Ask Dave Waite how he stays focused on his career after 12 years of doing comedy and his reply will be a simple and direct, “I don’t.” But his struggle with time management and keeping a clear head hasn’t stopped him from releasing two albums, touring the country, performing at various festivals (including the upcoming 5th annual Savage Henry Comedy Festival), and earning TV appearances on shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Not Safe with Nikki Glaser. Dave called me from his car while touring the Southern United States to talk about choosing LA over NYC, his upcoming album, and his current project One Year Dave, which is serving not only as a comedic experiment, but also as an accountability tool.
Isaac Kozell: How much time do you usually spend on the road every year?
Dave Waite: It breaks down to about two weeks a month. Right now I’m in the middle of being gone for seven weeks. I don’t prefer it, to be honest. I’d rather not be gone from LA that much because I want to be there to make shit happen and do shows that I like.
IK: You’re originally from Kentucky. Did you start doing comedy there?
DW: I grew up in Northern Kentucky, two miles outside of Cincinnati. I started comedy in Cincinnati in 2004.
IK: Did you go from Cincinnati straight to LA, or did you live somewhere else in between?
DW: I moved to New York for 2 years.
IK: What made you choose a LA over New York?
DW: I set this goal for myself: if I got on TV, got [Just for Laughs] Montreal, and got a manager I was going to leave New York. All of those things happened within two months of each other. I told myself I was going to leave, so fuck it, I went.
IK: New York is arguably the best stand-up comedy city in the country. What was the appeal of LA?
DW: I always wanted to move to LA. Initially the plan was to move there in the first place. The guy I was going to move with ended up not having enough money saved up. There were some young guys from Cincinnati who were moving to New York. I had money saved up and was like, “I want to move with people I know. I don’t want to go to a big city cold.” That’s why I moved to New York.
IK: What was your overall experience in your time in New York?
DW: I had a great time there. It was a lot of fun. I moved there when I was 26. If I had gone in my early twenties I might have stayed longer. But it’s not the easiest place in the world to live. If comedy is going to be a struggle I’d rather live where it’s sunny all the time.
IK: You run a show in Culver City, right?
DW: Yeah, it’s called The Blind Barber Secret Show. I’ve been doing it for three years. It’s in a barbershop. You go through the barbershop and there’s a whole hidden bar back there. Every show we’ve done has been sold out. We’ve had Tom Segura, Todd Glass, Andy Kindler, a ton of big names on the show.
IK: You released two full length albums: Kaboom! in 2011 and Hotdoggin’ in 2014. How’s the new album coming?
DW: I’m recording one August 11th – 13th at the Comedy Attic.
IK: Tell me a little bit about this project you’re doing called One Year Dave. What was the motivation behind it?
DW: The motivation was to do anything instead of nothing. There’s so much free time as a comedian. It’s so easy to become obsessed with wasting your life, all the mistakes you’ve made, “Where’s my career going,” all that sort of stuff. I needed to do something. I’m a fan of books like…there’s a guy who read an entire encyclopedia in a year. The movie Yes Man was based on a book about a guy who said yes for an entire year. I’ve always liked books where somebody commits to doing something for an entire year. I wanted to be accountable in some way. That’s why I made it so that people could vote every week. And it’s so public that now I’m accountable to somebody other than myself. When I’ve had jobs I always had perfect attendance and always did my job. But I’m not the best boss. I decided to let the internet be my boss.
IK: How’s it going so far?
DW: It’s giving me something to write about. It’s making me be more present every week. Being a comedian, it’s so hard to not be in your fucking head all the time. So like, the week that I’m not eating bread I’m actually being conscious. I remember landing at the Denver Airport. I was looking around at McDonald’s, a bagel place, a pizza place, thinking, “Well, I can’t eat at any of those places.” It’s nice to have something to pull me out of autopilot.
IK: You were talking about motivation and goal setting. As a full-time comedian with a flexible schedule, how do you stay focused and on track?
DW: I don’t. That’s one of the reasons I started this project. I’ve noticed that since starting this project, before I leave to travel, I pack my suitcase the night before. Just a little thing like that where I wake up the next day and I’m not frantically throwing shit in my suitcase and rushing out the door, starting the day off chaotic.
IK: You recently tweeted that “comedy is an expensive hobby.” You’ve been doing this for about 12 years. You’re full time now. How did you get over that hump that’s so many comics get stuck at, where your return on investment is so incredibly depressing that you either scale back or quit altogether?
DW: I haven’t had a job since about 2006. I saved a bunch of money before I went without a job. I tell people who are going to move to New York or LA to have $10,000 saved. They always look at me like I’m crazy. But my mom was an accountant. I would say it’s one of my stronger suits. I’m pretty good with money compared to other comedians.
IK: This is the “Tech” issue of Savage Henry Magazine. Do you consider yourself to be tech savvy?
DW: The blog I have is a WordPress blog. I think people just want content that’s easy to read. Adding posts every week has been super interactive with people. This past week was postcard week. I mailed out 70 postcards. I went old school media. I don’t know if there’s anything more old school than a postcard. I said I was only going to send out 14, but the demand was there. The week before that was phone call week. You realize that you don’t really talk to people on the phone anymore. I talked to a couple people I went to Highschool with. I talked to one person for like an hour, another person for a half hour. I hung up those calls and thought, “That was awesome. I’ve never felt that way after a text message.”