Dave Hill on Family, His Second Book, and Performing in Antarctica
“This is a book about journeys, both physical and mental as well as emotional and spiritual. I also end up running a couple of errands. I need you to be cool with that.” It is with that preface that writer/comedian/musician Dave Hill opens his second book, Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, the follow-up to his 2012 release Tasteful Nudes. The new collection of essays picks up where the last left off, with Hill exploring life after his mother’s passing. Much of this exploration centers around his interactions with his father, a man whose persona is being rediscovered by Hill as he realizes that it was his mother that served as the primary connector in he and father’s relationship. In addition to tales of family dynamics and nostalgic looks at his childhood in Cleveland, the book also contains hilarious essays on his current life in New York, adopting a dog, and writing ringtones for Donald Trump. I talked to Hill about the new book, his evolving relationship with his father, and his upcoming tour plans.
Your second book is called Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which is also the name of one of the essays in the book.
I was spitballing titles with my editor and she said she really liked it because it sums up some of the themes in the book. So we just went with it instead of Tasteful Nudes 2.
That essay is about you going back and visiting your family home right before it’s about to go on the market.
It’s about that whole process of selling a family home and what I thought it would be like. I guess I had always imagined it to be this sort of heartbreaking thing like, “Oh my gosh, all of our memories. This anchor is gone.” But it ended up not feeling that way. My mother died a few years ago and after that happened it was kind of like the circus had left town. It didn’t feel the same anymore. Not that it wasn’t sad, but it was more like after a party or wedding and everybody’s gone and you’re like, “Let’s pull the car around and get out of here.”
I get that. When I go home and see physical landmarks from my childhood I’m not really moved emotionally. Physical locations don’t trigger those type of deep feelings for me.
I’m the same. It’s almost like everything is more about the people and — not to get all metaphysical — but the connections of your energy. Not to be too dark with it, but I know where my mom is buried in Cleveland and I’ve driven right past it and I’ve never visited it because I’m like, “That’s not where she is. That’s where her body is.” We’re connected energy-wise. She’s not in that cemetery. She’s more with me or kind of everywhere.
Another big theme in the book is you creating a new relationship with your father. After your mother passed you realized that she was really the conduit between you and your dad and how you related to each other. Once she was gone you started to rediscover this man who you never really knew as an individual person. How would you describe your relationship with your father?
It was always good. He was never distant or anything like that. It’s just that I sort of realized that as you move away from home, or go to college, or even just live an adult life, you call home and talk to your mom and your mom is like, “Oh, your dad’s in the basement and he says hello.” You say hi back, but you realize you haven’t actually talked to him. You realize that you’re just using this middle person to keep in touch. I would call home, but almost invariably would be talking to my mom. He would never call me out of the blue. He would have some reason for calling. “Hey this credit card company called for you,” or, “What do you want me to do with this thing you left in the garage?” After my mom died we both realized, “Hey we have to pick up the phone and call each other.” That whole change is interesting, just getting to know each other in a different way. You don’t have that middle person anymore and you’re just learning more about this guy as a person. He’s not part of that team anymore. One good by-product of my mom dying is getting to know him in a different way.
Has he read the book?
No. I’m going to go see him tomorrow and I thought I would maybe bring it to him. My siblings have read it and they’ve kind of vetted it for whether I’m going to be grounded or something. But they all liked it, so I think I’ll be okay. I don’t think there’s anything in there that will get him mad. With the last book the only thing he didn’t like was that there was profanity in it. This one I tried to do a little less.
There’s an essay in the book that’s about you creating ringtones for Donald Trump in the early 2000s. I found that one especially funny because you recently were on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee performing music at a Trump supporters party. That seemed like a full circle moment, considering that you once worked for him and now you’re performing parody songs for his fans.
To be clear, I didn’t actually work for him. I was working for the cell phone company who happened to be doing ringtones for him. Though at the time, if he had hired me to do something for him I would have done it. Certainly not now. I wrote that essay sometime last year and I think I would have been harsher with it if I had written it today. But that Trump supporters thing was bizarre. I don’t know if they mention this on the show, but they had to fly all those people in from around the country because they couldn’t find them in New York.
The last time that we talked was almost a year ago. I asked if you had any new books coming out and you said that you would have one out next spring. You said, “Hopefully it will be better. I always say that I hope it will be better, or be like the third Big Star album, where you’ll be like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ but it will be some people’s favorite.” So now that this book is done, do you feel like it’s better than Tasteful Nudes?
I think so. The few people that have read both think it is better. Maybe they’re just being nice to me. It’s all so subjective. At the very least, the writing is better. Maybe some people will gravitate more towards the stuff in the first book compared to this one. With the first book you have all this stuff to draw from and then the next one you’re kind of like, “Oh shit, now what do I do?” But eventually it all comes together. I’m happy with it. I hope people like it. I’ll hopefully do another one.
What do you have coming up after the book is released?
I’m doing a bunch of dates for this book, way more than the last one. I’m kind of overwhelmed. I’m going all over the country. After that, I’m doing a bunch of UK dates, a tour of Switzerland in the fall, and an expedition to Antarctica at the end of the year. I’m doing comedy on this expedition to Antarctica.
Is that going to be filmed for some type of special?
I hope so. It should be. I got an e-mail randomly a few weeks ago from a guy in Norway. He was like, “Hey, I’m a big fan. We usually take scientists and lecturers on these expeditions, but we thought it would be cool if you wanted to come along on this two-week, super intense thing to Antarctica.” I’m going to be giving a rundown of each day, just my thoughts at the end of the day. I guess between that and doing gigs in prisons, those would be the two most interesting things I’ve done.
Photo by Mindy Tucker.