I met up with Robert Dubac at the bustling iconic restaurant Pershing Square on 42nd Street. I noticed immediately that he has a warmth about him that you don't expect from a comedian; maybe it's a result of his choice to live in Telluride, Colorado or perhaps its due to the fact that he is really a deep thinker with philosophical thoughts evident in his comedy.
We settled into a large booth near the window and, after ordering a coffee and croissant for him and fruit smoothie for me, started discussing the reason for his visit to NYC - performances at Urban Stages of his one-man shows The Male Intellect - An Oxymoron? and The Book of Moron.
How would you describe your show The Male Intellect?
Well the background on that show was that I was fed up with how other men were acting - and believe me I acted that way when I was in my thirties. What our culture seems to do is preserve adolescence. You have 40 year olds running around like they are 20 years old. I hate to sound like an old guy but I was feeling that frustration in my forties and that's why I wrote the show.
What age did you settle down?
I actually didn't think I was going to get married. I was 40 years old when I got married. I thought that my standards were too high; the bar was set too high. Then, obviously, you meet the right person and you think "they do exist". I had been through the sexual revolution and realized that everyone comes with baggage.
The Male Intellect explores "what women want". So tell me, what do women want?
In the show, it's called security but not the security that you think. Not the "I'm a guy and have to protect you" thing.
That type of security is nice though.
It is. But the security I talk about is deeper. It's the security that comes from a guy that is honest, compassionate and intelligent. And it's all spelled out in the show.
Speaking of security - the show business industry is full of so much insecurity and rejection. How do you handle the rejection?
I'm still learning to handle it. Even if the crowd reacts the wrong way, you kind of go "how come I don't know how to fix that".
Comedy is an industry where you have to be critical. Can you step away from that in your personal life?
Criticism is always there, but what I have to careful about is cynicism. The cynicism can get too strong sometimes. I don't think there is much smart humor out there. When you are trying to do something smart and provocative at the same time, the cynical ear is up so I need to be careful about that.
You write and star in your shows. How do you keep the creativity flowing?
I get together once or twice a week with a group of comedians. It's like a writers room. We get together and do something called "spitballing". The big concept is already there, but everyone throws out jokes and says "this will be funny" or "that will be funny" and we figure out where we can weave in certain jokes. It's a tight group and you also learn how other comedians think.
How would you describe your own humor?
It's smart and provocative. It's tough to describe your own thing without feeling like you are blowing smoke up your own butt.
Has your sense of humor changed as you've aged?
Sure, less sophomoric stuff. What's interesting about comedy is that it's like heroin and drugs where, once you get your first hit, your emotional growth stops. So anybody who started drinking at age 16, whenever they stop they are at the same emotional maturity. Comedy is the same. They are 18, 20 years old, and they get this hit of laughter, this drug. And it's a reinforcement for telling fart jokes or adolescent jokes. And then they are 40, 50, 60 years old still trying to talk about those same jokes.
Why do you think there is so much depression amongst comedians?
Maybe that's why - because they haven't evolved.
You are clearly a deep thinker. Did you rely on comedy to get out of your own head?
A little of both. To get out of it, and also go down the wormhole and see how complicated everything gets.
Now I want to talk about your other show, The Book of Moron. I saw this show and really enjoyed it. For me, the big takeaway was about learning to be open to new ideas.
It's all about - can you hold onto two thoughts at a time? Yes you can. But if you don't practice it then you will be in a coma, a place where all you want is to watch Fox News. Fox News is like heroin for old men. You hear these old men talk about "I lost my son to drugs"; well I lost my dad to Fox News.
One thing I noticed while I was at your show is that you seem very comfortable with the audience.
That comes from doing it so much as well as learned acting technique. You must be involved in the moment. That's where the reality is. Talking with someone is different from talking at someone.
What does it take for you to walk away at the end of the night and say "this was a great show"?
It's an instinct, an intuition. I always know when it hits around a 7. My wife hardly knows the difference between a 7 and a 10 but a comedian knows. All of us know when we hit it. I haven't heard any guys be able to verbalize it - we just know it.
What's one word you would use to describe your career?
Self-Reliant. It's not that I don't want others help, it's just that you need to be true to yourself as cliche as that is.
I want to end this interview with my favorite question: what's one thing you would like to tell your 15 year old self?
Grow up. Don't let the herd manipulate you. You don't need to know who you are, but don't let them tell you who you are.
The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron and The Book of Moron featuring Robert Dubac are playing across the country, and can currently be seen in NYC. For details and ticket information, head here.
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