DEF Noodles: Humor at its Best

Interviews, Pop Culture, Television

Rising superstar DEF Noodles has paid his dues, coming to the US from living his life in Brazil, learning how to shed his South American accent at will, visiting every open mic night possible in New York, taking classes in improv, and then starving in a tiny room in LA, he has come out the other side triumphant and as one of the funniest standup comedians on the planet. About to name his own comedy club in the art section of LA, I spoke to DEF Noodles (aka Dennis Feitosa) about the trials and tribulations of his career and what it takes to become amazing …..

How did you get your name?

There’s a funny story behind it. It had been a few months since I moved to LA from New York. I was in a really tight financial situation. I was living in this really tiny little bedroom and I had a roommate at the time. I filmed videos in my bedroom and I ended up setting up a green screen in the kitchen. It was super hot and I was sweating all day. I was extremely poor. It was a low moment in my life. I was very depressed. I started thinking of things that reminded me of a time when I was happy when I was a kid, like playing video games with my family and friends growing up, and there was this thing that I always got wrong. I grew up in Brazil, and when I was playing video games and it would ask for your initials, I always thought the initials were the first two letters of your first name and the first letter of your last name. I didn’t understand it was the first letter of each name so I would write that. And I remembered that kind of brought me back to being happy and it was something that reminded me of something good in my life or a happy moment. And then noodles essentially came from the fact that I was too poor to afford food and that was all I could afford at the time.

That’s so funny it’s a cute story. So, what made you decide that you even wanted to do comedy?

I’ve always done theater. When I was young in Brazil, I had one of these crazy stories that you always hear about. I was at a mall with my mom, I think I was 6 or 7 years old, I have a brother that’s 18 months younger. Me and my brother were fighting and this woman walks up and said your kids have a lot of personality. I want to represent them in commercials. So as a kid I started going out for commercials. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing as a kid. I booked a couple of small commercials, I did some voice acting work, here and there.  In Brazil I was always involved in theater. I started doing theater training in my early teens. Then I got involved with improv. When I got involved with improv it completely changed the way I saw a theater in my performances. So, I started training at improv. Like all the schools in New York, I trained at UCB, Magnet at the Pit. So, I completely dived into that and then from there I started putting up sketch shows.

One Man shows. It kind of ended up progressing into stand-up. And then I found myself, because I wanted to keep working on this muscle and like exercising it I just had a passion for being on stage. I was always at open mics whenever I had any free time. Essentially, I would go to work 9:00 to 5:00 and then I would afterwards immediately go to an improv class and then it would end at 9:00 and I will go to open mics until 11:00 p.m. and then take the last train home. So that’s what happened. It eventually became stand up.

So, what happens when you go out in front of an audience and they don’t laugh?

I have to be honest, it rarely happens. I’m working on some new jokes and I did a set maybe a couple of days ago that was 10 minutes. The first two minutes were miserable because I’m working on these new jokes and then I said f*** all of this and I just went off and did my own thing. And everybody came back. You end up learning and developing these tools, and expectations on the stage and how to work through moments like that.

When you’re first starting out if people aren’t laughing, as a stand-up it becomes like a challenge. How can I get my batting average up? I would purposely choose difficult rooms to perform in so that essentially the harder the challenge the easier it’s going to be when it’s not challenging. I had an improv coach who put it really well, as a comedian or anybody in the performing arts, you do it enough you start having a toolbox of things that you could pull out of in certain situations and essentially flip whatever situation is in your favor. Or make something comedic out of it. That’s really what I rely on. You end up having jokes that you know or stories that you could tell or little things that you could do. I used to tell this story about how I got lost at the top of a mountain in Brazil. It’s a terrifying story, but there are all these little details that people always laugh at. As I’m telling the story I’m describing the setting and there’s this huge bonfire in the middle and I always be sure to mention the drums and every time I share a detail, I always bring it back to the drums and people always laugh. The more you do stand-up you start to realize it’s not only about the laughs, it’s better to take the people on a journey then just have one-liners.

Do you have a favorite comedian that you think is amazing?

I have a lot of comedians I like for different reasons. At one point I was really obsessed with Jerry Seinfeld because he’s like so clean, and he gets so many laughs. When I was first starting out, I had to be like super clean to get booked at a lot of the clubs. So, I studied him. Another guy that I really like is Steve Wright, he does these really deadpan one liners. Even though that’s really not my style, I at one time was obsessed with those deadpan one-liners. I love Steve Martin since his first special. Where he had the ukulele. To me that is so creative to be able to mix in music and all of that. He has such a bubbly comedy style. I appreciate different comics for different reasons.

Tell me a little bit about your new club.

