A stand-up comedian who wrote for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, Dana Gould embraces horror as well as humor through his longtime love of creature features, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and things that go bump in the night. It's fitting, then, that Gould, along with a cast of fellow comedians, is bringing both laughs and scares to the stage in New York this weekend for a live reading of Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space at the first annual Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival.
Ahead of the live reading on Friday, October 11th at 9:00pm at the Tarrytown Music Hall, Daily Dead had the pleasure of talking with Gould about bringing Plan 9 From Outer Space to life on stage with his friends, and he also discussed the plans he had for the fourth season of Stan Against Evil, getting to play a role on the new Creepshow series, and adapting Rod Serling's original Planet of the Apes screenplay as a graphic novel for BOOM! Studios.
How did the Plan 9 From Outer Space live stage reading come about? Did you reach out to Sleepy Hollow, or did they reach out to you?
Dana Gould: The festival is run by my friend Taylor White, who used to run Creature Features, the store, in Burbank, which my ex-wife used to call my bar, because I would go to it every Saturday. But at the time, it was funny because it was this little store in Burbank, and then you'd walk in and it was just like your childhood id. It had everything you would want to find in a store called Creature Features. And you'd go there on Saturday, and at the time I was writing on The Simpsons. So it was the only time I could get out of the house and not be at work.
But then you'd go in there and it would be like Greg Nicotero, Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro. And it's the reason I'm friends with all those guys. It was literally like going to Cheers. Like, "Hey, how are you doing? How's it going?" Everybody knew everybody. We were just hanging out. It was great. It was just the best.
It was like your own Masters of Horror club that you had there.
Dana Gould: Yeah, Mick Garris, all those guys were there just hanging out. And it was like the usual suspects. "How you doing? Nice to see you."
I first did this a couple of years ago. I've always been the biggest Plan 9, Ed Wood fan in the world. I'm a comedy writer, but I love monster movies. So, Plan 9 From Outer Space is really the perfect distillation. It has everything I like: graveyards, vampires, flying saucers. And it's also hilarious. The fact that it's unintentionally hilarious, I don't judge. As Mel Brooks says, "You can't take the laugh back."
It's non refundable. Exactly. So, I've always been a big fan. There's a thing in LA called called the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, and it's this old historical building, and developers have been trying to turn it into a parking lot for decades.
They wanted to do a benefit show and Chris Nichols is a writer for LA Magazine, and a friend of mine, and he called me up and said, "Hey, I have an idea for a benefit for the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. Why don't you do a stage reading of Plan 9 from Outer Space?" And it was just one of those like, "Ah, why didn't I have that idea? Chris, you magnificent bastard, you've done it again."
I literally just cast it out of my address book with comedians and actors. And what I found was just by playing it straight, it was hilarious all the way through. And that's the thing about Plan 9, the movie and the live show, is that it's not like Robot Monster. You get it, it's bad, and then you're in minute six, and you've still got an hour and 15 minutes. Plan 9 is really funny in 40 different ways, all the way through. It's just really strong as a comedy script in a comedy show.
And I have to imagine when you're doing it live, you can milk that comedy even more because you have those pauses that you can do. And the way the dialogue is delivered in the movie, I think would translate really well with a live audience.
Dana Gould: Yeah, and it's just like being there. And as we've done it now, we have flying saucers. They are in the show. We have a woman who dresses like Vampira that brings out flying saucers on a string. We have a guy in a pink angora sweater and a skirt that comes out and brings out the mother ship. I just keep adding these details. We have a live theremin thing.
It's like my podcasts, like my stand up. And to my manager's and agent's dismay, like everything that I end up writing, it's just something that I would want to see. This is a thing that I would pay to see and love to see. I don't consider the audience at all. Everything that's in here, is something that I want to see, and if you like it, great.
In the cast, we just added, while I've been on the phone with you, Paul Greenberg from The Vacant Lot, and Dave Foley from The Kids in the Hall is doing it. We just keep adding to the show.
And what's really cool is that you'll be doing this in Sleepy Hollow, which is one of the horror capitals of the United States.
Sleepy Hollow in October. I mean, it's going to be gorgeous. And then my girlfriend, who plays Vampira in the show, we're going to drive to Boston on Sunday. It will be really beautiful to just drive to upstate New York in Western Massachusetts in the middle of October, which is just gorgeous.
So, when you were growing up, was this a movie that you were you a huge fan of?
Dana Gould: I knew about it from reading Famous Monsters, and I knew about Vampira. My mother used to reference Vampira a lot because she was national, even though the show was only in LA. She did The Red Skelton Show and she was in Life magazine. She was a national presence in the early ’50s. So my mom would always reference Vampira. "Oh my God. Did you see Jean? She looked like Vampira. That woman's got to get out and get some sun." You know, that kind of thing.
So I knew about it, but I didn't really see it until the mid-’80s when I was in my late teens, early 20s. It was the perfect time and I saw it with Tom Kenny and Bobcat Goldthwait. We're all comedians, and they would mention it and I'd never seen it, and they were like, "Oh my God, you've got to see it." We watched it on VHS. It was like seeing the Beatles for the first time. My life changed. I get it. Everything I love is right in this movie.
Who do you play in the live stage reading?
