Stand Up & Deliver: Six Weeks of Snakes
Photo: Stephen Odom
If you were unaware, Houston has a comedy uprising that feels like it’s on the verge of something large. The mix of older comics, professional comics, and newer comics is something that really doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else. Every once and a while, you can catch a newer act and mistake them for a professional touring comic. That’s what happened the first time I saw Houston’s Dale Cheesman. The ease at which he approaches the mic, the way that he’s always in the light, and the flow of jokes that seemed to all “hit” correctly made me think that he was just a touring comic at an open mic. Since that night two years ago, Dale has done Houston Whatever Fest, the Come And Take It Comedy Festival, and has become a regular opener for touring comics at the Improv. FPH took some time to sit down with him to find out what makes him tick.
FPH: You’re from Houston, correct? How Long have you been doing stand-up?
DC: I am from Houston and I’ve been doing stand up for three years.
FPH: You have some jokes that might offend some people. But recently, Jim Gaffigan said, “I feel like comedians are gonna’ do what they do, and then they either get credit or criticism for it.” Do you feel like that about sums up your style? That you’re either getting praise or people questioning it?
DC: Yeah, I like dark comedy, but I can’t pull off Jeselnik or Stuart Lee style dark humor. It’s all lighthearted. where I’m trying to make people laugh at things they wouldn’t normally laugh at.
FPH: You grew up in a pretty normal upper middle class household with what appears to be a normal childhood. What about stand-up drew you to it, and where does your humor come from?
DC: I was trying not to live that “normal middle class” experience. I went to a private school that I was kicked out of, and the bubble of that world burst when I got into public school. My first day there, was the first time I skipped school and got drunk. From that point on I knew I wanted to do something different with my life.
FPH: Who are your favorite comics from the past, and your favorites who presently are around?
DC: From the past I like Richard Jeni, Bob Smiley, and Tommy Erwin. My first comedy album was Bob Smiley, and it was a Christian comedy album. I remember thinking, “anyone can do this.” Presently, I like Jon Dore, Glenn Wool, Rory Scovel, and Mark Normand.
FPH: You seem to have one of the broadest ranges of humor I’ve ever seen in a comic, yet your sets come off as effortless. How long does it take your jokes to go from thoughts on a page to working in a set?
DC: I try to go up at an open mic with ten percent of an idea, then I tend to drop all of that because something happened on stage when I did the joke. Because I’m a new comic, I do a joke as it comes organically to see what works and what doesn’t.
FPH: You’ve become a regular working comic through sets at Improv, the Come And Take It Festival this year, and now doing the “Guestroom” series, and various shows around town; what’s the next step for you as a comic to get to that touring stage?
DC: The next step for me is to build a stronger feature act set. Right now I’m a host, and it’s hard to get those feature act sets. I mean, I’m a comic in his third year, so it would be absurd of me to start expecting things this early in.
FPH: You’re part of this newer crop of Houston comics like Ashton Womack, Jaffer Khan, and Gabe Bravo. Do you ever write with anyone in town or is it all solo, because you seem to kind of walk alone when I see you out?
DC: Most of my stand up bits I write solo. We (Jaffer Khan, Matt Han, & Zach Dickson) collaborate for stuff we do on our podcast; but what’s written as a group stays as a group. None of the group stuff makes it into my solo set.
FPH: What’s your definition of a successful career in comedy?
DC: Not having to ask my parents for money for the last decade of my life would mean that I’m successful.
FPH: What’s a misconception people have about you?
DC: People seem to think that I’m smarter than I let on. But in all honesty, I’m just a dumb person struggling to keep up with everyone else.
FPH: You work as a waiter, but I would guess that you’ve had worse jobs in the past?
DC: All of my jobs have sucked. Once I was a camp counselor where my job was to let snakes bite me ten times a day for six weeks. It all started when someone from the camp saw me let a snake bite me, and I didn’t freak out. I had snakes as a kid, so it wasn’t a big deal to me. The next day I came in to see that my schedule all day said “wildlife.” All of the kids at the camp had heard that I could take a snake bite. So when I’d ask, “who wants to see the alligator?” All of the kids would just chant, “Snakes! Snakes! Snakes!” It was brutal.
Dale Cheesman is easily a name that I doubt you’d forget, but one you should keep an eye on. There aren’t too many comics who seem to take the stage with the amount of ease that he does. While Dale preps for those days when he doesn’t have to borrow money from his parents, you can catch him when he opens for Joey Diaz at the Houston Improv on April 17th and 18th.