dan licata on high vis, mexican coke, and funeral doom as sleep meditation

The comedian on Mika Miko, the influence of Jackass, and his excellent new special For the Boys.

dan licata on high vis, mexican coke, and funeral doom as sleep meditation
Dan Licata on Late Night With Seth Meyers, photo by Lloyd Bishop/NBC

“Record Exchange” is a series of conversations between see/saw and a fellow punk enthusiast. Each person brings two songs to discuss. The latest installment is a chat with stand-up comedian Dan Licata, who just released an excellent new stand-up special. His new podcast Chicken Podmesan is reportedly imminent.

Look it’s not a spoiler: You’ve had plenty of time to learn that as a teenager, Buffalo stand-up Dan Licata jumped off the roof of a church holding an umbrella. It was because of Jackass, and yes, the fall fucked him up good. “My mom sent me a text not that long ago that was like, ‘Do you need this,’” Licata said over a video call. It was a list he wrote while confined to the downstairs of the family house with two broken legs. “I was instructing my dad, like, ‘Go on the family computer, you need to burn me a CD of all these songs.’”

That list reveals Licata’s taste as a teenager. Obviously, the Jackass influence was there; he also cites the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtracks as formative. The list he wrote for his dad included the Germs, Black Flag, and Adolescents. He was also getting into early Dischord and first wave L.A. punk. These days, he lights a candle and listens to doom metal to help him sleep. “I can't meditate,” he said. “People have been trying to like tell me ‘you should try to meditate before bed.’ I can't do that but I'll put on some really slow funeral doom type stuff—that’s my version of meditation.”

To learn the proper story of this time of his life, you must take in For the Boys, a beautifully gonzo performance filmed for a school auditorium audience of teen boys. “I feel like the log line of something should get a laugh, ideally,” Licata said. “I would tell the concept to people, and like 90% of the time they would start laughing. But then there was like 10% of the time they would be like, ‘Huh. So why would you want to do that?’ Then I'm like, all right, well, this ain't for you.”

Licata recently made his late night television debut on Seth Meyers. “It was very much a big question mark in my brain as to how the studio audience was going to respond to it. With those NBC studio audiences, there's a huge chance I'm going to get a wall of blank stares. But they were into it. Really horny crowd.” He says the reception to the special has been broadly positive; he also got a DM from Ryan Phillippe. “He’s like, ‘It re-framed what a comedy special could be in my mind,’ and I was like, ‘Alright, man.’”

Dan’s pick: Real Blood’s “Promise”

They were born out of this band Flagland. I’m buddies with them. I found them immediately after moving to New York in 2011. They were one of the first bands that not only I would see all the time, but also I became friends with them. They broke up, I can’t remember exactly when, but it was one of those where they’d been together for close to a decade and just hated each other and split ways. So the first and last song in the special are by Real Blood. Over the end credits, this is the song that plays. 

I was thinking about that way before I even shot it; I kind of had those two songs in mind. The lyrics themselves are fitting. “I promise you that it’s not gonna go how you planned.” In the special itself, I’m performing for these kids that aren't totally digging it the whole time. I feel like the lyrics are kind of prescient. It’s all of them kind of going nuts while the gym teacher clobbers me with the cookie tray. I just wanted something that had this sort of primal release and this song kind of just satisfied both needs. Thematically and energy-wise, it works. 

see/saw’s pick: Mexican Coke’s “White Pantera”

I’m trying to figure out what kind of effect they had on the vocals. It reminded me of grindcore vocals. When I think of hardcore bands, it’s just a little more of a staccato in the voice. This was more like a monster growling. The double entendre of Mexican Coke, like which one are they referring to?

Dan’s pick: High Vis’ “Mob DLA”

Their last album Blending came out  two years ago or something. It's just never stopped being in rotation for me. I remember when it first came out, I started listening to the album start to finish, and there were just so many songs I was obsessed over. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but I really do feel like it's a perfect album. Every single song is so different and so good on its own. It’s one of my all-time favorite albums.

So when this one came out, it was like fuck yeah. One of the best bands just released a new song. But I was also nervous. Like goddamn, they knocked it out of the park so hard last time. Can lightning strike twice or is this gonna be a letdown? I listened to it once, and immediately, I listened to it three more times. They stuck the landing once again. I should have never doubted them for a second. 

see/saw’s pick: Ekko Astral’s “Head Empty Blues”

What was that line, something about Molly Shannon? The vocals and music behind it clashed in a way that worked. It’s not quite the same but it did feel like it’s harkening back to Mika Miko. Do you remember them? There’s a lot of that lyrical style in punk, where it’s just an absurdist non sequitur, like, “Don’t dig any deeper into it: ‘Turkey Sandwich.’” 

Random story that just popped in my head. I don’t know how good a story it is. One time, me and my sisters were driving somewhere in one car, and my mom and dad were behind us, and we were listening to Mika Miko, and we were really blasting it. My dad texted us. He was like, “I can hear your music from the car behind you.” And we were, like, “Oh yeah? Well if you can hear it, what do the lyrics say?” And he said, “I want a ham sandwich.” When we got to the place, we were like, “You could really hear that?” And he was like, “What are you talking about? I just made something up.” He was bullshitting us, but the only song we were listening to was “Turkey Sandwich.”

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