Stand-ups Matt Braunger and Dana Gould team up for the Bukkake of Smiles tour

Two very different comics, a buffoon and a classic showman, share a bill as they visit New York

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Dana Gould

Dana Gould


Dana Gould

Dana Gould, 49, is something of an anomaly. Having come up between the boom of the ’80s and the rise of alt comedy in the ’90s, he’s been on the road with club comics like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher as well as barroom titans such as Patton Oswalt and Zach Galifianakis. It’s no wonder, then, that fellow vet Marc Maron says watching Gould is “like watching the history of modern comedy”; he’s expertly infused his act with some of the best aspects of many eras.

After starting stand-up at age 17, Gould moved to Los Angeles in the early ’90s, performing steadily and eventually wrote for The Ben Stiller Show. In the ’00s, he spent seven years as a writer for The Simpsons—a job that left little time for live performance. He got back into it in 2008, releasing his first Showtime special the following year; a second will air on the same channel in November. His popular podcast, The Dana Gould Hour, has a classic-radio sensibility that highlights his interest in bringing the antiquated to a new context.

While undoubtedly a gifted writer, Gould’s performance is elevated by his old-school sense of showmanship. The comic likens his onstage persona to that of someone telling stories around a dinner table. His goal, he says, is to preserve the purity of this warm, intimate dynamic in a setting that eschews intimacy: a raised stage in front of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people. His cadence is roughly the same on- and offstage, and  in performance, it feels as though he’s talking to you rather than at you. That said, Gould does break occasionally from his conversational demeanor in favor of histrionics. He speaks slowly in a hushed tone; at others he bellows loudly, as he does in a sequence about bringing his small-town parents out to Los Angeles, repeatedly yelling, “Mistake!” after key parts of the story.

Thanks to Gould’s distinct point of view, his shows feel like cohesive wholes even when the he wanders from subject to subject. In one moment he’ll voice his creatively racist father—“Your average Algerian: That’s like two Albanians with a hangover!”—and in the next he’ll speak to the apathy of teenagers by launching into a bizarre tale of familial unity between two generations of dildo-factory workers.

Maron calls Gould “a genius,” and it’s easy to see why. His shows are elegantly written and structured,  he imbues performances with an air of immediacy and authenticity,  and he knows when to deploy his dramatic flair to keep the audience on its toes. Because—as Gould reminds us­—first and foremost, “it’s a show.”—DB

The Bukkake of Smiles Tour stops at the Bell House Thu 12.


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