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April 1, 2023

Interview with Dave Callan

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Dave Callan at the Byron Comedy festival

Dancing Dave’s Comedy Spectacular!

Dave Callan is a big hairy Irish bloke. He’s funny. You would have seen him on Rove and heard him on Triple J – but now you get to see him dance! With backup dancers and a show full of spectacular choreography and a hairy Viking, catch A–Z of Dance at Byron Comedy Fest. Dave told us a little more…

What made you want to do less talking and more dancing?

In 2011 burlesque dancers took over the comedy festival. No judgement; they just did. I got asked to host a burlesque show that year and they asked me to do their finale with them. I said ‘What is it?’ They said ‘Single Ladies’ and I said ‘How hard can it be?’. Three days and 40 hours of practise later I had learned it. It got a great reaction and I thought ‘Give the people more of what they want’ and so now I’m doing a one-hour comedy dance show.

I’m intrigued how you came up with the idea – it’s such a big jump, literally, from stand up comedy, way out of the usual comfort zone – what led you here? How has this changed your feelings about performing?

I learned so many dances over the years just for fun and decided a good framework for the show was the alphabet; I could put a dance in for every letter. So that was the way I came up with the idea. Plus, people laugh at me when I dance so I may as well do a show of it. It’s really fun to do, relevant to stand up, because it’s a dynamic art form, it’s ‘colour and movement’ as they say, and alternating between it and stand up is good because it switches up the audience’s attention span!

Unlike most comics you have to be fit – how does Dave Callan stay in shape?

Aha! I don’t. I don’t keep in shape. Mick Jagger runs on a treadmill for months before a tour to get ready. I just struggle and then finally get fit at the end of the season. Like, I can actually do the show by the time it’s over. Luckily people find me struggling with the cardio funny so it’s win/win.

Is it hard for you to follow and remember choreography – how important are your backup dancers? Tell me about them…

No, it’s easy to remember the choreography. You just have to do it a million times and it’s in the muscle memory. It’s hard not to do the choreography at that point. Like you’re waking past Cotton On and ‘Single Ladies’ plays and you start doing it there in the shop because it’s in your bone marrow.

The backup dancers are amazing. I’ve been working with them for years on various iterations of these dance shows and as I’ve become a dancer they’ve become comedians! They always had a good sense of timing because they’re dancers, but I love seeing them develop clowning skills and playing around more as the years go by.

What is the criteria for a video clip to get the Callan treatment? Which ones made it?

The clip has to be iconic so everyone gets the reference, and it has to have choreography all the way through, or at least in the chorus. The third criteria is it has to have sassy sort of quite feminine dance moves because then it looks funny when a big hairy Viking does it. It ends up being quite incongruous.

Do you have a list of clips that you are keen to recreate one day? Ones that are super hard, so you need to be on top of your dance game?

Yes! I’d love to do some tap or Irish stuff. Something like Singing in the Rain by Gene Kelly. It’s amazing, but it’s so intricate, and requires an understanding of tap that I’m a ways off – to put it mildly. But one day…

What should we expect from The A–Z of Dance?

The current show A–Z of Dance is a hectic hour of different dance styles, with video, backup dancers, stand up comedy and a lot of cardio for poor me. Something for everyone in there, and it’s just stupid silly hilarious fun.

Dave Callan presents The A-Z of Dance (A Little Less Conversation) at the Byron Comedy Festival 13–16 May 2021, at 9pm.

Tickets and program info on byroncomedyfest.com

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