Nate DuFort: Be a One-Person Show
Nate DuFort is a writer, producer, and director who splits his time between Detroit and Chicago.
Mr. Dufort is a consultant for The Second City, having previously served as Producer, Producing Director, and Producing Artistic Director there, overseeing projects in cooperation between the iconic comedy theater and the Lyric Opera of Chicago or Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, managing the partnership at sea between Second City and Norwegian Cruise Line and taking part in the annual Gilda’s Club of Chicago fundraiser Night of a Thousand Noogies. Nate served on the Board of Directors for Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck, Michigan and as the Director of the Planet Ant Film & Video Festival. He currently produces the podcast My Neighbors Are Dead available at myneighborsaredead.com
"If you can be a one person show: create, produce, post produce, and even distribute. You need to 100% express yourself as you are, and then look for the highest bidder that's not going to compromise that."
Nate DuFort - Transcript
Nate Dufort (guest): Go to where you want to be, a lot of it is creating your own thing. If you can be a one-person show, create produce, post produce and even distribute at the lower end of things; you're creating your own proving grounds and not living within a system. Those people when found are greater appreciated, oftentimes in the people that will come up through a system for twelve, fourteen years. It's about the journey for me, you are the destination, you need to 100% express yourself as you are and then look for the highest bidder that's not going to compromise that.
Simone Salis (host): I am Simone Salis and this is The Hoomanist with today's guests Nate Dufort.
Nate Dufort is a writer producer and director who splits his time between Detroit and Chicago. Mr. Dufort is a consultant for the Second City, having previously served as producer, producing director and producing artistic director there. Overseeing projects in cooperation between the iconic comedy theater and the Lyric Opera of Chicago or Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, managing the partnership at sea between the Second City and Norwegian Cruise Line and taking part in the annual Gilda's Club of Chicago fundraiser Night of a Thousand New Geese. Nate served on the board of directors for Planet Earth Theater in Ham Trek Michigan and as the director of the Planet Ant film and video festival. He currently produces the podcast; My Neighbors are Dead available at myneighborsaredead.com. So Nate, you come… if I'm not wrong from a family of woodworkers is that correct?
Nate DuFort: Absolutely. So on my mother's side, my grandfather; he is a schoolteacher, retired now and a master woodworker. That's in cabinetry but also he has a couple designs that have sold. My understanding is all over the world. The Dennison mirror something he created; but I also found him as I was growing up, finding really interesting partnerships with people that either studied under him, that he talked informally in school. There was a guy; Michael Camp who was a great woodworker from the Michigan area that started making guitars and we would go to his studio and see these things crafted, and I was already musician. So, I was already ridiculously impressed with the quality of these things and I would never be able to afford, but to get to play them and just see this guy has really figured everything out. So, I felt like I had a lot of access through my grandpa, which was really influential on me.
Simone Salis: Did you play guitar? What instrument do you play?
Nate DuFort: I did, so originally I started in middle school with alto saxophone and then got addicted to all woodwinds. Whenever I found a new musician that I liked, I would pick up a new instrument. So, alto saxophone and listening to Charlie Parker, a Lester Young and then as soon as I heard John Coltrane, I wanted to play the tenor saxophone. Eric Dolphy, the bass clarinet. I taught myself a little bit of flute as well, and I would say that I am good at everything. Great at absolutely nothing, and then guitar bass drums and then a lot of the bands that I played with in the late 90’s early 2000’s back in Michigan was primarily rhythm guitar and singing or bass guitar and backup vocals.
Simone Salis: You definitely had…. which inspiration did you have from your grandfather from that kind that kind of craftsman?
Nate DuFort: It was really seeing a combination of the artistic and the technical side going into any craft. When you hear woodworker, a lot of people think construction, and that feels like there’s some unnecessary stigma; it's a lower-class job and I really just never saw things that way. I happily embrace my working-class roots and I think it becomes a real part of… not just my work ethic but also my work aesthetic. So, I definitely took that from my grandfather, a person who would get off work, come home go to another job where he can't be a little more creative and again that combination of creative and technical always really appealed to me. As I got into middle and then high school, I was really fortunate to go to a high school that put an emphasis on arts and liberal arts, so we had a lot coming at us at all times. By my senior year of high school, I was taking a pottery class, a sculpture class, a painting class, a jewelry class and then also randomly [5:23 Inaudible] in a downward thought class. So, we were very fortunate with the programming where I grew up in Plymouth Michigan. All of those things were passions at one time or another but in not having a specific passion or a specific plan, I really just wanted to learn a little bit of everything; hoping it would add up to something someday.
