You might not recognize Dana Gould right away, but you have probably laughed at his jokes — from his funny, informative podcast The Dana Gould Hour, to his stand-up (and stand-up specials), to his writing for The Simpsons, to his shockingly accurate (and shocking) impression of California’s Gold host/enthusiasm enthusiast Huell Howser. And after years of doing excellent, hilarious work on theater stages and in writing rooms and wherever it is that podcasts are recorded, Gould has finally created his own television show: the horror-comedy Stan Against Evil, which premieres tonight on IFC. The show nicely balances laughs and scares, recalling ‘70s horror shows like Kolchak: the Night Stalker and Night Gallery.
We spoke to Gould at Republic of Pie in North Hollywood to discuss Stan Against Evil, the smell of Halloween candy, and being mature enough to make the most of life-changing opportunities when life-changing opportunities are given.
Let’s start with a few fluff questions: what are you going as for Halloween?
I go for comfort on Halloween. A couple years ago my daughter wanted me to be a banana, so I got a banana suit and then she was horrified by it. She was four at the time. I have a skeleton jumpsuit that I normally wear just to go out with the kids. But my cosplay indulgence is I have one of the astronaut suits from Planet of the Apes, the Charlton Heston astronaut suit. Now that I have a beard I’ll probably do that. [Channeling Heston] “They look more or less human, but I think they’re mute.”
I know you’re an expert in haunted houses…
Not an expert, an enthusiast.
What would you say is the best one in LA?
Oh, in terms of spook houses that get put on? I thought you meant real haunted houses, like real apparitions. I would have to say right now, the Haunted Hayride [in Griffith Park]…Boney Island in the valley, it’s a guy who does his front yard and his house up like Coney Island but with all skeletons. It’s phenomenal and it’s open to everybody. And it’s very kid friendly. It’s all sweet. He’s done it for years; it’s really beautiful. Boney Island is the reason I love living in Los Angeles. That’s a perfect example of why I love being in Los Angeles.
Universal is good, but it’s so big and commercial. My favorite one is gone now, was the haunted corn maze at Pierce College. And they sold the land, but that was my favorite one. It had sort of a small-town, low-rent kind of quality to it that I really liked. They had mazes and stuff but it wasn’t too slick. I like where you can see the seams.
Best Halloween candy?
There’s nothing better than the smell of the bag. Just sticking your head in the bag, and the amalgamation of the wrappers and the candy. That’s the greatest. A Baby Ruth–a partially melted Baby Ruth–because it tastes delicious but it looks horrifying. Let’s be honest, it looks horrifying.
You started doing stand-up when you were 16, right?
17. Now people say that I was a prodigy, which I didn’t realize at the time was a very negative thing […] I can’t call myself a prodigy. I liken my career…I can only make musical analogies…I wanted to be Bruce Springsteen, but I’m Elvis Costello. I never sold out the enormo-dome, but I have a dedicated fan base, and I think I’ve continued to reinvent myself and continued to stay relevant. I think that’s what Elvis does. And at a certain point, and I’m getting close to that point, you just get credit for not going away.
Now, I’m sure you’ve had a lot of pilots…
But is Stan Against Evil the first one that’s gone [to series]?
Rob Cohen and I created a series in the late 90’s called Super Adventure Team, which was Team America before Team America…Team America two years before Team America. But [Stan Against Evil] is the first series that actually really went.
I’m just curious what it’s like, after all these years, to finally have a project of yours come together like this?
It’s perfect for me. I’m 52, but I’m a very immature 52. What I like about this is I’ve had enough experience and I’ve been on enough shows that I can fully appreciate and enjoy the opportunity and I can also, I think, effectively handle the authority of when I have to be the boss. Which is a really important thing to me. I’ve been on a lot of series where a comedian gets a show and it’s new to them and they get a little bit of authority and they go fucking bananas, and they self-immolate, and it’s over immediately. I’ve been close witness to that on more than one occasion.
When I went to The Simpsons, I was astounded by how easily Mike Scully carried the mantle of authority. He was the boss. If you had to go to the dentist, you had to go to Mike and ask. But he was also, and continues to be, super hilarious, and a super great guy, and the priority was always the show, and it wasn’t his authority, and it wasn’t being in charge.
I think TV productions are like anything else, the fish rots from the head down, and I’m very proud of the fact that we had a really good set [on Stan Against Evil], and we had a really good post, and everybody is really happy, nobody walked away from the experience going, “Oh, that was a nightmare.” […] That’s a benefit to getting this opportunity at a time in my life when I could appreciate it and effectively handle it […] We had that great [premiere party] at the cemetery the other night. I’m glad that happened at a time in my life when I’m wise enough to know that’s not about me.