The Many Lives of Daniel Humbarger

October 20, 2018

Interview by

Lara Smith

Article by

Richard Goodwin

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Fresh off our Alter­ca­tion Fest inter­view with Kris­tine Levine, we were lucky to grab some time with anoth­er Alter­ca­tion per­former, Daniel Hum­barg­er. It’s been a busy year for Hum­barg­er; he has a new album, Fun­ny Bones, out on Stand Up Records, and just did a mini-cir­cuit of Texas with John­ny Tay­lor, which they jok­ing­ly refer to as the Mess With Texas tour. He’s also back from an amaz­ing extend­ed expe­ri­ence play­ing at Edin­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val.

Hum­barg­er start­ed life off in Ari­zona, but quick­ly racked up an impres­sive num­ber of miles and expe­ri­ences, with his fam­i­ly mov­ing through mul­ti­ple states and him through 11 dif­fer­ent schools by 6th grade. In the midst of his nomadic upbring­ing, Hum­barg­er found the time to catch the per­form­ing bug, try­ing his hand at plays, and lip sync’ing in tal­ent shows.

He shares anoth­er ear­ly mem­o­ry, one near and dear to me: emu­lat­ing Dukes of Haz­ard with his Big Wheel, with the addi­tion of an unex­pect­ed face­plant. (I also Rode the Wheel, but had my own spe­cial mem­o­ry of plant­i­ng my face quite spec­tac­u­lar­ly onto a space heater while being a very unsuc­cess­ful Super­man.) When the fam­i­ly final­ly land­ed for an extend­ed peri­od in Sacra­men­to, it was just the start of sev­er­al new life­times”, as he refers to them while talk­ing with Lara Smith. 

Sport­ing a tat­too from the era to remind him always, Hum­barg­er recounts how his first life­time” was as a rave DJ. There’s a stage, and an audi­ence, so let’s call this his first per­form­ing gig. While great fun, it doesn’t real­ly pay the col­lege bills, so Hum­barg­er soon embarked on his next life, as a load­mas­ter in the mil­i­tary. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the reg­i­ment­ed life didn’t suit him, and he took a grace­ful exit as soon as the option was available. 

There was a taste of the future here though, as he did briefly start his standup pur­suit, try­ing open mics, and even attend­ing a Last Com­ic Stand­ing audi­tion. It was encour­ag­ing, and he got great feed­back, but didn’t move on in the com­pe­ti­tion, and ulti­mate­ly decid­ed to stay the staid course and try to build a pro­fes­sion­al career. 

Which brings us to the final pre-com­e­dy life, and which sur­pris­ing­ly isn’t a first for a guest we’ve spo­ken with: law school. It seemed like a good choice at first, and Hum­barg­er active­ly worked as an intern, then a prac­tic­ing attor­ney in cor­po­rate bank­rupt­cy for a few years. 

I’ve nev­er been afraid to say Fuck it’” Daniel Hum­barg­er

It was a domain that didn’t suit him at all. I was a glo­ri­fied bill collector…you can imag­ine how much I hat­ed that,” he tells Lara. In one of the bet­ter how to quit your job” sto­ries we’ve heard, he decid­ed to close the door on that job. I’ve nev­er been afraid to say Fuck it’,” he says of the expe­ri­ence. He tried anoth­er legal focus for a time, but com­e­dy con­tin­ued to beck­on, and 7 years ago he decid­ed it was a call he just couldn’t ignore. It wasn’t dying with a big house or a nice car….I have to see if I can make this happen…if I don’t try, and I’m on my deathbed, I’ll hate myself,” Hum­barg­er recalls. 

Daniel Hum­barg­er at 2018 Alter­ca­tion Com­e­dy Festival

So, even with days as a suc­cess­ful attor­ney, win­ning mean­ing­ful cas­es, build­ing up under his belt, they nev­er felt quite as mean­ing­ful to Hum­barg­er as the expe­ri­ence of stage com­e­dy. They do have some inter­est­ing par­al­lels, as he notes: I picked the two jobs where, if some­body at a par­ty finds out what you do, they want you to do it for free.” It was around this time he met John­ny Tay­lor, who remains a friend and col­league to this day. He start­ed build­ing his ros­ter of mic and show­case expe­ri­ences, includ­ing host­ing his own with Taylor. 

Fun­ny Bones came out ear­li­er this year, and Hum­barg­er was work­ing part time as a videogame design­er, when the oppor­tu­ni­ty to per­form at Edin­burgh Fringe Fest pre­sent­ed itself. He knocked out an impres­sive 40 sets in 20 days, rapid­ly cycling between estab­lished sets, local­ized and top­i­cal mate­r­i­al, and prac­ticed that most cov­et­ed act of the enter­tain­ing busi­ness: net­work­ing. He shares some mem­o­rable moments of Edin­burgh with Lara, includ­ing one of the last things you want to hap­pen dur­ing a set, and pos­si­bly the most smooth recov­ery you can make when that sit­u­a­tion is sprung on you.
I picked the two jobs where, if some­body at a par­ty finds out what you do, they want you to do it for free.” Daniel Hum­barg­er

It seems that Humbarger’s fourth life is suit­ing him well; It’s not always life in par­adise,” he admits, but I’m hap­py.” He’s had some amaz­ing expe­ri­ences in Liv­er­pool, and is head­ed back to Cal­i­for­nia soon for a spell, to do more out­reach, and attack his goal of build­ing mate­r­i­al and tak­ing a return run at the UK

With many lives behind, and pos­si­bly even more ahead, maybe it’s actu­al­ly the fourth time around that’s mag­ic, after all.

Get more of Daniel Humbarger’s fourth life into your life by vis­it­ing his new­ly mint­ed site, daniel​hum​barg​er​.com. Get his album Fun­ny Bones from Standup Records, and fol­low him on Insta­gram and Twit­ter.

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Daniel Humbarger