comedians you should know

Dylan Adler Is More Than a Theme-Park Backflip

Illustration: Franziska Barczyk

This week, we’re highlighting 24 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, performing, goals for the future, and more. Next up is Dylan Adler.

What would your Real Housewives tagline be?
“Half-Japanese. Half-Jewish. Full gay demon. And if you don’t like it, here’s my twin.”

What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
I wish I could say I’m best known for the sketch show Stapleview, but unfortunately I think I’m best known for doing a backflip in front of dancers at Universal Studios. My friend Sarah Coffey took the video, and I found it on my phone months later and captioned it, “I was rejected as a dancer by Universal Studios so I came to their first show.” I truly didn’t expect how many people would take it at face value that I auditioned to be a dancer at Universal, which I absolutely did not. Fourteen million people viewed it, and there were even news articles about it. Thousands of people were literally furious with me, and my DMs looked like, “Faggot,” “Clown,” “Faggot,” and I was like, Yeah, I’m a gay comic, so thanks. Someone commented, “White people always gotta make it about themselves,” and someone replied, “Bestie, he’s Asian delete this quickly,” then he replied, “Ok,” and deleted it, which made me laugh.

I’m really proud of my show Rape Victims Are Horny Too that I wrote with my friend Kelly Bachman. A lot of survivors who’ve watched it say the show makes them feel less alone and more empowered to talk about their experience. It’s an intense show to perform, and it’s about trauma that we haven’t fully processed yet, but it was very healing for us to write and it seems to be healing for survivors, which means the world to us. And I get to do it with my friend Kelly, who I love so much. We recorded an album of our show that’ll be released on September 23.

Tell us one story from your childhood you think explains why you ended up becoming a comedian. 
When my twin and I were 8 years old, we had a crush on our best friend who also had a crush on both of us, so she had to decide which twin to pick. (We’re both gay.) To help her decision, she wrote a list of our traits on a whiteboard that said:
-Sweet -Sweet

If a network green-lit a semi-autobiographical series for you to star in tomorrow, what would your character’s name and job be?
By day, Aaron Hiroshi Applebaum is a gymnastics coach at the Chelsea Piers, but at night, he’s the lead singer of an all-Jewish Asian queer emo-punk band that just got their first big break opening for Japanese Breakfast and Haim.

If you had to come onstage to just one song for the rest of your life, what song would it be and why?
Fergie’s cover of “Barracuda” on the Today show where she does cartwheels, so I can get onstage and do cartwheels. I did it once for a gay crowd and it killed, but then I did it for straight people and they were like, “???”

Tell us everything about your worst show ever. 
I was a year into comedy and was asked to perform in the middle of a pop-up roller-skating rink in Queens. I dragged my keyboard into the middle of the roller rink where the “stage” was. I started by singing a song with the lyrics “Maybe this time he eats parfait and my ass …” A mom, while skating around me, yelled, “Hey, I have a daughter!” Every time she passed me, she’d yell “Stop! I have a daughter!” I just kept singing and she covered her daughter’s ears. I had an “Avant-Garde Musician” character that was bombing so bad, I grabbed a nearby mop and screamed, “I’M CLEANING UP AMERICA!” to no avail.

When I finished, I had to carry my huge piano off the rink while dodging and maneuvering around the skaters who all despised me. I rode the subway home holding my 60-pound piano, thinking, Wow, musical comedy is always worth it. I got paid $50 for the show that night and spent it all on Bud Lights to forget the experience, but my body still remembered! The next couple shows afterwards, my mouth would dry up before I got onstage. Anyways, that little girl is now Greta Thunberg.

Nominate one comedian you don’t know personally who you think is overdue for wider recognition and why.
I love River Ramirez so much. Their comedy is so dark and twisted, and they fully commit to their jokes. They flesh out these disgusting and hilarious characters that make me pee laughing. It’s everything I love to see in comedy. I absolutely think River deserves wider recognition and a special very soon, because I’d watch it immediately!

I think Jessica Kirson should be a household name. She makes my stomach hurt laughing. The way she talks to herself onstage is so creative, and I love how dirty her material is. She commits to her performance to the 10,000th degree, and it’s one of my favorite things to watch. She’s like a force of nature. I think she deserves to be Bill Burr–level famous.

When it comes to your comedy opinions — about material, performing, audience, the industry, etc. — what hill will you die on?
Everyone is your enemy and competition. Do not invest in community, friends, or joy. Drink ten Red Bulls every day and go to open mics from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. If someone asks you how long you’ve been doing comedy, say “60 years” and then spit in their mouth.

Other than that, I think people of color should be given way more positions of power in the industry. I think putting one diverse face on a TV show spearheaded by an all-white creative team isn’t really progress. More POC executives, producers, directors, writers, and showrunners will allow for more opportunities for people of color to tell exciting and authentic stories.

What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
Honestly, I’d love to be interviewed by Oprah on Super Soul Sunday or just get to work with her in any capacity. I legit listen to every single Super Soul Sunday episode. It’s my all-time favorite podcast, and it’s been very helpful in my life, especially during times of turmoil. It would be a true dream-come-true moment, and I think I would fully lose it if I met her.

What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
The best comedy advice came from an improv workshop I did with Alex Fernie when I was starting out. It was along the lines of “Aim for what makes you personally laugh the hardest. Write what you want to see. Do what makes YOU genuinely laugh.” At the time, I was writing stuff that I thought would make a certain group of people laugh instead of leading with what genuinely made me cry laughing. It’s still something I tell myself a lot: to lead with what excites me and makes me personally laugh the hardest, even if I’m afraid only I will think it’s funny. When you write from that place and the material works, it’s the best feeling because it’s your own sense of humor being reflected. It’s your own comedic voice that only you can bring to the table that’s being showcased.

The worst comedy advice I got was from my mom, who tried to pitch me lyrics to a song. I have a song that ends with “Maybe this time I’ll swim in cum,” and she said, “It should be WIN in cum. WIN in cum is better. It’s snappier and ‘SWIM in cum’ makes no sense.” I did not take the lyrics. This story is 1,000 percent true.

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Dylan Adler Is More Than a Theme-Park Backflip