Dana Gould: I play Criswell. I usually pick Criswell and General Roberts. And I usually do General Roberts as Don Knotts or Charlton Heston. But we've got a pretty expansive cast this time, so I might just be Criswell. I'm figuring it out.
Oh, that's awesome. That's a juicy role, too.
Dana Gould: First person to talk and the last person to talk. So that's all you need.
You get to narrate Bela Lugosi, so it doesn't get much better than that.
Dana Gould: Yeah, and I wrote stage directions for the show. In New York, they're going to be read by John Hodgman. And they're just super, super funny. And my favorite line, and I'm quoting myself, which I understand sounds really narcissistic, but sometimes you come up with a funny joke and you've got to give yourself credit. The furniture in the mother ship—it's not office furniture, it's stuff you'd see in the office of a store that sold office furniture.
I'd say that describes it pretty well judging by what they have in that ship. And as long as you don't put your own quotes on your wall, that's not too narcissistic.
Dana Gould: I did see a joke I wrote for The Simpsons as a meme and I got a little tear. I wrote, "Old man yells at cloud." I was like, "Hey, I remember that. That's mine." It's very strange.
I know you're a big fan of the genre and you're doing Plan 9, but you also recently did something that I know you were really excited to do, and that was adapting Rod Serling's Planet of the Apes [original] screenplay as a graphic novel [titled Planet of the Apes: Visionaries] for BOOM! Studios. What was that like? Because I know you're a huge fan of Planet of the Apes. You even snuck in some of that in Stan Against Evil.
Dana Gould: If we had season four, there was going to be a corn field chase. They [BOOM! Studios] called me. Originally they said, "We have this script," and I thought it was going to be, "Would you like to write the forward?" And I was like, "Yeah, I'd write the..." And then, "Do you want to adapt it?" And I was like, "All right, just play it cool. Don't sound too eager. We can talk money later." I was like, "I don't care what I have to pay you. I'll happily do it."
It was really special. I value the fact that my name and Rod Serling's name are on the same piece of paper. Written by Rod Serling, adapted by Dana Gould. That means more to me than being on Seinfeld or any of that. That's like, "Holy shit, look at that. Look at that. Look at that." But then you wake up every morning and it's like, "Today I'm going to edit Rod Serling. No pressure."
At the end of the day, because it's his first draft, it's 168 pages. He would've cut it by a third. So I had to just put away my fandom and just go, "I have to make this the best thing I can." And it's a graphic novel, it's not even a script. So it's even less. Rod wrote speeches, he was the Aaron Sorkin of his day. He wrote everybody speechifying. And you can't put that in a bubble. And that was just like, "Okay, here's three paragraphs. How do I put this into one sentence?" There was a lot of that. I sweated. I sweated a lot. I chewed my nails down. Not to sound hokey, but it was a complete labor of love and I was so proud of it. I think the art is beautiful. That I had nothing to do with. Everybody knew it was something special and they really brought it.
And then you also had another "pinch me" moment, because you're in the new Creepshow series. Did that come about because of your Nicotero Creature Feature days?
Dana Gould: Yeah, because Greg is one of my best friends, and he was like, "We're redoing it. What do you want to do?" I was like, "Well, I can write one." And then they had too many scripts. So I had an idea that if we get a second season, I'll write. We're already full. And literally Greg said, "Would you be in one?" "Yes, I'll be in one." Yeah. And so I play a 300-pound guy, spending 14 hours in a blood-soaked fat suit.
I'm also writing a horror feature for Syfy channel. That is being done through Blue Ribbon. I've also got a series idea that we're doing the deal for now, that I'm going to exec produce. In the realm of, it's Stan against Evil via Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It's going to be really interesting.
And just out of curiosity, did you have an entire fourth season planned for Stan Against Evil?
Dana Gould: I did. I didn't have the whole season planned, but I knew how we were going to get out of it. I knew what the supernatural element was going to be, and I had two ideas that I definitely wanted to do. It didn't work, but that's what happens.
If you could do it in a comic book or any other way, would you?
Dana Gould: I don't know if it would be funny. Somebody mentioned that. I don't know if the humor would translate. It would be interesting to see, but I'm not averse to—Rob Cohen and I were talking about crowdfunding a low-budget feature that would completely wrap it up. That's not off the table. Although it did inadvertently end okay. [Spoiler alert] The way the show is now, he's [Stan] dead. He's reunited with his wife. He is dead on his wife's grave. They are together.
Is there anything else coming up that you can talk about?
Dana Gould: The Syfy movie is being written, so that's a year out. And the next thing that I have that will be coming out probably is Bobcat Goldthwait and I are doing The Show with Two Heads, which is our two-man stage show. It's basically two comedians doing stand-up at the same time. We're filming in January. We were going to film it in August, and we got in a terrible car accident, literally pulling into the venue. I have a broken rib still. He has two broken ribs, but we were much more fu--ed up two weeks ago. We got T-boned pulling into the theater, so we had to cancel everything.
Well, I'm glad that you're relatively okay. It probably hurts to laugh, though.
Dana Gould: Breathing and talking hurts. Sneezing, coughing, burping, farting—all off the table. I had never walked around my house in mortal fear of farting. There's your Creepshow [laughs].
To learn more about Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival and the live stage reading of Plan 9 From Outer Space, visit: