He’s a Comedian, Musician, Filmmaker, and World Record Holding Video Game Player. What doesn’t Jason Dove do? Well, I’ll tell ya: rest on his laurels, that’s what.
Isaac Kozell: Jason, I don’t quite know where to begin. Your body of work is… voluptuous. Right now I’m watching the video for “Florida” by Beard, one of the many musical projects you’ve been involved in. What role has performing music played in your life and what place does it hold right now?
Jason Dove: Great question. I have always been drawn to music. Ever since I was a little kid I was fascinated with bands and songs and had early desires to write and create music. Performing music helped shape my confidence as a writer and performer. Performing also allowed for me to get a heavy education on what “Showbiz” is all about in regards to understanding an audience…communicate with an audience and also have an amazing time. As far as what performing music and what place it has in my life now? It doesn’t have much of a place anymore. My desire to want to be liked for my music or desire to become a famous musician seems to have left me. I still enjoy playing piano, singing, and playing songs, but the desire to perform live or get a rehearsal space, live in a van, or babysit drunk adults does not interest me. It is a little weird because that is all I ever knew for 30 years of my life, and one day, I didn’t give a shit any more.
IK: For the last few years, you’ve turned your attention to stand-up comedy. Some would say that being a comedian and being a musician share some Venn diagram-style overlap, especially when it comes to life on the road and babysitting drunk adults. What pleasant distinctions do you find between the two art forms?JD: People always think that there is a great similarity between telling jokes and playing music on stage. I didn’t find that music prepared me too much for telling jokes and being a comedian. I have always been a goofball so I would bring that on stage with me playing music. I would always try to riff jokes between songs and sometimes you’d get a laugh and that was great. Other times, you’d tell a joke and everyone stares at you blankly. If that happens, you have your guitar and the band to fall back on. With comedy, there isn’t a guitar to hide behind. If you aren’t funny onstage people identify it right away. Comedy is like playing in a band all by yourself, but without any equipment to load. You don’t have to depend on anyone else (other than the audience) to help you get funny. Comedy is a singular thing. It is like surfing. It’s you and the wave out there. It is the most truthful one can be on a stage.
IK: How do you prepare for a performance?
JD: I try to stay cool as fuck. Try not to partake in any extracurricular activities before the show. I like to breathe and focus and that’s about it. I just try to stay cool as fuck.
IK: Who are your comedy idols?
JD: Early on I really liked Andy Kaufman. When I saw him get slapped on Lettermen by Jerry Lawler, I was hooked. Also, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Richard Jeni. And of course, my older brother, Jamie. He was the first comedian I ever knew. I got to sneak into comedy shows when I was 14 and 15 to see him and hang out with the comics after.
IK: In all the interviews I’ve done, you’re the first person to mention Richard Jeni. What in particular do you admire about his style?
JD: I just remember seeing his HBO specials when I was a kid and he really made me laugh. Richard Jeni had a particular thing about him that was a mix of classic comedy club comedian with very clever and well-delivered jokes. He had an engaging presence about him mixed with such a high level of perfection. I was really sad and shocked when I found out he killed himself. I even wrote a song about it.
IK: Do you strive for a polished, perfect set, or do you like to play it loose?
JD: I like to polish things but make it look like I am completely winging it.
IK: Oh, the ol’ “controlled chaos” approach. As you know, this is the Video Games issue. Rumor has it that you know your way around a classic console.
JD: Yes, that is correct.
IK: I detect modesty here so I’m going to give you a platform from which you can freely boast. Tell me about your World Records.
JD: You are going to force Captain Modest to start boasting? Shhheeeeeeiiiittttt. Fact of the matter is, I have 17 world record high scores in video games. They range across a few consoles including the Colecovision, The Atari Lynx, The Nintendo DS and The Playstation Portable (PSP). Pretty much all of the scores are in 1980s classic arcade games across these consoles. The ones I am most proud of are California Games – Half Pipe – on Atari Lynx, Mr. Do’s Castle on Colecovision and The FairyLand Story on PSP.
IK: How does one verify and stake claim to the title of World Record Holder?
JD: Well first, you must identify if there is an existing hi-score in place so that you have a goal of either beating the existing score or setting the hi-score. Once you have identified your target, you must set up a camera and film yourself presenting the game, loading the game, and then beating the score. If you tape yourself trying to set a high score and fall short, you must start back over at the beginning with loading the game etc. Once you have recorded yourself setting a score, you then must submit your score to Twin Galaxies and they will have an official referee view your submission. If your submission meets all requirements then your score will be added to the international score board.
IK: Man, that’s intense. What inspired you to do this?
JD: After I saw The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters I was really inspired to find out what records were out there. Initially, I started looking at arcade game records and quickly realized that I would be better suited to beat console scores based solely on the idea that I already had a bunch of consoles and did not have access to a lot of stand up machines. For a long while I was determined to try to break the Jungle Hunt arcade record. I even purchased a Jungle Hunt machine and “practiced.” However, upon learning what the score was, I felt it was maybe too unattainable, so I put beating it on the back burner.
IK: Arcades used to be the place to be. I remember going to the mall with my mom, and while she shopped, I would hang out at the arcade. A couple of dollars in quarters equalled hours of entertainment. Did you have a similar experience?
JD: My early childhood was spent going to arcades throughout the state of Maryland. On the weekends we’d go to the local mall(s) and I always remember that sound of mayhem coming from the arcade when I was really young. I think the earliest arcade memory I have was in 1979-80 when was probably 3 or 4 years old. I vividly remember seeing games that were in black and white, like the driving game Sprint, which now seems so crazy to me. The hard thing for one to understand now is just how popular arcade games had become in the 80s. They were everywhere and they could generate serious money. They had 2 games set up in the local Safeway grocery store that I used to go to with my mom as a kid. This is where I first developed an obsession with Jungle Hunt and Mr. Do’s Castle. I would beg for quarters as she would shop. I think a good part of my childhood was spent begging for quarters from an adult. Hope that doesn’t make me sound creepy!
IK: Not creepy at all. *vigorously applies hand sanitizer* What is your absolute favorite game? And yes, you have to pick just one.
JD: Ooh, that is a tough one. I’d have to say Jungle Hunt is my favorite game for many reasons. The biggest reason is for nostalgia. Definitely my close second – sorry, I am giving you two – is The Fairyland Story. Both games were created by Taito and both are awesome!
IK: It’s been great talking with you. Before we go, do you have anything you would like to plug?
JD: It has been a pleasure talking with you as well. Once this interview is finished, I won’t have a reason to check my email anymore. Let’s see, everyone should follow me on Twitter @jasondove. That is where all of my secrets are told. Also, my website www.jasondove.com has links to my record albums, my series “The Jason Dove Diaries,” as well as interviews that I have recently conducted with people like Amy Schumer, Dom Irrera, Van Dyke Parks, and Colin Blunstone.