In Atlanta, Dave Stone was at the top of the stand-up food chain. He did vocal work on Adult Swim series Squidbillies, was named one of CMT's "Next Big Comics" and regularly toured solo and as a member of the Beards of Comedy, who released their second album through Comedy Central.
On his way up, he'd been a radio DJ, worked in a BBQ restaurant, ran his own landscaping company, served as an undercover security guard for a grocery chain and tour managed for wrestler Chris Jerico's heavy-metal band Fozzy. Dozens upon dozens of other temporary gigs paid the bills and gave him the necessary flexibility to feature for the likes of Brian Regan, Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford, Marc Maron and John Mulaney.
But if he wanted to make it as a full-time, headlining comic himself, he needed to move out of Atlanta. After two years of planning and saving, in January 2012 Stone finished decking out the inside of a white cargo van with carpet lining, a sawed-off mattress, tan swivel chair, metal bar to hang shirts, cooler, battery-operated fan, curtains his mother sewed and a triple set of plastic drawers conscientiously labeled "Food," "Not Food" and "Stuff." He then drove from Atlanta to Los Angeles, and has resided in the 54-square-foot mobile living space ever since.
"I couldn't afford L.A. rent, and if even if I could, I couldn't justify paying that much and being on the road half the time," Stone says matter-of-factly. "I didn't want to move to L.A. and flip hamburgers 50 hours a week. Not that I'm above that, but that's not why I moved here. I moved here to further my career, and I didn't want the distractions of a full-time job just so I could pay rent on an apartment that I'm rarely at."
For two years Stone searched for safe yet unobtrusive overnight parking, showered at a gym and borrowed buddies Kyle Kinane and Rory Scovel's respective kitchens now and then to cook a hot meal. He also eschewed romantic relationships, scared off intruders twice (and twice removed graffiti), completed four cross-country tours and added 80,000 miles to the odometer.
In late 2012 his Modern Comedian web series centered an episode around his lifestyle. Stone landed a manager in March 2013; in July he appeared on the prestigious New Faces showcase at Montreal's annual Just for Laughs comedy festival. And in early October he made his network TV debut on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
"A while back I was toying with the idea of buying a van, kind of living out on the road for awhile, not actually having a residence," began one of his Ferguson bits. "But I was having trouble saving up for a down payment, and I didn't realize exactly how broke I was, until one day I caught myself saying aloud, 'Man, I'd sure like to live in a van. I just can't afford it. Maybe one day. Keep working hard, stay focused. Maybe then I can live in a van.'"
But it wasn't until Icarus Arts & Entertainment happened upon a Laugh Factory clip entitled "Fat Vegetarian" that Stone caught the financial break he'd been working toward. Looking to cast the lead in a feature documentary about the increased popularity of raw and vegan diets, the production company found Stone the perfect subject to follow for six months while he performed throughout a dozen cities and attempted to lose 40 pounds. A distribution deal with Netflix is expected.
"They wanted a comedian, and somebody who obviously needed to lose weight," explains Stone. "Just the Average Joe, Everyman type of dude. And I'm very, very average."
Thanks to additional associate producer and co-writer credits - and the corresponding payday - the Matt Foley era of Stone's life is coming to a close. He's set to move into a Los Feliz studio apartment tomorrow.
As for the van, Stone might sell it to a fellow comedian, or a musician, or "some other vagabond." Then again, maybe he'll keep it... just as a reminder.
"I don't think a good comic is ever happy or comfortable or satisfied with where they're at, and I'm surely not," he says of his career. "I just think logistically I'm able to get an apartment, so that's why I'm doing it. And after two years, the novelty of the van has worn off. So now that I have an opportunity to get out of it, I'm going to take it, and see how that goes. I'm going to try living like a normal human being for awhile."
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