You may recognize comedian Dan Allen from his Comedy Central Premium Blend appearance, or as one of those snarky folks riffing on celebrity attire in Us Weekly's Fashion Police. Or, you may just think of him as "that tall guy." The former mullet-wearer has come a long way from his roots in Daytona Beach Florida, which he claims is going through an "Unrenaissance which crucifies culture." What he hasn't left behind is a distinct geekiness, as evidenced during his comedy sets when he throws a few jokes out for the math nerds in the crowd. Allen comes to comedy with a background in the Air Force Reserves. Too tall to fly a space shuttle, he instead moved to New York, where he performs regularly at a host of downtown comedy clubs where he riffs on the average duration of sex for the human male (four minutes), makes fun of everything from American Spirits cigarettes to the gap in Condoleeza Rice's teeth on his blog, and juggles, plays basketball, and participates in the Big Brother/Little Brother program.
The tagline on your website reads "Dan Allen, comedian, poet, scientific philosopher." The first two seem pretty self-explanatory, but what’s a "scientific philosopher?"
I’m fascinated with all aspects of science from astrophysics to evolutionary biology. The true meaning behind “scientific philosopher” is that I’m intellectually insecure and I invented the title to create the illusion of intelligence.
You’ve had a very colorful life, starting out in Florida, then going into the Air Force, and eventually winding up in New York doing comedy. What did you want to be when you were growing up, and how did that path lead you to your current career?
I truly wanted to be a Mars colonist. I enrolled in aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University and joined the Air Force. Unfortunately, I had no idea I was going to grow to be 6’6”. NASA has a height restriction of 6’4”. Not to mention, I would be 6’8” in space because your spine elongates without the force of gravity. I dropped out of college and worked as a pawnbroker for five years at my uncle’s shop. Since I was accustomed to being verbally abused on a daily basis, becoming a comedian was an easy transition.
Malcolm Gladwell contends that tall people do better at their jobs and it’s been said tall people have better chances to find romantic partners. Has that been your experience?
No, I was a virgin until I was 19. I was 6’0” at 13 years old and grew an inch a year until I was 19 but weighed only 138 pounds. I think girls were afraid that I would break my femur bone if things got too heated.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like if instead of being 5'2" I were 6'2". Do you ever fantasize about life as a short person?
Sometimes. Only when my grandmother’s ceiling fan hits my hair in her trailer, sleeping with my 5’10” girlfriend in her full size bed, shopping for 32W 38L jeans, and my whenever I see a short astronaut floating in the Space Station.
Your girlfriend Elise is also tall; have you found that you prefer dating tall women, or does it matter?
I do prefer taller women. I actually cut a date with a woman who was 5’0” while we were at the Guggenheim because she was so short. I felt like a pedophile.
Speaking of dating, you have a few jokes in your set, one about going out with a vegan girl and your lack of compatibility. What are the deal breakers for you when it comes to dating?
If they’ve never heard of Vonnegut, love Ashton Kutcher, go clubbing, smoke crack or get offended by my caustic sarcasm.
Let’s talk about the fact that you had a mullet in high school for a minute. Why?
I have no fucking clue. Whenever I show my mullet picture to people it makes them feel better about themselves.
Where’d you get the idea and was it popular amongst your classmates at the time?
I think it had something to do with Wesley from Princess Bride. As for the other students, I was treated like Screech from Saved By the Bell. I did the morning announcements, emceed the dances, hosted the talent shows, and usually landed all the lead roles in the school plays. I never got beat up because I think they thought I had some kind of disease.
How did you go from mullet-wearing teenager to giving commentary for Us Weekly’s Fashion Police?
My girlfriend works in the magazine industry and she steers me in the right direction. It’s a slow emasculation process. We plan on having my sex-change operation in the spring.
Were there any other major fashion faux pas along the way?
During sophomore year of high school, every day I wore a tuxedo shirt, vest, and a bolo tie coupled with dress slacks tucked into black, leather pirate boots with buckles.
Regarding Fashion Police, where you’ve critiqued celebrities’ outfits, what was the most outrageous one you remember, and what celeb would you want to give fashion advice to now?
