Danny Felts

Good Funny People #5: Dinah Foley

Danny Felts

On this weeks edition of GFP I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Dinah Foley.

One thing that’s cool about Dinah is how she’s super good at being effortlessly funny to multiple types of audiences, while also maintaining a world view that’s informed/something most reasonable people can get behind. As much as I do enjoy mindless goofs and riffin’ bits, it can be very refreshing to talk about a subject matter that actually has stakes behind it. Full Disclosure: We also talked about Death Cab For Cutie and mid 2000’s emo music so don’t worry world, dumb shit was allowed to fly.

I’m not sure how this came about but the first thing the conversation naturally fell on was the program I use to transcribe this column. My bad if you’re not into Google Chrome Extensions. It got more palatable pretty quick, so no big deal.


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Dinah: I feel like as someone who doesn't do manual labor as a means of making money typing is the closest thing to producing something. We've almost been brought up to think words per minute is equivalent to how productive we are.

Danny: For sure. Sometimes I feel like I do have that technical ability but there are gaps. Are you good at technology?

Dinah: I'm getting better. Something that has been on my New Years Resolution List for the past 5 years is to take coding classes. Like, I want to learn some kind of language or something. I've heard from friends that there are some super good programs online. The thing is I'm only trying to learn it out of desperation because I feel like I'm going to be quickly irrelevant because I'm a millenial that doesn't know how to create a website.

Danny: I completely relate to that. It's like there's so many jobs out there where all they want are developers and stuff like that. I definitely feel the irrelevance thing. Like, I could learn this, but it's not my passion at all.

Dinah: I feel that too. I feel a major impulse to force importance into my life by being a cog in society in one way or another, but I feel like it's too late. From when I was 14 years old I've felt like it's too late for me to develop any educational prowess that would make me relevant in society. Which was calling that shot WAY too soon and I realize that now.

Danny: What about creatively speaking?

Dinah: Creativity has always felt like a hobby and something I couldn't consider a profession. I always wanted to have multiple careers and not be pigeon holed which is why it probably took me like 9 years to finish college because I kept switching majors thinking I would find the right thing. Now I know I'm never going to be satisfied just doing one thing even if it's a creative thing. I want to be doing something that is geared toward social justice and that's a completely humorless mode of existence. There's so much tragedy.

Danny: What if you did a Daily Show kind of thing? Is that an intersection you could do? Or do you have to be making more meaningful units of change.

Dinah: It's hard to quantify the positive impact political commentators like Jon Stewart have made on people's awareness and their engagement. It's still super significant. Like, when my little brother was 16 he was talking about Jon Stewart but also how he's not registered to vote and he doesn't care.

The thing that never made that a goal in my mind is the fact that my anxiety would never allow me to entertain the idea of being a figurehead. I'd love to write, but not be the head person. The constant attention that goes into that? I can't even imagine the psychological impact that produces.

Danny: The scrutiny is insane. That guy has absolutely crossed the threshold to having most people recognize him. You don't have to like him to know who he is. Most people who don't like him know him for that reason.

That's an interesting concept to me: Making something positive but also being a creative person. I feel like we want to believe that stand-up helps.

Dinah: Right. But it reaches such a small section of the population. Even someone who is really revolutionary and has a powerful ideology like Bill Hicks for example is still not common knowledge. When coworkers talk to me about comedy they'll say things like, "Oh, you know who Bill Cosby is?", and I'll say yes and then ask, "Do you know who Bill Hicks is?", and say, "No. Who the fuck is that?". This isn't common knowledge even if you obtain legendary status.

Danny: Even if you die through your art--which he did technically.

Dinah: Even if you say groundbreaking things about structure or society and how we view ourselves as a race, it's still not going to reach a huge population. I do wonder if that's changing though. Through the media industrial complex that's projecting people to a higher level than ever before.

Danny: It might be, but the thing about Hicks that my friends and I always talk about is how he's got a real follower problem. The people who like him can be the most unbearable people. Lots of dudes who are like, "I'm just telling the truth, man!".