Simone Salis: Are you still that kind of person?
Nate DuFort: It's about the journey for me. The destination is death eventually. But in the meantime it's taking in as much knowledge, as much life as possible. Experiencing those things, those people, those experiences.
Simone Salis: What's one thing that brings you joy in learning and experimenting right now?
Nate DuFort: It's funny the shift that happens with Parenthood. I would say….and so many comedians even get hung up on this right there and their content completely changes to that of being a parent. But it's true. The discoveries you make in another person, be it a romantic partner, a friend, a business associate; but there's none more important than that of your child. So, understanding the way that their brain works, taking credit for as much as possible but recognizing that your influence past a very early age is very minimal on them and they're going to seek out the things that they like, recognizing those things, new interests. That's the most rewarding thing, understanding that she has small pieces of her mother, small pieces of myself. But, for the most part by this age, she's her own person and that has caused many arguments, but they're the best kind of arguments. Those ones where we both learn about the other person and we incorporate that into future interactions.
Simone Salis: That is going to be an unfinished project; this is a project with free will.
Nate DuFort: Absolutely, and the best part for me is there's no roadmap. It fits all of my interest and having the life of an improviser artist. There is…
Simone Salis: You have all these passions but you focused on a specific one. Improve, in some capacity, both as an actor and as a producer, director, creative director. Any regular listeners to the show, they might know at this point of the Second City of these iconic theater in Chicago were the most famous contemporary comedians came out from, like Steve Carell, Tina Feys, Stephen Colbert and many more. And you were one of the producers and you work there right now as a consultant. When did you find out about the second city? How did the second city come into your life and vice versa?
Nate DuFort: Well, I was studying music and was really interested in different music of the world, and there are a lot of themes that kept popping up in improvisation. It was also at the time where a lot of that was happening here in Chicago in the mid 90’s, so I had a radio show in high school WS DP in Plymouth that was hugely influential on me. But it also introduced me to improvisational and free music. As I was reading about that, I picked up a book called “Something Wonderful” right away by Jeffrey Sweet and I think so many of us that didn't really know about that world found it through these books. The stuff that happened on the University of Chicago campus and as I started reading about that, I had a friend sign up for Second City classes in Detroit. I had no idea there was a Second City in Detroit, it's the longest-running non-Chicago or Toronto second city. It was there for 13 years and I didn't know. But when I signed up for classes, just hoping to meld my two worlds of improvisation and truly an obscene interest in sketch comedy, my life changed forever. I think that that improvisation is life changing, not just in the comedic place but any time, especially now where you're asked to be present and focus. Those moments have the power to change the world. There are other doors that open because I'm training this muscle. Immediately, within a month or two of being in classes I started doing voiceover, work in Detroit and almost making a living just off of that. Where job prospects for me, I was working in bookstores and record stores at the time, so this opened up all kinds of worlds and I started auditioning for theater and doing sketch shows and the cool thing about Detroit at the time was; everyone was writing. From the second you started improvising you were also writing sketch, because there wasn't anyone there saying “you need to just focus on this”, “work on this”. We wanted to do it all, so there were times where we were writing six, seven sketch shows a year and really working those writing muscles and that's why some of my favorite writers of the last ten years have come from that Detroit system with Second City and planning and theater there. So, I didn't look at it as a career, I looked at is it as the jobs that come from this are temporary, they will get me through the next thing, but I know I'm an improviser for life.
Simone Salis: How did you end up at the Second City in Chicago? You say working at the Second City in Detroit?
Nate DuFort: Yep, so I was on a touring company there with people that are, to this day some of my favorite human beings alive. I was on a touring company with Timmy Robinson, might know from SNL and Detroiters, Jamie Moyer, one of the funniest people I've ever met in my life, PJ J Cooks, my good pal Brett Cannell, Tiffany Jones, Quinton Hicks, so many super funny people. Most of them Second City alums, then the theater closed. While I was on the touring company, the theater closed at our downtown Detroit location. It reopened with a new partner in Novi Michigan a year or so later and most of us got our jobs back which was great. For me, I saw nothing but opportunity with that though. It was strange being in the suburbs, particularly moving from Detroit; a liberal hub of the Midwest to moving to basically the city that's a result of white flight from the city.
