David Tveite is a sad clown. Starting with his debut show last week, the D.C. comedian will take the stage at Bier Baron Tavern in Dupont on the fourth Wednesday of every month and spin his most depressing teenage tunes during a live podcast, “Sadness Town.” Songs range from Linkin Park’s “Crawling in My Skin” to Scatman John’s ubiquitous sixth-grade mixer hit, “Scatman’s World,” and each middle-school jam precedes loads of sarcastic quips from Tveite and a special guest.
“They say to do what you know,” says Tveite, 26, whose teenage years spanned 9/11, the release of Playstation 2, and the glory days of Napster. “I know terrible music from the early 2000s—and embarrassment.”
A typical episode goes like this: After teasing his audience with a playlist of nu-metal and pop-slop, Tveite rushes the stage and plays some terrible single that probably once shared airplay with a hit single by Sugar Ray. After reading a credo that reinforces the central idea of the show—“You were not cool in high school”—Tveite introduces a special guest, who comes equipped with her or his own teenage playlist to play. In between songs, Tveite and his guest host wax nostalgic on the songs they loved, the people they hated, and the memories that linger. Also, there are dick jokes. Lots and lots of dick jokes.
Tveite got the idea for the podcast after moping his way through a tough time. “I was really fucking sad, September through December of last year,” he says. To cheer himself up, he filled a Spotify playlist with the hormone-fueled singles of his youth and named the amalgam “Sadness Town.” In the darkest days of his gloom, Tveite lived in a cocoon of My Chemical Romance, Blink-182, and Evanescence. To his surprise, even the songs that critics lambasted (or didn’t give a second look) still held some of the same emotional power as they did when he was a teen. “I was kind of amazed how [many] of them had some juice,” he says.
Songs like Nickelback’s “Hero,” fresh from the Spiderman soundtrack, and Linkin Park’s “Crawling” might make you want to poke out your eardrums, but for some millennials, they conjure deep, rich memories from formative times. And like it or not, this kind of reminiscence is hot right now: Look no further than Kyle Mooney’s awkward, lo-fi SNL videos or basically any episode of Portlandia. So it’s no surprise that, when Tveite screams song lyrics in the style of Chester Bennington, he really feels it—and his audience does, too. “I’m trying to make a show about all this shit that we felt very strongly about when we were idiots,” says Tveite.
Though he could have recorded the podcast from his living room, Tveite felt that having an audience present would force him to be wittier. Plus, there are plenty of stories to share—we all come with musical baggage from our own shameful childhoods. “I want to have a communal experience,” he says. “I want it to be a thing that people can get emotionally involved in.”