Dinah: It sucks when horrible people latch onto someone who is good because then you're forced to create that association. That happens a lot as things become increasingly popular. Like, when I was a teenager and things that I loved that were countercultural became popular I was very confused about whether or not abandon my interest in the thing.

Danny: I had that constantly. I'd think, "Man! I like this thing, but I do not like that you like this thing, and now I need to reevaluate this thing.".

Dinah: Can you think about a band that you had that with?

Danny: The only band I really had that with was Death Cab For Cutie. Fortunately though they took the relatively benign way out where they just stopped producing albums that I liked. The worst thing they did was become "meh". The didn't do what Sublime did which is attract the worst people imaginable who then somehow get worse as they age.

Dinah: I was really into Death Cab For Cutie and then the Postal Service and Bright Eyes. I got pissed off when Bright Eyes became more mainstream. Actually, the interesting thing about this bar is when I was 18 years old I made out with Connor Oberst here.

(I feel like this has come up in casual conversation a couple of times but every time Dinah mentions it I'm always surprised and confused)

Danny: That's right! Like, in this very bar?

Dinah: Yeah, I kissed him and then he jumped into my Pedicab and then I took him for a ride. It's super embarrassing because I was 18, I didn't have any sense of what my boundaries were, and that starry eyed teenage fandom was still unchecked even though I thought that I had shed that. I don't know, it was really really soon after I had started developing musical interests that were other than just liking 2000's emo/rock. Just that hyper emotional bullshit that was all about self victimizing as straight white midwestern males. That was just a weird thing that happened. I definitely don't want to project any significance onto it. But enough time has passed that I'm totally comfortable talking about it.

Danny: It probably could have been weirder.

Dinah: Also, I dropped him off downtown and told him to get out of my Pedicab and figure out how to get back to the Crystal Ballroom himself. He didn't like that, but he got out and left.

Danny: Smart phones weren't smart enough in 2006.

Dinah: (jokingly) Let's not talk about that anymore.

Danny: Sure sure. We talked a little bit last night about Bernie Sanders stuff.

Dinah: That's right! I am a huge fan of Bernie Sanders.

Danny: You did something pretty cool, right?

Dinah: Yes. I had the immense privilege of being able to introduce him when he was at the Moda Center last month.

(Y'all should check that out here)

That was something that came about unexpectedly through work and was a very unique opportunity that was presented to me the day before. I didn't have a lot of prep time and I DEFINITELY didn't sleep the night before. It was really incredible to engage in the crowd that was there. By virtue of being there they had to be somewhat as passionate about the ideas he represents. He's said a lot of times that it's not about him, it's about the ideas.

I love that because the political races I've been privy to in my life have been so based on personality and identity and that doesn't seem like what the presidency should be about. It's turning into a fucking reality TV show/soap opera.

Danny: I guess it is funny because a character like Donald Trump was literally a reality TV show star, and the way he's been marketing himself he is just all personality. Nobody can tell anyone why they like Donald Trump other than the fact that he "...tells it like it is...", and if they can tell you why they like him then they might be racist. That dude has been so draconian about immigration stuff. 

Here's a question: So, even when you're doing comedy with all those multiple perspective you still feel engaged with what Bernie Sanders brings to the table?

Dinah: I mean, there is a line with comedy and politics that I don't feel qualified enough in my political education to cross and blend the two. But I have tried and I do think more people should and I do think more people should express their political ideals through a comedic lens if they can.

Danny: Is it still just about being mostly funny?

Dinah: Yeah, I think the point is that you have to be funny and not that you're trying to get people to go vote, because I don't know if you're going to make a huge impact by talking to 12 people at an open mic. I mean, on a macro level if you're doing comedy and you're reaching a lot of people I think it's a responsibility to express your political beliefs just because it's become so common for people to pretend to not have political beliefs whatsoever.

Danny: You say pretend. Do you think people say things like, "I don't care about stuff!", but realistically most people do care about certain issues?