Our content changed and none of our favorite thing in the world, instead of commenting about us and the urban experience, talking about Detroit very much became talking about them and it became very racially divisive with an audience that was not super appreciative of social satire when they're not on the same team as us politically. The producer there Caroline Roush, she was going on maternity leave and they needed a stand-in producer. Classic to Second City history and what Bernice Allan's established, they weren't going to pay and also one of my favorite things of being a producer there. Just like “yeah I'll step into that, why not?” What's the worst that could happen? I had been producing at Planet Ant Theater; I was directing shows there and saw that…
So, I had some production experience but not at the level and polish of what Second City was doing. It was a black box theater in where the shows were very funny to us; would they translate to as broad of an audience as Second City would have? I don't necessarily think so, as good as the work was. So, when that position opened up I happily stepped in for, I don't know what it was…. six weeks maybe. When Caroline came back from her maternity leave, I think she made the call to return to Chicago leaving that opening. There were only a few names that were being looked at, I think I performed as a brand ambassador or someone that could protect that brand in such a city. I think I've performed pretty well as they asked me to take that spot, I think I was 27 at the time. I was given the keys to a Second City in a Second City training center and that's what I did for two years there.
The partnership neared its conclusion and Kelly asked “So, what’s next for you?” And I didn't know, classic me “I had no idea” he said “well, how would you like to see the world with Beth Kligerman co-producing our agreement with Norwegian Cruise Line?” and I jumped at the chance. I moved to Chicago and it just so happened that a lot of my actors and some of my best friends from Second City in Detroit we're coming out at the exact same time, so it just seemed like a perfect move.
Simone Salis: I am Simone Salis and this is Hoomanist with today’s guests Nate Dufort, producer of the podcast “My Neighbors are dead”. Nate, you worked for the Second City for almost seventeen years?
Nate DuFort: Yeah.
Simone Salis: And at some point, you had been let go. I think you say to yourself you call that place family, a community and you probably still is. But after seventeen years and being the one main focus as a passion in your life…
Nate DuFort: Anytime you have a transition like that; that is as unexpected as that was; you have to relearn a lot of things. Nothing more important than humility, honestly and it made me rethink a lot of things. Now I also felt fortunate in that I was surrounded by so many great people, including the owner of Second City; Andrea Alexander, all of my fellow producers, so many people that I learned so much from, that the idea of a transition wasn't a huge jump for me. For the preceding year or so I had been very seriously looking at the audio domain and that's why I love sitting here talking to you in this medium. I think it's incredibly important, the autonomy you can have creating in this way and that's something that when you're working for a theater organization as large as Second City. You start to realize ,“oh my name isn't even on these projects that I'm working” and that's not anyone's fault. That is just unfortunately how the system works. The second city name is larger than any individual’s name, so of course the second city; its name is going to go over something that you produce. But seeing this in podcasting really appealed to me, so I had been connected through the great Heather Winner, I don't know if her name has come up at all but she's a long time house manager at Second City that is tied to Chicago's music scene going way back. She's just another one of those amazing human beings in that building that I learned so much from, but she made a couple great connections for me while I was still there and people that conversations really ended up influencing what my possibilities were. One of those people was…. I was going to sound so name-dropping…. I apologize but it’s part of the path. Geoff Ulrich who was the co-founder with Scott Aukerman of Earwolf podcasting network, who then went on to found Mid-roll, which really cracked the code on monetizing all of this stuff. So, I had a conversation that I thought was going to be thirty minutes by phone with Jeff, he said “I'm actually in town, how would you like to come over to my parents’ house and we'll do lunch or something.” We ended up spending half a day together and it was really a great brain dump, not because of podcasting, not because he's filling my head with all these ideas, but because he's asking questions. That was always my approach to producing; I'm not dictating anything, I'm asking questions that may or may not steer the outcome of something. But he asked a question that really changed everything for me, which is “what can I do for you, what do you actually want?”
Simone Salis: And what did you want?
Nate DuFort: In that moment, I didn't want the conversation to stop.
