About a month or two ago I was sent a link to a very funny video. The video was a seven minute piece from the stand up act of Dan Nainan (www.nainan.com). I was an instant fan. Being half Japanese and half Indian, Nainan goes on to say that he is “both Harold and Kumar”. That’s the just beginning as the laughs continue to roll throughout the clip.
Dan wasn’t always a comedian as he was Senior Engineer with Intel before he started making a career out of making us laugh. His fear of speaking onstage led him to partake in a comedy class where a career in comedy would be in his future. Fortunately for the comedic world Dan cashed in stock options, hit the road as a comedian, and hasn’t looked back ever since.
Have you ever tried to watch a comedy special a family member but had to change the channel due to its content? Maybe it didn’t offend you, but how many people want to listen to the many ways a guy will attempt to get laid with his mom in the room. Dan Nainan is just the opposite as his comedy is clean, yet very funny. Not only is his act clean, but he also promotes a clean, green living lifestyle “simply because if we don’t, we won’t be around very much longer.”
I was able to get Dan Nainan to talk about life before comedy, life as comedian, and living in a green world.
Hmoodle: First off, thanks for taking the time to participate in this interview for our Hmoodle readers.
Dan: Thank you most kindly… it’s a pleasure to be here… virtually at least!
Hmoodle: How have you been keeping busy this summer?
Dan: Incredibly busy — I have a tremendous amount of work on my plate. In addition to my crazy touring schedule, I opened a 300-seat comedy club in Bethesda, Maryland. Also, because of my recent article in the New York Times, I was signed to a book deal by a major literary agent. The book is about going from an engineer with Intel to stand up comedian (see more below). I also just invested in an Internet startup and I’m on their advisory board. Finally, I’ve been asked to do a video blog for one of the most popular news websites. So I have plenty to keep me busy!
Hmoodle: You had what some would say a very successful career or at least a prestigious job title prior to becoming a comedian. Can you give our readers some insight on that?
Dan: Well, my previous career was in information technology. I think that in this day and age, I think it is difficult to be unsuccessful at high-tech… especially if you’re Asian My job with Intel was to travel around the world and
speak onstage, doing technical demonstrations with the chairman, CEO and president. It was a fantastic job, because we got to stay in the finest hotels and dine in the finest restaurants. The only downside was, I was terrified of speaking onstage. That’s what led me to take the comedy class, and I had fantastic beginner’s luck. Then, I got promoted to Strategic Relations Manager for the northeastern region, based in New York — it was all part of the plan to get to New York, which is where you really have to be if you want to develop as a comedian.
Hmoodle: What was it that made you want to make the drastic change into becoming a comedian?
Dan: My entire life I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh. Even as a youngster, I would use different voices, mostly crank phone calls. There is something about that moment of getting a laugh that is intoxicating — it’s like a drug, it makes you want to have that feeling again and again. I’ve never done drugs, so when I’m in front of 2000 people, holding their attention, making them laugh… I can only imagine that that is what heroin must feel like.
Although I loved my job with Intel where I was traveling around the world, the position I got promoted to was home-based, not very technical, and I rarely got to travel, so I finally decided to ditch that job, cash in some stock options to have a nest egg, and just go for the comedy! Fortunately, it turned out to be the correct decision!
Hmoodle: How did your friends and family respond to this change?
Dan: My family was fine with it — I had already had a successful career in information technology, so it wasn’t like they were worrying that I was ruining my life. Of course, many of my jokes come from them, so of course they thought my jokes were hilarious. My friends have been extremely supportive — although one of them is insanely jealous and always tries to criticize me as much as possible… he has a boring job, and quite honestly I think he has the talent to become a comedian, but it is too afraid to try… so he takes it out on me!!
Hmoodle: In the New York times article I read about you it stated that you are “quite possibly the only half Japanese, half Indian comedian in the world” and in your stand up you even poke fun at that and say that you are both “Harold and Kumar”. Do you find your comedy benefits from having these two cultures to feed off of?
Dan: I’ll tell you something, went I took my first comedy class way back when, I remember asking the teacher whether it would be a disadvantage to be from these two Asian cultures… she said “Are you kidding, this is going to be a great advantage for you”, and it has certainly turned out that her words were
incredibly prophetic. I truly believe that it is because of this biracial background that I get a lot more work than your typical comedian. Also, being 100% clean also helps.
Hmoodle: One of my favorite things when I was in college and I was in charge of picking up the comedians for shows at our school was the stories they would tell me about being on the road. Do you have any interesting or funny ones that you could share with us?
Dan: Nothing really sticks out in my mind about travel… it’s just that you have to be incredibly, incredibly patient.
Unlike most comedians, I don’t do a lot of driving to shows — I fly to almost all my shows or, if it’s a local show in the New York area, try to use public transportation as much as possible. Even when I land in a car oriented city like Los Angeles, I try to use public transportation as much as possible. Many comedians absolutely dread the travel, but I really enjoy it — it’s a way to relax, read and meet new people. Between my computer and reading matter I bring on the road, I always have enough to keep me occupied, even if there is a nine hour delay.
I talk to so many comedians who complain “I’m so bored… I still have eight hours until the show and there’s nothing to do!” I just cannot fathom this way of thinking! There’s always something to do, like working on your website, editing video, keeping in touch with your fans, writing your jokes, improving your act… I’m quite the opposite… I wish I had more time!
Hmoodle: Your comedy is considered clean compared to the other types of comedy out there, why is it you chose to go that direction?
