At gatherings with extended family, Doug Lussenhop has a hard time explaining what he does. They might be familiar with Portlandia, the show for which he's an editor. They may have even seen Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, which he edited and co-wrote, though he prefers if they haven't, if only for its scene where Eric Wareheim sits in a bathtub being filled by young boys' diarrhea.
"But when they find out I tour as a comedian, my comedy is impossible to explain," he notes on a recent afternoon over a bowl of rice with short ribs in Silver Lake. "I tell jokes, and I remix them."
On the increasingly fractured multimedia range, Lussenhop -- who goes by DJ Douggpound, which is a play on, you know, Tha Dogg Pound -- is a lone cowboy. He DJs at clubs and does a stand-up routine where he uses audio clips to punctuate jokes, but his most inspired gig is his sui generis role on an L.A.-based podcast called The Champs, co-hosted by Neal Brennan (co-creator of Chappelle's Show) and ascending comedian Moshe Kasher.
The podcast, which is about a year old and is heard by about 30,000 people per episode, features black guests almost exclusively and focuses largely on black issues, even though its hosts are white. Lussenhop chimes in from time to time with quips and asides, but his main task is to mix in funny soundbites -- also known as "drops" -- from songs, TV shows and comedy routines, via his laptop. It's a bit "morning zoo" but more pop culture-literate. During a conversation about getting high, Lussenhop might play Nate Dogg crooning "Smoke weed every day," while a story about sex might inspire the E-40 line, "Got my dick hard like incarceration." Lussenhop derails slow-moving anecdotes with cricket sounds and interrupts Brennan's mentions of Dave Chappelle with comedian Pete Holmes' Chappelle impression saying, "Neal, stop droppin' my name!"
"His genius is his sense of the absurd and inappropriate," Brennan says. "My favorite [drops he uses] are, 'Let me tell you about black folk,' and 'He's a real nigga,' which was used perfectly when Questlove was talking about Bruce Springsteen." Show guests like Blake Griffin, Nicole Richie and the above-mentioned Roots drummer might ignore his drops, laugh hysterically or get irritated. Brennan notes that Questlove, a fan, made it his goal to avoid getting "cricketed." (He failed.)
Lussenhop functions as The Champs' subconscious; he gives voice to the conversational undercurrent, the things that normally would remain unsaid. He creates a friction that, when combined with Brennan's excellent interview technique and Kasher's startling honesty (he's told a story of masturbating in a car next to his grandmother), makes for great radio.
Short with light hair, Lussenhop in person is mild-mannered and good-humored with minimal ego. It's easy to see why he works well with outsized personalities like Brennan and Kasher, as well as with Wareheim and Tim Heidecker, on whose Adult Swim program Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! he was a writer and editor. "I'm the guy who's the buffer between them," Lussenhop says. "I'm the butt of every joke."
Confirms Wareheim: "Doug's a punsman. And I normally hate puns, but he's so bad at it sometimes, it's hilarious. He adds a little spin or a twist to each joke he does, which I find funny." It's worth noting, of course, that much of Tim and Eric's humor came directly out of Lussenhop's edits.
Thirty-nine years old, he has certainly not chosen the most lucrative path; the Champs gig remains unpaid, for one thing. ("I'm afraid [advertisers] think it's racist that we mostly have nonwhite guests," Brennan says.) But Lussenhop's career is nonetheless ascendant.
With Wareheim and Heidecker he recently performed variety-style shows in Australia and New Zealand, where Tim and Eric is popular. Lussenhop opened these performances, worked their sound and video and, alongside Wareheim, performed absurd DJ gigs in clubs. They layered drops over dance tunes, performed synchronized moves and barked bizarre instructions from the mic.
"My ultimate goal is to have people laughing and dancing," Lussenhop says.
His recently released album, Pound It, is a compellingly disjointed string of short electro and hip-hop clips bombarded by samples, gags and weird asides. Tracks riff on knock-knock jokes, or chop up themes from NPR shows -- at one point a "dot org" sample plays on a loop. He tells corny jokes, like the one about how he likes girls who are Rubenesque, "not voluptuous, I mean I just like the taste of corned beef and sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing." These are followed immediately by "remixes" -- his punchlines put to music.
It's all funny, silly and quite possibly representative of the collective subconscious of today's youth culture, what with everyone watching TV, roaming the Internet, listening to music and messing around on phones practically all day long.
He similarly hopes the absurdity of the visual gags of his TV and film work succeed on many different levels. "I like there to be layers," he says. "It's, like, yeah, they're barfing, but why are they dressed like that?"
DJ Douggpound performs Sunday, November 4 at Theater 6470, as part of the Power Violence comedy show.
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