Simone Salis: So, you just asking like, let's keep talking for the rest…
Nate DuFort: What I wanted was to be an autonomous artists/producer.
Simone Salis: So, basically, what you stayed up until now. I'm impressed with when there is such a big change, I think it's challenging to see it as an opportunity because there is a very practical aspect to that at least….I think is the disruption of a routine, if you talk to many people that have had a big work change or life change. Shifting your routine unless you're very self-conscious of what you want and what you need means when you spend fifty or sixty hours focused on work, then you spend most of the time all of a sudden looking at yourself in the mirror and that can be overwhelming.
Nate DuFort: Routine is the killer of innovation, but there's an interesting line, because while fear can be a great motivator, it can also be absolutely paralyzing. So finding the sweet spot in between the elimination of routine for the sake of innovation, but not settling for something that you would do as a result of fear. It's really a sweet area to play in; the great thing is…that’s exactly what improvisation does to our brain. Is finding something that……I listen to your episode with Kelly Leonard where he talked about changing the wiring in the nerves pre-performance or public speaking from being scared to do it, to being excited to do it and just claiming that word of excitement can do so much to change your wiring. So, upon that conversation with Jeff, he asked me one more conversation; I asked him to predict the future of audio and this was almost two years ago, and it was something that I was already working on in my head. But he said in response to what's the future of audio, “What do you listen to in the car with your daughter?” I said “just another [expletive] frozen soundtrack again and again and again.” Just think about that and so I did. And so for the last two years we have been working on launching children's network of audio content here from the Midwest. Three shows, they'll go out this fall, we're in production on all of them now. Pre-production takes forever when you don't have financial backing, but the great thing about this city is there is a huge amount of talented people.
Simone Salis: Yeah, it's a human pool.
Nate DuFort: Exactly and they are overlooked, because we're in the Midwest. It's a blessing and a curse because they're people that aren't necessarily being taken to the coasts quite yet, but at the same time their talent is at the level of anyone doing work anywhere.
Simone Salis: You also start to work on My Neighbors are Dead and My Neighbors are Dead is a show, which is the intersection of comedy and horror. You take improvisers, stand-up comedians and they played side characters or minor characters that might have been or actually were in favorite horror movies films. And maybe it's someone that was there just for half a scene or just a few frames, vested by or a totally vented character and then Adam Peacock, which is the host of the show and you were the producer. Interview those characters and try to improvising right?
Nate DuFort: Correct? Adam is one of my best friends going back to my Second City beginnings. Adam was actually my stage manager when I was on touring company. He was awful at it…. Adam was always made to be on stage, has none of the leadership skills you need to have as a touring stage manager and we gave him hell out there. He was in Chicago, and he was wondering about what was next for him, and we've done a pilot before I left Second City but he kept going on tour, or he was doing these contracts with Norwegian Cruise Line for four, four and a half months gig, where he was at sea and couldn't necessarily follow through on the project. When he got back, I had a hard conversation with him. I said, “I need you to commit to this right now or I'm going to pull out of it” and he said “Yeah let's do a real pilot.” So we got our pal, Allen Linic who's on the second city EGC stage currently to do a pilot with us and our only rule of this was; we only wanted to work with people we liked. It's a very strict no asshole rule. We have seen so many people in this community have such problematic behaviors, people that have taken advantage of the blind spots in the larger institutions to be predators, be jerks in general and we wanted to do our best; given our knowledge of the community to circumvent that and just work with people that we thought were genuinely nice. It just so happens that those people are also hilarious, so it worked out really well for us and right upon launch it seemed that we got quite a bit of good traction enough that we've been able to pull some really cool people from outside of our community as well.
Simone Salis: Incredible, because most of the people that you invite are also people that you know through your work for almost two decades at the Second City and being in the comedy, community and in your role and you had amazing guests. There was one episode…. I think it was your second episode; it was very height. Then you had voice actors from Bojack Horseman and you have so many guests on My Neighbors are Dead that it has been recommended by the AV Club, Bite Splitz Cider and so the no jerks rule is reflecting well in selecting friends that are also hilarious like you say. I think that's the most important part, because it takes one jerk to bring down the morale and a project.
