DAVE MORDAL Stand-up comic likes not knowing what's coming next
The comedian says he gets his routines from his life experiences.
By TERRY MORROW
Dave Mordal's life doesn't sound all that funny.
The ex-Marine, known for his appearances on the first edition of the reality show "Last Comic Standing," was once so desperate he tried robbing a gas station. He ended up doing jail time.
Afterward, he worked on a wrecking crew before taking a leap of faith into comedy.
He also is divorced and rearing his son since his ex-wife died.
Life experience, though, is something that fuels his work, he says.
"You have so much more to draw on," the 47-year-old stand-up comedian says. "I see these 18-year-olds on an open mic night, and they have absolutely nothing to say."
At age 34, Mordal went into comedy full time. A year ago, he earned another break by being a finalist on "Last Comic Standing." Now he's getting to try again.
He and the finalists from the show's first two seasons are returning for the third "Comic," premiering 9:30 tonight on NBC.
"The weird thing about being a comic is that if a psychic came up to me and said, 'I see you in a cornfield naked with two women,' I couldn't deny it. I just couldn't because you never know what's coming. I never plan for my life. I have always enjoyed not knowing what is coming up next."
Although Mordal says he doesn't analyze "Comic" and didn't even see the last edition of it, he doesn't dismiss how it changed his life dramatically.
Two years ago "I was a man raising his son alone after his mother died," he says. "I was working comedy in the Midwest. Last week, I was at Jay Leno's house looking at his cars. It's amazing. You say to yourself, 'How did this happen?' I'm not any funnier now than I was then. It's so odd that people are so interested in a silly reality show."
Despite his apparent disinterest in "Comic," Mordal has a game plan as he goes back into the competition. Like any good comedy routine, it's all in the delivery.
For the show, each comic does a 10-minute routine, but only three minutes make it to air. Knowing that, Mordal plans to use time as his weapon.
"I kept [my routines] squeaky, squeaky clean last time," Mordal says. "Once I watched the show, I realized I didn't have to do that. I could have done seven minutes of edgier things for the [studio] audience and three minutes squeaky clean for television.
"If I had done that, I would have won."
Mordal says he doesn't care if he wins. "There are people who take this so seriously. I don't. A comic is much better when he is having fun, not under pressure," he says.
Seeing comics being sneaky and backstabbing on a reality show is shocking to some viewers, but Mordal says he doesn't understand why the audience would expect anything any different.
"We make fun of things for a living," he says. "That's what we get paid to do."
He does draw a line for his own gigs. "I don't meet the audience after the show. ... I don't do crowd work. I don't make fun of the front row ever," he says. "Even if it is a rowdy crowd, I don't talk to the audience ever.
"It conditions audiences. I never pick on people in the audience. I ignore hecklers because they feel stupid when no one responds at all."
Mordal won't have to worry about hecklers for a while. Competing on "Comic" will take most of his immediate schedule.
However, "I'd like to get ['Comic'] past me," he says. "My goal is to never repeat anything. If you don't do that, you become really lazy."