Did Someone Call Derek Kopswa?

August 3, 2019

Photo Credit

Derek Kopswa

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin


If the saying about the rose, by any other name, has any truth to it, then this week’s guest has certainly proven out the theorem. You may know him by his latest moniker, Derek Kopswa; the previous Derek Kopszywa; or perhaps even his musical alter ego: Drone Rivers. In case the pronunciation seems tricky, it’s quite easy: it sounds exactly like “Joan Rivers”. Oh, and “Kopswa”, as he says in his act, is as if someone asked “did someone call the cops...whaaaat?”.

Like his semi abundant coterie of names, Kopswa has also seen his way through multiple passions while growing up in his native Mississippi. For a while he focused on a goal of making movies, deciding to eschew a degree program in favor of spending the money on equipment and projects instead. Sprinkled throughout this, he continued to build his love of music, and started taking notice of the comedy world. So, a bit of this and that, as Kopswa decided to explore whatever popular or obscure pursuit struck him, even if he was the only one around getting deeply into it; he jokes that “I was the only…’a lot of weird things’ in high school.” In the here and now, Kopswa is definitely no longer in the minority of his preferred genre. In the last year or so, he's been the co-host (with Ashley Overton) for two mainstays at Kick Butt Coffee: the Wednesday night open mic, and the showcase Turnt. Those are interspersed with co-hosting the podcast Starring Ryan Gosling, and he still finds the time to put out music under that unforgettable pseudonym, Drone Rivers. His love of music also had him previously hosting a podcast called You Heard?, and it was actually the South by Southwest Music festival that first drew him to Austin, hastening his relocation here in 2015. Getting here was easy, but staying proved a hell of an adventure, with botched paperwork and a series of setbacks leaving Kopswa virtually without a place to live. In a bid for some relief, he decided to try his first open mic that night, and it seemed the universe still had some oomph left to kick him a bit more. As you can tell by now, Kopswa persevered, and is now a fixture in the Austin comedy scene and ready for new challenges. He recently handed the Kick Butt open mic hosting reigns to Sawyer Stull. The monthly Turnt has been running for two years, filled with music both for entering performers, and throughout the show. While it is on break, it will return this fall, hopefully in a downtown venue. Throw in the podcast Starring Ryan Gosling (if only), which has guests pondering which movies should be remade, and what role the titular actor would play, he found himself in constant motion for quite some time, building, refining, and delivering.

“If you can say so much with so little...it’s a really fun challenge” Derek Kopswa

(Kopswa even has an IMDB credit to his name; trust me, just listen to the interview to hear him do justice to the origin story, and what befell one very unfortunate script binder.) “I’ve slowed down a lot...I feel like I can take a breather,” Kopswa says of his current situation; and that ethos has found its way into his comedy as well. If you’ve seen him perform, you know he certainly can tell stories, but also has a special gift for punctuating his set with sharp one liners. It’s a talent he’s proud of, having honed the method while finding a way to always be able to pull through a laugh even in difficult performance situations. “If you can say so much with so little...it’s a really fun challenge,” he says, and constructing them just right is its own kind of quest: “I feel like every sentence of a joke...should count.”

“I feel like every sentence of a joke...should count.” Derek Kopswa

And making things count is very much a guiding principle for Kopswa right now. Balancing his various creative outlets and shows takes a toll, and he’s looking for ways to improve them and maybe even transition some of the workload. There’s also a new day job in his future, a wedding to our wonderful previous guest Holli Cuomo, and hopefully some mini-tours to spread “the Nasty Virus”, as he refers to his comedy. If the Virus catches on (ahem), that means festivals and other opportunities might not be far behind. At this point, we have to ask if a move is in the future, and luckily for us the answer is “no”, although Kopswa does posit that any number of unlikely scenarios could happen, including becoming Milkwaukee’s hottest comedy couple. With Kopswa and Cuomo, it’s a powerful punch of story and stinger, so I suspect wherever they are, they’re going to make a splash. And Derek, if you’re still into making movies, I think Kopswa and Cuomo is the perfect title for a buddy cop comedy; just be careful where you put the script. Catch Derek Kopswa at these upcoming shows:

  • 8/3: Bone Rattle at the Volstead
  • 8/4: Comedy Resistance at Native Hostel
  • 8/6: performing at Radio Coffee

Listen to his first full-length Drone Rivers album on Bandcamp.

Derek Kopswa