Dat Phan is the original winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing and is a headlining comedian touring live throughout the U.S. He’s made numerous TV and movie appearances, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Family Guy as a voiceover and Cellular. Dat was born in Saigon, Vietnam and immigrated with his mother to San Diego, California when he was a small child. After 9/11, Dat realized that life is short, so he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a comic. He had to travel along the dreary path of open mics in order to gain valuable stage time, but it paid off on August 5, 2003, when he was named the funniest person in America. Dat took the risk and auditioned for Last Comic Standing, which was an unproven experimental comedy show at the time. And the rest as they say is comedy history. I talked to Dat about his career, his future and the process of being funny. Dat’s culturally insightful comedy inspects ridiculous stereo types and shares his experience of being a regular American guy with a Vietnamese heritage.
When he got the call to be on Last Comic Standing: “I was living under a desk in West Hollywood. It was a closet that I shared with another comic. I was shocked when they called me to come in to try out for the show. The chances of me getting on a TV show and winning it is like one-in-a-million. I had only been doing comedy for six years at that point, so I was basically considered an open mic-er or maybe a feature act once in awhile.”
How he won Last Comic Standing: “I think I won for two main reasons. First, I earned the trust and the hearts of the majority of America, for the most part. Secondly, I decided to shotgun the punch lines to the audience. So, even though I was competing against other comics who had more than 20 years experience; they were using a headliner’s structure, where it takes about 60 seconds to set up a joke. But, I was trained to tell jokes in a rapid fire style, where I use very short minimal setup before getting to the punch lines. With every joke, I wanted to get to the punch line in 30 seconds or less. It was like using a machine gun against a rifle and it worked. It’s like martial arts. Multiple hits in a short time is always more effective.”
How winning the show has changed his life: “I’ve been headlining now for six years and I have grown tremendously as a comedian. One of the main things that has really changed is that now I have a team of co-writers and collaborators. I give them an idea and we develop it into a joke, and then they watch me do it on stage and provide feedback. They’re kind of like a comedy pit crew. I’m able to afford those sorts of resources now and it’s great. Before I didn’t even have a laptop when I started and now I have my own writers.”
Incorporating music into his act: “The theories behind comedy and music are completely different, but I’m working really hard right now at introducing comedy into my act. If you try to fuse comedy and music and it’s not done right, it can be volatile. I’ve written some songs that are similar to things done by The Flight of Conchords. It’s good music, it’s funny and it’s also original. That’s the direction I think I want to go into, but with a Vietnamese twist. So stay tuned.”
Dat Phan will be appearing at Tommy T’s in Pleasanton June 23-27. To find out more about Dat Phan, visit www.datphan.com.