Comedian Dana Gould: raised on TV, reveres MeTV

Dana Gould is a brilliant comedian, writer, actor, voiceover artist and podcast host. We’ve long admired his work on The Simpsons as well as The Adam Carolla Show podcast, and if you’re not familiar with his work, we highly recommend that you visit his website to familiarize yourself with him and his insightful, hilarious looks at “modern life through a pop-culture obsessed lens”. 

Much to our delight, we learned that Dana is a fan of our work, too. We spoke with him recently, and he was friendly, forthcoming and of course, hilarious.

It’s great to hear you talk about Me-TV on your various podcasts, yours and Adam Carolla’s…
It’s literally all I watch. That and MSNBC.

You grew up in Massachusetts. Did you watch much TV as a kid?
I watched SO much TV as a kid! I was the fifth child of six, and basically I was raised by a 24-inch RCA Victor.

Do you remember having any favorite shows from that era?
Oh, yeah. The interesting thing is, the shows I grew up on were not the shows that were relevant to that time; they were the shows that were in syndication at that time. My TV watching hours were, like, 4pm to dinner time. So I watched Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Perry Mason, Adam-12 and Dragnet—all the things that were in syndication at the time, which was the early to mid ‘70s. I graduated high school in ’82, and I’m a lot more familiar with Adam-12 than I am with, say, CHiPs. Although CHiPs was on when I was in high school, it was on at night, and at night I was out with my friends. But I would watch Adam-12 during the day.

To me, Me-TV could be called MC-TV, for ‘Mac and Cheese TV’. It’s my form of comfort TV! I have kids now, and when I get them off to bed, I have, like, an hour and a half to myself at the end of the night, I’m more prone to watch Perry Mason than I am say, House of Cards, True Detective, or Game of Thrones, because I missed the first episode and don’t have the time to go back and watch 20 episodes to get caught up! Nowadays, getting into a TV show is like getting into a serious relationship. “I’m not sure if I can commit to this! Can’t we just get a burger and see how it goes?”

Do you watch Me-TV with your kids?
My oldest is 11, and she likes Star Trek, but right now the big love in her life is Dr. Who, and so I spend a lot of time prying her away from her Hulu account!

Let’s get your thoughts on some Me-TV shows in particular. What about Perry Mason?
LOVE Perry Mason. My old friend Tom Kenney, who is the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, and eight out of every nine cartoons you hear on television today, we are both Perry Mason freaks. The brilliance of Perry Mason is: one; that it was done at a beautiful time during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s when clothing and furniture hadn’t gone to that crazy, hideous ‘70s shag carpet/avocado green/wall-mounted-owl-macramé look yet. So with Perry Mason, and also The Twilight Zone, there’s this sense of timelessness to it; there’s a very classic style to it. And I just remember coming home from school every day and clicking through the channels, and Perry Mason was one of the shows. When I was a younger man living in San Francisco at the beginning of my career, my roommate and I would always watch Perry Mason at 5 O’clock in the afternoon, and the show is just like a security blanket. The stories are amazing, too, and sometimes Perry doesn’t even show up until, like 25 minutes into the show! And it’s also interesting to see all the suits from that era. They’re so angular, and there are the skinny little ties; to see Raymond Burr crammed into one of those suits, it’s like putting a Christmas tree into a poster tube!

I also hear you talk about Star Trek a lot…
Star Trek was every weeknight on channel 66 in Boston. Star Trek, without fail! And before the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, in the pre-computer era—in other words, before the nerds took over—Star Trek was the secret handshake. So if you watch Star Trek, there’s a vast unspoken language we share, and you and I will get along great! 

I think as a kid, my favorite episode was Day of the Dove, just because it had a lot of fighting in it. But I think the best episode they ever did was probably City on the Edge of Forever. Oddly, as much about Star Trek as I know, I cannot compare to Ben Stiller, who, if you give him any random line of dialogue, he knows the name of the episode. He’s a closet nerd of epic proportions!

Rod Serling wrote Planet of the Apes, which you’ve mentioned as one of your favorites, also did The Twilight Zone.
He’s one of my heroes, one of my real heroes. I discovered The Twilight Zone in high school. I knew about it, but it wasn’t on in Boston until I was in high school. I had known about if from reading Famous Monsters Magazine. But The Twilight Zone is timeless; it’s one of the greatest half hour television programs in history, by far. You know, I own the complete series on DVD, but I am 99% more prone to watch it on Me-TV, because there’s that weird sense of ‘Everyone’s watching it at the same time I am!’

It’s a community!
That’s right, it’s a community.

Do you have a favorite episode?
The Monsters are Due on Maple Street was the first episode I watched from beginning to end as a high school kid, and I think that’s one of my favorite ones. It was written by the great Richard Mattheson, I believe. And the other was The Lonely, which I love because it has Ted Knight playing a real (jerk) space captain. And again, it’s so funny, because you compare Perry Mason and Ironside, you compare The Twilight Zone with The Night Gallery, and the black and white older show is much more timeless than the color, more recent show. The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were so profoundly grotesque in furniture, architecture, style and fashion! 

