Chet Wild and Dan Fisher: Grassroots Buffalo comedy
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • January 28, 2012 @ 7:00am
There’s nothing easy about advancing a stand-up comedy career in Buffalo—just ask local comics Chet Wild and Dan Fisher. Before I delve too deeply into their back-stories, you may love their quirks.
Chet Wild’s hair is a point of contention. Flowing curly locks were his trademark style, but seemingly everyone had a beef with the unkempt look. So, he got a haircut.
“[Now] he looks like he works at a coffee shop in the ‘90s,” Fisher said of Wild, his friend and fellow Buffalo comedian since the two met at an open mic in 2008. “He looks like he’d run a guitar open mic with all the Kurt Cobain wannabes, and he’d say, ‘Come on up and play your jam, man.’ He’d have round glasses. [Wild] looks like an extra on the TV show Friends.”
“I can’t win,” Wild said in regard to his hair. “When I had long hair, everyone said ‘cut your hair!’, then I cut my hair, and I get more shit for actually getting a haircut…I’d kept it long just to spite people.”
(YouTube video of Wild’s stand-up about life as a resident assistant).
Fisher can’t wriggle away from Wild’s playful jabs either.
“[Fisher] likes to show his penis a lot,” Wild said of his time spent with Fisher when the two worked together on video projects at Skunk Post, a Hearst Media company that dissolved in late 2010. “You think I’m joking about that! Plus, he has a very short emotional fuse, and he’s constantly swimming in a pool of female anatomy.”
(YouTube video of Dan Fisher performing stand-up at Doin’ Time at Nietzsche’s.)
Digs aside, the two comedians share the common goal of vaulting from local grassroots comedians to touring comedy club fixtures. Currently, both Wild and Fisher are fixtures at Kristen Becker’s “Doin’ Time” open mics at Nietzsche’s in Allentown, the prime venue where local comics test their chops in front of a bar audience and fellow local comics.
The duo is recognized around the Western New York community at large—Wild makes regular appearances at Rob’s Comedy Playhouse in Williamsville, while Fisher is a producer and talent at WGR 550-AM. At our little gathering at Spot Coffee on Hertel, I had to pause the interview on several occasions simply because other patrons wanted to say hi to the comic duo.
“I’m so tired of us going out in public and one of us getting recognized,” Wild deadpanned.
Still, two main challenges have slowed their rise: establishing a consistent, honest-yet-funny voice and surviving the profession’s low pay, a result of the sheer abundance of aspiring comedians.
Fisher explains why sincerity and honesty are both important qualities for comics. “People feel when they start doing comedy that the crowd expects them to be crazy, an asshole, outlandish—and really, you just have to be as ‘you’ as possible, but still funny. If you’re fake, people can sense it out, and they won’t like it.”
Wild echoes Fisher’s sentiment, remarking, “I don’t feel like I know my voice yet—I’m still searching for it, but I’m definitely a lot more comfortable on stage than I was.”
The brutal combination of a sputtering economy and saturated comedy scenes throughout the East Coast have made it a challenge for Wild and Fisher to expand their brands beyond the Western New York area.
“It’s not the comedy boom of the ‘90s [anymore],” Wild said, “and comedy pay hasn’t really changed with inflation.” “There’s a lot of undercutting done by clubs where another comic will perform for cheaper,” Fisher adds.
“There are too many comics for the number of comedy clubs,” Rob Lederman, owner of Rob’s Comedy Playhouse, said one day after I spoke to Wild and Fisher. “I wear two hats – as a comic, I feel bad for these guys who are trying to start. As a buyer, it’s unbelievable – guys that I was paying $1500 for in the late ‘90s are now $700. They’re just as funny, but there just aren’t as many comedy clubs.”
Scheduling road trips isn’t an easy task either, as few comedy clubs welcome unfamiliar traveling talent.
“Clubs have cut out using emcees from the road—instead they’ll use local features or no features at all, so the opportunity is gone at most clubs unless you win a contest locally,” Fisher continued. “It’s hard to get seen when they’re not willing to pay. Who’s going to drive down to Tennessee to do a club for free?”
Despite the obstacles, both Fisher and Wild have touring trips planned. This weekend, Fisher travels to Connecticut and Albany for gigs, while Wild has a March trip planned to perform in the casinos of Wisconsin and Michigan.
Although different in nature, the two comics are respectful of each other’s comic style.
“[Chet] tells a lot of personal stories,” Fisher explained. “He’s got that relate-ability, because any time you’re talking about how shitty your life is people relate to you.”
“[Fisher] is very conversational—it’s like you’re sitting at a bar with a friend, just talking, and they’re making you laugh without even trying,” Wild followed, “and he shows his penis a lot.”
(Header photo courtesy of Chuck Alaimo, Buffalo.com).