Let Howard Kremer Teach You How to Really Have a Summah
Comedian Howard Kremer does a little bit of it all. He’s appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Comedy Bang Bang, he co-host the Who Charted? podcast on Earwolf, raps under the name Dragon Boy Suede, has had his own half-hour Comedy Central special, and has written for several television shows. His latest project is the release of his new album Summahtology (his fourth in the series!), as part of his lifestyle movement where he encourages people to “Have a summah.”
I’m new to this whole “Have a Summah” thing. It’s great! Tell me more about it.
Oh wow, thanks! It’s a lot to take in. I was having this debate in my head about five years ago, “Should I get some work done or should I go to the beach?” Even when I went to the beach I was still having the debate in my head. I just thought, “Hey, I got to talk about this.” So I started kind of doing the debate on stage. I was telling people to, “Have a Summah” and was acting like they didn’t want to have a summah. I don’t know, the idea really struck a chord with me. It felt like it had emotional resonance, which is weird, because usually you just do standup and its just jokes. People were really feeling this, so I thought, “This is cool. I’m gonna keep going with this.”
I don’t know if it’s just from the “Have a Summah” vibe, but are you always this much of a upbeat, happy guy?
I try to be. It takes a lot of work. You got to definitely work on your brain every day. I am quiet and morose when I’m alone. It’s fun at night when you get out and you get to see your friends and do standup. I guess if that’s the side of me people see, I’m glad they like it.
You were saying how people don’t know who you are, but you have a fan video and Zooey Deschanel did a short with you. People know about it more than you’re giving yourself credit.
Yeah, they do. I just think it’s because I do so many things like standup, podcasts, music, “Have a Summah,” Dragon Boy Suede, it’s hard to get the word out about all of it. That’s one thing that’s been good about doing the podcast, my podcast Who Charted? with Kulap Vilaysack, is that everything kind of comes under one umbrella. Once I’m on the podcast I can kind of talk about all of it. So, that’s been great.
Talk to me about more about Who Charted?
So, Who Charted is a podcast with me and my co-host Kulap Vilaysack. I’ll spell that for you later if you like. (Laughing) She’s an American of Laotian decent. Anyway, we count down the top five of music and movies and more every week. It’s been a great podcast that we’ve been doing on Earwolf for like five years now.
Would you say podcasting is your favorite to do?
What I love about podcasting is that it takes an hour to create an hour-long podcast. Where if you want to make an hour-long standup album, you need at least a year, probably. If you want to make a music album you need a long time. That’s what I love about podcasting is we just go and record and people want to consume the whole thing. I thought in the beginning we’d have to edit out stuff and cut out dead time, but people want the whole thing as is, and that’s great.
Do you think you appreciate summer because you’re from New Jersey and the weather out here in LA is always wonderful?
(Laughing) Yes. Absolutely. That was a tough thing in New Jersey. Summah finally comes around and then it’s only sunny like every ten days or something. So, coming out here you do feel that sun all the time, and it’s a great thing, but there’s also this undercurrent in LA of, “You’ve got to work. You’ve got to push.” The sun can take a backseat sometime, so I thought, “Hey, let’s put it back in the front seat!”
How long have you been out here?
I actually moved from Austin. I started in Austin. We did this show on MTV called Austin Stories in ’97. I think I moved here in late ’98 or ’99, so long time.
What’s changed since then? Because you’ve written for a ton of shows and you’ve done standup on late-night TV and all over the place, so what have you noticed in the industry?
Well, the two biggest things have been social media. When I did that first show on MTV, there was no social media. There was nothing. There was no, “Hey, get the word out about my show!” None of those channels existed. So that’s been huge, just the onslaught of all the internet stuff. There’s just so many more ways now to get comedy out there. Then I think the other thing was that the “alt scene” became the main scene. Back in the day when I first came here, we’d always do shows and it’d be Patton Oswalt, Bob Odenkirk, Louis CK, Mitch Hedberg, all kinds of people. It was just off to the side, it was college radio. I think now when you look at it, with UCB that came around and everything else, it’s completely mainstream.
Where did the name Dragon Boy Suede come from?
Yeah, that’s just my rap name. I had come up with a character that was half superhero half porn star. It was just a script I was going to write. Then I think the guys from South Park they had a porno superhero thing, so I scrapped the idea. Then I started rapping and thought, “I’ll just take that. That’s my rap name.”
What parts of him are different than Howard Kramer?
Umm… boy… You know when you get drunk with your friends and you’re just rapping like an idiot and you think they’re the only ones who are going to hear it? That’s Dragon Boy Suede to me. It’s me having fun. That’s it. It’s like it’s for me, and a bunch of friends. It was odd when I started to do it and it was part of my Comedy Central special. My mom came to that special, and my little nephews, and my cousin, and here I am rapping about my dick up there. It was odd and it was awkward.