What about Batman?
One of the funniest television programs ever created. And you watch it as a kid and it’s great, but when you watch it as an adult, you really appreciate how hilarious that show is, and clearly how much fun they must have been having. You know, Commissioner Gordon would pick up the ‘Hot Phone’ with an oven mitt, and he’d never comment on it! It was hilarious. One of the great joys of getting to a certain point in show business is getting to meet your heroes, and I’ve worked with Adam West several times, and he never disappoints. Adam West is to being Adam West what a skunk is to odor! You can’t get more Adam West than Adam West! I went to a sci-fi convention, and he was there, and when I saw him I thought I’d reintroduce myself. Well, he saw me coming, and as I approached he said (Dana breaks out a flawless Adam West impression) “Here…comes…trouble” and I thought to myself, “Holy sh*&! He remembers me!” And you just never forget it, you think to yourself, “I’m hanging out with Adam West!”

Have you been watching much Gilligan’s Island?
Well, now that I’ve watched Lost, I think I have to start watching more Gilligan’s Island. You know, when I worked as a writer on Parks and Recreation, my parking space was in the lagoon. What was the lagoon is now a parking lot, and it’s on Gilligan’s Island Way. So literally every morning, I’d get out of my car, and in my mind, every single morning, I’d go (sings Gilligan’s Island incidental music). I mean, that’s how you walk around a lagoon, with that incidental lagoon theme playing.

Did you watch much of The Brady Bunch?
I did, they were on Friday nights on ABC. And watching The Brady Bunch made me want to live in California. I grew up in this little mill town in Massachusetts, that was sort of bleak and dirty and smelly at all times. But, you know, seeing The Brady Bunch, it was ‘I want to live there!’ It was always nice! And I live in Van Nuys, near the Brady house and it’s like, yeah, I’ve arrived. When I was a kid it was a fantasy, and now I live here.

And now my children are obsessed with it, and they watch it all the time. My children are adopted, and I don’t know if there’s that element in it, but it’s like, families are what you make them. A family is who lives with you, and who raises you, and, yeah, my kids are obsessed with it. I frequently call my middle daughter Jan, because she’s got all of Jan’s issues!

We’ve got just a few more questions, Dana, and thanks for your time…
Oh, it’s my pleasure. And, listen…when Svengoolie retires, call me and I’ll take over. I have the show all ready to go. I have the name, I have the character, it’s going to be great, I promise you. I am a fan, but I don’t want him to leave a day before he’s ready. I’m not going to Jay Leno him.

At this point, we summoned Me-TV’s very own Svengoolie (Rich Koz) into the room.

RK: Alright, what’s this about you replacing me, Dana?
(In Kerwyn voice, to much laughter all around) “I never said that!”

RK: I’m glad you like the show!
I love, love your show! I literally just got done saying, that when you voluntarily leave the show, call me. I don’t want you to leave a day a day before you want to.

RK: Well, that’s very kind. But, I just went to see my cardiologist the other day, and he tells me I’ve got a few more years. 
Good, good! Because I’d rather watch it than do it. 

Rich and Dana, two dyed in the wool movie horror experts, shared a few thoughts on original horror movie host Maila Nurmi, and Rich retreated.

A lot of comedians mention The Phil Silvers Show. Did you watch that?
Not while I was growing up, but I did watch its blatant cartoon rip-off, Topcat! You know, Topcat was The Phil Silvers Show, The Flintstones was The Honeymooners, and The Jetsons was The Donna Reed Show. How come Phil Silvers never sued over that show!

One more: do you ever watch Columbo?
Yes I do, and it’s one of those shows that I did watch as a kid when it was part of The Tuesday Night Mystery, with McCloud and MacMillan & Wife. And I’ve gotten to be good friends with Kevin Pollak over the years, and now when I watch Columbo I say, hey that guy’s doing Kevin! Kevin’s amazing, he can actually do the eye!

Well, we’re glad you’re watching Me-TV!
I love the shows; the Saturday night lineup is my favorite. And I love the on-air promos you guys do; they’re phenomenal! They couldn’t be any better. I mean, the combination Perry Mason/Ironside promo, it’s fantastic! The graphics, just the whole look of all that stuff, it’s really timeless; don’t change a thing!

Wow! Well, thanks, Dana!
I really have to tip my hat to you guys. And the beautiful thing about Me-TV; I travel a lot. For instance, tomorrow night I’ll be in San Francisco and I can watch it there, and it’s like I’m home. I was in Vancouver for two weeks, and I watched Me-TV up there.

That’s really exciting for us to hear. We started as a local channel in Chicago, and we’re still here but now we’re a network.
 And that’s the beautiful thing about Svengoolie, too. It’s a national local show, which is great!

We’re big fans of your podcast, too. It’s got a unique presentation, the way you switch between topics.
Well, as a comedian, it’s now mandatory to have a podcast. It’s like jury duty! People like Marc Maron and Chris Hardwick, these are people I hang out with. I was looking for a way to do a podcast without just doing my version of their shows.

And part of it was inspired by This American Life, and part of it was inspired by a guy whose show was on in L.A. in the ‘90s, Joe Frank. And he would tell these really brilliant and funny and dark stories, but in a very monotone way, and they would very slowly unspool into these lunatic situations. But he would never deviate from this sort of Jack Webb delivery, and I thought it was brilliant. And then halfway through the story, he’d start another one and just cut back and forth. I thought if I could do that with conversation, that would actually be a cool show. Like if you were at a party and going back and forth between two interesting conversations. So I thought I would steal that. And then in the middle sections, I just tell people about all the weird stuff I’m into. For instance, I’m really into The Night Stalker, so I’ll use that part of the show to talk about The Night Stalker. 

It’s kind of what you guys do. I just do this in my little workshop out back, and the fact that so many people like it, it’s just gravy. But it’s this thing I do because I like it. 

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