Nate DuFort: And this is supposed to be fun, that’s why we do it. No one is creating a podcast; well I’m sure they are …. In comedy, no one is creating a podcast saying, “I want to be rich.” This is our art, this is our work, this is separate from Commerce. If it can work out that both are happening simultaneously that is absolutely a win but for us we want to improvise and have conversations with fun people and we're at a great spot now that we're talking to networks, deciding if that even makes sense for us.
Simone Salis: To translate to a network for yourself…You mean for yourselves as a project, you are not sure it would be good for you guys to join a network because of the independent creativity that you have?
Nate DuFort: It's a great question, so a lot of networks look at us and say that our numbers aren't quite high enough for them and it's like, well we're at 75% of what you're asking. We don't necessarily want money, we want amplification from you and for the most part; they're saying “great that's cool, but also you guys podcast is too long, so we can't justify putting X amount of ads in there.” Well that was the entire point of the podcast, was to keep it shorter. So, I don't know if you've seen the running times on them, but they're typically 18 to 20 minutes.
Simone Salis: They're in the 20 minutes mark which so you know….
Nate DuFort: Exactly, we were looking at it as when Gimlet launched. Alex Bloomberg was looking at the commute time. Twenty to Twenty Two minutes for most of these episodes. Now, a lot of their shows go longer now and I think it is a business decision to do so. For us, we have time for a mid-roll ad and beyond that; we don't want to make the hour-long show. What we wanted to take was and nothing against them, we want to take our favorite part of comedy bang bang, which was just the character interviews. When Andy Daly would come on and do a character, that was the stuff that I'd listened to over and over and over again. And we just wanted to do that… that was it, get people in and out. We have started to adjust our format to meet what networks are looking for and are super happy with that, but we don't want to increase our length beyond twenty five to thirty minutes tops.
Simone Salis: So, what you got out of actually being going through this great transition in your life in an unexpected moment, is revitalized and renewed interest for your own passions and finding independent creativity and pursuing that and being able to amplify that which is great.
Nate DuFort: Exactly, I keep stumbling into things and I won't say that it's luck, because to embrace luck, there’s a lot of preparation obviously; that goes into being ready for the moment that an opportunity presents itself. Good pal of mine Ben Jones that actually transition at a Second City the same day as I was laid off, gave me a call a day later that was “hey do you want to come to this note session for an episode of love and radio?” I was like “yes, I do that's one of my favorite shows.” So, I meet John and Stephen….
Simone Salis: You took part of that right? You took part in the episode of love and radio?
Nate DuFort: It was great because I got to meet those guys and give a little bit of feedback. I'm sure nothing that changed the workflow or the art for these gents but it became my single favorite episode of radio that year. An episode called Blink Once for Yes about John's brother and then Stephen called me up a few months later and said “hey would you audition for a role?” And then he called me back a few months later and say, “Hey would you audition for a role?” So, being able to voice an episode of love and radio; even a small section was a little bit of a dream. The voice work I get to do in Chicago is primarily corporate training videos, radio commercials. It's stuff that is fun and it's enjoyable but it's not for a show that has a real asset able factor to it, like love and radio which their freeform storytelling is that exactly maps over my preferences. [Music Playing]
Simone Salis: I am Simone Salis and this is Hoomanist. You can listen to every episode on your favorite podcast app or with a full transcript available on humans.org. Today's guest is Nate Dufort, Writer, Director and Producer of the show My Neighbors are Dead. Steve Jobs in 2010, when introducing the new Apple TV defined podcasts and specifically like independent media creation as the amateur-hour. I think that was partially hypocritical because podcasts are a huge part of the Apple digital audio revolution and at the same time, I can see why though. Did Steve Jobs have a point… the late Steve Jobs about this kind of independent media being amateur-hour about it? Does it matter?
