Dat Phan's still having fun
Considering where comic Dat Phan has come from in his life, everything else should be gravy.
He and his mother left their lives in Saigon, Vietnam, back in 1975, and toughed it out in their new home in San Diego, Calif. And it didn't get any better when he later moved up to Los Angeles to make his name in comedy, living a hand-to-mouth existence by the time he auditioned for a then-new reality TV show, "Last Comic Standing," back in '03.
Perseverance paid off in a large way, as Phan worked his way to become one of the finalists, and then ultimately the winner.
'COMEDY SLAM 6'
Featuring Dat Phan with Joey Guila, Dan Gabriel and host Tony Rivera
Place: Hawaiian Hut, Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Drive
Time: 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $22 advance and $25 at the door
Call: 781-6194 or visit honoluluboxoffice.com
On the Net
Due to the added exposure, Phan keeps a busy touring schedule around the U.S. This Saturday night, Honolulu is on his docket, as he headlines "Comedy Slam 6" at the Hawaiian Hut. And, this time, he's here to actually do stand-up, unlike the circumstances that surrounded his previous visit here.
Question: I understand that the gig you were supposed to do here the last time fell through for some reason, but you ended up using your airline ticket to make a vacation of it. What were your impressions of Hawaii?
Answer: Honestly, I was really moved by Hawaii. I travel all over the U.S. performing at comedy clubs, universities and casinos everywhere. ... I have visited hundreds of cities, and Hawaii is truly a wonderful place. I enjoy running, and running on the beaches of Hawaii was one of the most memorable and moving experiences of my life. I also feel a warmth from the people of Hawaii, and I hope to build a connection with many of them during my performance at the Hawaiian Hut.
I notice on your Web site that you make yourself available for college and corporate bookings. Do you change your material for each audience, and which do you prefer doing?
A: Yeah, I always try to "read" my audience before hitting the stage. College crowds are typically very energetic, but you never can tell. Sometimes I am really surprised by a lively casino crowd. A corporate environment can be challenging at times, because oftentimes folks are reluctant to really let loose and laugh when they're sitting next to their boss! No matter what, it is always a very good time. It's all about the reaction and positive energy feedback from the crowd.
Q: You have a CD out called "Episode III: What the Hao?" Did that come out after your "Last Comic Standing" appearance?
A: "What the Hao?" was recorded several months after I won the first season of NBC's 'Last Comic Standing,' in Binghamton, N.Y., in front of a sold-out crowd. They really loved the performance. It's a full hour of pure Dat Phan stand-up comedy! I know from fan feedback that some of the most popular bits on there are the nail salon routine, and what I call the "kung fu urinal" bit. Those are crowd favorites and people always love to hear them. If I ever leave them out of the performance, people afterwards are like: "Why didn't you talk about nail salons?!? That's my favorite!"
Anyway, that CD will be going out of print soon, and Episode IV should be available for everyone in a few months from my Web site.
Q: Speaking of "Last Comic," I know you also did a Comedy Central show as well. Any more TV appearances in the offing?
A: "Last Comic Standing 5" is coming out soon, and they've invited me back for a guest appearance every season, so I'm hoping they will ask me back again this year. I've also done a bit of voice-over work, one on a pilot episode that I'm hoping will be made into a series. Otherwise, my focus is on a movie script that I have co-written with a brilliant screenwriter named Travis Kurtz. We're nearing completion on it, and it really is a groundbreaking story that dives into cross-cultural relationships.
I want to show America a new and positive portrayal of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Aside from martial arts, a lot of times the roles we get are stereotypical or unfavorable. We need more "Asian" heroes and leading roles. I want to build a bridge and connection to mainstream entertainment, showing Asian Americans as strong and familiar peers and not just the FOB (fresh-off-the-boat) with a funny accent, or the passive quiet guy in the corner.
Q: Was there any moment during the development of your career when you thought "I can do this"? At a particular club, a joke or routine that put you over to the audience?
A: Comedy really is a passion for me. After my first year on stage, I knew I HAD to do it! So it wasn't as much getting over a hill or hump, but more like being continuously drawn to an irresistible force. There are certain milestones that make comedy very personally rewarding for me though.
At first, getting on stage at the Improv (in Los Angeles) was a real achievement, then opening for other comics that I admire and respect the work of. Becoming a headlining comic, and then the TV show success were great, too. Then to have all of America vote for me, and to become the original winner of "Last Comic Standing" was just fantastic. I feel very fortunate to be doing what I love, and having the opportunities that I've had.
Q: What changes, if any, are there in your stage act since you made your name on "Last Comic"?
A: My comedy act has definitely evolved. ... You try to add in new jokes, stories, etc. and continually work on and improve the familiar material. It's tough, though, because of the Internet. People are watching my comedy all the time right on their computer. MySpace and YouTube are great for that, but then fans will go, "I want more new material." Well, that IS new material! You just watched it on the Internet before I could make it to your city!
So there is a lot more demand, and the speed at which comics need to develop new material these days is very rapid. So I have a lot of new material besides what everyone has seen on TV. It's all family-friendly, but I try to touch on topics that are universally funny, as well as cross-cultural challenges, which is very important to me. Bottom line is, you're gonna see a healthy mix of new and old.