Dan Cummins Interview

I was beyond excited to interview long-time stand-up comedian and podcaster Dan Cummins recently in advance of his upcoming set in Cleveland at The Agora on April 7! {Complete show and ticket information}

Admittedly, I can get flustered when interviews and fandom intersect. Today, Cummins seemed to be a bit flustered, too. (No, not because he of the interview!) Let’s face it, it’s tough out there for a comedian today. There are no set standards for what is comedy versus what “crosses the line.” Cummins hosts the popular weekly podcast, Timesuck, which the show’s website describes as, “thoroughly exploring and explaining a single, listener-suggested topic each Monday, in his own irreverent and entertaining style. Serial killers, historical events, enduring mysteries, paranormal encounters, conspiracy theories, cryptozoology, and more – nothing is off limits if it’s interesting.”

Dan opened up to me, explaining the details of the various de-platforming he was experiencing from popular streaming companies, the regulations he must abide by, and how COVID has impacted the entertainment industry.

“Somebody new gets in charge of deciding who gets specials for [blank] network, or for [blank] platform and you know, they have their tastes, and sometimes it works out in your favor and sometimes it doesn’t.”. he said, “We have gotten in so much trouble with Timesuck because AI bots cannot detect sarcasm.”

Moving on to a lighter note, Dan was asked about his new comedy hour, ‘Burn It All Down.’

“Really, it is just kind of like polarization in America. I mean, it was definitely inspired by thinking about things during the pandemic and how much the culture shifted. We would get so many emails all of a sudden and, I don’t know, March 2020, when things went down, and then that spring… Things that never triggered people before suddenly triggered people. It’s like, all of a sudden, there was a certain contingent of people online that were just waiting to say that you were too much of a woke liberal or too much of a conservative nutjob.” Dan explained.  “I’m pretty centrist and I thought it was comical that the same episode (of Timesuck) would get the extremes of both sides angry at me. And, I was like, What is going on culturally?It’s a weird time for that stuff. Now, all of a sudden, I lose the audience in two ways. I used to sort of stick to black-and-white comedy, taking one side and being exaggerated for comedy’s sake. Now, even the side I represent is against me.”

What he then discovered, post lockdown, as the population all emerged from our separate homes and came together, everyone he met was thankful and grateful to be out of quarantine. Dan felt this response was completely opposite to the way he was seeing things through the media. Dan elaborated “I would see all this stuff online and we would get these terrible emails sometimes, but the majority of the emails were still good. And when I would go out into the world, especially as things opened up more and more and I talked to people, the conversations I was having and what I was hearing out in the world did not match what I was seeing online.”. Dan continued, “It seems so much worse than it is sometimes, because of the nature of the internet where, you know, the angriest voices seem to get the most attention, and that influenced the new hour.“ 

Dan’s words, “Do not fall for the perceived negativity. Don’t let them influence you.” remain in my mind even after our chat. He even went a step further outside of his comfort zone to share that he wanted to stray from his previously described black-and-white material, and not hold back anymore, saying:

“I spend a lot of time talking about how we shouldn’t fall for this prestige polarization of America. Basically, I think most people are somewhere in the middle. Mostly good, in the middle, indifferent people. It wasn’t matching the reality I thought we were all living in. Don’t let them make you think the sky is falling and that the whole nation is being torn apart. I got more political than I’ve ever gotten in the past on this new hour, but I think it’s kind of a hopeful point of view. And I don’t just back one side or the other, I just make fun of the whole polarization perception of the last couple of years.”

It seems to me, in no way does Dan push or promote an agenda, he is simply a curious mind and a deep thinker. The only thing cultish about Dan is his massive podcast fanbase.

I had to ask, where did the name of his tour “Burn It All Down” come from? Dan laughed, answering, “I had always wanted to be a little more opinionated about certain things I felt passionately about. And so, that was kind of where the name came from. I just gave myself permission to be like, alright, I’m going to be really brutally honest about a lot of this stuff, and if that costs me fans then, well basically I feel like I’ve earned the right to lose them.”

Though, Dan indeed attempts to be as considerate as possible, prefacing: “At the beginning of my set, I say ‘Hey, by the end of the show I’m probably going to offend almost everybody here.’ That will get a big laugh. But it came from a place of me honestly thinking it would. And then the emails I’ve gotten after said we actually expected it to be a lot more offensive than it was.

Dan informed me on patterns he has seen in his twenty-plus years of performing live, saying “The easiest way to kind of get, I think, a fan base and a group to really go with what you’re saying, is to take a more black and white approach to nuanced topics, and just be really confident and have this line that tends to be on the left or on the right, and just stick to it.”.

Then, in contrast, Dan explained, “What I really struggled to do, and hopefully, it seems like it’s gone pretty well with this tour, is to NOT do that, and take a more nuanced approach. It’s hard to stand up to give a balanced nuanced portrayal of something.”. He continued, “This hour, I think, more than previous hours, I really tried to just be funny first, but also not dumb things down, or oversimplify things and end up kind of giving an opinion I don’t really have if that makes sense.

Before wrapping I asked him what we are to look forward to in his specials to come, Dan answered, saying “Who knows what the next hour will be, but you know, I’m lucky to have some fans now, like you, that have known my stuff for a long time and it’s an interesting thing to consider. Like in the beginning, you’re just trying to be funny however you can be funny… but you don’t want to keep repeating yourself, but you also don’t want to change so much that you lose your fans. I don’t know!”

As long asDan sustains his humble viewpoint as he has since launching his comedy career in 2000, the fans will happily stick by his side. (I know I will!)

I was thankful to Dan for his vulnerability and seemed interested to chat with me, a long-time fan. My eyes were opened to his plights and struggles of learning to thrive in this new post-pandemic society, and how he continues to adapt through the changes. Sudden polarization, the culture shift, and things that have become and remain provocative to the people will continue to change, now and forever.

Dan Cummins will be at Cleveland’s Agora Theater on Friday, April 7. Limited tickets remain. Complete show and ticket information can be found on our calendar: RIGHT HERE!

(Make sure to bring your lizard head!)

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