Doogie Horner [Interview]

Hello Folks! I sincerely can’t explain how excited I am to share this interview with you all. Today’s guest is somebody that I have wanted to have on the site for quite a while. And we finally got ’em, Everyone! It’s the brilliant comedian, illustrator, and writer Doogie Horner!

I first discovered Doogie’s existence in a fashion that has been a pretty routine occurrence around here at TWS. It was Doug Loves Movies. Much like just about every comedian we have managed to wrangle onto this site, you could probably play that weird Kevin Bacon game to track them back to DLM. In the last few years, Doogie has been such a presence on the show, and it lead me to dig into some of his work, including the amazing book, Some Very Interesting Cats, Perhaps You Weren’t Aware Of, that I will routinely break out when I just need a little pick me up when I’m feeling a bit down. It’s absolutely delightful. And wouldn’t you know it, he has a plethora of other great works that everyone should check out. We talk about of a few of them in the interview below, but it behooves me to let you all know that he is also the creator if a Die Hard coloring book. Yes, you read that correctly. Along with all of his other works, you should definitely buy that.

So Folks, please enjoy some amazing words from the hilarious Doogie Horner. And after you read this interview and definitely say to yourself, “Hey, this guy seems like the cat’s pajamas with the bee’s knees all over them, I should buy stuff that he does!”, be sure to head on over to doogiehorner.com to do just that. Enjoy!

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What inspired you to get into the world of comedy? Was it something you have been inspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

When I was a kid, I loved old comedians like the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, and Danny Kaye. I liked comedy movies, not necessarily standup. I also read a lot of funny comics like Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes. I was always a funny (a.k.a. weird) kid, but I never thought of doing standup. I tried it on a whim, simply because I heard Helium (in Philadelphia) had an open mic.

What was your first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affect your work to date?

When I started doing standup in Philly, standup was not as popular as it is now. So there weren’t many real shows at comedy clubs, or alternative shows in the back of bars. Most of the shows were poorly planned train wrecks, in hoagie shops or VFW halls. Surprisingly, they were generally fun. Because they were so bad, right out of the gate, that you didn’t feel any pressure to succeed. Just surviving was a big enough accomplishment.

The first paid show I did was way out in Delco; it was some kind of fundraiser, I didn’t really know for what. Once I arrived, I found out that it was a fundraiser for a police dog who’d died in the line of duty. The cops gave a eulogy for him and then I went on. There was no stage, and I performed in the round—directly after a Powerpoint eulogy for a dead dog. It was a big crowd, maybe two hundred cops, standing in a circle around me while tears dried on their cheeks, angrily listening to my weird jokes about rowboats and muffins or whatever.

Performing at those early train wreck shows helped me get used to being booed, yelled at, bombing my face off. There’s no way I can bomb harder than I did back then. That’s why when I performed on America’s Got Talent, and everyone at the Hammerstein Ballroom booed me, I wasn’t fazed.

I absolutely adored your book Some Very Interesting Cats Perhaps You Weren’t Aware Of. For those poor unfortunate fools who may not have checked it out yet, could you tell us a bit about it? And what made you want to tell this tale?

It’s an illustrated book of one hundred short, funny stories about cats. Cats are mysterious. You can never tell what they’re thinking. Whenever I leave my house, I always wonder, “What does my cat do while I’m gone?” I imagined him having a rich, secret life, and the book explores stories like that. The secret lives of housecats.

A couple of your more recent writings, such as the YA novel  This Might Hurt A Bit and the cute little comic David’s Dad’s Movies available on your website, have been geared toward a younger audience than your typical one. Obviously there will be differences, but I am more interested in what you feel is the same? Are there any core elements in storytelling that exist no matter what the genre or form may be, in your personal opinion?

This Might Hurt a Bit is a lightly fictionalized memoir about my teenage years, growing up in rural Pennsylvania. I didn’t intend it for a younger audience necessarily, but that book is appropriate for teenagers on up. There’s some heavy shit in there. Everybody who reads it cries.

David’s Dad’s Movie is for a much younger audience, five or six year-olds.

But to answer your question, yeah, telling a story to anyone, at any age, requires certain core elements if you want it to be interesting. Even stories with vastly different formats—a three-minute joke compared to a 300-page book—have similarities.

1. The story has to be coherent. The more the reader/listener understands, the more they’ll enjoy it. This rule sounds self-evident, but it’s amazing how often I forget to stop and ask myself, “Does the audience know what I mean? Are we on the same wavelength?” Kids especially value understanding, because they hear so many things they don’t understand every day.

2. The story has to be interesting, and the best way to do that is to make it relatable. There have to be some familiar elements in it, so the audience can relate to it. Add a few surprises too. But make one of them a surprise for the characters, but not the audience.

3. It’s helpful if things happen, if things change. In story-writing school they call this “character evolution,” but I hate that term. I hate how in movies (books do it less) the main character always learns and evolves. In real life, people rarely do that. Maybe that’s why we love to see it? It’s like believing in Santa Claus, this fairy tale that we can change who we are.

Anyhow, you can sidestep this rule somewhat if you really nail number 2. Movies like My Neighbor Totoro, or books like The Catcher in the Rye or Slaughterhouse Five don’t have a whole lot of character change, but they depict reality in such a clear, true way that that’s enough to keep the audience hooked.

Basically: Be interesting, connect with the audience, and, if you can, tell the truth.

The best book on writing I’ve read is Stephen King’s On Writing. And the best book about reading is How Fiction Works, by James Wood.

If you had free range, and an unlimited budget, to create the biopic of any legendary figure in American history, who would it be?

Well it wouldn’t require much budget, but I’d make a biopic of Bill Peet. Actually, maybe I wouldn’t. He already wrote and illustrated his own biography, and I don’t think I could top it. I’d only do a bio of him so that more people could know about his work. He’s one of my favorite illustrators, and he also worked on a lot of Disney movies. His biography is an interesting read, I highly recommend the book:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Peet

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m writing and illustrating a comic book right now. We’re moving back to NYC soon; we’ve been hiding in the woods of Massachusetts during the pandemic.

The main thing I’d like to plug is my novel This Might Hurt a Bit. It’s a funny coming of age story about a kid whose sister dies of cancer. I know that doesn’t sound funny, but the book is generally funny.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My son yelled, “Come into the bathroom!” and I went in and found him suspended near the top of the shower, supporting himself with his hands and feet pushed against the walls. “Help, I’m stuck!” he yelled.

I feel like that anecdote shouldn’t count though, because my son makes me smile ten times a day, so here’s another one.

I was visiting my Dad for a couple days, just the two of us because my Mom was at the beach with my family. My Dad had a stroke, so often he can’t think of certain words. We were shopping at the grocery store, and he was looking for something he couldn’t name. He struggled to explain it to me. “It’s round,” he said, drawing a circle in the air. “Like . . . tortillas. And . . . in a bag.”

After a minute I guessed, “Pepperoni?”

My Dad was so amazed I’d guessed it right that he laughed with surprise. His clues had been pretty bad (although, at the same time, spot on. Pepperoni slices are like little tortillas). He laughed and laughed and said, “this should be a game show.”

That made me smile.

And now, some other fun photos Doogie was kind enough to share with us:

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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