Local Comedy Spotlight: “Quiet Down In Front” with David Z. Price and Friends
The Bexley native partners with the iconic Drexel Theatre for a hilarious take on big-ticket movies in his new monthly show
“In a theater, one of the first movies I remember seeing was called…and I know I’ve seen more before this, but this one stuck with me: Garbage Pail Kids,” muses local comedian, actor, and writer David Price.
“Do you know that? [laughs] I mean, I know you know what Garbage Pail Kids are, but they made a move that was so bad. But I loved it. It must have been seventh grade? Sixth grade? Something like that. And I was obsessed with [them] to the point that my buddy and I made our own version. He was the artist, but they were called Studly Kids. He was an artist and he’d just make, like, drawings of Cabbage Patch heads with muscle bodies. And then I would name them and then we’d make photocopies and put them in packages and put a little piece of gum in there. And we sold them! We made at least a dozen dollars…at least two dozen dollars! And so Garbage Pail Kids sticks with me. I remember one scene of one the guys just vomiting profusely. So that and Howard the Duck. Do you remember that movie? So horrendous.”
The Bexley native is effortlessly engaging and has contagious enthusiasm to spare — and as we sat at the dining room table in his home late one Tuesday evening, our lengthy conversation shifted continuously between comedy, music, and film. We both reminisced about how much mileage our respective families put on our VCRs on any given weekend when we were kids, and how the rarer night out at the theater was near magic.
“I guess I probably saw E.T. in theaters. I remember that when I was really little. It didn’t stick with me as much as when I saw it a second time on VHS or something, right? I saw all kinds of movies on VHS. I feel like E.T. was a pretty big one. Goonies was pretty huge for me when I was a kid. Indiana Jones…and of course Star Wars.
I do remember seeing, very specifically, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — the third one — at a theater on E. Broad St. that doesn’t exist anymore. I can’t remember what it’s called. I just remember loving it and just — like everyone — you’re just lost in that world and thinking, ‘This is amazing! How did they do this? These are actors? It looks real! That scene’s cool!’ I didn’t get so jazzed up about individual actors, I just got lost in the world. And I thought, ‘This is great!'”
Price and I discussed deeply the delicate, and sometimes hilarious, interplay between plausibility and whimsy in the movies of our youth as children of the 80s.
“Top Gun is an amazing movie,” he insists. “But when you watch it, there are so many ridiculous things in it that you could just destroy.”
Right. Why is everyone drenched in sweat in every scene? And who in the hell plays beach volleyball in jeans, Maverick?
Still, I’ve actively watched it at least 30 times. And I don’t even love planes as a general concept.
We also explored the finer points of Footloose, the evergreen tale of a repressed town torn apart by its blemished piety and the reprehensible danger of two-stepping and Kenny Loggins records. And as soon as the years-long kibosh on their groove is lifted, the entire town of teens can suddenly dance like they’ve been schooled by Fosse?
But such is the fantasy of film, which made these two titles the best possible vehicles to introduce Price’s newest comedy venture, Quiet Down in Front. The monthly event, hosted at the historic Drexel Theatre, was born out of his lifelong love of the cinema and performing for an audience.
“I’d just been brainstorming ideas and stuff for shows, and I loved the show Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I loved the idea of just goofing on movies, because anytime I watch a movie at home that’s what I’m doing. Unless it’s a really good movie, I’m just talking and making smart ass comments, right? And people laugh and we have a good time. But I thought to myself that Mystery Science… had just sort of old, classic sci-fi that nobody knows, and [the cast] played characters. It wasn’t really about the movies as much.
But there were a million movies that I thought were awesome growing up, and people my age thought were amazing. But at the same time, they could be easily taken down a peg. So those are the kinds of movies I want to go in and goof on. I thought, ‘Why not get together some funny people? I have a great relationship with the Drexel from past performances and from growing up here. So I just pitched them this idea, and they were on board instantly.”
His passion for the big screen led him to the stage, and eventually to steady gigs in the entertainment industry on both coasts.
“I wanted to be an actor. And I guess I am an actor,” he reflects. “I went to school for theater at Ohio State, and I was positive I was going to be a movie star. So positive. Left and went to L.A. for like, a year-and-a-half, and it was horrendous. So awful…it’s a horrendous way to live because everyone‘s in the business, and everyone’s got an angle. And I was dirt poor…I remember being down to my last three or four dollars. I lived in Hollywood…on Vine and Melrose. I bunked up with a buddy who had a place, so I was sleeping on a crappy couch for a while in a little bedroom. And it was exciting, but…I got an agent really early on.”
Price got his turn in front of the camera, although the results weren’t exactly the stuff of the Hollywood dreams he envisioned while he was an enamored theater spectator.
“I did an independent film years ago called Raw Fish. It was shot in Columbus, and I thought that was going to shoot me to stardom. It was a total joke. The premise of that movie…literally the entire premise is that a guy wins a masturbation contest, and the prize is that he gets to be in a scene with a famous porn star. It’s a comedy. And it’s ridiculous. I’m the guy. I mean, it didn’t pan out. I had agents and a million auditions. And I was miserable and lonely. I missed the seasons and I missed my family.
I moved to New York and got really heavily into comedy. I worked and studied performance at the [Upright Citizens Brigade] Theatre for a few years, worked with super big names and super big talents. There were all these super talents, and then there was me. [laughs] This was when everybody was coming out [of there]. It’s just…you were just in the trenches all day long, goofing and having fun, and that sort of help me cut my teeth. I worked professionally in New York as an actor and comedian for 15 years.”
Now married with two children and living back in his old neighborhood, Price’s cachet as a local comedian is rising. He is a regular player in the Storyteller improv comedy ensemble at The Nest Theatre in Franklinton, and also hosts his own monthly late night talk show, Dave Night With David Z. Price, at the venue, which is often sold out in advance.
“I came back to Columbus two years ago because I had a family and my wife had a great opportunity, and we thought, ‘Why not come back here?’ This is where I was born and raised, and here we are. And I thought, ‘Oh, I’m not gonna perform anywhere. That’s done.’ But then I fell upon The Nest Theatre and it just all clicked again. I said,‘Let’s go. I’m ready to start perform again.’ And I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities.”
As for Quiet Down In Front, Price hopes the lure of a steady stream of audience-pleasing flicks and a revolving door of his hilarious friends as expert hecklers will coax cinephiles out of their living rooms.
“Everything nowadays is home theater. I’ve got an amazing TV screen, you’ve got an amazing TV screen — everybody does. But there’s nothing that beats the smell, sound and sights of a movie theater. And it’s nostalgic. I feel like that’s disappearing for kids nowadays. It’s visceral. You’re getting out and doing something. I’m going to a movie. I thought I could make it different every time – let’s make jokes, let’s hang out and have a beer and some popcorn and laugh.”
Quiet Down In Front, featuring David Z. Price and Friends, has its next event scheduled on Thursday, August 16 at 7 p.m. Guests include local improvisers Nick Eagan and Kevin Little of The Nest Theatre, and a special appearance by local pro wrestler Shawn Trainer Jones, who will be challenging audience volunteers to an arm wrestling match prior to the show. This month’s featured film is Over The Top, starring Sylvester Stallone. Tickets are $10 ($5 for students), plus applicable fees and taxes.