Santa Clara University

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Make 'em laugh

Make ’em laugh
A gallery of work by Dan Dion ’92

You can see the work of photographer Dan Dion at comedy clubs around the world—from the Hollywood Improv to the Gotham Comedy Club in the Big Apple, from San Francisco’s Punch Line to the Sydney (yep, Australia) Comedy Store. And now, here’s an exclusive gallery of his photos online.


Comedians
George Carlin

George Carlin

There was a George Carlin moment for me when I was a kid that would have massive implications later. My friend’s hip dad had a Carlin LP, wherein he asked: “Where is all the blue food?” It struck my 9-year-old mind as incredibly profound and led to my constantly-questioning ways and, I think, eventually my philosophy degree from SCU. Ninety percent of the album was over my head, but I’ve caught up.

 

Dave Chapelle

Dave Chapelle

Dave Chappelle is a strange cat. He truly is the heir to Richard Pryor. Nobody else even comes close. He’s much less approachable now than five years ago, but still is a very nice guy face to face. He considers the San Francisco Punch Line, where I am the house photographer, to be his favorite club in America, and does these long, surprise runs of shows, and he’s legendary for doing four-hour shows.      


 

Chris Rock

Chris Rock

This was shot at the Paramount in Oakland. It is a good example of how I shoot my portraits. As a location photographer, you often never know what your options are going to be to shoot, so you have to work with what you’ve got. There was this antique special effects machine in the green room, and it made for a perfect background to suggest the workings of his mind. He’s a great guy, and the consummate pro.

 

Arj Barker

Arj Barker

When I graduated from SCU, I moved to San Francisco to work at the Holy City Zoo comedy club, continuing the work I did as comedy director. Arj was one of the young bucks at the club, and obviously had a lot of talent. We are the same age, so I guess you could say we came up together. The best thing about him is that he’s always doing something new. He’s constantly writing new material, and touring it to comedy festivals all over the world. He’s a huge star in Australia and Scotland. He also always does new posters for his shows, and this shot was taken for a concept show about a cheesy guru. It was shot in Corona Heights in San Francisco.   

 

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld

If you think about it, you don’t see that much Seinfeld press coverage. He doesn’t do many photo shoots, but I have a big, ongoing exhibition at Gotham Comedy Club in New York, and that’s the club he hangs out in and tries out new material. He agreed to do the shoot because he wanted to be a part of it, which was incredibly flattering. In person he’s completely mellow. He said he loves this shot because it makes him look like Buster Keaton.

 

Ian Sholes

Ian Sholes

Ian Shoales is a writer of satire and incredibly funny. I guess you could say that he falls into the “rant” school of writing. When I approached him about being a part of my MFA project on satirists, I wanted to shoot him in this throwback bar called The Gold Dust in San Francisco, and he was game. I told him about the place, and he asked, “Should I wear my pink suit?” That was a gift from the style gods.

 

Judy Tenuta

Judy Tenuta

She’s a weird egg, that’s for sure. But in my photography, I often try to switch things up.  Almost all photos of her have her as this outrageous, blowzy broad. The challenge was to create something that was more flattering and feminine. I think I succeeded as well as one could, considering an accordion was involved.

 

Jonathan Winters

Jonathan Winters

He’s such a monster legend in the world of comedy, and he doesn’t really perform anymore. My friend was working production for a movie that he had a bit part in, and I got hooked up that way. Although they are often compared to each other, in person he was completely opposite of Robin Williams. Robin is constantly mugging and always “on.” Winters was chill, and I think appreciated the fact that I didn’t ask him to do anything wacky. For me that shot is all about his face.

 




Rock stars
Beck

Beck

When “Loser” came out, most people were thinking this was a novelty song and Beck would be a one-hit wonder. This shot was taken at The Warfield on the “Odelay” tour, and I was blown away by how great he was: truly prolific and incredibly creative. He’s my favorite musician to come out of the ’90s. For a while he was unapproachable at shows, just too handled by his management. But I just shot him again at The Fillmore in 2006, and he seems to have gotten over the hump of fame where he needs to be concerned with every image of himself.

 

BW Hooker

John Lee Hooker

This was shot at his blues club, The Boom Boom Room. I’d shot him before, and he was surrounded by beautiful women who commanded all of his attention. I was an afterthought and the shots weren’t too good. So when I did this shoot, I made sure to bring some lovely young things myself, to serve as a communications conduit to this legendary man. You gotta do what you gotta do to get the shot.


 

Lou Reed

Lou Reed

This was a very tough shoot to get. You can see he isn’t too into getting photographed. But when I asked backstage at The Warfield if I could shoot him, his manager said that he wouldn’t do it because the flash would bother his over-sensitive eyes. Gotcha! I told him that I have high-speed lenses and super-fast film that wouldn’t require a flash, so he was kind of backed into doing it. I typically don’t like shooting reluctant subjects, but since I’m a huge Velvet Underground fan, I took what I could get. A shot of grumpy Lou is better than no shot of Lou at all.

 

White Stripes

White Stripes

Every once in awhile a band comes out with a completely new and amazing sound, and the fact that theirs is produced by just two people is mind-boggling. Their ubiquitous red-and-white palate was used to decorate a backstage dressing room, which made for an easy choice on how to shoot them. The fact that I get to hang out with talents like this is something I never take for granted, and for which I consider myself extremely lucky.            

 





But wait! There's more! Read a profile of Dion in this issue as well.

Check out dozens more shots of comics and musicians in Dan Dion's online portfolio. Or drop him an e-mail.

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