A MAN, A PLAN AND A VAN
BY GAVIN GODFREY
Few understand sacrifice quite like comedian, Dave Stone. The kid from North Georgia, who made his start in Atlanta’s budding comedy scene, Stone left a life of familiarity in the South for the great unknown of Los Angeles.
“I already decided living in a normal life in Georgia would not make me happy,” Stone told me over the phone from the van that is his current residence in LA. “I knew it was for a good reason and for a purpose.”
Inspired by the likes of Louis CK, Paton Oswalt and Kyle Kinane, Stone is a student in the art of hilarity. With that said, not everything leading to Stone’s success was something to laugh about.
I didn’t start till I was 29. I wanted to do it when I was 20, I just didn’t have the balls to do it. By the time I had finally started I had lived enough and experienced enough where stage fright or whatever it is that makes some people reluctant or hesitant to try to do comedy was no longer an issue. I think by the time I started none of that bothered me because I knew that I had enough life experience to where it’s like, “Ah man this is stuff I’ve always wanted to do,” so now I’m not going to worry about the frightfulness of it. One day I just woke up and said shit I’m getting too old not to chase my dreams so game on. I’ve kind of been full speed ahead since I made that decision to do it. I didn’t want to wait another eight or nine years and then look back and wonder would I have been any good at this had I started when I should have started, so that definitely motivated me to kind of jump in the pool.
It was definitely a challenge because leaving Atlanta and moving 2,300 miles away under normal circumstances would be a challenge for anybody, just move to the other end of the continent and leave all of your friends and family behind. That in itself would be a challenge but, I threw in the extra element of living in a van, so that kind of turned one big challenge into two. Chasing your dreams, living in a van was part of that. I love Atlanta. It’s where I started comedy; all my comedy friends are there. But I realized, especially in comedy, if you’re really going to get serious about it and really try and take your career to the next step, there’s really only one of two places you can be, that’s New York or LA. As far as the van thing, I had been wanting to move to LA for year before I actually did, but just wasn’t able to flip enough money [to get] an apartment, utilities and a cross-country move and all that and I kept getting frustrated and [thinking] am I ever going to be able to save enough money to go. It was like well shit if this is what it takes to get me out there then I’ll do it. I don’t regret it.
I’m a full-time comic, but financially at least I’m not a successful comic. I’ve tried to arrange my life in such a way that it enables me to do comedy as much as I possibly can. If that means living in a van or working the road all the time or whatever it takes. I don’t mean that in a negative sense, I mean it’s the choice I made and I enjoy doing it. It’s definitely a challenge that I honestly don’t think everybody would be cut out for. I don’t have wife, I don’t have a family and I don’t have a mortgage. I have almost no debt, no financial obligations.
Southern humor in a new city
A lot of my act is based on southern culture and living in the south. I can do a joke about the south that doesn’t require much detail or as much set up because people know. A lot of the people listening to it, when I’m in the south, can relate to it because they’ve lived through whatever I’m trying to talk about. Whereas on the West coast, or the Midwest or the Northeast – the only connection they’ve ever had to the South is what they see on movies and TV which honestly a lot of times is complete bullshit. It’s so fabricated and overdone as far the way southern cultures portrayed in Hollywood. So yea, it’s definitely requires a little more detail, but at the same time I’ve learned that the payoff can actually be greater. A lot of times I get the feeling that they find it a little more intriguing because it is so foreign to them. I think intrigue plays in my favor.
Worst stage experience
Worst moment I’ve ever had on stage didn’t necessarily involve a particular audience member, but in Charlotte, North Carolina I fell off the damn stage five minutes into a 20-minute set. It wasn’t even a stage. It was a circular table pushed into a corner, so I was like literally standing on a coffee table and geometry tells you if you put a circle into a right angle, a 90-degree angle, there’s going to be a gap in the very back of that and I stepped into that gap and fell backwards off the stage. Busted up my knee and busted up my pride. It would have been bad enough if that was my closing joke but I had to hobble back up on stage and do another fifteen minutes to pretend this fat fuck didn’t just fall of the stage. I couldn’t get the crowd back either they were just like what the fuck? Did we just see that? My main goal every time I get on stage now is just to not fall off.
Atlanta on my mind…
One of the biggest things I love about Atlanta, and I know this sounds cliché, but the diversity. I mean specifically, I grew up in the rural part of North Georgia, so I grew up with a very country, folksy sensibility. I grew up kind of understanding that type of person, the same clichés that actually may have a negative connotation, maybe undereducated or close-mindedness. There’s still a charm to those types of people, but Atlanta still has that southern charm, but the diversity as far as the art, the music scene obviously is incredible, the indie rock scene. Of course there’s diversity there with the hip hop culture. Not to mention Atlanta being one of the gay capitals of the country, there are just so many walks of life blending together in one city. I definitely think that can benefit anybody. Atlanta is such a melting pot, I think you can pull from the best parts of all those different cultures and take something positive away from all of it and I think it’s a good mixture you may not see in other cities.