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Artists in their own words: Dante Anthony Fuoco

Dante Fuoco (photo by: Akeem Biggs)

Who: Dante Anthony Fuoco

What: Comedian

Where: Mid-City

 

Q: Posthumously, who would you want to send your journal to?

DF: I would probably send it to my best friend Brady. He and I became friends in high school. We were on the same swim team, which meant we were practicing at 5:15 in the morning, going to school, and then also practicing after school together. It was a very intense team. It seems almost cultish when I think about how many hours we had in that pool.

As a kid, I was pretty straight-laced. Brady was always more adventurous. He’d always have these schemes and want to do these wild adventures. One time, Brady dressed me up as a witch, our other friend up as a fish, and himself up as an alien. Then he decided we would trick-or-treat/ding-dong-ditch through the neighborhood at 9:00 P.M. on an August night. Being very straight-laced, the idea terrified me. I was so afraid of getting in trouble. And, like any great adventure, we sort of did. An older guy yelled at us as we ran away, only to get in his car and search for us down the block. Minutes later a police car rolled up and down the street as we hid on Brady’s porch. At the time I was mad, but with distance I look back with great reverence for Brady and the adventures we had together.

Now, he has done everything from being a direct-action environmentalist to being a deep sea diver who will dive 50 meters under water without any oxygen. I’ve always seen him as someone that never sets any limits for himself. He’s also always pushed me to be more adventurous and follow my passions, like acting. He gets me.

As a daredevil Romeo, he’d have fun exploring the journal. I like to think that he would honor any unfulfilled dreams or ideas with his own adventures in the world. He’d probably bring my journal under water and leave some of it there, or take it on any of the crazy adventures he would have. With Brady, you just have to let it happen.

Q: When you are writing or creating a show, how do you know when something is funny?

DF: I think there’s a lot of comedy in truth. I trust that something is funny when I’ve seen it in the world, and I’m shining a light on it. In my solo show 'Transplant,' I’m playing a variety of white millennials new to the city who struggle with confronting their privilege and the racial injustices in New Orleans. Being a white transplant myself, I’ve become obsessed with exploring the comedy and heartbreak of this struggle because I think it’s so real.

One of my favorite characters that I play is a white, 22-year-old education reformer who leads a professional development session with all the self-aggrandizement in the world. Having done Teach for America, I was always struck by how an organization with the best of intentions could still fan the flames of white savior complexes. There’s a lot of talk about how ‘these kids need us’ and how ‘these kids are our kids.’ This always entertained me as much as it angered me. So, writing and performing the 'Our Kids' sketch has helped me process the anger and ambivalence I hold toward the very thing that brought me to New Orleans.  

Really, to me, comedy is a lot of portraying something we’ve all seen but haven't put the words to. We haven’t distilled it yet. It’s that experience when a comedian says something and you think, ‘that’s exactly what it is.’ The greatest compliments I’ve gotten after my show are people naming a character, laughing, and saying, 'I know that guy!'

Q: Where do you think people wouldn’t get you?

DF: My show was born from an anxiety around belonging--whether I, as a white kid from the North, can ever really 'belong' in a majority black city where white people have been oppressive for so long. Of course, slavery and Jim Crow are now abolished, but today we have privatized public education, grave income inequality, gentrification, black displacement--sometimes accelerated by things like Airbnb--and mass incarceration. In 'Transplant,' I try to tackle one of my biggest fears: since white people have caused this mess, this city is just better off without me. Anxiety, of course, isn’t rational. I’ve built great friendships here, and I think I do good work as a teacher. But still. It’s complicated.

More broadly, I don’t think I could ever 'live off the land.' I’m an overthinker. An overanalyzer. Sure, this is a strength sometimes, but if the apocalypse comes I am not going to be prepared. I’m very humbled when I’m in situations where people are simply existing. Being. Taking pleasure in the small things.

Q: What’s the worst/corniest joke you’ve ever been told?

DF: This is a tricky question since I take a lot of pleasure in ‘bad’ jokes--the ones that are so bad that they are good. For some reason, when I think of the worst joke, the image I’m getting is of an older white man starting with 'two people who walk into a bar…'

I had a teammate on my high school swim team who always tried to sexualize things. Like, things that didn’t even make sense. Kickboards. A padlock. The idea of math. He said it in this really awkward tone of voice. And whenever he started with 'It’s kinda like…' we’d all shout, 'No, it’s not!' That being said, I’ve recycled the experience as my own funny anecdote. So, the joke lives on I guess.

Q: When does an absence actually turn into something that feels present?

DF: Good theater. Theater is all about absence--we know, to some level, that it’s all fake. The props, the characters. The story, even. We all are gathered in a theater, after all. You aren’t actually at the train station or in Vietnam or in 1940s Germany, but somehow you can find yourself there. In theater, absence of reality suddenly becomes present when something comes alive on the stage. Whether it be the acting, the props, the soundscape, the lighting. Ideally all these things. Truth is--a small black-box play can be more 'present' than a multi-million dollar Broadway musical.

 

Dante Fuoco’s solo show “Transplant” will be running on Saturday, August 19 at 7:30 P.M., August 25 at 7:30 P.M. and August 26 at 9:o0 P.M. at The New Movement Theater (2706 St. Claude Ave). You can purchase tickets at the door for $10 or purchase them in advance here. For more information, check out the shows event page, Instagram, and trailer below. 

Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at kelley@nolavie.com.