After many hard-working years of sweat, toil and tears, stand-up comedian Dave Ross is finally experiencing cinematic success. Thanks in part to the lucrative popularity of the production Women, an original sketch-comedy show co-written by Ross and presented by the Independent Film Channel, he’s learning how to enjoy the financial rewards of performing in between touring the United States, starring in Comedy Central’s big hit, Drunk History.
“Right now I’m chilling, which is nice,” says Ross. “I’ve been doing stand up full speed without any breaks since I started seven years ago. In the past year I made a little bit of money from it. Now that I have money in the bank, I’m not worried so much.” But for Ross, relaxed doesn’t mean lazy. “I’m still doing stand up and writing comedy,” he says. “I’m also trying to sell a sitcom to Hollywood, so there’s been a lot of meetings.”
While the blockbuster appeal of Women, Drunk History and his own live shows has rewarded him financially, success is even sweeter for Ross since the writer and comedian nearly became homeless. “Last year I hit rock bottom. Totally broke. I was touring heavily and collecting unemployment, but I wasn’t on the road, and that was where my money was coming from. My sketch group and I sold some a show to IFC, but it took a while for them to pay us. I was so sad. If you can’t buy food or pay your rent, you feel like garbage.”
There is an ancient entertainment adage: “Pain plus time equals comedy.” Ross has a style that embodies this with observations such as, “I love being in my thirties, because being in my twenties sucked. You can sum up my twenties in one phrase, Amanda,” he says, whining sarcastically to dramatic applause as, with one word, his audience remembers the love in their life that crushed them. “When you turn thirty, a man in a trench coat knocks on your door. If you let him in he puts all of your movie posters in frames.”
“When I started doing comedy I was just scared that I would be bad,” says Ross. “At some point I stopped being afraid because I just wanted to be a good comedian. Now I’m much more relaxed about it. Last year I did a really big tour that ended with me headlining at The Los Angeles Improv. I performed a few months later at Meltdown Comics. At the Improv I just did jokes, but at Meltdown I just went totally off book and talked about what was on my mind for thirty-five minutes.” The audience laughed as Ross entertained them with personal stories about growing up and being on the road. “I just talked confidently about things and had fun. I went on a first date with a girl I met there that night. It was great showing her everything I believe in and who I was in my act.”
Being the star of Drunk History was an original experience for Ross. “They tell you to drink beforehand and be at least two beers in. I was nervous.” The crew set up the production in his apartment for more than twelve hours. “They gave me a location fee. We all got drunk together. I ended up drinking six dark beers and blacking out. The nurse had to give me oxygen. I told my story before I blacked out and afterwards. I ended up screaming and telling all of them to leave. “
No matter how successful somebody can get in Hollywood, Ross advises that they keep it real. The industry takes a lot of personal time, and that can hurt relationships. “If you get a credit before you are ready for it, you think it was kind of a fluke. Simultaneously, you notice that work is separating you from people. I was four or five years into comedy. It happened to me early.” In a town where crazy is common, Ross has kept his mind on what matters. “Life is about people. I’m going to start focusing on work and friends. I wish I could impart that to more people. You just have to tell yourself that.”
You can find out more about Dave Ross at www.davetotheross.com. He is also on Twitter at www.twitter.com/davetotheross. There’s even more of Dave Ross, and episodes of Women at www.womencomedy.com. Don’t forget to enjoy live stand-up comedy and “Good Heroin” with Dave Ross, Matt Ingebretson and Olivia Doud every Saturday night at 8pm over at the Stories Books & Café (www.storiesla.com) in Los Angeles, California.