Hunter Duncan: Life, Unplanned

August 11, 2018

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

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Some of the fun­ni­est moments are born from times of awk­ward silence. For Hunter Dun­can, those moments orig­i­nat­ed around the fam­i­ly table on board game nights, fill­ing preg­nant paus­es gen­tly rib­bing his moth­er. Or maybe not so gen­tly, he admits, because you roast the ones you love”. 

In that set­ting, Dun­can learned a les­son that sticks with him today, about the mar­riage of dis­com­fort and humor. You’re kind of upset, but you’re hav­ing fun”, as he describes it. At the time, it was notable but cer­tain­ly not yet a key part of his character.

For a major­i­ty of his life, the native Aus­ti­nite has been the oppo­site of off the cuff” spontaneity. 

I was plan­ning 10 years in advance where and what I’d be doing every cou­ple of years…then I real­ized at one point that was not a fun way to live.“Hunter Dun­can

I was plan­ning 10 years in advance where and what I’d be doing every cou­ple of years where I should land and mile­stones”, Dun­can says, and then I real­ized at one point that was not a fun way to live.” After grad­u­at­ing from Texas Chris­t­ian Uni­ver­si­ty, a very unplanned event land­ed him in real estate finance in New York. Work­ing hun­dred-plus hour weeks, he eked out free time time to see mar­quee come­di­ans doing small room sets, like Chris Rock (who actu­al­ly bombed the night Dun­can saw him at The Com­e­dy Cel­lar). It tick­led the cre­ative side in him, even sup­pressed as it was by the lit­er­al by-the-num­bers work week grind. 

Dun­can still wasn’t ready to make the move, until some wise words from a friend hit home with him. You can’t plan every­thing, pon­der­ing every out­come, stuck in analy­sis paral­y­sis. He para­phras­es it as: With life…you’ve just got­ta close your eyes and jump with both feet. You may crash, but you just got­ta do it.” It was what he need­ed to hear to take the giant step to get­ting out of New York and get­ting back to the Austin scene to try his hand at being fun­ny for a liv­ing. (Unchecked NYC rents played their role also, as they so often do.)

With life…you’ve just got­ta close your eyes and jump with both feet. You may crash, but you just got­ta do it.” Hunter Dun­can

Pro­ject­ing an air of con­fi­dence as Dun­can does, it’s a bit sur­pris­ing to hear the inner timid­i­ty that plagued him as he start­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the improv and sketch scene, tak­ing class­es and feel­ing out the stage, wait­ing at least a year before try­ing stand-up. Almost everyone’s first attempt at stand-up is rough, but he decid­ed to try with a tri­fec­ta of chal­lenges: filled with anx­i­ety, hung over, and some­how for­tu­itous­ly aid­ed by pop­ping a lit­tle pill that def­i­nite­ly wasn’t the Tylenol he intend­ed to down before the show. It turned out to be Ambi­en, and thus the mem­o­ries of that night are sad­ly lost to a bit of haze; the upside is that even if it wasn’t the best set, he may nev­er know. 

So he kept at it, not plan­ning the minu­ti­ae, but cer­tain­ly plot­ting a for­ward course, minus the Ambi­en we’re told. Dun­can recalls his first booked show, the long run­ning Stoned vs Drunk vs Sober, and he and his part­ner won with their sober sets. Days work­ing improv, and nights behind the mic, became his norm. He start­ed branch­ing out into run­ning his own show, like the long form Dou­ble Bar­rel with co-hosts Jared McCorkle and Andrew Wag­n­er, giv­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for oth­er come­di­ans to get much deserved exposure. 

With per­form­ing and host­ing gigs – includ­ing for the famous Sklar Broth­ers– Duncan’s hard work is pay­ing off. Recall­ing the expe­ri­ence, his admi­ra­tion of the pair is on full dis­play, shar­ing sto­ries with Valerie Lopez of how they’re rep­re­sen­ta­tive of his ide­al role mod­el: inces­sant­ly dri­ven, wild­ly suc­cess­ful, but nev­er spar­ing a moment to engage and show kind­ness to those even pass­ing­ly in their sphere. 

Enter­ing Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin for the first time, he had anoth­er rev­e­la­tion: don’t bring your anx­i­eties on stage. If you are stressed…it’s gonna come off on stage. I told myself…just go out and be stu­pid,” he recalls think­ing. In his sec­ond out­ing, the recent 2018 com­pe­ti­tion, he made it to the finals. 

Duncan’s next adven­ture, the inde­pen­dent film Ulti­mate World is due out in 2019. It’s his first big screen role, and the straight man start­up founder char­ac­ter plays per­fect­ly to the unas­sum­ing look that has helped him dis­arm an audi­ence more than once. With the project still months away from release, he can’t help but con­sid­er his next moves, with the siren calls of New York and Los Ange­les ring­ing in his ears. So catch him while you can before he jets off. Or maybe he won’t; that’s The Future, and he’s def­i­nite­ly not going to waste time plan­ning it out. 

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Catch Hunter Dun­can at these upcom­ing shows, and keep an eye on more upcom­ing dates at do512​.com/​h​u​n​t​e​r​d​u​n​c​a​n​/​a​r​tists.

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