If you see Danny Green on stage, you should know that he’s not angry, but he is fighting.
At a local open mic Danny is usually fighting for attention. By the time he gets off his shift at Fuel and is able to grab a spot on the sign-up list, the crowd has turned drunk and chatty. These are the same kinds of crowds that Dave Attell or Marc Maron would’ve gotten their chops warding off, and Danny relishes it. He is equipped with the weapons of confidence and delivery that cause the involuntarily reaction of laughter: that one thing that makes comedy the ultimate democracy. And when Danny’s on stage, the votes roll in.
I mean that literally as well. He recently finished in the top two in a preliminary round of the Theatre 99 Stand-Up Competition. The next round will be in November, but I imagine that is far from the forefront of his mind because this Saturday, he will be putting on the first of his themed variety shows at Theatre 99, entitled Danny Green’s Universe. The inaugural show’s theme is “Family.”
When we caught up last week, it was in Danny’s apartment on Burn’s Alley off King Street. When he answers the phone to let me in, he’s passé. He’s wearing a Boston College basketball jersey and a backwards hat, everything about him is relaxed.
…Until we sit down and he starts fielding questions. He talks fast, even faster than he does on stage (which is pretty fast). He’s not angry, he’s just fighting. He’s direct and intentional, like this may be the only press his show may get, the only press that he may ever get. It makes me nervous. Maybe that’s because I respect Danny’s work ethic as a fellow comic. Or maybe it is because Dusty Slay and Vince Fabra—two of Charleston’s funniest funnymen—are eavesdropping in the room behind us. Or maybe it is because there’s weed on the table in front of me, and I’m bad at saying no to people.
Like most fears, mine are imagined, and so we just sit and talk about family. Danny talks a little faster than me, that’s all.
He’d just gotten back from a trip to Denver, where he visited his sister. He had gotten a ticket to The Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival’s stop in the Mile High City, but Denver got the worst rain it had seen in a hundred years.
For Danny, it was enough just to drive past South Park, Colorado—the namesake of one of his favorite shows. The way he talks about the show is exactly as it should be described: low art as high art. That, too, is exactly how Danny commands his audiences, doubling them over with jokes about the mysterious smell of his sock drawer during adolescence, or the fact that he was born with two assholes: his mom and his dad.
Danny was born in Buffalo, New York, the youngest of three and surrounded by a group of sharp-witted, older neighborhood kids.
“You had to be funny,” he explains, like a man on a rite of passage. “I had to fight to not be at the bottom of the totem pole.”
“What about your sisters, are they funny?”
“They’re funny in their own way. I think I was the one that was the most obnoxious, though. I was always trying to get attention.”
Growing up, Danny played hockey, a violent sport that takes an unheralded amount of dedication. So much so that he moved to Chicago his senior year of high school to play for a team there, then back to Buffalo for a year, then Portland, Maine. After his pursuit of hockey ended, he had to decide what to do next, so he fell back on his family.
He moved to Charleston to live with his sister and her husband.
“I’ve been here for two years now, but they were here for the first nine months, so they really helped me get acquainted. The original plan was that when they moved to Denver, I would move somewhere else, too, but I got involved with the theatre and comedy. I love it here.”
Right when the interview starts to feel comfortable, Dusty cuts through the open living room to meet a friend at Kudu and Vince cocoons himself inside a blanket on a chair next to me. For a minute, the living room is light with jokes and the subtle chaos of new characters coming in and out, much like the variety show that Danny will be putting on. The show was co-written by Vince and will feature all three of the guys in the room cracking jokes about Dusty’s inability to restrain himself from commenting on people’s Facebook statuses.
Danny Green’s Universe will feature stand-up comedy, improv, and sketches. Danny first did stand-up after taking a class in Buffalo where he also performed at open mics for six months before moving. His first open mic in Charleston happened to be the last one that Theatre 99 has hosted since. It was a little bit of comedy magic, maybe fate.
“Who knows if they hadn’t done that who I would’ve met or what would’ve happened?”
A few months later, Danny got the opportunity to spend time with T.J. Miller, an idol of his, after the headliner performed a show at Theatre 99.
“I asked him how he got so good at working with the audience, and he told me I should take improv classes. That was on a Saturday night.” Danny points at an imaginary calendar, “I started my Level One class that Monday.”
Danny is now a company member at Theatre 99, a place he says feels like family.
For help with sketches, Danny recruited the caterpillar to my immediate left, Vince Fabra, who has already written an hour-long sketch show, Peanut Butter Buddy Time, showcased at Theatre 99 in the summer of 2012.
Stand-up. Improv. Sketches. That’s chaos, right? But that’s Danny Green’s universe.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a lot going on,” he admits, aware of the task at hand. “You don’t want it to just be a bunch of random stuff, and that’s where the concept of the theme came from—a theme allows everything to be connected, but still be individual.”
Danny promises a personal show that will feature untold stories of his own family life. The audience can expect a fast-paced, entertaining show and Danny promises to try his best to not offend anyone.
“One thing that everyone has in common is a family. It’s such an important thing to so many people, but I think it is fun to take a lighter approach to it.”
He knows that the audience ultimately will tell him what’s funny, so after the first show, he’ll regroup and think of new themes, and if needed, new approaches.
But what about the greatest judge I could imagine, his own family?
Danny Green smiles. He’s done fighting.
“They’re going to love it.”
Danny Green’s Universe: Family will be on stage at Theatre 99, Saturday at 10pm. $5.