Comedian Dave Landau’s final performances of the year (including a New Year’s Eve show) and first shows of 2015 will take place this week at Funny Bone on the Levee in Newport. It seems like a random gig for a comic that splits time between Los Angeles and his native Detroit, but Landau feels an affinity for the Queen City.
“The last time I was in Cincinnati the crowds really liked me, so the club decided to have me back for a bigger night,” Landau says. “I really liked the audiences there a lot and was happy to accept the gig. It’s a great club and I love the city.”
Landau reasons that all of us in the Midwest have a shared heritage, and that theme is evident in a film he just directed called The King. Written and produced with two longtime friends, the film was shot in just 15 days in and around Detroit. It’s based on a story from Landau’s adolescence.
“It’s basically an amped-up true story,” he says. “It’s me as a kid the first day I get my first car. Names are changed and everything like that, and some stuff has been added. It’s loosely based on my childhood.”
The story takes place in the late 1990s, giving it a nostalgic feel. “It is a period piece,” he says, adding that it is set specifically in 1999. “I set it in late-’90s Detroit and it’s interesting because people from Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati and places like that can relate to it, too.”
The fact that it takes place some 15 years ago brings in other elements that are relatable to an even wider audience.
“I think there’s something interesting about the late-’90s,” Landau says. “It’s very, very different from today, even though it wasn’t that long ago.”
Landau gives technology as a big example of how times have changed. “Kids all have phones now,” he says, “and in the movie one kid has a pager, CDs are still popular and some people still have tape decks. We were kind of meticulous about making sure it looked like that time. It hasn’t changed all that much, but at the same time it has.”
Not having a huge studio budget made it a little harder, too. “Fortunately, most of the film takes place at night,” Landau says. “And it took place in various parts of old Detroit so we didn’t have to focus on too many new things being in the shots.”
Finding other cars from that period didn’t prove to be that difficult, either. “We tried as much as we could with the budget we had to have older cars in it,” he says.
Landau didn’t stress over it though, figuring if a vehicle was within two or three years of 1999 that it would be fine. He mentions the movie Notorious, which, despite a massive Hollywood studio budget, took huge liberties in that area.
“They’re driving around in a 2000 Suburban and it’s supposed to be 1994,” he says. “I’m also a car guy, so I was pretty meticulous about it.”
The film is finishing post-production and will be on the festival circuit soon.
“We did the premiere in September and then, based off of the crowd reaction, we sort of used that as a test audience and made a few changes,” he says.
It wasn’t a Pretty in Pink situation where the whole ending was changed, though.
“We just basically tweaked out some jokes and a couple of other things that we thought were funny but were maybe a little bit too dark for the mainstream,” he says. “We didn’t change much. We had to fix some audio and a few little things here and there. We shot in such a short amount of time, we didn’t get it perfect.”
Through the whole process, Landau continues to perform stand-up, headlining clubs around the country.
“I’ve been talking more and more about things from my own life,” says the expectant father. “Even the jokey-jokes are drawn from things happening in my life.”
Occasionally he’ll dabble in politics, as it’s something he’s very interested in, but he’s cautious.
“I’m kind of shocked at the amount of hate for the current president,” he says. “So I will play with that a little bit to see people’s reactions in the crowd and just to see who gets freaked out. Also, it amazes me when the children of these filthy rich people are die-hard liberals and poor people living in trailers are republicans through and through. That’s kind of hilarious to me.”
DAVE LANDAU performs at Funny Bone on the Levee Wednesday-Sunday, with two special New Year’s Eve shows at 8 and 10:30 p.m. More info: funnyboneonthelevee.com.