A Cleveland native, writer, comedian and rocker extraordinaire Dave Hill just published his second book, Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a collection of humorous essays. He mostly writes about his experiences in Northeast Ohio with an emphasis on his relationship with his father in the wake of his mother’s death. Both funny and poignant, it’s a great read. At 7 p.m. on Friday, at Loganberry Books, Hill will read from the book. He responded via email to a few of our questions.
In the introduction to your new book, you mention that you grew up in the Northeast Ohio suburbs, where things can get pretty “irritable.” Can you provide some specific examples?
Yes, in University Heights to be exact. And to give you an example of the “irritable” stuff, somewhere along the line, the city made it so you had to have a parking permit to park on our street. Sometimes my family would park cars that didn’t have permits in front of the house anyway. We didn’t give a fuck about anything. Another time I stole a pack of gum from the grocery store at the corner. My mom made me return it but it was a wild ride there for a few minutes.
Is the book truly autobiographical or do you see Dave Hill as a character that’s not entirely true to life? And if he’s not entirely true to life, why wouldn’t you make him a little more macho. He certainly takes a beating both as an adolescent (the incidents with the boxing gloves) and as an adult (the incident with the homeless man and the bottle of urine).
It is autobiographical and 100% true except for a few name changes here and there so I don’t get sued or hurt someone’s feelings. I only mentioned the ass beating I got with the boxing gloves and getting soaked with a homeless man’s urine to make me seem more vulnerable so I could get chicks. It didn’t work, but that’s why I did it.
Many of the stories in the book are about your father. If I remember correctly, he fell asleep during a standup performance at the Happy Dog. What was his reaction to the stories in this book? How did feel about having his sleep apnea and his glutton allergy revealed in one fell swoop?
I don’t think my dad has read it yet. When he does, I imagine I’ll be grounded for a while on my next visit home, but he probably won’t freak out too much beyond that or maybe hiding the television remote from me. I had my siblings read the book ahead of time to make sure I didn’t say anything that would get me removed from the will or anything. They said it looked fine but it’s just occurring to me now that they were just saying that to trick me.
Many of the stories in the book — the chapter dubbed “Message in a Bottle” is just one example — end with something resembling a punch line. To what extent have these stories grown out of comedy skits?
The “Message in the Bottle” essay is the only thing in the book that came entirely from performing live. I had been telling that story on stage for a while and eventually it became a piece I did for This American Life. But weirdly, it’s hard adapting live stuff to a book. I kind of have to start from scratch to make it work. I can’t rely on my outfits, wacky facial expressions, or the chimp that dresses exactly like me to run out at just the right moment and jump into my loving arms.
In your chapter about training to master the art of Kung Fu, you mention you hope one of the members of the Wu-Tang Clan might be reading your book and that that would be “pretty cool.” What other members of the hip-hop community do you think would like the book and why?
I think the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony guys would really enjoy it for the many Cleveland references. I think one of those guys lived in University Heights for a while too. It’s almost like we’re the same person. And, speaking of the Wu-Tang Clan, I think the RZA would get an especially big kick out of my book. Not sure about GZA though. He’s elusive and it’s hard to really know what he’s thinking most of the time.
The book includes numerous references to rock ’n’ roll, including bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. How would you define your relationship to classic rock?
I love classic rock. It's classic for a reason. And even when the guys in Lynyrd Skynyrd were in their early twenties, they still looked and sounded like grown men who carried at least one knife on them at all time. Now most rock bands sound like children. If you play rock music, you should sound like an adult who is ready to fight or fuck someone at all times.
Speaking of Led Zeppelin, if you were to return to the Mexican prison that you write about in the book to play a benefit concert, what would be on the set list and why?
I would definitely play “Hotel California” again because I was pretty much running the entire Mexican prison after I did that last time. I think the key when you’re playing in prison, whether it’s Mexican or not, is to just rip as many sweet guitar solos as possible. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life, it’s that dudes everywhere respect a guy who can play a sweet guitar solo. So when you’re in prison, it’s either that or beat the crap out of the biggest guy you see as soon as you get there. I’ll stick with “Eruption.”
You say the stories are about various journeys. Why are there no references to Journey in the book?
Until Steve Perry is back in the band, you will not hear me discuss Journey in any forum. Also, Neal Schon did a pay-per-view thing with his wedding. Between that and not having Steve Perry in the band, you’re dealing with one highly delusional individual.
You once played in a band with your friend Tim Parnin, who plays in several bands in Cleveland and really brings the heat, if you know what I mean. If the two of you were to engage in a guitar battle, who would win and why?
If Tim and I engaged in a guitar battle, all of Cleveland would go up in flames before we even finished tuning. There would be no survivors. Tim has a kid and I have a dog and they both need us, so a guitar battle simply can’t happen between us. Also, he usually hooks me up with a little discount when I buy stuff at [his retail store] Guitar Riot and I don’t want to screw that up.
If by some improbable stroke of luck, Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore becomes a sit-com or a major motion picture, what actors would be bested suited to portray your father and you?
I think we’d probably go the Nutty Professor route and have one actor play me, my dad, and a few other characters too. That man’s name is Martin Lawrence.