Dan Mintz is a 30-something-year-old man who is best known for playing a 13-year-old girl. And a cartoon one, at that. As Tina, the eldest daughter of hapless restaurateur Bob Belcher on Bob’s Burgers, Mintz provides Fox’s Sunday night animated lineup with all the hapless humor of blossoming pubescence.
Before he took on the 2-D character, Mintz padded his writing resume with jobs on The Andy Milonakis Show, Lucky Louie (Louis C.K.’s Louie predecessor), and Important Things with Demetri Martin, among other shows. And he’s also got his stand-up act, a monotone set of slightly disturbing one-liners in the vein of Stephen Wright and Mitch Hedberg, which he’ll bring to Charleston on Oct. 5 and 6. Mintz is using the shows to prep for his first comedy album, slated to be recorded in the spring.
Initially, Tina was supposed to be a male character named Daniel, but it was changed after the original pilot was produced. Mintz was a little apprehensive about the switch. “I don’t know that much about pre-teen girls,” he says. “[But] because of the nature of the character of Tina, it’s a lot easier than you’d think … she almost has more of like a male sexuality, in the sense of knowing what she wants and just really wanting it. That’s pretty easy to understand.” When the show started, Tina’s demeanor wasn’t too far off from Mintz’s own brand of comedy. As the goofball of the family, she spouted weird, slightly unsettling one-liners, though as the series has grown, she’s tackled plenty of her own plotlines.
Still, if you have any experience with Bob’s Burgers, Mintz’s stand-up comedy will be about as droll as you would expect. He considers his onstage persona as being like an adult male version of Tina — they both work with the same kind of oblivious logic. But the real question is: Would Tina, known for her obsessive crushes and bizarre zombie fetish, fall for Dan Mintz? “I’ve never thought about that before,” he admits. “Probably not, because it’s so hard to even say, because what they write her liking is always so random, which is kind of the joke. It’s possible that she’d like me, but I would guess that I would remind her of the things that she’s insecure about herself, and she’d rather have someone that’s different.”
It’s true that Mintz might not give off the aura of confidence that Tina Belcher typically goes for. To this day, he admits he’s not a natural live entertainer. “There’s something crazy about being up in front of people trying to tell jokes that I never really got over,” he says. “I’m very nervous before I go up, but it’s so thrilling to be on stage in a way that it wouldn’t be for a comedian that just feels totally like this is where they belong. It’s like going on a rollercoaster: It’s something that I’m scared of but it’s really exciting because of that.”
Meanwhile, being on a cartoon is basically the best job ever, according to Mintz. He gets paid like it’s a full-time job, but the hours are part-time. And when people laugh at his jokes at a table read, he gets credit for it, but when they miss, the writer takes the blame. Having been on the other side of that process, Mintz realizes that’s a little unfair, but he’s not complaining too much now that he’s one of the actors.
And it’s much easier than writing, whether for television or for stand up. But especially for stand up. “When I’m writing stand up, I have to personally be behind this and say it and it’s embarrassing if it doesn’t work,” Mintz says. On the other hand, when he’s writing for a show, the process is more gradual and has a more satisfying payoff. “Whereas with stand up, I kind of just have to think of a joke, and I don’t really know how it works,” he says. “It just happens, which is a lot more frustrating because you’re just waiting waiting waiting waiting, oh wait I have a joke. Now I have to do it again.” For his stand-up act, he writes, at most, one good joke a week. “If I did that for a TV show, I’d get fired.”
In that case, he better get working. After 13 years as a stand-up comedian and no album, he thinks he can get away with using some of his older material, but he still wants at least half of the 45-minute record to be fresh.
“My jokes are like 20 seconds long, so that’s a lot of jokes to write.”