Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Offstage with Daniel Strauss

When The Second City paired up with University of Michigan-born theater company Team StarKid, a new sketch show, Airport for Birds, was born. Daniel Strauss of The Second City Touring Company and Team StarKid describes the group as "some super funny friends of mine from college who basically run the Internet," with their big hit "A Very Potter Musical." He says they tried to make the show very similar to a Second City show. "People brought in scripts or pitches, and we'd work them and rework them in rehearsals to get them to where we wanted," he says. We talked with Daniel about touring, video games and what influences his work.

You have two more Airport for Birds shows left with them. Tell us about the show. How did you guys come up with it?

Brian Holden and Meredith Stepien, two of my friends from StarKid, came to see me in one of my Second City Touring Company shows a while back. Afterwards, Brian mentioned he'd been talking to Kelly Leonard over at Second City about possibly putting up a sketch show with Team StarKid, and would that be something I'd be interested in working on. I'd wanted to get the chance to work with StarKid since they moved to Chicago, so it was a no-brainer for me. The title was Brian's idea, he wanted that title from the start. Which is a shame, because I think my title, Team StarKid Presents: The Daniel Strauss Story (A Tragicomedy in Four Acts) had a lot more zing to it.

How did you get started at Second City?

My first gig at Second City was the summer of 2006, as an intern. I had already seen a Second City show as a kid on a family vacation, but getting to be up close and behind the scenes at the theater was a pretty mind-blowing experience for me. By the end of that summer, I was sure I was moving to Chicago after school and that I wanted to work for Second City. I moved to Chicago and got hired by Second City almost instantly--to work in the box office. Which I did for two years. During that time, I was performing pretty much anywhere I could find a stage. Four months after I left the box office, I got the call to do a ship. And I got hired to understudy the Touring Company after I came back.

What's your favorite part about touring?

There are so many things. I would probably say getting to see parts of the country I would otherwise never have seen. We play a lot of small midwestern towns, and a few small southern towns, and it's like you're getting to sample this piece of America that you didn't even know existed before.

Tell us about your web series Game Bros. How did the idea come about?

So, Tim Ryder, my "Game Bros." co-star and I love playing video games. I was brainstorming ideas that would be fun/easy to shoot with a budget of $0, and the idea just kind of came to me. Tim and I toured together for about a year and a half, so we already have a bunch of bits that I thought would translate to the format of the show: two guys playing video games online and talking via their gaming headsets. Right now I'm on a pretty steady diet of Halo 4 and MLB The Show 2013. I'm super excited for Bioshock: Infinite, which cannot come out soon enough.

Who's your biggest comic influence?

Right now, I have to say Tim (Heidecker) and Eric (Wareheim). I can pretty much quote every episode of Tim and Eric: Awesome Show, Great Job! although I don't have to do it right now, because that would probably get annoying. That's probably the one comedy show that can make me fall out of my seat from laughing so hard.

How do these things play into your improvisation and performance?

I would say there's a certain irreverence in Tim and Eric's style that I try to bring to my work. Also, merciless mocking of all things related to the corporate business world, which I definitely try to incorporate.

When you’re not acting, improvising or writing, what else are you doing?

Probably hanging out with my wife, Rachel. There's also a 85% chance we're eating sushi.

By Pamela Birchard

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