Dave Hill is a rock star. That’s not hyperbole. If you’ve ever watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO you’ve heard his music — Dave’s band Valley Lodge supplied the theme song. And if you’ve been to a comedy club in NYC lately, you’ve probably seen him perform live.
Onstage, Dave adopts a swaggering bravado delivered in a hesitant, self-deprecating way, and that paradoxical persona is as catchy and addictive as the power pop songs he’s recording for Valley Lodge’s fourth album. He’s also a writer, and his second book, Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, is out May 10 from Blue Rider Press. Dave does everything, and I spoke with him about all of it, starting with why he loves to perform comedy in prisons.
“The initial reason I started performing in prisons was, I’m the last guy who should do that. There are people who have done it since, but at the time, no one had performed comedy at Sing Sing [Correctional Facility] since Moms Mabley in ’69. The week before, I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is no joke,’ and I was really thinking it was a bad idea. In Sing Sing, they’re all violent felons. Murderers, rapists. The biggest puss there is in for arson or something. There’s no weed dealers. If you’re in prison for life, why wouldn’t you punch me in the face? What are they gonna do? Make you stay in another week? That feeling was so intense and I was really just dreading it. I got there and it was a profound experience. It made me think really differently about violent crime.”
“What I love about Instagram — sometimes people need a little pick-me-up, and Instagram can provide that. From me, a selfie is not going to do the trick, because genetically, I’m out of the lottery. But a cool guitar riff, I can do that.”
“The first time I did comedy, I took a soda onstage and I was so nervous, the soda was shaking, and people were laughing at that. I learned so much in that moment. I was so scared to go onstage, and it’s so much work to hide that, so I was like, if I’m scared, I’m not gonna hide it. If I’m anxious, everybody’s gonna be anxious.”
Dave Hill is a true original. In partnership with Miller Lite, the original light beer, we raised a toast to Dave, and asked him to create an original Instagram post just for us, showcasing his unique take on social media.
Tony Carnevale is a senior writer for Studio@Gawker.