stage time I could ever want. Stage time I certainly didn’t deserve. But, ignorance is bliss, and since I didn’t pay attention to what other stand-ups were doing when I started, I became filled with just the right amount of false confidence. Looking back, I feel really fortunate to start in a very non-competitive scene with no expectations of what it could or should lead to. Starting in LA would’ve probably crushed me. I probably would’ve been one and done. Funny how much of life is determined by random circumstance.

What was your best credit before moving here? Best credit before moving to LA was a one-hour special with Comedy Central called Crazy with a Capital F. It aired after I moved to LA, but it was recorded before I did. It’s on Netflix now. I record a new special in Salt Lake City at The Depot on April 25 (tickets are only $12.50 – two shows! 1 800 888 TIXX) Hopefully that will find a good home and be the best credit I’ve had since I’ve moved to LA.

Why did you pick LA over NYC or anywhere else? I’m a West Coast guy. All my family is on the West Coast, and I have two kids. NYC was never even a consideration for me. I also wanted to try my hand at either selling a show or getting on as a staff writer, and LA seemed like the best place to do that. I guess my management and agents being in LA also made it seem like the logical fit. They wanted me in LA for auditions. And it’s much better weather. NYC is beautiful, but seriously, fuck winter.

How long did it take to get your first paid gig in LA after moving here? I was working the road as a headlining comic before LA, and I continued to work the road from LA after I moved. To make money in LA doing work other than stand-up took a few years. I ended up doing a bunch of freelance production jobs on various unscripted shows (unscripted shows I wrote for) starting in 2012. And they cured me of wanting to be a staff writer. Long hours and lots of network bullshit – I only want to deal with that going forward if it’s MY show.

How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you started in? To be honest, I still don’t really feel like I’m part of the LA stand-up scene. I was married when I started, and never really hung out with other comics in any scene. In general, I’ve just done shows to develop material, and then after the show, I go home. I love being home. I love my kids. I love my fiancé. I love my non-stand-up friends. I have a great life totally outside of stand-up, which I think is really healthy for both life overall and your material. I don’t have any desire to listen to other comics bitch about who’s not getting what gigs, what work they have coming up, and who they can’t believe is getting the work they should be getting. It’s the same stupid conversations wherever you go. It really is. I do think not hanging out has definitely hurt me in some ways, but I wouldn’t change it. I do occasional shows around town, and have definitely found some places I love and a few great comics I really enjoy as both artists and people, but don’t do the shows or hang out with them as much as I probably should. That may change now that I host a morning TV show for Playboy in Burbank Monday-Thursday, and will be in town a lot more (and working the road a lot less). And yes, that is not a typo, Playboy is still a channel, an actual TV channel, and I’m on it four days a week (fully clothed thanks Christ. My dick will never make a cameo)

If you lived and performed in NYC, how would you compare working as a comedian in Hollywood to that previous experience? Warmer. Less Subway jokes. More collagen. More pointless meetings with network execs who have mastered the art of failing upwards. (speculating – I know this question doesn’t apply to me)

Was there a moment when you felt your life and career really had “gone Hollywood,” and how do you explain it to friends or family back home?
Taking a job as a morning show host for Playboy (The Playboy Morning Show) definitely feels like going Hollywood a bit. I have makeup put on my face everyday, I interview celebrities, I work in Burbank, and none of it has to do with stand-up. It really came out of left field. I explain it in the sense that it’s a steady paycheck, it’s still creative, and it’s still a personality-driven job. I still get to be me, and people seem to understand that I’ve worked the road a long time, and deserve a little break. And the reaction from literally all of my male friends and family members has been some form of either “Let me know if you need an assistant. I’d be more than happy to work for Playboy” or “You lucky son of a bitch – how the Hell did you get that job?” (I do work with Playboy models in various states of undress each and every show)

What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? Have a plan. And have a backup plan. Come here knowing that your primary focus is on acting, or stand-up, or screenwriting, etc. And be willing to do something else similar that may lead you back to your path. Some people come here to be directors, and end up as editors, but then years later editing gets them back to directing. You want to be flexible, but not too flexible. You can’t come here wanting to be a director, editor, actor, writer, comic, and producer – each discipline is too competitive, and you’ll be spread too thin. I’m doing hosting now, but I hope that taking a step back from stand-up, and working on selling a live show every day (just like stand-up) will help me re-approach my craft down the road, and be that much better at it. Ideally, you should just not come here. There’s already enough of you fuckers taking jobs I’d like to get, and most of you will just end up waiting tables for 10 years and then moving back to the Midwest. Making it to a level in Hollywood where you could actually buy a house someday and be able to eventually retire is an insane premise. Open your coffee shop in Des Moines, do taxes in Omaha, whatever. Have a family and actually see them. Write a blog for your creative outlet. Seriously, I’m not getting any younger and I already have enough of you shitheads clogging up the system I’m still trying to succeed in.

Where do you see yourself five years from now? Having sold a show that either features me onscreen, or that I have creative control over. I would love to see one of my creative babies make it as a series (I’m always pitching several ideas). That and touring to shows full of fans, and not shows full of some fans and a lot of people who the club gave free tickets to, would be the ultimate success for me. Five years from now I want to still be having fun and evolving as a comic. I want to have a growing and enthusiastic fan base. I want to the word “genius” and “icon” to get thrown around a lot when people say Dan Cummins. And I want you to be interviewing me about how I became so Goddamn wealthy, influential, and idolized by my peers. That would fucking great!! Let’s book it now. Talk to you in 2020?

Find out his tour dates and more at Dan Cummins home page; follow him on Twitter @D_Cummins or like his Facebook page. Meanwhile, you can hear and see him at 9 a.m. Mondays-Thursdays ET on The Playboy Morning Show.

Check out these two promo clips introducing Cummins to the Playboy team.

And here’s his stand-up set from the end of 2012 on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which I’d previously posted (but that video was lost to time, sorry Jay).

His brand-new EP, Chinese Affection, is out now on iTunes, Amazon and wherever you buy your digital music these days:

Is there a comedian in Los Angeles that you’d like to see me style and profile for another installment of Going Hollywood? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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