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The Dan Band: Live at The Garage, Highbury, 1st November 2016

| Comedy, Music | 01/11/2016


After all of last night’s tricks, Londoners are in for a treat tonight with top musical comedian Dan Finnerty bringing The Dan Band to the UK for the first time.  Finnerty, who made his name in Old School and The Hangover, is performing his live show at The Garage for one night only.  Head along to Highbury to see why his earnestly sweary style is so loved by the great and good of US entertainment, including Steven Spielberg, Jay Leno and Nicole Scherzinger.

Ahead of the show, Ian Cater spoke to Finnerty about his unexpected journey into musical comedy, awkward wedding experiences and hopes for a future collaboration with Bonnie Tyler.  

Even in a film with as many memorable moments as The Hangover, Dan Finnerty’s performance of 50 Cent’s Candy Shop in the final wedding scene stood out at once.  Maybe that’s because it sums up everything about Finnerty’s act and – arguably – the film itself: earnest, brilliantly misjudged and profane.

“That’s basically our live show,” he agrees, talking about his group: The Dan Band.  “This idea of an overly sincere singer doing the wrong song at the wrong occasion.  And most of our songs are comedy covers of girl songs, like Total Eclipse of the Heart, using bad boy-band choreography.  It’s all about flipping things on its head, being ridiculous, a little excruciating at times and – hopefully – entertaining.”

The approach has certainly proved that, securing Finnerty a high-profile following in America, spots in hit movies and an hour-long TV special executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

Accidental success

Despite his success, New York-born Finnerty comes across as modest and – frankly – a little baffled by it all, reflecting the fact that none of this was really intended.

1rpfdt2p“I moved to LA many years ago as an actor, hoping to just be the neighbour with the hoodie sweatshirt who came in every five pages, said something funny and left,” he laughs.

“I never wanted to be the lead.  I wanted some good lines and then to hang out in my dressing room.  But, you know, it’s not easy to get that work!”

A dramatic change in direction began when Finnerty was dragged along to a karaoke bar by his co-stars in Stomp.  “I was drunk and ended up doing this version of I Am Woman.  One of the guys liked it and asked if I could open for his band the following week, to make it look like they were these big headliners.

“The guy who runs The Viper Room saw the gig and said he wanted to book me every Friday.  So suddenly – each week – we were on immediately before The Pussycat Dolls!”

From that celebrated venue on the Sunset Strip, Finnerty later moved to a regular slot at Club Largo, rubbing shoulders with the cream of American comedy also finding their feet at the cabaret bar: Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, Tenacious D … the list goes on.  “Looking back, it was a pretty amazing place to incubate my comedy and develop myself.  So I was pretty lucky with that.”

Wedding crashing

Back then, Finnerty’s live persona wasn’t so car-crash, as his crowds were less conservative than the wedding guests in Old School and The Hangover.  But Finnerty saw scope to up the levels of awkwardness for comedy effect.

6a00d8341c4fe353ef017c34aca96a970b-320wi“Before we did any of those movies, someone I knew begged me to play at her wedding and I kinda had to say ‘yes’.  But it was just so terrible.  Her grandma was sitting in the front row.  She’d clearly waited so long for this day and sat there with her neat hair, clutching her purse, staring at me.

“I saw her straight away and when I get nervous, I grab my crotch and swear more.  So the more she hated it, the more I swore and grabbed my crotch.  It was awful for both of us.  Everyone else at the wedding seemed to really enjoy it.  But me and the grandma …  we were just shell-shocked.”

Director Todd Phillips saw potential and cast Finnerty to sing at Will Ferrell’s wedding in Old School.  “When I met Todd, he asked me what I’d play in that situation and I told him I was working on a sweary version of Total Eclipse of the Heart.  He just said: ‘Do it!'”

The rest is history.  The film – produced in 2003 by DreamWorks – performed well, aided by Finnerty’s scene-stealing antics.  Shortly afterwards, Spielberg – DreamWorks’ founder – turned up backstage to tell Finnerty how much he loved his show and thought it’d work well as an hour-long special.

“He said: ‘We could probably film it at HBO, as I’ve just done something there called Band of Brothers.’  I said: ‘Yeah, man – I know your work!’  So Steven Spielberg executive produced it, McG directed and it was just fantastic.”

Tour of duty

Things moved pretty quickly from there: Spielberg cast Finnerty in The Terminal, while Phillips chose him again for Starsky & Hutch and The Hangover.  And when he isn’t in a film studio, Finnerty finds himself either on TV (most notably including The Jay Leno Show) or singing live – something he clearly still loves.

“We’ve pretty much been on a life-long tour,” he enthuses, denying any hint of weariness.  Now, for the first time, Finnerty finds himself performing on this side of the pond.  “We got invited to play at The Galway Comedy Festival, and I wanted to call in on Dublin while we’re here.  Then I thought: ‘I’ve gotta play a date in London’.  So we just hope it goes well at The Garage and we can keep coming back!”

In the meantime, Finnerty plans to make more music – adding to the three albums he’s released to date: The Dan Band Live, Ho: A Dan Band Christmas and The Wedding Album.  “My dream is to record a duet with Bonnie Tyler,” he says.  “Do Total Eclipse of the Heart together, as that’s where this all started.  I got close, all the way to her manager, but apparently Bonnie doesn’t like profanity!  I hope she changes her mind one day, maybe if I stop swearing … or if she starts.”

The Dan Band plays tonight, 1st November 2016, at The Garage, Highbury, from 19.00.  For tickets, head here.  For more information on The Dan Band’s music and upcoming tour dates, head to their official website or follow them on Twitter @TheDanBand.   

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