Dinah: Yeah! Like, I went to the Oregon County Fair last year trying to register people to vote and I've never heard more people say, "I don't believe in voting.", in my entire life.

People don't believe in voting because they see all these politicians being elected who are so influenced by big money and so stunted by the gridlock in congress that they can't get anything done. Really, they're just telling you the reality of their lives. It's just that's more of a symptom of the lethargic system than the president itself.

I just don't think that's a reason to abstain as a participant, especially when it's at such a small cost to you. It's 5 minutes, plus we have vote by mail in Oregon so it's such a minimal commitment. I feel like everything being terrible is more of a reason to buy in rather than opt out.

Danny: I guess we'll just see what happens in the next 12 months. It's good to be a realist, but it gets overwhelming when people are just like, "FUCK IT. NOTHING MATTERS", because that doesn't seem to be 100% true because things are still happening.

Comedy wise how are you doing these days. What's happening! How are things?

Dinah: Stand up has been more of a priority for me lately, but now I'm trying to write jokes that pertain to things that I actually care about and are not just amusing thoughts that I've had in passing. Those jokes ARE definitely acceptable and I promote them because anything that brings people joy is something that is part of the goal.

Danny: Nobody's saying you got to get rid of wordplay!

Dinah: What I'm trying to say in a roundabout way is I'm trying to branch out from just telling shitty puns. I haven't been writing as much lately just because I've been trying to follow things that I care a lot about and it takes a while for something like that to transition from something I'm emotionally caught up in to a joke. Things like immigration, Europe, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict--these are things I'm just wrapping my mind around and then a few months later I'll distance myself from them enough and find a way to make people laugh, but also make them think. Just lodging that little kernel of thought into their mind.

People still feel like politics are this quarantined area of conversation where you can only discuss it with certain people and they avoid it in all other areas of their life. "Don't talk about politics with your relatives, or your coworkers, or your friends.". I think that's something that does a huge disservice to just having a dialogue.

Danny: Yeah, look how great that's gone for religion. We don't talk about that over dinner either and nobody is angry about that! You can't just ghost away from religion and politics otherwise it's always going to be awkward.

Dinah: And what else is there! I don't know, I've had a lot of really uncomfortable conversations with family members and friends about political stuff so maybe I shouldn't make any recommendations.

Danny: It's uncomfortable but at least you all know where you stand.

One last thing, you wanted me to ask about is a possum. What's up?

Dinah: Well, since I was a little kid I always wished on my birthday that I would find a baby possum or raccoon in the wild and I would get to nurse it back to health.

Danny: You wished this?

Dinah: I wished this on my birthday candles.

Danny: Ok. So this is serious.

Dinah: Yes. And a few months ago my friend found a baby possum in her neighborhood and needed someone to take care of it. So I immediately contacted her and was like, "It's me! I'm the one!". This is obviously the opportunity I've been waiting for. And it was the cutest little nugget, but unfortunately it's no longer with us.

Danny: What have you done, Dinah!

Dinah: I didn't ruin it! It wasn't me. It was actually infested with fleas and they weren't your average fleas. They were monster fleas.

Danny: Jock fleas.

Dinah: They were beating up all the other fleas and devouring them. They were huge though, definitely bigger than grains of rice. Just crawling all over this marsupial.

Apparently, they're illegal to keep as pets in Oregon so we put him down.

Danny: Because he was being eaten by jock fleas.

Dinah: Yeah.

(silence)

Dinah: I guess that was a pretty sad story.

Danny: Yeah! That was super sad.

Dinah: I don't know why I wanted to talk about that.

Danny: Well thank you for telling me about your possum story.

Dinah: If anyone out there has a baby possum I'd love a second chance...

Danny: ...and if you want to vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary you have to be registered as a Democrat in Oregon.

Dinah: 2 weeks before the May primary elections. Could we end with that?

Danny: Yes, we should end with that.

Dinah: Perfect.


Check out Dinah at Keep It Like A Secret!, at Jackpot! Recording on 9/21 @ 7:30PM