Ready for the best condom joke we’ve ever heard (and we’ve heard a surprisingly high number of them)? It’s coming up! But first, meet the man behind the joke, comedian Dan Bingham. What’s perhaps the most impressive thing about Bingham is that he’s just as hilarious, charming and quick-witted off-stage as he is in the spotlight performing his latest material. Standup comedy might be one of the most challenging career paths in the arts, but Bingham has a special star quality that makes you believe you’ll be seeing his name in lights for a long, long time. Check him out this Friday night (January 24th, 2014) as he showcases for Just for Laughs at Absolute Comedy in Toronto (2335 Yonge Street). We caught up with the Toronto-based standup, who’s originally from Montreal, to find out where he looks for new material, his best advice for new standup comedians. and, of course, his favourite original condom joke…
Give us a snippet about you. What should people know?
I’m a 36-year-old single man with a black cat named Oliver. I’ve been in a dysfunctional relationship with standup comedy for 9 years. I’m currently having a crisis as to whether or not I should shave off my beard. I’m a writer, voice actor, full body actor, and a rookie guitar player who has a very tough time switching smoothly between a C chord and a G. I’ve been completely sober for two years, I’m an aspiring vegetarian, I’m reading Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, and I’m currently addicted to 6 different TV shows on Netflix. I F@#&ING LOVE COFFEE.
When did you know you were funny and that you wanted to be a standup?
When I was 16 my grandmother passed away. Nothing funny there, but during the funeral in the church there was a point when my cousin and I just couldn’t stop laughing. The harder we tried the worse it got. Tears were streaming down my face, and for all the wrong reasons. So when it came time to choose a topic for my high school English class’s oral presentation, I wrote a 5-minute comedy monologue on “Suppressed Laughter.” I rehearsed that thing a hundred times in the mirror. My first “tight five” as they say in the biz. Well not only did my class think it was hilarious, but pretty soon I found myself in the finals of my school’s public speaking competition. When I first heard those laughs from a packed auditorium, and then cheers when my speech won, I was hooked. It would take 11 years from that day to grow the balls to actually try standup comedy.
Give us one of your jokes that has killed it on the comedy club circuit in the past?
I heard this commercial on the radio advertising for Trojan Condoms, and it ended with the slogan, ‘Trojan Condoms: Protection you can trust.” How did this ever happen? At what point in history did the Trojans become so trustworthy for protection? Troy got sacked. Burned to the ground. The Trojans couldn’t protect their own city from 40 Greeks hiding in a wooden horse. They should change their slogan from, “Protection you can trust,” to, ‘Trojan Condoms: If the Greeks penetrate you, it’s gonna burn!”
When you’re looking for new standup comedy material, where do you look for inspiration?
I take inspiration from literally everywhere, everyone and everything. Any thought, situation, observation, experience or conversation that strikes me as odd or interesting or infuriating or scary or hilarious gets written down. This can be very frustrating when actually sitting down to pick which “thing” to work on next, because I literally have to sift through piles of notebooks and endless word documents to find the “right one.”
Who have been some of the most influential comedians on your career?
Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Barry, Eddie Murphy, Bill Hicks, Louis CK, George Carlin, Brian Regan, and Bill Cosby to name a few.
What’s your best advice for dealing with a hard crowd at a comedy club?
Go to YouTube, type “Bill Burr” and “Philly.”
What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
My first 5-minute set at an open mic. I had invited everyone I knew. The room was jammed, I made everyone laugh a lot, my best friend gave me a big ole hug as I walked off stage.
My first showcase for the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. I didn’t even get in that year but just being asked to showcase was a thrill. I was a brand new comic, the club was packed, all the comedians were super nervous, the energy was crazy. I had one of the best sets of my life. Another comic admitted later that he wanted to cut the hands off everyone for applauding so hard. I got in the following year to represent my hometown in the Homegrown Competition.
Being flown into Toronto to record my Comedy Now television special.
Performing my solo show, Adopt This! – the story of growing up adopted and reuniting with my Scottish family – to a sold out crowd at the Montreal Fringe Festival; getting a standing ovation with my biological family in the audience; the show winning the Best Comedy Award; and all that in the same day, which happened to be Father’s Day!
Getting picked to perform Adopt This! in Scotland at the Glasgow Comedy Festival, the city where my biological roots are.
You travel all over the world as a standup. What are some of your favourite cities to perform in?
To be honest I haven’t seen enough of the world to be a proper judge, but as far as Canadian cities go I’m going to have to say Montreal. It’s where I grew up, I feel at home there, all my local reference jokes work there, and whenever I bomb I can eat my emotions with a smoked meat poutine afterwards.
In your opinion, who are some of the funniest people alive today?
That’s a tough one. The people making me laugh the most right now are Louis CK, Larry David, Rory Scovel, Bill Burr, Ricky Gervais, Seth MacFarlane, Steve Merchant, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, Kristin Wiig, Zach Galifianakis, Zooey Deschanel, Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride, Michael Richards, Will Ferrell, the entire cast and crew of Arrested Development, Matt Stone & Trey Parker, Conan O’Brien, I could go on. Thee of my favorite things to watch is Liam Neeson’s appearance on Life’s Too Short, Jen Kirkman’s “Drunk History with Will Ferrell & Don Cheadle,” and David Bowie’s appearance on Extras, all of which can be found on YouTube.
Best advice and/or tips you’d give to an aspiring standup?
Write everything down. Get on stage every night. Surround yourself with comedians who inspire and motivate you. Treat every set like there’s a talent scout in the room. Your target audience should be just that, an actual audience, don’t worry about impressing the comics at the back of the room. Don’t be an asshole. Headliners are always looking for opening acts who’re fun to hang around, so being a good person off-stage is as important as being a solid performer on-stage. Be funny, but even more importantly, record all your sets so you learn to recognize when you’re not, and then cut that stuff.
Where can we see you perform next?
I’ll be showcasing for Just for Laughs again on Friday, January 24th at Absolute Comedy in Toronto at 2335 Yonge Street. Lots of great comics nervously performing their best 8 minutes for talent scouts!