Spoleto 2013 » Comedy

Q & A with Tim Dunn of musical comedy trio Shock T's

I Bet You Have an Ice Cube Tray

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The Shock T's are a musical comedy trio based in Chicago, but they might as well set up a Charleston satellite office, because they keep coming back year after year to slay audiences at Piccolo Fringe and the Charleston Comedy Festival. Band members Tim Dunn, Tyler Patterson, and Sarah Shockey have made a name for themselves writing sarcastic songs on topics like the last guy who buys DVDs and how professional athletes are more important than teachers, presented in a style that appeals to fans of artists like Bo Burnham and Flight of the Conchords. We got Dunn on the phone to answer a few questions we hadn't asked him before.

City Paper: How's your day going?

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Tim Dunn: Good. I'm the only one that's currently unemployed in the group, so I figured I'd take the interview. Everybody else is a successful member of society, so I'm taking the interviews during the daytime.

CP: It could be said that you're living the dream, though, right? I mean, you're doing this full-time.

TD: I will say this: For the first few months, it was so great. My apartment has never been so clean. But you start to get a little stir crazy, so, you know, I'll start looking for something in June. My parents will like that.

CP: Your song "Younger More Successful People" sounds like it might be rooted in some personal bitterness ("I bet you have a yacht/ I bet you have a house/ I bet you buy your mp3s/ I bet you have a VCR/ I bet you have an ice cube tray/ I bet you wear deodorant/ I bet you use Band-Aids/ I bet you didn't know we collectively have about $2,000"). Did the band really have $2,000 to its name at the time you wrote it?

TD: Oh, I think so. That was in our really poor times, when we would get those $5 Little Caesar's pizzas and just make it a meal for the three of us for rehearsals. You know, that's the thing I noticed coming up in the Chicago improv community, where you go through the training centers and it's like, "Wow, my generation, it's never gonna get any better." And then six months later, kids come in, and you're like, "Whoa, those people are way better than us. Like, we've got to step up our game." And I think that is across all fields. It just sort of happens, and that's why it connects with people.

CP: You guys have had some success as a band, though. I mean, you've had a lot of shows, and you get to tour. When will you feel like you've made it?

TD: I'm not sure. We talk about this a lot, like we get down on ourselves because we want more, like everybody does, but then we don't appreciate the successes enough. But I'm really glad we're gonna have an album coming out in the next three months. And, you know, we've been able to tour and meet great people on the road. But I don't know what "making it" will feel like. I feel like you need that anxiety of knowing it's all gonna leave at any moment to keep you working, to keep you humble.

CP: OK, here's another question about a song: On "Matt and Aimee," you sing, "They got married to prove things were fine/ They got married 'cause they were 29." And it's funny, but it's also an incredibly sad statement about something that happens all the time. Do you ever feel like you're striking a raw nerve at the same time you're making people laugh?

TD: A little bit, yeah. It's a dark one, and that one is interesting because it can either incredibly elevate a show or just bring it down a little bit. I love that song so much because I think it says something about our generation, and it's just a song about not rushing in. That's all we're trying to say ... The group that it did not hit with is young twentysomethings and thirtysomething couples. They can hate that song, but older people love it because I think they've been through those steps in their lives and seen that stuff. But yeah, there's been numerous performances of that song where there's been a young couple in the front holding hands and just trying to get through it, and sad as it is, it's also just a little bit funny.

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