I called comedian Dave Losso a few days into his early 2017 month-long tour of the American South. Losso is a youngish Chicago-bred road dog. In 2016 he did a brief stint in Denver (“Comedy there is awesome. Everyone there is pretty much a killer.”) before returning home to Chicago. Like a good Midwestern boy, he arrived early for his show at Memphis’ Hi-Tone bar. He being recently single and me being recently divorced, we immediately launched into a much-needed and equally disgusting talk about relationships and breakups. Then we got into comedy.
Isaac Kozell: I was watching you at a show that we did together in Atlanta and I was legit impressed by how many jokes you pack into your bits. Before I met you somebody told me that you were a “joke machine” and that night I understood it. What’s your writing process?
Dave Losso: A lot of it is editing onstage. I leave myself open to riff as much as possible. I will still sit down and write from time to time, but that’s mostly when I have something in my head that I need to start writing down versus me sitting down like, “Okay, it’s time to write something.” But if something pops in my head…I think constantly about fireworks in skateboarding, so if something is breaking through that then it’s probably important enough to write about. I love writing by hand, but a lot of it is just putting shit in my phone. There’s a lot of little fragments. Every year I put out a list of thought fragments from my comedy notes that I don’t understand. I’ll go through my notes in my phone every once in awhile, see some things that are interesting, and write those down on a piece of paper and try to come up with some jokes for them. I like to go onstage with a couple of surefire lines already prepared and then sort of the explore the bit from there.
IK: When did you start doing stand-up?
DL: Four years ago. I had done stand-up for the first time eight years ago. There was a cafe in the south suburbs that had an everything open mic. I just wanted to try doing stand-up. I had written a couple of one-liners and went and did it, but after that I didn’t keep going with it. When I moved to the north side of Chicago about seven years ago I would do it every once in awhile because one of my roommates was an improviser. On Monday nights at this bar by where I was staying they had an improv show with an open mic after. It was a music open mic, but the guy would let some comedians go up. So I did it every once in awhile, but really it was four years ago where I was like, “I can actually do this.”
IK: After dabbling with it a few times why did you decide to finally push it?
DL: I used to write comic books. I was still a comedy nerd. Even though I wasn’t doing stand-up I was writing all the time. I would read interviews with comedians and I liked to listen to podcasts, which I hate to say because a lot of the newest generation of comics say, “I heard about it on a podcast, so I thought I could do it,” but in listening I learned what the process was. I didn’t know what the process behind getting good at comedy was. I was writing comics and writing jokes all the time. I would put a 22-page comic out every month and I probably had 10 or 15 jokes on every page, so I was basically writing a hundred jokes a month, not even realizing it. I thought, “What if I just tried this onstage again?” because I had fun doing it before. My girlfriend at the time was a huge comedy fan. I told her I was thinking of trying to do stand-up again and she was really encouraging of it, which, as it turned out, was a huge mistake for her. She basically signed our relationship’s death certificate right there.
(*15 more minutes of relationship talk has been redacted*)
IK: Let’s get back to some basic shit. What was your favorite comedy special from the past year?
DL: Michael Che’s special is great. I like him telling white women that they’re wrong. That was fun. Kinane’s special was awesome. Who else had specials come out?
IK: There were a lot, but I feel like right now there are so many albums and specials coming out. I’ll have a PR person email me and say, “Hey, my client has an album coming out.” And I’m thinking, “Why are they putting out a stand-up album? I didn’t even know they were a comic. All I know is that they have a weird show on truTV.”
DL: Yeah, I felt like even some of the Netflix stuff was a little rushed. Oh, wait. Did Rory Scovel’s special come out on Seeso this year? The Charleston one?
DL: Okay. I’d say that was probably my favorite. We were listening to Dave Waite’s album on the way to the show tonight. It’s awesome because you can hear the parts where he’s like…he’s great at dealing with the audience when shit gets down, when he’s doing some weird stuff. It sounds so honest in the recording. You can hear when he’s like, “You guys are being weird,” or whatever. It sounds like a real show. I feel like with specials versus albums the albums sound a little more honest. I think when they film specials they feel like they have to fuck with everything. That’s why I like listening to albums because I can hear the part where it got down for a second. I like listening to albums more than watching specials now. Nick Turner’s album is that way. You feel more like you’re at the show.
IK: You spend a lot of time on the road…
DL: When I was a kid I never went anywhere. For vacation we went to Wisconsin Dells. I feel like the Wisconsin Dells informed my comedy a lot. I’m a big Wisconsin Dells comic. I was in a band and we toured a little bit, but nothing significant. But from doing comedy I think I’ve done stand-up in 55 cities or something like that. I’m seeing places I never thought I would go to. Anytime there’s anyone who wants me to do something somewhere I’m like, “Yeah let’s fucking do it.”
Follow Dave on Twitter @davelosso