What’s your mom say about it?
My mom is just supportive to a fault, so she just loved it and loved that I was on TV. I don’t know if she registers the dirty stuff. She probably just blocks it out or something.
Were you surprised the first time a “Summah Says” fan video came out?
Yeah, I was really surprised, because we had spent a long time making our own videos. I can’t tell you how great it is just to wake up one morning and just find out that there’s a whole other video that you didn’t have to spend one second producing. The video is fantastic. This family of four made it. They did a great job. That’s not my wheelhouse at all. I love making and writing songs, but I’m terrible with the visuals, so it was fantastic. I loved it.
Tell me about how you write, what’s your process? Because you have, what is this, your fourth album of Summahtology?
Yeah, there’s four for Summahtology and four for Dragon Boy Suede.
That is so many! Are you that guy that’s constantly singing and making up songs or how does that work for you?
It’s like Ishtar. Did you ever see Ishatar?
It’s just this movie about bad song writing. I started off in bands. I’ve been in bands since I was in third or fourth grade. I was always compelled to write songs, even when I started to do standup and deciding I was going to go that route. I was never able to shut off writing songs. As the years go by you realize, “I can’t let go of this. I’ll just have to do both, even if it splits my focus” and that’s where it’s at.
Comedy songwriters can get a little bit of a bag rap, do you ever run into that?
Absolutely. Even what I do sounds terrible on paper. “Oh comedic songs” or “comedic rap songs” or “comedic songs about the summer time,” all of it sounds like a mess. I don’t try to really explain it too hard to people who haven’t heard it. It’s mostly just people hear it and then they get it. It’s hard to convert people through just talking about it.
You’ve clearly been doing this for a long time. Do you remember what you considered your first big break?
It was in Austin. We heard there was going to be an MTV audition. They sent these scouts down from MTV and a whole bunch of standups went up. They picked four of us and said, “Hey, start coming up with an idea for a show.” There were sketches. There was like a home video camera and we just shot it ourselves. I think we got $1,000 for the first year, each one of us. That was our contract. We got $1,000 and it took three and half years to get Austin Stories on the air. It was pretty crazy. But that was a big break, and we had a show on TV, and we were in the national media. We got to move to LA and get managers and agents and start selling more shows.
And then it took off from there!
Yeah and it’s a slow steady build for years and years and years. It’s pretty crazy. You never know how the career’s gonna go. It’s unpredictable. Look at Marc Maron, you know. All those years of standup, and then the podcast, and then that’s the thing that blows up, and then he’s got the President in his garage. It’s just the things you’d never think of when you start out.
You’re also a writer for and are featured in a Nat Geo show?
Oh yeah, there’s a new show coming out on National Geographic called Now We Know and it’s their first ever comedy show. It’s a sketch comedy show with history and stuff in it. So, it’s a whole new horizon. You know comedy is big when Nat Geo is trying it. So, hopefully we won’t screw that up and it’ll become yet another outlet for comedy.
Is there anything else upcoming that you’re excited about?
Well, I’ve got a couple more Dragon Boy Suede albums coming out. They’re all written, they’re just not recorded yet. And I’ve been doing a lot of shows around the states. So yeah, the album Summahtology and there’s a video we did for Funny or Die about orangutans driving jet skis.
Wait, did you get actual orangutans?
We went to the World Jet Ski Championships in Lake Havasu and we got the amateur champion to put on an orangutan suit and pull a bunch of crazy tricks. It was great. It was all directed by Lance Bangs who did a bunch of the Jackass stuff. He also directs Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail on Comedy Central and a bunch of other stuff.
You said you’re not good with coming up with the visual side of things, but are you the one who pictured the orangutan on a jet ski?
(Laughing) That was a joke that happened on our podcast. Kulap was going to Loas and I said, “Are you take one of those Gu Cruises?” And she goes, “What’s that?” I go, “It’s like an orangutan drives you around on a jet ski.” That’s as far as my visual powers went. Then after that it became a song. Lance liked the song and his kids liked the song, so we made a video. We crowdfunded it and put it on Funny or Die.
Finally, give us three legitimate things to do to not waste the summah.
Well, you gotta swim. That’s a basic right there. I meet a lot of people who it’s August and they haven’t been in the water yet. A summah feast would be good; some kind of conscious celebration of the summah. So, swimming and a feast, and then I would say, collect a shell. Bring back a shell and then it’s your summah shell. That’s your proof that you had a summah. No one can take it back.