Dave Stone is not your average food-is-fuel comedian. In fact, he loves food as much as he loves comedy, and his stand-up often veers towards the gastronomic. He’s from Atlanta, where he performed with the group Beards of Comedy and lent his voice to the cartoon Squidbillies.
In 2012, Stone moved to LA in a retrofitted van that he called home for two years, eating a lot of turkey sandwiches and Jack in the Box. All the while, he toured and made a name for himself in standup. Stone caught the eye of a documentary crew that ended up following him around for a year and a half, culminating in the soon-to-be-released Netflix documentary Gutbuster.
He oftens opens for Craig Ferguson on the road, and is setting off on another tour in November. Paste sat down with Stone and a plate of sushi to talk about his love of cooking, life as a touring comic, and picky eaters.
Paste: You’re from Atlanta—how do you feel about Southern food?
DS: I love Southern food. I love barbecue, fried chicken, Southern vegetables like collard greens and fried okra. Fried okra is probably my favorite food of all time. I love to cook it, too. I have a side hustle out here now: I sell smoked wings and homemade biscuits at comedy clubs. It does well, it blows people’s minds. I smoke my wings for 5 hours the day of and then flash fry them and serve them with homemade ranch. I do plain biscuits, pimento cheese biscuits, fried chicken biscuits. I’ve been experimenting.
Paste: How did you get into food and cooking?
DS: I think a lot of it was just rebelling against the mediocrity that I was raised on, and getting older and trying new things. I’m also a good cook, and a lot of that came from necessity. In my early 20’s I lived in a rural part of Georgia where there was no good barbecue. So I decided to teach myself how to make it. I bought a smoker and through trial and error I made good barbecue.
Paste: I feel like a lot of comics don’t cook.
DS: I think everyone should know how to cook a little bit. Because if you’re lucky, you’re going to eat two or three times a day for the rest of your life. Why not do some of that yourself? It blows my mind how many adults have zero chops in the kitchen. You need to learn to cook a little bit.
And after living in the van—I couldn’t cook in the van. So I’m making up for lost time.
Paste: So would you say that you’re an adventurous eater?
DS: I used to have a joke about that. “I’m an adventurous eater. You don’t get a physique like this without taking a few chances.” There’s no food I don’t like, and there’s no food I won’t eat. There’s nothing I won’t try. People eat this? I will eat this!
Paste: How do you feel about picky eaters?
DS: Not all picky eaters are dumb, but all dumb people are picky eaters. No really dumb person has a wide-ranging palette. It’s all part of that psychology of being open-minded.
Part of it is coming from that old Southern mentality. I go through that with my parents. I can’t get my mom to try guacamole. A staple at my grandparents’ home—this is no joke—they would boil a bunch of hot dogs, chop them up into little pieces, put them in a bowl, then put four American Kraft singles on top and put it in the microwave and heat it up. And that was dinner. Maybe with some potato chips and white bread. Even as a little kid I was like, “this is terrible. This is wrong.”
Paste: What about eating on tour?
DS: I tour a lot, and if I’m being honest, the food is just as important as the shows. I’ll book a show in a town just because there’s a restaurant I want to go to. I’m the person everyone asks for restaurant recommendations on the road, especially in the South.
Paste: What are some of your favorite cities to visit while on tour?
DS: Obviously Atlanta because that’s my home base. I love Nashville. It might be touristy, but I love Broadway. Every time I’m there I go to Robert’s Western World and get that recession special: a fried bologna sandwich, chips, and a PBR for like four bucks. Get out of here. The first time I went there I had a 10 hour bus layover. I was going from Indianapolis and going to Atlanta and it was January and cold, and I just sat in Robert’s Western World for like 8 hours and drank original Coors and watched these old guys play country music all day.
Outside of the south, one of my favorite cities is Madison, WI. They have a cool comedy club up there and great, smart audiences. Great midwestern food, lots of cheese and cheese curds. Oh man, fried cheese curds. Hard to beat.
Paste: How did (the Netflix documentary) Gutbuster come about?
DS: They just found me online. I had a clip from the Laugh Factory titled Fat Vegetarian. The whole premise of the documentary is the American diet as seen through the eyes of a chubby standup comedian. They were like, “this guy’s perfect!” They explained it as part Comedians of Comedy and part Supersize Me. And they said there’s a twist! In part two, you have to go on this crazy smoothie diet and we want you to lose as much weight as you can in 90 days. So I went on this all-smoothie vegan diet. Literally all I ate or drank was green smoothies. Just kale and cucumber and celery in a blender. Especially being a big guy and a guy that loves food, it was terrible. I lost 53 pounds in 90 days.
Paste: Wow. Did you at least feel good?
DS: I did feel good. The method is a “nutritarian” diet, so it’s getting as much nutrition as you can out of as few calories as you can. But loving food the way I do, it was quite a challenge.
Paste: Are you still trying to eat healthy? Even while on tour?
DS: Yes, trying. Now I try not to eat late at night. That’s why so many comedians are so unhealthy. Every night [while on tour] you’re at a bar, and most comedians like to eat after the show. It sucks, because if you have a good show you want to celebrate, and if you have a bad show you want to eat your feelings.
Laurel Randolph is a food and lifestyle writer hailing from Tennessee and living in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking, baking and candlestick making. Tweet at her face: @laurelrandy.