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Erik Burgess, Published June 27 2012

Fergus Falls' funny man: Chad Daniels has whirlwind week

SARASOTA, Fla. – Fergus Falls, Minn., funnyman Chad Daniels has been busy lately, appearing last week on TBS’ late-night talk show “Conan,” and releasing his new CD, “You’re the Best,” and Web special “As-Is” this week.

Daniels, who still lives in Fergus Falls with his wife and their 8-year-old and 12-year-old sons, was in Florida with his family when we caught up with the 37-year-old Tuesday in the middle of Tropical Storm Debby’s wrath.

He was indoors at an aquarium.

“It’s indoors, so it’s about the only thing you can do right now,” he said.

The Forum: What made you stay in Fergus Falls? Why didn’t you move to a bigger city to do comedy?

Daniels: I started in Minneapolis, and then, once I got established doing comedy where I could live anywhere, my wife had been taking care of the kids when I was gone so much, so I let her pick where we were going to live, and we both grew up in Fergus Falls, and she just picked our home town.

It’s a lot easier. She has friends there and family and everything. It’s good for her. It’s good for the kids, and I didn’t think I was going to like moving back, but I love it.

What do you like most about it?

It’s not a real big place. It’s nice. It seems like everybody has panic attacks these days. It’s probably because they’ve been hustling their whole lives.

So it’s nice just being able to relax in the backyard with a bonfire or a lazy float down a river or something like that.

How did you first get into doing comedy?

I got fired from Xerox when I was 23, and I threw myself a retirement party. I got a six-month severance package, so I thought I’d be financially responsible and throw myself a retirement party. Then we went to an open-mic, and my buddies signed me up. That was it. I was hooked.

On your website you say very clearly that you think you’re funny. When did you figure that out?

Maybe I kind of always thought I was funny because people were laughing, but it didn’t really hit me until some people that I thought were funny told me that they thought I was funny.

It’s like people are laughing, but, I mean, you can get crowds to laugh and still not have the respect of your peers. But it’s once you get the respect of your peers you think ‘Alright, this is where I want to be.’

As a kid growing up in Minnesota, what inspired you to be a comedian?

My grandpa used to listen to Bob Newhart, and my grandpa had a laugh like Barney Rubble, and it was very funny just to listen to him laugh. But his shoulders would shake, and I was like “I cannot believe his body’s doing that just by listening to someone.” So I thought that was really, really neat.

I really enjoyed (watching) comedy, but I really enjoyed the idea of putting your thoughts down on paper and having other people actually listen to them.

Do you still have old friends that you visit in Fergus Falls?

Yeah, I have some good buddies from high school that still live there and of course, a lot of other guys, their parents still live there, so they come up for the holidays, and I get to hang out with them.

It’s interesting, you know, with cell phones, I don’t know anyone’s number because all I have to do is push a button. I still know my buddies’ parents’ numbers from when we were growing up. So Thanksgiving and Christmas I just call all the numbers I remember and end up finding something to do.

Your kids are getting a bit older now. Do they get to watch your routines?

They watch my late night TV spots. I mean, some of them, because they have to go through standards and practices for the networks.

My daughter, one of her friends heard the “I got hit in the balls” joke on “Conan,” and I didn’t let them watch that one. So the next day at gymnastics, I guess my daughter was pretty embarrassed, so I had to have a sit down with her and let her know, “Well, you said it. And for adults – it’s cute for adults to hear that. Because it’s funny and it’s cute. It shouldn’t be embarrassing.” But I promised I would never tell that joke again on television.

Little does she know I do radio all the time, and that was not factored in.

How do you stay motivated and inspired to keep telling jokes?

Other comics. You never want to be the guy that shows up at a festival and is doing the same material or, you know, lazy work. It’s like I said. You can get the crowd to laugh being lazy. There are ways to do it.

I want to keep up with everybody. When I show up, I want to have new funny stuff so the crowd is laughing, but I also want my peers to laugh and know that I’m not just putting it on cruise control.

Is doing shows in Minnesota like a nice break from the road?

I try not to make anything too regional. People always ask me, “Where do you live?” And I tell them Minnesota, and they’re like “Oh we never would’ve guessed that.” So that’s not too much a part of my act.

I do love being in the area because in Minneapolis I’ll see a bunch of friends. In Grand Forks, one of my great friends is the bar manager at that place I’m doing the show on New Year’s Eve, so I’ll see him and see a bunch of friendly faces. And then, in Goonie’s down in Rochester. I’ll put that on Facebook and I’m sure a bunch of folks will show up, so that is nice.

A familiar face on the road is really nice, so that’s good. But it’s not really a break from the road, because it’s still shows. I mean, the road is really fun if you let it be. It can really get to you if you let it, though, too.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518