Nate DuFort: I do think he had a point, I agree and I don't think that's a bad thing. I think that that is the most exciting thing about it. It's amateur hour in that most people don't have corporate sponsors dictating their content making a podcast. We don't need another podcast from two white guys sitting around talking about Marvel movies, but at the same time there is an audience for that and that excites me. Its taking radio back, it's taking art forms back and amateur may have negative connotation to it but for me, all it means is non-corporate and that's really exciting. It's interesting to see so many of the podcast networks succeeding that are and blowing up, even with his public radio pedigree, Alex Bloomberg was going out on a limb and creating something that… who knew if it was going to attract the listeners it did. Now Gimlet is all of a sudden seen as the big bad giant that it's very cool to hate, especially after that really misguided sitcom, Alex Inc. But, at its core that was so [Expletive] punk rock; what Bloomberg did that I appreciate that. That first season of startup is legendary for a reason and the results of it and it was kind of amateurish or at least it was performative in that way which I could appreciate the theater of that, it's still entertaining. But the amateur thing is again, it’s part of the narrative that we haven't cracked. It means when these things monetize, no one's going to see us coming, which is great. I don't mean that specifically about my shows, but about the medium in general, and as you look at what's happening in the audio drama world right now, people are for better or worse pulling more content from audio dramas than almost anywhere else right now. Seeing what's happening with the bright sessions from Lauren Chipping, Paul Bay with the black tapes and the big loop, all these great shows that are getting or hopefully soon, getting great deals to turn that content to another medium. I feel that in some cases, nope the audio was perfect and maybe this doesn't make sense for the storytelling, it's a quick cash grab but there are some storytelling or sub storytellers that their work means so much to so many people that we know they can responsibly and empathetically handle the shift to any medium. I would listen, watch, read Lauren Chipping do absolutely anything. She's that good of a storyteller and there are a lot of people out there doing that stuff. I feel the same way in the comedic side with the Magic Tavern guys. Harny Necamp is a quiet genius in how he put that together with Madden Adell, it's truly masterful how that show came together and how much it means to so many people and how many copycat shows that I'm sure in some way we're copying what they're doing. I'm not seeing amateur as the dirty word that perhaps Jobs was.
Simone Salis: This decentralization of creativity, and creatives and distribution that comes with podcasting does it include more diversity? Is it also bringing more diversity?
Nate DuFort: It has to, and I think it is. The big companies are always going to have these problems because of their hiring processes. It's almost any corporation in America. Are there more voices out there? It's my hope that the autonomy can break that, but at the same time, everything is about those connections, right? So are we seeing LGBTQIA like voices networks? Well, in comedy, we are, but elsewhere I don't know yet. I mean, that was part of the children's thing for me is, I'm making sure all of our shows are run by women.
Simone Salis: What's happening with that show? What are your pillars? What rules you had, for example the rule with Adam when you created My Neighbors are Dead. That the first rule was no assholes, which rules did you lay down, which pillars did you lay down for this children's show and shows and network?
Nate DuFort: Originally, I had an idea for five shows with myself acting as showrunner in all of them and that idea lasted about a day before I went to my partner and asked her how can I be better. Besides the obvious how can I be better?
Simone Salis: As a human being?
Nate DuFort: No creatively. I get that encouragement and advice daily, thank goodness. She makes me a better human being. I asked how can I do better and she said, “You need to let go of control and do what you did at Second City.” And again, the great thing about Second City is the voice of that theater is very much the voice of the people currently on stage. That is the only thing that gives directors and producers a life there, you don't have a say in content and the generational morals follow that of the people currently on those stages with an age range of typically twenty five to thirty years old. So it may not be finger on the pulse but it's relatively close for theater and new work and applying that to our own art is incredibly important. So, immediately, I went and found some creatives and said “This is what I'm thinking, what's your take?” And we writers run all of it and my voice became that of corralling, making sure there was workflow, hitting certain targets and timelines. But ultimately taking a step back, I can give notes on structure, I'm giving some notes on the things that will affect production, but when it comes to character and content, I'm very happy to have queer writers making most of the content for this stuff or hosting most of these shows and most of them being women. Can I do better? Yes, but am I going to try daily 100%. That's my job as someone that is doing this right, Is I have to give voices to people that may not have those opportunities and if I'm creating a platform, that would just be silly not to take advantage of those voices. No one needs to hear me write children's content at this point. I'm not a child, as much as I may appreciate and have been inspired by much of that stuff in my life. It's my time to sit down and help other people.
