Dave Buckman: A Rich Life of Laughter

July 6, 2018


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin

PSA: Out of Bounds Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val 2018 has been announced. Get your badges ear­ly for the amaz­ing line­up this year!

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. 

I just want­ed to be around fun­ny peo­ple, and make oth­er peo­ple laugh”Dave Buck­man

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. 

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”Dave Buck­man

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. 

What­ev­er walls you’re hit­ting in your life, they’re the same walls you hit in improv.“Dave Buck­man

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.

Dave Buckman