Dave Ross is a hardworking comedian in a city where the stand-up comics that don’t keep going just go nowhere. To Hollywood, it’s a gold mine of comedic talent to choose from, and the talent that makes it can make it can make it big…but until then for the performer who just wants a stage to play on it can feel like they are just another shiny rock in a big, dark hole.
Ross spends most of his waking life touring around L.A. and across the country as a professional comic. In addition to all that, he hosts and organizes Holy Fuck at the Downtown Independent theater, a show that draws some of the hottest names in comedy without charging a dollar at the door.
Usually, if you want to play in L.A. you have to pay in L.A., but for fans of real stand-up comedy, there are hidden hideouts where you can find free entertainment.
While that’s enough good news to get any unemployed, underemployed or underpaid adventurer out of their apartment, Holy Fuck actually has free parking on the street if you get there early enough, in addition to not charging you at the door to get in since there’s a concession stand inside where the house makes all it’s money.
Every night at Holy Fuck is like waking up in the morning and finding your stockings stuffed by mysterious goodies from Santa Claus. A veteran of the scene, Ross knows good comics and great ones, so for the price of a bottle of Corona Extra you can see A-list comedians like Matt Braugner, Aziz Ansari, Dimitre Martin and Nick Kroll, to name just a few.
Ross was able to take time from a work schedule that would kill a decent-sized bear to talk about surviving in the business, performing on the top of a roof under the open sky, and how he has been able to keep the faith for the last two years with Holy Fuck.
How long have you been organizing Holy Fuck?
The two year anniversary was on Tuesday, November 17th. The first show was in 2009.
How did you get the idea for Holy Fuck?
It has always been a work in progress. When first I started I didn’t know what I was doing. I just wanted to help my friends perform. I was doing a lot of open mics at the time, and I met a few people who had an art gallery in downtown L.A. and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights they’d put on shows and illegally sell booze.
It made you feel cool…you’d get an email with an invite and a password. You’d pay the cover, walk inside and there’d be bands playing and everything when you got in. It was just regular folks hanging out all night long.
The Downtown Independent theater
But they ended up getting busted. When that happened they couldn’t do it anymore, but they still had the lease to the place. At first we were going to put the show on there, but then they lost their lease. I met the owners of the Downtown Independent theater at the last moment. They wanted me to put on a show with new comics and they asked me to run it. It was a chance to help my buddies who were looking for stage time, so I told them I’d do it.
What was the first show like?
The headliner was Matt Braunger. I really loved the guy as a comic and as a person. I was so new at comedy at the time and I couldn’t believe I was talking to the guy.
It was supposed to be, “Holy Fuck BYOB Comedy At the Downtown Independent” but I changed the name. They were just going to make money charging for beer, and I wanted to make the show cheap. The stage time was enough for me.
Aside from Matt Braunger, what are some of the other big names who have shown up at Holy Fuck?
Aziz Ansari did the third show. It was nuts. He was just getting big at the time. A month later his album came out, and it was on every fucking billboard in the city. There have been so many other comics, like Louis C.K., Margaret Cho, Todd Glass, Ron Lynch…Louis C.K. was such a big name to have.
Damn, that’s cool. I’ve noticed that that there’s a whole community based on Holy Fuck because of you. Isn't that a lot of work to put together?
There’s so much to it. I get to help my friends get stage time, I get to put on a free show...I mostly just like entertaining people. Like I said, we’re all broke, and there are so many things that cost too much, and the ability to help everyone be in a room for a whole night for nothing and we’re all just laughing and getting drunk is worth the work.
Considering how popular the show is getting, have you thought of ever charging people to get in?
People tell me all the time that I should start charing. I don’t want people to think the show has no value even though we don’t get paid for performing. But I don’t want to be a producer. I want to get paid for my stand up and for performing. My goal isn’t to be a comedy producer.
You’d rather be a professional performer instead of being a big producer?
That is what we are all going for. Getting good stage time is impossible in L.A. There are so many comedians out here. We are all trying to get better out here and the travel comics still want to practice their new jokes, so for them L.A. is a gym. For the rest of us, it’s also a gym, but the battle for us is actually getting good stage time before you can get paid for stage time at the big clubs.
Read part II of Dave Ross and Holy Fuck interview right here.
Holy Fuck, 9 pm every Tuesday at the Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.