About two and a half years ago before the pandemic, I was working on my half hour special and just going out for commercial auditions and trying to book commercial work as an actor. I was going out for three auditions a day, and then at night I would just work on my stand up. When the pandemic happened, it all stopped. So, I just focused on building my YouTube channel.

It grew a considerable amount to a point where once the pandemic started ending and the clubs started to reopen and opportunities to perform on stage started to become available, I didn’t have enough time because I’m working 16 hours a day to maintain this YouTube channel. So, I started thinking of ways I could go back to performing. Part of the reason why I started social media was I wanted to have an audience that I can invite to these shows, but now it’s like the audience has taken over my life and I don’t have time to go out. So, at the end of last year I started looking at clubs to buy. I have a couple of friends in New York that own comedy clubs and I recommended that if they open their comedy clubs here in LA that would kill it. There’s nothing like the culture of comedy in New York, if you bring it here to LA you’re going to be extremely successful.

They said they weren’t interested and recommended to buy this club. So, I remembered that at the end of last year, and I negotiated with this club to try to buy it and it ended up falling through because the owners weren’t ready to sell. I just thought I’m going to do it still. I started looking for spaces. I looked for a few different spaces and I found a space that I’m currently in. It’s a historic amp store here in LA, In an area where there are a lot of music stores. There is a guitar store that has a Walk of Fame for guitarists. There’s Sam Ash down the block. I ended up getting the space, renovating it and a six weeks later we ended up putting up our first couple of shows.  From that point,  things just moved along. So essentially, I took a business model which is like from Rodney Dangerfield. I don’t know if you’re familiar, but  Dangerfield built his comedy club because he wanted a space to practice his vids consistently, so he could be sharp when he goes on stage for Carson. So, I built this space so I can have a place to consistently practice and so I could be putting out specials all the time. My goal is to put out a half hour special every 6 months starting hopefully at the end of this year. There are other comedians that have done this as well. Now I’m using the social media platform to build my club essentially instead of bringing them to my shows and bring them to my business.

What’s the name of it again?

It currently doesn’t have a name. I could tell you what I’m planning on naming it. It’s Sunset 7426. That’s literally the address I put it as the address so it’s easy to find.

So, you were on the TMZ radio thing?

Yeah, they have a podcast. I was recently on it

Is there anything you want to talk about that I haven’t asked?

I could talk about my background. There have been people attacking me and sharing misinformation about me. I have a really unusual story. I grew up in Brazil. My family is originally from Brazil. My dad was here by accident with my mom. And I was a literal accident. I’ll give you a quick rundown. My whole family is originally from Brazil and my dad before he even met my mom he had been applying for years for his accounting firm to be a part of a scholarship program. There were like one or two people a year who got to come to America and finished their CPA degree at NYU for like six or seven months. My dad spent like 9 years applying for it and then funny enough he met my mom on a business trip. My mom got pregnant. And they got married and like two weeks later my dad was selected to come to New York to finish his CPA. I was born here. I think I lived here for 2 months and then they moved back to Brazil and my brother who was born a year and a half after me was born in Brazil.

Do you speak Portuguese?

Yes, Portuguese is my first language. I know I don’t sound like it, as I sound like I am in New Yorker. That’s also another convoluted story. I was later sent to boarding school in Florida, and I had a really heavy Brazilian accent when I went there. Kids would make fun of me. So, I started to talk like them so I started shaping my accent to sound like them, but then I sounded like I was from the south. When I moved to New York, I sounded like I was from the south and the kids in New York made fun of my accent so I started trying to talk like them. Now that I’m in LA people are telling me to try to sound neutral when I go on auditions but I can’t as this is who I am now.

Tell me a little bit more about your background. What misinformation do people think that we can correct.

Some of the misinformation is that I’m not actually Brazilian. That I’m faking being Brazilian. My parents don’t speak any English, but I can go back and forth speaking Brazilian and English.

Some of the first viral videos I did were about being Brazilian in America I did them for this website/youtube channel. They went viral because they related to what a lot of Brazilians go through when they come to America. So as far as misinformation, a lot of people think I’m lying about being Brazilian. They also say, my dad at one point worked for Warner Brothers, he worked for a subsidiary in Brazil, he retired in 2003, shortly after he retired, they shut it down and now they’re represented by, there are a lot of rumors that I’m funded by my dad. He’s an 80 year old man, he has Alzheimer’s, and any connection he had at Warner Brothers really don’t have any influence anymore. And that’s one of the narratives people go for.

I still can’t believe your Brazilian.

I was born here, and I officially moved back here when I was 22. You just want to assimilate, you don’t want to stand out funny enough. And then later you find out you know what I actually do want to stand out, but you have assimilated so much you have to almost let go of some of your identities so that you can sound like everybody else.

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