Q: You are a Chicago-native who attended Depaul University, and are a Second-City alum. How do you think your history as a Chicagoan has influenced your works (film, television, stage, comedy, whatever...)? Also, where in Chicago would you recommend for really good food, or really good fun (besides the Chuck-E-Cheese on Fullerton)?
PD: I don't know how much actual influence Mike Royko had on my career, but I sure liked to read him. The whole comedy scene in Chicago influenced me. I performed in Chicago from '85 until '92. Chicago was a great place to learn, because it had a great comic tradition; Second City and the Compass, and it was an easy place to live, so you could concentrate on taking time to learn instead of always worrying about making money. Now it's all about the money, baby.
Q: How did your stint in Second City change your perception of "funny" and "comedy"? How is this reflected in your more recent works?
PD: The best things about Second City are: One; as one of my directors said, "learn to love to fail." We performed so much that it became less and less important for a scene to succeed. This attitude allowed you to take a lot of chances on stage because you stop giving a shit. Two; You learn to trust the people you work with. I guess most importantly, I met Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris.
Q: Having seen some of the new Second City troupes perform, how do you feel the new generation stacks up or compares to your contemporaries or to the more well-known legends Second City has spawned in the past? How about modern comedians in general? Do you think they are more or less funny than they used to be?
PD: Everybody thinks they are better than the new crop. To be honest, I haven't really seen too many shows since I left Chicago, so it's not for me to judge. It's seems that every era has its lame comedians and its few good ones. I think Letterman changed comedy over the last twenty years. It has become very popular to be detached and self-aware. I think that is beginning to run a little thin.
Q: "Beyond the Door", "Shock Asylum" and "Wheels of Fury" are primary shown at film festivals. Seeing as there are no great fortunes to be made in these type of screenings, are you making these films purely for the joy of the art, or do you have other hopes for them?
PD: My only interest in making the films was to hang out with people I liked and make a film. Because I couldn't afford to make a feature, we made short films. The films achieved more than I could have anticipated. They've shown at Sundance, New York underground, Berlin underground, Chicago underground, etc. They've also won some awards. I am planning to shoot my first feature this Spring. It's a script that I, Stephen Colbert and David Pasquesi wrote. Amy will act in it. We'll see what happens.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish or convey with your films?
PD: I just want people to laugh at some aspect them. And with each one, I want to learn how to make a better movie.
Q: Do you, Stephen Colbert, and Amy Sedaris plan on (or are perhaps already in the process of...) collaborating on any projects in the near or distant future? How about putting out a Christmas album? Or maybe starting a pop-group like a boy band (plus one girl)?
PD: See above. A Boy band might be tough, Colbert and Sedaris have completly lost their looks, I on the other hand am cute as a puppy.
Q: Do you plan on producing any feature lengthmovies? Are you in line to appear in any upcoming ones?
PD: Again see above. Stephen and I are also writing a feature for Miramax, and a book for Hyperion along with Amy.
Q: "Strangers With Candy" presented a great existential world in which everyone, perhaps especially your character: Mr. Jellineck, seemed extremely self-absorbed. In "Wheels of Fury", Amy's character seems to echo this in the final line in the film. After you say "I love you, Pepper," she says, "I love us," as well as celebrating the retention of her walking ability though you lay wounded on the ground. Is the existentialism of the characters in "Strangers" and Wheels of Fury an intentional trait? or am i perhaps over-analyzing what is just meant to be good for a hearty laugh?
PD: We find if funny when people are self-absorbed. You are exactly right. All of the main characters in Strangers are horribly Self-centered. It is indeed a common theme. I think it's an ugly human trait that all human posess. People attempt to suppress it, but I think we are all guilty at times of putting ourselves first in situations we don't really deserve to be first.
NYOU: The moral of every episode of Strangers WIth Candy seemed to be that no matter how one tries to do good, evil and selfishness seem to always prevail, so we might as well celebrate (recall the dance-montages that accompanied the closing credits). Is this in line with your own (or perhaps others involved with the show's) personal views, or is it completely satirical?
PD: Well, this was partly a comment on actual after school films and many dramatic films. They tend to introduce some horrible malady in the first act and then every thing is solved and tied with a pretty bow by the third. I don't think any of the characters ever really win. Their celebration at the end seems to me like more of an acceptance of the inevitable.
NYOU: Since Strangers With Candy, what have Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert been up to?
PD: Besides the things I mentioned, Stephen works on The Daily Show, and Amy is doing a play in NY with Sarah Jessica Parker.
NYOU: As a filmmaker and an actor, who are your primary influences?
PD: My God, the question don't stop. Okay, these are my influences, in no particular order and without explanation.
The Three Stooges
Your show of shows
NYOU: Are there any plans to release Exit 57 or Strangers WIth Candy on DVD?
PD: I don't know. They are owned by Comedy Central
NYOU: What is the moral of Wheels of Fury?
PD: What makes you think there was a moral?
NYOU: Wheels of Fury was jam-packed with anachronisms and non-sequitors. Sometimes, the funniest things are the things that make you shrug and go "what the hell?" As a comedian, do you think that jokes must have tangible punchlines, or that the pure zaniness of a situation (like the idea of a Sherrif in the oldwest roaming around in a wheel chair, or Amy's single-eye twitch, or a cowboy sitting in the wilderness, cooking stew and asking a passerby if he has any tamaric) is enough? Things like this are inherintly hilarious, although not in the canned-laughter sitcom sense of the term, where everything that's funny must have a tangible punchline for a laughtrack to respond to every 30 seconds. Any thoughts on this? (I hope that made sense)
PD: I hate punchlines. Sometimes they sneak by in our writing, but they always make me cringe.
NYOU: Beyond the Door seemed to be a twisted take on the Hitchcock classic, Vertigo. Where in the world did you come up with the idea of someone having a phobia of doors? Did you look at a doorman one day and think to yourself "for every man who has mastered the art of the door such to this degree, there must be people on the opposite end of the spectrum: the yin to their yang."?
PD: The idea of the priest being afraid of doors came first, then it just seemed natural that he would go see the person who is most intimate with doors to help him solve his problem.
NYOU: Did improvisation play a big part of your short films? Or was it all scripted out.
PD: Some are more scripted than others. The scene from Beyond the Door when the doorman teaches the Priest to use a door in the park was improvised. Regardless of the script we tend to go off.
NYOU: What are your favorite films and filmmakers? Musicians?
PD: Now I'm getting angry. Check my previous list and assume that these people are also my favorites. Music wise I like everything from Paul Simon to Art Garfunkle. I run the gamut from Seals all the way to Crofts.
NYOU: What can people who wish to view your short films do to fulfill their burning desire?
PD: Watch them.
NYOU: Lastly: your line in Wheels of Fury after Amy says that she'll never walk again, you say: "That's alright, I've only known you as a non-walker." That line is the greatest. Where did you come up with it?
PD: I improvised it.
NYOU: if you wish, please include something funny: an antecdote, joke you heard or came up with, politcal manifesto, thing everyone should know, what is wrong with kids today, etc....
PD: Are you kidding me? My fingers are numb from all the typing required to answer your collection of inept queries. My brain is on fire. I won't sleep for days. You have drained me. I'm a shell...My God what will it take for you to leave me alone?