Countless album covers, tour posters, and billboards for movies have shown many a performer in a funny pose with their face cringed, perhaps with a mic or some sort of prop, and an annoyingly gauche font. Dave Kloc has tirelessy worked counterpoint to this lack of creativity, making him a highly sought-out artist for comedians. His knack for the bizarre, mischievous, and silly has heavily contributed to the aesthetic in America’s second “golden age of comedy,” as people like to call our current era of humor.
Kloc has designed artwork for the likes of Jim Gaffigan, Funny or Die, Dana Gould, Put Your Hands Together, AST Records, Justin Willman, Lance Bangs, Middleditch + Schwartz, and so many more—not to mention for celebrated musical acts, including Childish Gambino, Interpol, Foo Fighters, and Queens of the Stone Age. Specifically, his work on seminal indie Comedy Central series The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail seems to have give a certain look to this era of comedy. And what a good look it is.
What Should We Do: You have done so many great designs for comedy, music, and other avenues of creative endeavor. What came first?
Dave Kloc: I always wanted to work with bands, and I did for quite some time as a tour manager on the road, but it was through Meltdown that I actually got to start making posters. After making so many of those, I was able to reach out to some bands I wanted to work with and build up a bit of a portfolio of music posters.
WSWD: The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail, often referred to as the best stand-up show in the country during its run, had you to thank for its distinct indie aesthetic. How did that come about?
Kloc: I was at the second-ever Meltdown show, and I said to Jonah [Ray] afterward, “Hey, that felt like a punk house show—all it needed was a poster! You should make posters for these things.” And he said, “Do you make posters? If so, you could do it.” I said I did, but I didn’t. But hey—fake it till you make it, right?
WSWD: What were you thinking as you designed their flyers every week?
Kloc: If I thought the same thing every week, I would have been bored pretty quickly. I honestly just did whatever I felt at the time. If I wanted to draw an elephant made of plywood, I did. If I wanted to draw a dead bird falling from the sky, I did. There was always the reality of “there’s always next week” if I felt like it was a flop and I could have done better.
WSWD: I’ve always seen a distinct edge and boldness in your work that also has a thread of playful, almost comedic mischief. What would you say inspires your style?
Kloc: I don’t know if I have an answer to this question. To be honest, I just draw the way I draw because that’s what comes out when I put pen to paper. There’s very little intention to it. I don’t strive to convey anything specific—it’s just a combination of how I hold the pen and the time I spend on each drawing, I guess.
WSWD: How would you describe your style? Feel free to be as specific and pretentious as possible.
Kloc: Someone once said I draw like a more sinister Berkeley Breathed, and since I didn’t say it myself, I’ll take that as the best compliment I’ve ever received.
WSWD: Is there a difference when considering ideas for comedy versus music versus anything else?
Kloc: Initially I would have said yes. But I always said with the Meltdown posters that I should just make it interesting—and not funny, because the professionals should handle the comedy onstage. I’ll make something people will want to look at later so they can remember the comedy when they look at it. With music, I honestly just take the same approach; it still works for me.
WSWD: What are some of your favorite designs that you’ve made in comedy?
Kloc: I got to do a poster for Middleditch and Schwartz’s show at Carnegie Hall. They let me go pretty bonkers with it and fill it with lots of Easter eggs and visualizations of bits they’d done. It came out well enough for all of us that I’m still proud of it. But in the end, no single poster will ever top just having done 300-plus posters for Meltdown. If I had stopped making them, I wouldn’t have continued down the path I’m on, and I’d probably be on Facebook all day hoping my boss doesn’t walk by.
WSWD: From my vantage point, you’ve made a massive impact on the design of comedy around town and the country. How do you feel about the legacy you’ve left?
Kloc: I’d say I’m still goin’! Hopefully, my best work is ahead of me. I appreciate you saying that, but all of my heroes in this line of work have been at it for decades and I aspire to be doing this for quite some time. One poster at a time. Making strengths out of my weaknesses.