Simone Salis: Your approach to production is actually the one of a facilitator for the message that you think deserves to reach a wider audience right now and improve. So, it's kind of a social work approach to production, the one that you're keeping now…
Nate DuFort: I'd like to think so and I'd like to say that, that was in part learned from working at Second City. Andrews’s biggest step forward in diversifying the theaters was in creating the Detroit Theatre where he wanted to specifically pull more african-american talent. That was the theater I walked into and thought that type of diversity was natural to Second City and improvisation, and it wasn't really until I started coming to Chicago or going to Improv festivals that I realized, oh no Second City Detroit is something very, very special. So I felt lucky that that was my first exposure and have carried some of that in. The other part of it though, is just seeing as I was in Chicago the problems everyone was having, that every troop that I was initially going to see was a bunch of white sis dudes and flannels and I needed to adjust. I was going to see these people because I knew them and thought they were funny or I heard they were funny and I realized I'm falling all over myself, making all kinds of mistakes and not even diversifying what I'm viewing. I had to do better; I still need to do better. I mean we all do, we all do.
Simone Salis: But I'm going to improve these amateur hour podcasts that I've been doing lately. What are some ethical imperatives that you discover throughout life and you give to yourself, what are some personal beliefs that you have and you tried to live by?
Nate DuFort: Well, a lot of them came from experience, honestly. I was overweight as a child and now right back on that bus; but in between that time, what would be seen as an average or normal body and it's that [Expletive] word, that word “normal.” That is where almost everything bad in our judgment comes from, is anything that strays what is considered center or normal is extreme or not good or not healthy or not beautiful. And I learned that relatively early on and I will trip and fall over it to this day. I first heard this expression from Jenn Ellison, who I've learned so much from. Stumbling Ally and that's very much my approach to so many things as I will fall and please be patient as I pull myself back up, because I promise I am on your side. But those judgments, also growing up not having money, coming from very much working class, divorced family, just a single-parent mother raising me. Seeing how we treat people that are less fortunate than us for an administration that calls itself Christian; a very strict atheist by the way but the lack of any Christian values and how we treat people less fortunate than us absolutely kills me. So in the work that I try and do is the elimination of normal, the elimination of status quo and being as accepting as possible. I hate that it's taken me this long to realize, recognize and act on that. But for the first time in a long time I'm calling the shots on my career as meandering as that happens to be right now. I don't like to take advantage of people. I specifically don't like to take advantage of artists and I don't want to assume normal wherever I have the opportunity to do otherwise. Those are pretty much the things I live by.
Simone Salis: Whatever you say could be just as simple and beautiful as being a humanist. Do you identify yourself as a spiritual person?
Nate DuFort: I do with again enormous lapses and the lapses are not in spirituality but they're in self-care. I consider myself a spiritual person when I remember and make time to be. That is especially living a freelancer’s life again for the first time in a long time. I'll say it's self-care comes with less frequency than it should or that a doctor would encourage. So, yes with long periods of maybe… unintentionally denying that.
Simone Salis: You very much are one of those people that are at the intersection of tech and arts. What's one word of advice that you would give to a younger person in between tech and arts to pursue a fulfilling life and career without going crazy?
Nate DuFort: Work for yourself when you can. If you can be a one-person show; create, produce, post produce and even distribute at the lower end of things, you're creating your own proving grounds in not living within a system. Those people when found are greater appreciated, oftentimes in the people that will come up through a system for twelve, fourteen years that have all those skills that are seen as being a technical person. A lot of it is creating your own thing, so I'm looking at you right now and this thing you've created with this podcast and just how beautiful it is, neither one of us having our phones out sitting across from each other having a conversation that I will admit because of my brain is all over the damn place. I don't know how you're going to edit this, but also I listen to your shows and I know you'll find a way. Is it going to be good audio? I have no idea, but you've created a really beautiful thing. When enough people hear that; I know you weren't asking for personal advice but I'm turning it into that because this is a testament to your skill more than any job you could be doing for someone else in post-production. It's not that that stuff is easy, it's very hard to learn the skills to do it well, but you've created your own thing that also delivers upon that. At Second City, so often we say and the advice we give to interns or anyone asking is; go to where you want to be and create that thing for that company that building an institution, make yourself invaluable there. And it's a little bit backwards for people that want to be artists or want to write the line between creative and technical. You are the destination right, like you need to 100% express yourself as you are and then look for the highest bidder that's not going to compromise that.
Simone Salis: Nate Dufort, currently the Producer of My Neighbors are Dead that you can find on myneighborsaredead.com and guest today on hoomans, thank you so much for being here today Nate.
Nate DuFort: Thanks for having me.