Sunday, November 1, 2015

Talk about luck

Storyteller Dylan Brody gets the chance of a lifetime opening for humorist David Sedaris at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium

By Carl Kozlowski 11/13/2013
The 3,000 people expected to fill the Pasadena Civic Auditorium Friday night will hear  David Sedaris — one of the most popular humorists of our times — discuss some of his seemingly endless stream of humorous essays and stories. 

But theatergoers will get an added treat as well that night, with Dylan Brody, one of LA’s top professional raconteurs, warming up the audience before Sedaris takes the stage.

Brody has been writing and performing standup comedy and comedic storytelling since he was in college, enjoying a rather successful career with five CDs to his credit, along with three novels, as well as appearances on A&E’s “Comedy on the Road” and Showtime’s “The Green Room with Paul Provenza.” Even after a few decades in show business, Brody was thrilled when Sedaris made the offer to open for his act.

“David and I have been corresponding for five or six years now,” says Brody. “I met him a couple times at readings, and he has advised me via mail and email over the years. I recorded a new piece and posted it at the [National Public Radio show] ‘Snap Judgment’ Web site, and in sending an email to him I said, ‘Check out this piece I wrote.’

“He said, ‘As long as you’re coming to the show, want to come up and do the piece from ‘Snap’?” continues Brody. “And I said, ‘Yes, a thousand times yes.’ His agent told me he never has openers. It’s an enormous honor and it’s literally a fantasy come 
true. Now it’s happened and I’m a little choked up and excited by it.” 

The essay Brody intends to read is called “Not Actual Goats,” which he describes as being about “generational confusion and a conversation with my mother as I’m driving.”  He notes that in recent years, his mother has become his “Gracie Allen, the foil in which I’m the straight man. I’m utterly baffled and she’s utterly delightful.” 

Brody grew up in New York City and started performing stand-up on the city’s thriving comedy scene during the summer between high school and college. Just a year later, he was accepted as a regular performer at the world-famous Improv comedy club there, and continued to perform what he calls “machine-gun, left-leaning political comedy” for the next 15 years.

However, Brody was afflicted with severe depression and dropped out of performing for 10 years as he sought treatment and reshuffled his life after moving to San Francisco. When he felt ready to start performing again, he was invited to tell stories on a show on KYCY, a radio station there.

“I recorded a story of mine that I wanted to get on [the NPR show] ‘This American Life,’ but they rejected it,” recalls Brody, who now lives in Sylmar. “I heard of a man named Steven Page, who basically started the first all-podcasting station in that he aired audio uploads that he liked from surfing online. He got back to me a couple days after uploading my [“This American Life”] story and asked how often I could post.”

After recording 26 weekly stories for Page, Brody started burning his own CDs, filled with his WYCY recordings, and selling them online. When New York City radio station WBAI aired one of the tales, the orders for his CDs soared. He hired a manager who encouraged him to perform in “classier environs.” 

A studio recording of his work was released as “Brevity,” while a live-audience performance was recorded as “True Enough.” The well-established Provenza helped Brody land a deal with Stand Up Records in 2009, which released those two CDs, and a new one each year since then. Once he scored an endorsement blurb from Sedaris for the recordings, Brody’s work became part of the regular airplay rotation on Sirius XM satellite radio’s comedy channels. 

“My creative approach varies from piece to piece, but mainly my wife has accurately noticed that even as events are taking place, I’m internally writing them for greatest impact, whether it’s for comedy, pathos or shock value,” says Brody. “It’s not as much that bizarre things happen to me as everything that happens to me I’m running through my literary filter.”

Brody also notes that he often structures his stories to tell two tales at once. He will start with a present-day story, then reach back to a childhood tale that has a similar point and tell that in full before returning to his adult tale. As such, he notes that he uses multiple events to make a larger point. 

While his highly supportive wife cracked the code for how Brody accesses his creativity, she also is a big influence on the rare tales he refuses to tell. 

“It’s interesting that if my wife asks me not to talk about something, I won’t,” says Brody. “There are certain sexual fetish things that I’ve started to hint at that I won’t discuss fully. Some things, I’m still a little lost in shame over. 

“I will not say on stage anything I disagree with, because I feel that if I am talking to a room full of people, I have to take responsibility for everything I say,” continues Brody. “A lot of people will do jokes that come from a stereotype or disrespect or misogyny or any number of emotional states, and when confronted on them say ‘It’s just a joke, why do you want to censor me?’ I feel if your only defense is, it’s just a joke, then it’s something they shouldn’t be saying.  The things I will not touch and say are anything I don’t believe is true or right.” 

Dylan Brody is the opening act for humorist David Sedaris at 8 p.m. Friday at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. Tickets are $42 to $97. Learn more about Brody at 

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