When I hopped on the phone with Robert Dean last week, he was taking time out of his day job as a (nearly retired) furniture salesman to give me the 411 on his new album (It’s Not Easy) Being Dean. It’s set to be released TOMORROW (April 12th) on Sure Thing Records, and Dean will appropriately celebrate with a show at Dean Street in Brooklyn. In anticipation of all of this exciting news, we chatted about the album (which has track titles like “T-Shirt Underwear” and “Baby Eyebrows” and “Wolves: A Powerpoint Presentation”), Dean’s brand of comedy, whether or not he’s single (and if his series of alone-on-a-roller-coaster Tinder profile pictures were working), and (of course) Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank acclaim. I’ll let him explain the latter in his own words starting right now…
Robert Dean: I’m in the furniture showroom where I work selling furniture, and this morning I completely snubbed Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank.
BYT: No way!
RD: I was on the phone doing an interview for a Connecticut newspaper, and she was here, and I just kind of was like, “I’ll be right back,” and then was talking about my career while she sat and looked at our catalog, and she left before I hung up. So I’m feeling very weird today. I just keep laughing thinking about her being like, “You were on the phone for a long time, and for that reason, I’m out.” Unbelievable. What a world.
BYT: That’s insane. So apart from snubbing Barbara, what else do you have in the works going into this weekend? Any shows?
RD: Yeah, I have a show tomorrow night. I’m hosting a really great show called Good For You in Williamsburg. It’s kind of unknown, but always really fun and packed. So that’s tomorrow night, and then I’m getting ready for my release party next Thursday.
BYT: So exciting! Now, you recorded the album in November, right?
RD: Yeah, I did everything on November 12th as part of the New York Comedy Festival. Originally they’d slotted me for the festival, which was incredible, and they originally wanted me to do this at a museum, because I did this show called Robert Dean Museum about my life and my work. But I couldn’t do that again because I’d given it all away, so I told them that my other idea was to get married to myself. I was going to have a wedding where I’d marry myself, like a Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding kind of thing. And then I decided to cancel the wedding and focus on my career and record the album. I lucked out tremendously, got to do it at New York Comedy Club on November 12th, did two shows, and it’s finally going to be out there in the world next Thursday. I couldn’t be more excited.
BYT: That’s great! But you did kind of leave yourself at the altar a little bit.
RD: I 100% did. I haven’t totally forgiven myself, but I understand. The career is more important.
BYT: Has it felt like forever in between November and now?
RD: Oh my god, yes. It kind of perfectly coincides with winter. It’s been a very long winter; I’ve been working full time as a furniture salesman, and just kind of waiting for this to come out and share the other elements of it, like the album cover and the title, the promotional things I made, and to have people listen to it…it felt like the longest time. And I’m so sick of my own voice at this point, I cannot even listen to it anymore. I’m shocked that anyone wants to listen to my voice, because it’s so annoying! I think, anyway. At this point it’s gotten to feel that way. There are so many little things I’m catching, like I didn’t realize I had such a pronounced lisp. I mean, I don’t really, maybe a slight one, but that’s all I can hear in the recording. So nasally and muppet-y…of course, none of these things are real, but I’ve just been listening to it so much that they feel that way. I do always record sets, though, so I’ve gotten pretty used to the sound of my own voice. But it was a lot of work to go through the two shows and decide which jokes, which versions of jokes, would all go onto the album. I don’t think any joke is ever complete, and I think this album was kind of about getting over that idea, that a joke can be finished, can be a tome, can be evergreen. It was really comforting to realize that it’s just capturing a moment, and so this is where all of those jokes were at that moment.
BYT: Speaking of how things were in that moment, you joke a bit about being single in the set. Not to sound like a creep, but are you still single?
RD: [Laughs] Yeah, no, I am still single. I don’t think anything has really changed. I’m still not a Bob, I’m still Robert. There are some things that are a little bit, you know, mentally outdated. I don’t love doing things alone as much. That little segment of my life, when I was going out on dates like murder mystery and hibachi alone, I’ve kind of stopped doing that. But I’m certainly as single as I was when I recorded the album. That has not changed.
BYT: Are people ever anxious about the fact that you’re a comedian when you do go on a first date or two? I’ve heard from a few other people that that can be an issue, like people are worried that they’ll end up a joke in the set.
RD: People have asked if that will happen, and I often tell them to listen to my act; they’ll realize it’s not going to happen. I have nothing like that, and I’d never do it. I’ve gotten to the point now that I don’t care if someone knows I’m a comedian, though, because it’s my life. I don’t want to hide it. If someone has a weird or terrible reaction to that, either it’s probably they’ve never encountered a comedian (which, in this day and age is ludicrous, because there’s a million of us in New York). But it’s so much a part of my life that I don’t shy away from it, and I think the understanding is a lot better. It used to be, “You’re a comedian, tell me a joke!” or “Oh my god, are you going to do jokes about me?” And now it feels more like, “Oh, you’re a comedian? My friend has a friend that does stand-up. Do you know so and so?” And I’ll be like, “Well, not really.” [Laughs] And that’s the long and short of it. It’s kind of become a little bit more “socially acceptable”, less of a “thing”. I will say, though, my Tinder profile is only roller coaster photos of myself. Alone. So I don’t match a lot. I have two Instagrams now; I decided to do a personal one because I felt the pressure of the world to have a “real” person one. But originally, @robertdeanagram was where I posted one photo per year of me alone on the Cyclone roller coaster, and I’m actually gearing up to do this year’s, because I think the park is open again now.
So that’s been my Tinder and Bumble profile, which doesn’t lead to a lot of matches. I’ve had women ask, like, “What roller coaster is that?” And I’m like, “It says right above it. The Cyclone.” Like, do a little bit of work! [Laughs] But yeah, I’m very busy, and I’m sure my therapist has other reasons why I’m not pursuing dating to the same extent, but I do always think that people should know going in that this is what’s important to me. I’m a comedian at my heart. I don’t care, let ’em know it.
BYT: And it is really true when you tell them to listen to your comedy to quell any fears, because your brand of comedy doesn’t come off in the slightest as cruel or opportunist, you know? I think that’s really cool. Some people seem to rely on very low-hanging fruit, and I think that’s where those anxieties stem from in people worrying they’ll end up the butt of a joke. And especially with this album, you know, you don’t go after the little guy, it seems fairly inclusive, etc. Was any of that intentional? Or did you kind of look up and realize it was a natural gravitation?
RD: Yeah, I just gravitate towards that naturally. Tthe only point in that regard I’d make is, for instance, the joke about the Kiss Down. It’s tough, but I’ve tried to make that relatively neutral in terms of gender and sexuality. I’m sure there are people who don’t do the Kiss Down, or perform oral sex, but I intentionally used the word “genitals”, which is so clinical, but this way everyone can relate to it, because everyone does it no matter your gender or sexuality. You could potentially be doing the Kiss Down, and that way I’m not removing anyone from it. I think the more inclusive you can be, the better. With a lot of my jokes, that’s what I gravitate towards. It’s the idea of me being personal, and being like, “This is what I find funny,” and fining a way to convince or show other people that what I think is funny is funny. That’s the dream. And hopefully I’ve accomplished it, I don’t know. [Laughs]