Q&A: 'Simpsons' writer Dana Gould
Bridgetown Comedy Festival headliner talks about comedian collectives, 'The Simpsons,' and Portland's propensity for beards and hoodies.
One of the headliners at this year's edition of Bridgetown Comedy Festival is Dana Gould, a seasoned stand-up artist with an extensive showbiz resume. He wrote for The Ben Stiller Show and The Simpsons, and he's done voice-over work (including a superb Don Knotts impression on The Simpsons). As an actor he was featured in an episode of Seinfeld as "Fragile" Franky Mirman, a childhood pal of Jerry's who doesn't realize that their lifelong friendship was entirely based on his owning a ping-pong table as a lad. Gould, who will be appearing seven times over the festival's four-day run, took a moment from his kick-boxing workout to answer a few pointless questions.
When it comes to big comedy fests like Bridgetown, what happens to the local population when more than 100 or so comedians are released into their eco-system?
The interesting thing is there is no official name for a large group of comedians. Not like herd of cows or murder of crows. Knowing my fellow comics as I do, it should be a "dysfunction of comedians."
Is there a hierarchy among comedians? Are comedians who've had some success transitioning into movies and/or television at the top of the comedy "food chain?"
The hierarchy of comedians isn't based on financial success but on who is the funniest and most original. It's a true meritocracy. In the grand scheme of show business, we don't rate so high. If ballet dancers and opera singers are up on one end, comedians are way down in the back, right behind the guy who puts the condom on the donkey.
Is there a code of honor among comedians? Have you ever referred to another comedian as a "sell-out?"
Comedians have different "gangs" or "schools." It's like West Side Story—with worse dancing and more chronic masturbation.
Who would you recommend seeing at Bridgetown?
Male comedians who come across as big, swaggering tough guys … They're always great to miss.
When I saw you in Portland last time around, your set really appealed to me because it seems like comedy is an effective part of your "process" for dealing with misfortune. Is that what the best comedians do?
It also helps me deal with my handsomeness.
One of your primary credits is as a writer for The Simpsons. For some reason, I picture the writing process for the show as being hilariously collaborative. Is this the case?
It's an incredibly collaborative process. One person, or a team, writes the episode, and they get and deserve the "Written By" credit. Then everyone pulls the script apart like savage dogs and we work for a month making it better. Or worse.
What do you consider to be your best piece of Simpsons writing?
I thought "Homer The Moe" (Season 13, Episode 3: Homer turns his garage into a bar after Moe's Tavern turns snooty. R.E.M. plays a gig there) was the funniest. I thought "Goo Goo Gai Pan" (Season 16, Episode 12: The Simpson clan visits China so Marge's sister Selma can adopt an orphan girl) held together the best as a story.
Do you have any "Portland" jokes in your repertoire?
The last time I was here, I saw a guy who didn't have a beard and wasn't wearing a hoodie. I'm just joking, that's not true.