Podcast: Dan Bacula on his series of stand-up "yearbooks"

The Madison comedian explains why he takes an unconventional approach to stand-up albums.

Last year Madison comedian Dan Bacula released a stand-up album titled A Little Bit About Myself. It collected bits he'd recorded on his phone's Voice Memo app or a cheap video camera at open mics over the course of a year. In a story written at the time, I said that it "captured the formative chaos of early comedy careers."

A couple of weeks ago, Bacula followed up that first release with a more assured yet still scruffy and charming album, titled You Know What I Mean, recorded at open-mics at venues including The Argus and Winedown. It's the second in a planned trilogy that captures Bacula's comedy material in various stages of progress. Like the previous release, it's got one track for each month of the year, and embraces the rough audio quality that results from recording yourself on cheap devices at an open mic. In that sense, it's very representative of the time stand-ups spend working out their bits, at unglamorous open-mics with uneven audiences and stripped-down production values.

Bacula's material flips and flops between posing deep philosophical thoughts as ice-breaking openers—a tough sell in any room, especially in the basement of the Argus on a Monday night—and admittedly goofy wordplay. There are seemingly unintentional running gags that keep popping up, like Bacula's inexplicable references to bread knives, and a steady reliance on U2 lead singer Bono as a punch-line punching bag. Bacula is mostly content to stay on brand with material about being a husband and father, but it's interesting to hear politics drift into his repertoire right around last November for some reason. Bits occasionally get repeated, but it's rare enough to not seem lazy, and in this case it's interesting to hear the ways the material has evolved as well as the differences in audience reactions.

I recently sat down with Dan Bacula to talk about his process, what drove him to release these albums, and the state of comedy in Madison. Give it a listen here or subscribe to the Tone Madison podcast on Apple Podcasts. Bacula's upcoming shows include a set at the Mad Men of Comedy Showcase on June 15 at the Nomad World Pub.