Dallas Gwynn isn’t shy about oversharing. Her stand-up comedy routines are self-deprecating in the extreme, filled with gross-out humor about her body; the contraception she takes to avoid babies, a bald spot in her hair, pooping or masturbation. It’s similar to the body shame Louis CK heaps upon himself, except Gwynn is a woman (making it a bit more unusual). She banters with the crowd, engaging anyone who yells out. It’s more of a dialogue than a one-woman show, casual and audience-involved. If you want to see Gwynn in action, she’s a regular at Laugh Therapy (every third Thursday at Irish Embassy) and several of her full-length routines are available on YouTube. We talked to Gwynn about why doing stand-up in Durango is a pain and whether she intimidates guys.
Do you write routines, or improvise on stage? I don’t write a routine. ‘Wingin’ it’ is the official term.
Do you get hecklers?Never anyone being disparaging toward me, but people get drunk and yell and want to interrupt. That’s fine, I prefer that. I have no idea what I’m going to talk about, so that helps if I can make fun of some drunk dude – or woman. Equal opportunity. I’ve had awful times on stage when I just bombed, all on my own. That was awful. Crickets.
Was it hard to break into the field as a girl? There are way more male stand-ups. Yeah, you go to open mics and there’s a lot of egos involved, they don’t necessarily want a woman to be funnier or as funny as them. It does take a while to get into the scene. But if you’re good – and not to be a dick, but I have some talent in this area – they shut up pretty quickly. And they want you to do the shows. I’m very small-scale, I don’t want to be famous. That’s too much pressure.
Do you ever feel like being a funny, outspoken woman intimidates people?Absolutely. I’ve had relationships that didn’t go very well. But it could just be because I talk about things that make men a little uncomfortable, like my body and its slow descent to the ground, and my period.
Have you felt judged for your crudeness?Yes, my mother and father are very uncomfortable with what I talk about. I don’t do that on purpose, I talk about what’s going on in my life. If I’m PMSing that day, I’ll talk about my cramps. If I have an awkward sexual experience where things go in the wrong hole, I’m going to talk about that.
Any advice for comedians just starting out? Find what you think is funny and go with that. I see a lot of people (men), working so hard on crafting these jokes or stories that aren’t true. It never does well. I think you should stop trying to please the audience. And have a good time up on stage yourself. If you can make yourself laugh, who really cares if anyone else thinks you’re funny?
How hard is it to progress or “move up” in the industry? I think it’s really, really hard. Maybe it’s a little bit easier these days, with social media. You have to do touring and you’re living in crappy hotels. It takes a long time ’til you’re Louis CK or Amy Schumer. I’m not willing to put in that kind of time. Being famous looks like it’s terrible.
What’s performing in Durango like, as opposed to other places?The difficulty I’m running into is that it’s a small town. I’m used to bigger cities, where there’s not so much on the line. If I talk about my boyfriend here, half the town knows my boyfriend. So there’s no more anonymity. And what I’m talking about is embarrassing. I just got a job waiting tables, I want to talk about it so badly … but everyone eats there, because there are five restaurants. I went to high school here, and when I left it was like a cowboy town, kind of Republican. Now it seems to be quite liberal, and with liberal attitudes comes this political correctness that really prevents people from laughing at things that are genuinely funny. Like, we’re human. We’re racist at times and we judge people at times. We’re doing things because we’re fallible. If you laugh at that, you can heal from it and get better, I think. But everybody’s too worried about upsetting anyone.
What kind of humor do Durangoans seem to appreciate?They don’t like anything dealing with ethnicity or race. The sex, they seem OK with. They seem to have somewhat of a good sense of humor about … like, I talk about how I show up at weddings and people are in Chaco’s. Like, ‘What are we doing here, people?’ And when you make fun of tourists, they seem pretty into that. I was a nanny for the last year, so I would talk about kids, they’re funny.
What are the stand-up opportunities like here? [Laughs] Dan Korman is trying to get some things going with Laugh Therapy. That’s the open mic every third Thursday, 8 p.m. at Irish Embassy. And from those, he’s started to build paid shows. We just started the open mic at Durango Brewing on Mondays. There’s funny stuff happening. You can’t just go to the Ranch every day. Let’s get our brains moving, do new things. We’re trying to get more going.
Is there money in this? If you’re a clean comic, you get gigs speaking at company stuff, this or that. I can’t. I’m saying the word ‘f%$@’ every two seconds.
How big of a turnout do you see at Laugh Therapy?That’s a killer crowd. It’s always packed; it’s a super fun room. Between seven and 10 people perform. Everybody’s pretty ready to laugh.