|Photo Credit||Steve Rogers Photography|
Within five minutes of this week’s guest starting to tell his story to Valerie Lopez, Dave Buckman drops a quote that perfectly captures his drive in life. “I just wanted to be around funny people, and make other people laugh,” he imparts to her. That early revelation is the common thread of the history he recounts, and it’s clear that it has been what has pulled him through a tapestry of experiences that eventually landed him in Austin’s comedy scene.
Buckman is a producer of the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival, which runs in Austin every year over Labor Day weekend, and an executive producer at Coldtowne Theater. He’s studied, taught, and directed at Second City Chicago and its international sister show Boom Chicago in Amsterdam.
A native of New Jersey, he had the gift of knowing very early in life that performing was going to be a central part of his future. From funny family members like his grandfather, and his grandfather’s brother in law, he learned the power of someone being able to “hold court” and tell a story. At the ripe old age of 8, inspired by the likes of Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, The Marx Brothers, and early Saturday Night Live episodes, Buckman jumped on stage with his sister and friends at a talent show, lip syncing to Alvin and the Chipmunks tunes, and blasting a trumpet solo cover of Billy Joel. It was a success, evidenced by winning first place in their category; mind you, they were the only ones in the category, but it was still a shining moment in his early “career”.
Even at that age, Buckman learned an important lesson that would guide his later ambitions. After failing to land a role in a 4th grade play, he still found a way to be part of the spotlight: by running it from the tech booth, an experience he and I have in common from our school days. “You can still be part of the show and entertain the audience, and not have to be the center of attention at the same time”, he tells Valerie, and I couldn’t agree more.
As he researched his heroes of the time, like Phil Hartman, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, and Jonathan Winters, he learned of Second City and The Groundlings. He recalls, “I knew after college that I had to go [to those institutions],” even driving 50 miles through a snowstorm to get to a workshop with Michael Gellman, a founding member of Second City, and–at the time–Bill Murray’s understudy. With his appetite for the stage well nurtured, Buckman started his own improv troupe in college in Washington, DC, which he recently found out is performing to this day.
After trying his luck in New York, and returning to DC, Buckman caught a touring Second City show, with then newcomers like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. “It blew my mind,” he says, as he’d never seen long form sketch before. He packed up and headed for Chicago, and, in a portent of the future, performed his last show with his college improv troupe at The Velv here in Austin. He began interning at Second City, working the box office and selling t-shirts, and recalls days of walking by the wall of performer’s pictures, thinking “I hope one day my picture’s up on the wall somewhere.” He worked his way through classes, coaching, then directing, and was sent out to direct at Boom Chicago.
In another fortuitous adventure, Buckman met his future wife and creative partner Rachel Madorsky (with whom he still performs to this day in Rachel and Dave) when he went to Cleveland to direct a show. The duo considered a move to Los Angeles, but ultimately chose Austin. The improv scene was still somewhat in its infancy here, as were his skills. “I was not that good of an improviser when I got [to Austin],” he admits. “Whatever walls you’re hitting in your life, they’re the same walls you hit in improv,” a battle he worked through with Madorsky, a clinically trained psychologist.
When Hurricane Katrina drove Coldtown Theatre to Austin, Buckman and his troupe The Frank Mills, found new footing, and friendly, healthy competition with The Hideout troupe. With the scene growing, he worked hard to build to the level of personal success he dreamed of as a child, saying “If you [had] told my twelve year old me that I would own and operate a comedy club…in Austin Texas, and [be] married to a hot, funny wife…that was the perfect life for me.”
Among his many projects, Buckman passionately orchestrates the mainstay Austin Sketch Fest (Memorial Day weekend), hosts the award show at the Austin Film Festival, and of course co-produces the annual Out of Bounds Comedy Festival (OOB) with Ruby Willmann. OOB strives to pick the cream of the crop, from a huge list of participants, themes, and performance styles; he teases a long list of picks in the interview you’ll want to see.
Dave Buckman has come a long way, working every angle of the stage (and spotlight), and is as excited by his craft today as he was from his first taste. Be sure to listen to the whole interview with Valerie Lopez to hear how he gets as much joy from giving opportunities to others as he does from his own creations. “We’re only here for a very short time, and I intend to cause as much laughter as I possibly can while I’m here,” he says.
Wise words, and we completely agree.
Dave Buckman performs every Thursday night at ColdTowne Theater at 8:30 with Rachel Madorsky and Michael Jastroch, produces Austin Sketch Fest every Memorial Day weekend, and produces Out of Bounds Comedy Festival every Labor Day weekend.