Jim Dailakis dreamed of being a comedian since he was a kid. Through hard work and an unwavering dedication to his craft, he has performed in six countries, and routinely performs at The Laugh Factory, The Borgata, and more of the top comedy clubs in the US.
Jim has worked with people like Jerry Seinfeld, Larry the Cable Guy, Kevin Nealon, and Weird Al Yankovic. He has appeared on shows on VH1, NBC, and CMT, as well as commercials worldwide. Check out his tour dates, and catch him live when he comes to your town.
Jim was gracious enough to talk to me about what he does, and how he made a career out of what he loves to do. Hopefully, this interview will encourage you to get out there and chase your own dreams.
At what point in your life did you realize that you had a passion for comedy?
When I realized that I was weird and had a penchant for silliness. Very early like around 8 years old. I would enjoy making teachers and friends laugh in school. Doing impressions also would save me from getting beat up from the school bullies. I’d “funny” my way out of getting beat up.
In most jobs you have a grace period where you can be pretty bad it for awhile, but most people will be too polite to let you know right away. They give you a chance to figure it out. That’s not the case with comedy – the audience makes it pretty obvious when things don’t go right. When you were just learning how to do this, how did you bounce back from those tough shows? There must have been times where you wanted to quit.
Thankfully, I’ve never really had a time where I wanted to quit. There were some tough shows and sometimes, there might still be the odd occasions where the conditions are not the best for a comedic performance, but I never doubted that I could win an audience over. I will admit that there were times where I questioned myself but then I’d remember I’ve had more hits than misses and it would encourage me keep going. Thomas Edison tried over 10,000 different combinations before the light bulb actually came on. That inspired me to realize, the difference between success and failure is persistence. Imagine, for example, if Mr. Edison had quite by attempt number 9,675 because he was irritated and just had a beer instead.
One of the things I like about your shows is that you assume different characters, accents, and mannerisms throughout. Have you taken formal acting training, or are these things that you just kind of figured out along the way?
A little, or should I say, a lot of both. Comedy was what I now call a pleasant accident. I came to the NYC from Perth, Australia to study acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. I did so for about a few years and then I had private coaching which was very intense. Only a handful of students. The class started with 50 students and by the end there were only about 9 of us.
There is definitely an innate ability too. I can’t help but notice the way people talk, walk, their mannerisms and so forth. I’m always compelled to mimic them. People and human behavior fascinate me.
From watching your act, I get the impression that cartoons (particularly the Looney Tunes style) had a pretty big influence on your sense of humor. Is that true?
Very perceptive of you, yes. Bugs Bunny in particular. They were my escape as a child. I would say that Looney Tunes was my first comedic influence. I loved Bugs, still do and even now when I’m in a hotel room on a gig and surfing channels, if I see Bugs or his friends, I have to watch a little. Later, I was into MASH and came to the conclusion that Alan Alda’s likable character of Hawkeye, was very similar to Bugs Bunny. They’re both sympathetic, funny, have wit and they’re both lanky. I never got into Mickey Mouse or Disney. Compared to Looney Tunes, even as a kid, I felt that they were childish and immature and to me, not that funny.
I have to ask you about travel. I just looked at your schedule, and it doesn’t look like you have stopped for more than a couple days in the last five years. How do you cope with that?
I love it. I get to be a paid tourist who loves what he does. Seeing the world by doing what you love is bliss. Comedians with families have it tough I’d imagine. On the road, the toughest thing is to stay healthy and workout. It takes discipline but I do it. A gym and the grocery store are the first things I look for. I also allow rest time and time with family and friends. A while back, I vowed to always go home and visit family and friends and to hang with family and friends in the US regardless of where I was professionally, personally, financially or otherwise. I used to go home to Australia once a year but now I go twice. It’s good for the soul. Nothing is more important than quality time with family and friends. It’s on the top of the priority list.
How many jokes do you think you write for every one that you actually use?
I guess the only ones I use are the ones that people laugh at when I’m testing them out. I usually get material from conversation. I call them organic jokes. They’re born on the spot when I see an opportunity to see the funny. If the people I’m speaking to laugh, then that joke will come with me on stage. If the audience laughs, the joke stays and then develops throughout the routine. If they don’t laugh, I give it three chances to develop before throwing it out. I write jokes but that’s harder because the joke comes with me on stage without ever having had an audience.
You recently wrote and will star in a movie called All My Friends are Getting Married. What have you learned through that experience so far?
That even with a distribution deal, A List getting attached or interested in the project, it takes time and that I should never just assume everything is going to happen overnight. It’s been over four, nearly five years now and I’m still working on it. Patience and persistence are my allies once again. The important thing is to enjoy the ride. You have to otherwise you’ll lose your mind.
If you could give one piece of advice to people who dream of being a professional comedian, what would it be?
Give up! No seriously, get on stage as often as you can. Write like there’s no tomorrow, even if the jokes are lame. Just keep writing, don’t get it right, get it written. Let the creative funny juices flow and then work on refining. Same for when you get on stage. Become aware of your surroundings and try to see the funny in everything.
What is the most fulfilling thing about your job?
That I get to be the catalyst for a room of laughing and happy people. That I get to use comedy to raise money for charity. Wounded Warriors is one I’m involved with now. I once had a woman come up to me after a show who said that she had stage IV cancer and that I gave her 5 years. I was taken aback, hugged her and told her she just gave me 10! When she passed, her friends had a fund raiser event for the charity she was involved with and they invited me to the same club and I met all her friends and dedicated the show to her. To see people in the brightest and happiest, to see that total strangers are inspired to hug me after a show and think nothing of it because they had such a good time is emotionally, psychologically and professionally very, very fulfilling and beautiful. I never take it for granted. It’s also great that I get to see the world, meet different people from all walks of life and that oftentimes, if I so choose, I can sleep in. I have plenty of time to work on other aspects of my life too…writing, acting, auditions, working out and so forth.
Thanks so much for your time!