Dan Soder finally feels like a comic, which is probably a good thing because that's how he has made his living for more than a decade.
Soder is a stand-up, the cohost of The Bonfire on SiriusXM's Comedy Central Radio with Philadelphia's own Big Jay Oakerson, and a frequent guest on the Opie with Jim Norton show. In January, he'll go dramatic for Showtime's Billions starring Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis, playing a minion of Lewis' hedge-funder. ("It makes sense why they had a comedian do it - I take a lot of abuse," Soder said.)
On Thursday, Soder will film his first Comedy Central one-hour special at the Trocadero Theatre, to premiere early next year.
Comedians now have many avenues to reach new fan bases - having a killer Twitter presence and hosting a podcast are as important as hitting the road - but the hour special is still the holy grail for many comedians, including Soder.
"The hour is the only thing that matters," he said. "Stand-up is the thing I want to do for the rest of my life. It's what I plan on doing until I physically can't do it anymore. This special feels real. It's from being a fan to being an open mic-er, to going on the road and headlining. I finally feel like a comic."
Soder hails from Colorado and lives in New York. His connections to Philadelphia are tenuous at best, but he still chose the Troc - "It has an old- timey theater vibe, but the grunge of an old rock club, where teeth have been knocked out in a mosh pit" - for his Comedy Central special because of the connection he has made with Philadelphia audiences, particularly after a five- show stand in March at the Helium Comedy Club.
"It's blue-collar mentality, but with a highly educated ability to get references. New York, Boston, Philadelphia, a lot of cities have a huge gap between different types of people, but everyone lives together. You get can away with [male anatomy] jokes and Dostoyevsky references," Soder said. "But there's something about the crowd in Philly that makes me a little nervous. There's this attitude that you want us at our best."
Oakerson, Soder's partner on the mic at SiriusXM, mentioned similar aspects of the Philadelphia audience that would make Soder appealing to his hometown crowd.
"I think Dan appeals to Philly in the same way I and our show do. Philly, while a 'big city,' is actually a blue-collar town full of real people. Dan has a very real, genuine personality that shows in his humor," Oakerson said via email. "Philly is always ripe for that kind of delivery, and [we] come out to show support for it. Hard to offend, and willing to laugh at themselves."
Oakerson added that he would be there to support Soder "like a proud hockey mom."
Like a lot of comedians, Soder uses the stage as therapy session, mixing the not-so-family-friendly with personal stories. "I make jokes that make me feel insecure and upset," he said. "You can take this [terrible] thing and make people laugh about it."
Growing up, he was into comedians like Dana Carvey, and the Saturday Night Live vet's stamp is all over Soder's work as he slips into different voices throughout his set. But then he found guys like Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, and George Carlin, who could take these horrible situations and make them funny.
Preparing for the special is "nerve-racking," but Soder is trying to keep things in perspective, treating it like just another club gig. "I know you're supposed to have this Hollywood mantra of 'I'm going to kill it.' But mine is: 'I hope we have fun, I hope no one drinks too much and screams [stuff] out,' but more than anything, I hope people listen to my stupid, stupid stories and my stupid voices and have a really good time."