DAN DE PREZ: BIO
Born and raised in Portland, by 1979 Dan DePrez had established himself as a local actor and professional freelance writer. In 1980, living in L.A., he had an important realization, "It struck me that if I did standup I could get my material in front of an audience and perform several times a week, every week, without having to pass an audition to do it."
By this time DePrez had written and recorded a song, "Singles Chanty" that was being played on the Dr. Demento Show, so even before his standup career began he was getting national exposure. After becoming a regular open-miker at the Improv and earning encouragement from Arsenio Hall, among others, the comedian left L.A. for health reasons. Locally there was not just a smaller comedy scene that L.A., there was none at all...yet. "When I returned to Portland-just in time for the Mt. St. Helens eruption-I'd perform anywhere that would let me," he explains.
Over the next year DePrez became officially "professional," except that his paying gigs were in the still-in-it's-infancy Seattle comedy scene. Then, in August 1981, Patricia Campuzano approached him for help and the two founded "LaBamba Laugh Night" at Tony Demiccoli's Luis LaBamba Club. Six months later DePrez created the first comedy open mike at the Leaky Roof Tavern. Portland now had a comedy scene.
For the rest of the '80's, DePrez' career and the scene he helped create took off. By 1989, the comedian had not only a thriving career but also thriving alcohol and drug addictions. He left standup for a year. "My professional goal became not dying," he jokes. 22 years later DePrez remains clean and sober.
"In the '90's, the less I worked in clubs, the bigger my audience got," DePrez states. By mid-decade he had a regular column in Willamette Week, a humor column in Exotic magazine and was doing original satire on local radio and for OPB radio and tv statewide. At the end of the decade, as DePrez puts it, "My desire for what I perceived to be a 'normal life' exceeded my professional ambitions. I got a 'regular job' and married a woman I didn't know well enough."
The woman DePrez married had severe PTSD which developed into multiple personalities. "When there's a 'split' there's the original personality, which becomes the 'subjugated,' and a new personality which is called the 'dominant,'" he says. "The dominant one became violent almost immediately. When the violence escalated to the point of her trying to strangle me to death, I kind of realized that this was not a good marriage. Years later, when I was told that my wife's other personality had perhaps been feeding me small amounts of arsenic over time I realized I was a gold medalist in the 'Bad Marriage Olympics'."
In January of 2001, DePrez filed divorce papers and a restraining order against his wife. A week later he was fired from a sales job. Ten days later, his father ended his battle with Parkinson's and died. During all of this, DePrez was helping his mother, who was not expected to survive the year without intense chemo and radiation therapy. DePrez got a job at a treatment center and began putting a life together.
That changed a year later, when MS-like symptoms began to occur. Six months later he was diagnosed with "M.E." or "myalgic encephalomyelitis," a debilitating autoimmune disorder characterized by joint and/or headache pain, extreme fatigue and sometimes severe cognitive impairment. For six years DePrez fought Social Security over his personal disability claim. The comedian tried returning to standup at open mikes, but at times was unable to hold a guitar pick and/or guitar and had confusion and speech problems. "Standup is, of course, extremely demanding," DePrez explains, "and if the audience has to wait for 30 seconds to a minute for you to get the next word out, you can pretty much say goodbye to that particular laugh," he jokes.
In 2010 DePrez made two important discoveries. "I found that my mental and speech impairment didn't effect me when I spoke Spanish or sang," says DePrez, "and I could have pretty much normal use of my hands if I played guitar every day." The actor-writer-comedian-turned-singer/songwriter began writing and recording music at home. The best of this music appears on DePrez' first CD This Is Me. The in-store performance at Music Millennium Oct. 10th is DePrez' first booking in 12 years.
"I don't mind saying that the thought of doing this gig terrifies me," states DePrez, "but the thought of never performing for a live audience scares me more. Attempting to perform with the knowledge that I might not be able to do it will be one of my proudest achievements."