I honestly don’t have one that I remember. I get them Tuesday night, write 5 lines per photo, email them to my editor and delete them from my mind. As for fashion advice, Condoleeza Rice should consider cosmetic dentistry.
You were on How Clean Is Your House. What did you do on the show, and how clean IS your house?
I need to erase that. I forgot that I had that on there. I did a testimonial of a friend who’s house was being cleaned. His house was atrocious. Great guy and extremely generous but you wouldn’t want to eat there unless you had a death wish.
You were and still are a bit of a math geek, even incorporating a bit about "the square root of negative one" into your comedy set. How much math do you use in your daily life? Would you say you’re more interested in math than the average person?
I have a very unhealthy relationship with math. Once given a problem to solve, I can’t let it go. What’s sad is that I’m horrible at arithmetic, but I feel comfortable with variables. 8 + 5 really fucks me up, but finding the derivative of y = 2 sin x is a piece of cake.
I know I’ve pretty much forgotten anything beyond my multiplication tables since high school.
A lot of your jokes stem from real-life situations, such as dating a vegan girl, but I’m curious how much of it is embellished. Like in your sexist woman joke, where your girlfriend says "You are so irrational! Why don’t you start acting like you have a penis?" did that actually happen?
My girlfriend grew up in Boston, so I’m sure she said it. I don’t remember what prompted her to say that but it must have been my fault. She’s an incredibly strong woman and somehow still loves me despite all the crap that comes out of my mouth. I’m lucky to have her.
I was a recent show at Jack Dempsey’s where this stripper who worked next door started heckling you and basically became a part of your set and the entire show. What’s the most interesting heckling experience you’ve had?
My friend and comedian Jesse Joyce and I were performing at a Honda dealership in Middleton, NY for their Christmas party at a country club. Traditionally, they raffled off a big screen television as a Christmas bonus but the owner decided to “treat” them with a comedy show instead. The DJ turned off the music and awkwardly announced, “Now we’re goin’ to have comedy . . . I guess . . . Please turn around and give it up for Dan” I turned on the wireless microphone and stood in front of the buffet table. Immediately, I alienated the entire crowd with my first joke because it offended the one black guy in the 400 person crowd. Then I recited a comedic poem that normally does really well but this time it incited a riot. I asked them if they wanted to hear another poem and the entire audience chanted in unison, “Fuck your poems!”
Do you appreciate hecklers for livening up the show or find them annoying?
One lone heckler here and there usually doesn’t harm the show. It only becomes a problem when you get Douchey McDouchebag who’s hilarious in the lunch room of a law firm, starts drinking Southern Comfort and wants to become a comedian.
You’ve been in New York for four years and before that lived in Daytona Beach as a little kid, San Antonio from childhood through your teen years, and Virginia Beach as a young adult. Do you consider yourself a New Yorker?
Yes. Technically, I'm not a native New Yorker, but I've always felt like one my entire life. I think that's why I wanted to live on Mars because I felt like an alien in the south.
Do you plan to stay in New York forever or is there some ideal place you’d want to live?
I’ll stay even if the prophecies of the Book of Revelations come true. When the locust come, I’ll buy some bug spray. Ideally, I’d love to buy a multi-unit apartment building in Astoria with a laundromat and coffee house on the first floor.
You keep a blog, Tao of Dan, featuring your comments on pop culture, politics, and random jokes. How does blogging inform your comedy?
Initially, I started to blog because I’ve had two hard drives crash on me and I used it to safely save my ideas. It’s not the normal voyeuristic online diary of day-to-day experiences. My favorite song about blogging is called “I Don’t Want to Read Your Blog” by the musical comedy duo called The Rob and Mark Show.
Do you test out jokes on the blog?
Yes. It forces me to write everyday.
Who are your comedy heroes?
Danny Kaye, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and Gene Wilder.
Is there any particular comedian who inspired you to become one yourself?
Dan Allen will be part of “New Class Clowns” at Caroline's on Broadway, 1626 Broadway on Tuesday, January 3rd at 9 p.m (reservations recommended). For more information about Dan’s live performances, check out thedanallenshow.com and Dan’s MySpace page. Dan’s blog can be found at taoofdan.blogspot.com