Dan: My rule of thumb is that I don’t want to do any material that I cannot do in front of my parents. They are Asian and very conservative, so you can imagine what would happen if I were to do dirty jokes. I was highly influenced by a conversation I had with Jerry Seinfeld — he told me that I should always work clean, and that has turned out to be fantastic advice. If nothing else, a comedian gets booked at least 20 times more (and in much higher paying shows) than if he or she is dirty. I couldn’t do charity galas, birthday parties, weddings or corporate functions if I did dirty comedy.
Here’s a perfect example — Bernie Mac was hired to perform at a recent fundraiser for Barack Obama. Although he was funny in the right circumstances, he was definitely not the right comedian for this crowd, and his jokes offended a lot of people, who were booing. Obama himself even said “You’ve got to clean up your act”. I’m not as funny as Bernie was, and nowhere near as famous, but I know for certain that I would have been a much better comedian for that crowd. I do fundraisers like that all the time, and the reaction is always wonderful. And I could have done it for a lot less money!
Hmoodle: Not only is your comedy clean, but you live a clean, green lifestyle. What do you to live that life style and what advice could you give to others about how they can live a green lifestyle?
Dan: The things you can do to live a green lifestyle are almost infinite. First and foremost, taking public transportation as much of heat as possible, and if you must drive, try and carpool and share the cost. In hotel rooms, turn off the television and the air-conditioning when you leave the room (of course I never watch television anyway). So many Americans think it’s uncomfortable to come back to a hot room – so big deal, you’ll be hot for a few minutes while the air conditioner cools off the room. I don’t get my towels and sheets changed every day at a hotel, because I don’t do that at home — so why do I have to do it in a hotel room?
Or it could be something as simple as printing on both sides of the paper — so much paper is wasted in America simply because people are too lazy to print on both sides — so you get a big fat report or movie script and literally half the paper is wasted. In 2008, honestly there should be very little need to print anything at any time, except maybe the occasional boarding pass… and the best part is the less you print, the less money you spend!
So many people buy books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble — I get all my books at the library. Not only do I save a ton of money, it also helps the environment. The New York Public Library is amazing — I can search for any book, then I can have it routed to the nearest library a block from my house, and they send me an e-mail when it arrives! Most library systems around the country work like this now. I think in this country it’s really impressive to have a
huge library with a bunch of books, just to impress people with how many books you’ve read… I’ve read more books than anyone I know and I have perhaps 20 books on my one tiny bookshelf.
It’s also quite amazing to me that people who claim they are for the environment don’t actually walk the talk. A perfect example is Al Gore — he’s telling everyone how to live these really environmentally responsible lifestyles, yet he flies around everywhere in a private jet and rides around in a limousine, and lives in a 20,000 square foot house with a copper mine on his property. John Travolta talks so much about helping the environment and yet has not one but three private jets! Environmental responsibility should apply to everyone, the rich as well as the poor.
Hmoodle: Why do you think it’s important to live a green life?
Dan: Well the answer should be obvious — simply because if we don’t, we won’t be around very much longer. The green movement has been relatively recent and is fortunately picking up steam, but honestly, I have been green since I was a child. Of course when you’re the son of a Japanese mother, you learn how to reuse everything, for example using a grain of rice instead of glue, etc.
Hmoodle: In the past few months the comedy family has lost two great comedians. One, the legend that was George Carlin and the recent passing of an Original King of Comedy, Bernie Mac. Any thoughts about that?
Dan: George Carlin was of course a genius. I really didn’t see very much of Bernie’s comedy, but I did see him in the movies. As somebody said, the world is a lot less funny without those two guys around. This does not apply to either George or Bernie, but many comedians live extremely self-destructive lives, filled with alcohol, drugs, stupid decisions… and as a result many comedians die away before their time.
Hmoodle: So, where are you performing in next few months and what can we expect to see from you in the future?
Dan: I’m all over the country as usual, and I have upcoming shows in South Africa, Trinidad/Tobago, Jordan and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, as well as the occasional cruise ship.
Hmoodle: Again, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to do this for us. Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Dan: Thank you so much for your time also, and I would like to say, please check out my website at www.nainan.com
Also I’d like to say that I talk to a lot of people who want to pursue their creative dreams, whether it’s script writing, movie making, dance, music, comedy, acting, whatever… but that they’re getting pressure from their parents to have a proper job. I would say that the truth lies somewhere in between. It’s important to have a career in which you can earn a living, but it’s also important to let your artistic/creative side flourish as well. Many of the people who have gone on to become great entertainers worked a 9-to-5 job to make a living, but toiled at their craft at night and on weekends. Most people watch an average of 28 hours of television a week — that’s four hours a night! Then on Friday nights, they stand in line at hip clubs with velvet ropes and stay up until the wee hours of the morning getting wasted, which ruins the whole next day, then they rinse and repeat and do the same thing Saturday night which destroys Sunday, and next thing you know it’s time to go back to work. I would say forget about partying and if you have a craft that you want to pursue, sit down and work on evenings and weekends… because once you make it, you’ll be able to travel the world and the party as much as you like! Hey, it works for me!
Not only is Dan funny, but he is the comedic version of Yoda with some great advice for everyone out there. Allow your creative juices to flow, because you might surprised at what you can come up with. Especially if you aren’t happy with the life and career you are in now, it might because you aren’t doing what you meant to do.
Check Dan out www.nainan.com or www.myspace.com/nainan and become his friend—tell him Hmoodle sent ya. He also has several videos on youtube, but I would definitely check out his video via his own personal website.
If you are a comedian and would like to covered by Hmoodle.com or you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to contact me at [email protected]