Comedian and writer Dan Gregor has performed with his critically-acclaimed comedy troupe, The Wicked Wicked Hammerkatz, for over two years at the UCB theatre. In addition to performing improv and directing comedic shorts for SPOILER, Gregor worked at many funny places including Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Late Show with David Letterman, FHM, and on a Robert Smigel movie that never got finished. Currently working in HBO comedy development and living in the UES, Gregor can be seen Thursday nights with his Magnet Improv Ensemble at the Magnet Theater and with Hammerkatz’s award winning show "And Other Reasons to Cry" at the UCB Theater on November 4th.
Hammerkatz was selected as "best sketch group" by Emerging Comics of New York awards, Time Out New York's "Critic's Pick," received 1st place in The Chosen One, and was an Official Selection of the L.A. Fest of Sketch. What is it about Hammerkatz that makes them so damn popular? And why aren't you a household name yet?
We're great kissers. That's first and foremost. If you've made out with any of us then you're a fan of our comedy for life. But if you're yet to do that, then I think most people like us because we take sketch comedy pretty seriously, and really strive to have the tightest, most honed material out on the NYC comedy scene today. Sketch comedy has limited development opportunities. It's a format TV execs aren't exactly rushing to make into shows, especially from a bunch of no-name kids just out of college. Mostly, I want to French-kiss Lorne Michaels. I'm pretty sure that will convince him to put us on TV.
It's been said that mankind uses comedy as a means to deal with suffering and tribulations, and therefore, comedians are the most screwed up of all. Would you say that's an accurate observation of yourself and the Hammerkatz cast?
Yes, I think for myself especially, but all the members of Hammerkatz are overly aware of their feelings and the world around them. You'd think the fact that we're always thinking about how weird and painful the world is would lead to better comedy, but mostly we just channel it into being awkward at parties.
You gained a bit of attention for your brilliant Anti-Literacy Activists short, in which you bombarded the RNC protests with fliers and chants against the evils of reading. What was the motivation behind the project? Do you usually incorporate politics into your comedy?
We had been doing Anti-Literacy protests for several months prior to the Republican National Convention in support of our long running Upright Citizens Brigade Theater stage show, Reading Is For Dicks, and it mostly grew out of dislike for meaningless street protests from groups that didn't really believe in anything specific, other than hating the "fascist Bush Agenda… man." When the RNC came to town, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to blend into the crowds with our own inane agenda- it was amazing how many people took us seriously. I'm a very political and very liberal person, but I generally don't like mixing comedy with politics, mainly because most comedians have about as much education on complex political subjects as Mike Brown has on how to run FEMA!!! BAM! Now THAT'S biting topical satire!
Apart from writing sketches and shorts for Spoiler, you also perform weekly in the Hammerkatz show. Is there one specific character you love playing?
Actually my favorite part is one tiny part I have in our current show, And Other Reasons To Cry, and I don't even have a line in the sketch. I play a FedEx delivery guy who very briefly appears in a bowling alley to deliver a package. I just like to imagine incredibly elaborate back-stories for this meaningless character. It's actually where the story for the movie Castaway came from. So, you can thank me for that.
You work full time in HBO comedy development, write and direct shorts for The Spoiler Film Festival, perform weekly with Hammerkatz, and perform improv weekly at the Magnet Theater. Do you ever sleep?
Sleep is for idiots.
Working and performing in the NYC comedy circle, would you say it's a cutthroat profession? And was there ever a time you considered quitting for good?
Cutthroat is the wrong word. Awkwardly-similar-to-high-school is more apt. Everyone seems to know everyone on some level and everyone knows stuff about everyone else. The only difference is, instead of the lunch room, there's blogs. Lots and lots of blogs.
I'd never quit it entirely. I love this shit too much.
You recently flew out to perform in the prestigious Los Angeles Fest of Sketch and the new Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles. Give us one solid good reason why LA sucks in comparison to NYC:
Too many Jewish people.
Chipotle seems to influence your work a great deal. Please explain and have you ever thought of giving it up?
Hammerkatz is informally based out of Chipotle. Our director, AJ, used to work there, DC stole about 300 free burrito coupons from NYU orientation and ate for free there everyday for a year, and I think Donald had an affair with the manager. Or maybe he's just very nice to her because he's more polite than the rest of us. Either way, we like to think of Chipotle as our professional office space. The Chipotle staff seems surprisingly receptive to this, and even gives us free chips sometimes, which only encourages us to stay longer.
Mr. Show, Kids in the Hall, Upright Citizens Brigade and early 90's SNL are pretty much the foundation for my sketch comedy tastes today. Marc Maron, David Cross, and everything on Conan have been hugely important to me. The recently departed-to- Los Angeles, Respecto Montalbon at the UCB Theater have been local idols of mine ever since I moved to NYC and Ian Roberts and Michael Delaney have probably been my most important improv comedy teachers.
Of all the poorly directed comedic films, which one would you have liked to be cast in?
I wish so, so badly I could have played some part in the upcoming film Snakes on a Plane. It's starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kenan Thompson, but really, the name says it all.
Best NYC dinner spot?
Hummus, on St. Marks & A
Favorite celebrity sighting:
Two days after Christian Slater was arrested for sexually harassing an old woman I was walking late at night on the street in Hell's Kitchen and I saw him sitting on a stoop, looking completely shitfaced, scraggly and holding back tears. Maybe the tears thing I just assumed. It made me chuckle though.
My sleepaway camp counselor when I was a little kid was Gideon Yago, the mtv VJ. Once I moved into the city to go to NYU it was always really weird to run into him because now he seemed like this big important person, and to him I was still just some dumb little kid. Come junior year in college, and me my roommates have this great apartment, that overlooks a big courtyard and the wall of another apartment building across the courtyard. We'd always sit out on the balcony and people watch, our favorite being this smoking hot girl across the way, who was CONSTANTLY naked and in her underwear with the windows completely open. We'd always smile at her when we saw each other in front of the building, and she'd smile back, so I'm pretty sure she was ok with it, if not enjoying it.
One day, we're out on the balcony, when we see the girl across the way making out with someone. Once they break their kiss, I can make out the guy, and to my surprise it's GIDEON! So I yell over across the courtyard, and get his attention and invite him over to my apartment. Him and his very hot girlfriend then proceeded to come over, and hang out on our balcony with me, while my roommates stayed behind the door and snickered at how much we'd stared at his girl naked for the past 3 months.
I still run into Gideon all the time, and we're actually pretty friendly now. I never told him this story though, so I guess puttng it up on the internet first isn't exactly the polite way to do it. I hope we're still friends.
Favorite corny joke?
Are dead baby jokes 'corny'?
The soundtrack to the movie of your life would consist primarily of:
What's your next move?
Professionally speaking, Hammerkatz will be making a bunch of short films in the near future while finishing up a DVD pilot reel, and individually, I will be doing a lot of writing for different projects, in addition to working on stand-up. Unprofessionally speaking, I'm going to be switching to Vidalia onions for most of my tuna sandwiches, and I'm planning on wearing more sweaters with button-down shirts underneath.