Published on October 2nd, 2012 | by Jessica Mickey0
Staring Contest with Dan Mintz
Dan Mintz could be described a low-energy comic – an awkward, bespectacled Henny Youngman sans violin (Google him, you damn kids). But accurately defining his comedic style is difficult. It’s hard to simply slap a label on him, and that’s a very good thing.
Probably best known as the deadpan voice of earnestly odd teenager Tina Belcher on Bob’s Burgers, Mintz has also enjoyed writing stints on Crank Yankers, The Andy Milonakis Show, Lucky Louie, Human Giant, Important Things with Demetri Martin, and Jon Benjamin has a Van. His stand-up consists of clever one-liners complimented by a statuesque demeanor and an unflinching stare. This Friday and Saturday evenings, Mintz will hold down the fort at Theatre 99 with three individual shows. Metronome spoke with Mintz earlier this week about his career, inspiration, and unusual approach to comedy.
Metronome: Your style is so unique in comparison to most other comics working today. I read that you grew up in Anchorage, Alaska before pursuing stand-up in Boston. I can’t help but wonder if that had any influence on your approach to comedy, being so detached from the “mainland,” much like how someone could say that your style isn’t exactly “mainstream,” in a sense. Is this off base?
Dan Mintz: That’s so nice of you to say, thanks! I do use coming from Alaska as an excuse when I accidentally do the wrong thing socially, but to tell the truth, Anchorage is actually a pretty normal place. It does seem, though, that a lot of really interesting comics come from cold climates, like Minneapolis. So maybe in that sense, coming from Alaska can give you an edge.
Metronome: When and how did you discover stand-up, and who were your main influences when you decided to take a stab at it yourself?
Dan Mintz: I didn’t watch a lot of standup as a kid, so my influences were more from TV and movies. Probably my biggest influence was “Deep Thoughts” on SNL. I wanted to be a comedy writer, but I never thought stand-up was something I could ever do. I wasn’t aware that there even were low-energy comics like Steven Wright or Mitch Hedberg, so I just assumed you had to be loud and outgoing, like the comics I’d seen. And since I’m shy, I knew I could never do that. But right before I went to college, I went with my dad to the Comedy Cellar in New York. And there was this comedian there, Mitch Fatel, who I thought was just the funniest comic I had ever seen, and yet his delivery was slow and low-energy and the type of delivery I actually could see myself being able to do. And that was, I think, my inspiration for doing it, though it took another year before I actually got up the courage to try it.
Metronome: What initially lured you to Boston? And from there, what do you consider to be your “big break” in comedy?
Dan Mintz: I was in Boston for college, so that just happened to be where I was when I started doing stand-up. Luckily, it turned out to be a great place to do comedy. I’m not sure what I’d say my big break was. I kind of just had a lot of little breaks over time that slowly added up. One turning point early on was when I first moved to Los Angeles, I met Scott Aukerman and B.J. Porter, who I was kind of star struck by because they were writers for Mr. Show, and they put me on Comedy Death Ray, this weekly stand-up show they were starting. It ended up being the hottest show in LA, and I got a ton of exposure from doing it regularly.
Metronome: What do you enjoy more: the writing process or the performance? Or perhaps a better question is, where do you feel more comfortable and why?
Dan Mintz: Well, I wouldn’t say I feel comfortable on stage exactly, but performing is so much better because it’s instant gratification without all the work. Writing jokes is my least favorite form of writing. When you’re writing a sketch or a script, it’s a long gradual process where you’re constantly building off stuff you’ve come up with, and that can be really rewarding. But writing jokes is just trying to create something out of nothing, which can kind of drive you crazy. But I have to do it if I want to perform.
Metronome: Your voiceover work on Bob’s Burgers is some of the most inspired casting we here at Metronome have enjoyed in a long time. When it came time to develop the voice for Tina, did you consciously decide to use your normal voice, or did you experiment with different tones?
Dan Mintz: Thanks! I don’t have a lot of vocal range, so I wasn’t really giving them a lot to work with. It kind of could only be my normal voice because that’s the only voice I know how to do.
Metronome: Whose idea was it to bring you in to be the voice of a teenage girl, and what was your reaction when you were initially approached with it?
Dan Mintz: I was originally cast as boy — Gene and Louise’s brother — but Fox wanted to change something about the character, and Loren [Bouchard], the creator of the show, thought of changing the character to a girl. I was very skeptical when he first told me this, because I’ve never thought I had a girl’s voice. But they sent me a short animated clip of Tina they made, and I was like, “Oh, wow, that actually works!”
Metronome: Did you have any childhood female friends or any old-school TV or film characters in mind that influenced your approach to the character?
Dan Mintz: I can’t really think of specific influence. But my wife did point out early on that Tina was in some ways like Bobby Hill on King of the Hill — they both have this earnestness, and when they have a hobby, they pursue it with a passion that disregards how weird it might seem to everyone else. They’re always just really true to who they are. And that did kind of give me a new understanding of the character.
Metronome: In the last few years, the local stand-up scene in Charleston has grown tremendously, with weekly open mics, showcases, and occasional competitions. What advice could you offer anyone looking to get in stand-up or comedy writing?
Dan Mintz: If you want to get into stand-up, don’t agonize over writing the perfect material, don’t read books or take classes, just do it. The hardest thing you will ever do in your stand-up career is getting yourself to do your first night of stand-up. If you can get that part over with, the rest will seem easy. The same goes for writing. Before you do anything else, just write your first script. Don’t worry if it might be terrible, you’ll learn so much just by doing it. And once you’ve written that script, or done a few standup sets, then you can start reading books or taking classes. But in the very first stages, the only way to learn is by doing it.
Dan Mintz performs at Theatre 99 (280 Meeting St.) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5 and 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6. Tickets are available for $15. Visit theatre99.com and danmintz.com for more information.
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